Halloween is a sacred occasion for Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) and Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), who have been battling each October 31 for the title of “amazing detective-slash-genius.” This Sunday’s episode marks the third year of their rivalry, and to mark the occasion, Samberg hopped on the phone to chat about upping the ante — as well as how he thinks his Emmy-hosting gig went, what we can expect for the rest of B99’s third season, and a status update on the forthcoming Lonely Island movie.
Peralta and Holt are tied 1-1 in terms of Halloween heists, so things were even. What made you guys decide to bring it back for a third round?
I guess tradition more than anything. [Holt and Peralta] were both so competitive that I think neither of them could rest until there was clarity as to who was the greatest detective-slash-genius. Somehow, the writers did manage to up the ante this time. It gets pretty bananas. The whole squad’s involved. It’s really fun. It’s probably one of the more … I use this word in a good way, but it’s one of the more relentless episodes we’ve had. Where it just feels like it’s driving forward fast the whole time.
What else is in the works for season three? I know Nick Offerman will be on; anything else to look forward to?
We’ve already had some really great people as guests: [Bill] Hader, Dean [Winters], and now Mary Lynn Rajskub, who’s the greatest — I think she’s popping up again in this Halloween episode. The goal is really just to keep expanding the world and keep expanding the characters. Hopefully deepening people’s understandings of them, and watching them grow a little bit.
It’s been fun playing out the beginning of the season, tying up everything that got shaken up at the end of last year. Now that Holt’s back, I think we get the fun of returning to things like Halloween, but it’s also going to be … well, I can’t say too much. I think there’s the excitement of trying new things, which is definitely happening, but there’s always the comfort of what makes the show really fun, the sort of family element of the primaries in the precinct.
I know that at the end of season two, the writers weren’t exactly sure what they were going to do with the new captain. Was it always the plan to kill him or her off in the first episode? Or was that just something that came into play after Bill Hader got hired?
That was an idea that actually came up before we had cast someone, because we just thought it was really funny. It certainly paired well with Bill. It was fun for the writers, and also for him as a performer, to know that his time was going to be really short. He was able to come in really hot, performance-wise, and just be kind of a lunatic person, with the knowledge we didn’t have to sustain that.
Were you secretly chuckling to yourself all summer as they were advertising him coming on the show, knowing that he wasn’t going to last that long?
I was secretly chuckling. But also as a producer and someone who cares about the show, I was slightly worried that people were going to be mis-sold on it. I had friends and people be like, “That’s so crazy that Bill’s part of the cast of your show now.” It’s like, “Well, no …” I think if Bill was going to join the cast of a show, it would be as the lead of his own show. Which is something he might do anyway. I was certainly flattered that people thought our show was something Bill would just join for good.
I’m curious how hosting the Emmys went for you. You’d said that afterwards, you were just going to stay off the internet for a week because you were so scared.
Everyone told me that the response was good, but I stuck to my promise, even when people were telling me that it was more or less reviewed well. I still didn’t look. I did the same thing when I hosted SNL. I felt like while I was out there, it played really well in the room, which was my greatest relief. Because you’re still performing in front of like 7,000 people live. Which is a lot less than the millions that are watching, but it’s still a very real thing.
The feeling I had leaving the stage at the end of the night was, That went really well. Almost all the jokes got laughs. I felt good about it. I’m sticking with that. But yeah, I’m told by many people around me that I trust that it was also reviewed well, which is a big relief.
Do you think you’ll host an awards show again, if someone comes calling?
Yeah, I think I probably would be up for doing another awards show. I mean, there’s high stakes for that kind of thing, and a pretty narrow window of reward. But if it goes well, it can feel really good and very rewarding. I have a very romanticized idea of awards shows like that. I really enjoy the sort of “entertainment community” aspect of it, everybody from all these different cool creative places coming together under one roof. I’m always really attracted to the energy of that.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of the most diverse shows on TV, both in terms of the main cast and the guest stars, and yet it doesn’t feel forced in any way. Do you guys actively work to make the show diverse, or has it organically unfolded that way?
It’s a little of both, I would say. Certainly, in the initial casting phase of the show, Mike [Schur] and Dan [Goor] talked a lot about how they wanted the primary cast to represent what a real police force in New York would look like. The casting call was incredibly wide in terms of race and gender and all of those things, but at the same time, the casting was not based on that. It was based on the people who won the jobs and best fit together, comedically and dynamically.
It’s something that we’re super proud of and happy about. We’re glad that we have a little bit more of a realistic depiction of that world. It’s also, I think, a lot more like how the real world actually is, or the real world ought to be. We generally just go with the people that are right for the job, and that ends up looking very diverse.
In the third episode of the season, a couple of weeks back, Andre Braugher and Melissa Fumero’s characters discussed stop and frisk and police brutality. I’d never heard a TV show, much less a network comedy, discuss those issues before, and it was really refreshing. I’m curious what the thought process was behind that.
Well, that’s generally more of a question for Dan Goor, because he’s leading the charge in the writer’s room. But he told me about it, and I completely agree with him. We wanted to address it, since we are a show about cops and that is such a hot-button issue now in the world, and America more specifically, I should say.
It’s a challenge because the people writing this show are highly intelligent, and they’re aware of what’s happening in the world. At the same time, we’re also putting together a show that’s supposed to be really funny. For the most part, it’s supposed to be sort of a safe, fun place for people to come and forget their worries just a little bit. That’s kind of the gift that is network comedy. Even when it’s a little more intellectual, like ours.
The way they handled it was really smart, which was putting it in a story that didn’t seem like we were turning the show completely into a drama, but not shying away from the fact that these things are real and they exist in the real world. That there’s responsibility to be taken.
Is the Lonely Island movie still on track for next summer?
Yeah, I’m actually here editing right now.
Has it been difficult trying to balance that with the show, especially since you’re also writing songs?
Yes. A resounding yes. Those two things, and also doing the Emmys — and I played a very heavy part in the writing of the Emmys as well.
And you were promoting 7 Days in Hell.
Yeah, and 7 Days in Hell. My sweet, sweet baby, 7 Days in Hell.
Do you ever sleep?
I have not been sleeping a lot in the last half-year. It’s been a little intense. I think that’s kind of, I don’t know … it feels more and more like the norm. These damn smartphones have enabled us to do far more than we were ever meant to all at once. I’m definitely doing a lot, while the opportunities are there.
Everything I’m working on is something that is like a dream-come-true project for me. Making Brooklyn Nine-Nine; making 7 Days in Hell, which is an idea me and my friend Murray [Miller] had had since we were in summer camp. And now making the Lonely Island movie with my two best friends from junior high and high school, a movie we’ve been talking about making since college, basically. And hosting the Emmys — who would ever say no to that?
It’s been a lot, but it’s all been things where I sort of took a step back and went, “I don’t think I can say no to this.” I’m hoping it slows down a little bit. But you also don’t want to slow down too much.