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Performers Of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of January - Andre Braugher

27 Feb 2019

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The article was written by Ellys Cartin, Mads, Beth Whitley, Sam D, and Jessica Lerner. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

Andre Braugher has previously starred as both commanding officers and members of the police force, but he has repeatedly delivered phenomenal, unforgettable performances in his current role as Captain Raymond Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He's taken on almost every possible iteration of his character. He has been a general, a realist, a mentor, a strategist, and an inspiration. Braugher's work creates many of the show's most heartfelt moments, as well as its most hysterically funny and quotable ones. Captain Holt is brilliant and ambitious and thoroughly dedicated. That commitment extends even farther than his work family and his home family (fan favorite husband Kevin and their beloved Corgi Cheddar); it extends to the entire city of New York. Braugher has a built a character who is both formidable and fearless, which means he rarely gets to show you a lighter version of Holt. The season six premiere, Nine-Nine's first in its new network home on NBC, allowed him to crash a Honeymoon with a showstopping tour-de-force performance that sees both Braugher and his character sink to new lows and rise to new highs. For his performance, Braugher was deservedly selected as SpoilerTV Staff Choice Performer of the Month for January.

As Captain Raymond Holt announces to the team whether he received the promotion to police commissioner, Braugher's face stays completely expressionless, revealing nothing to the team or viewers. Still managing to betray nothing, Holt, in typical fashion, asks if anyone noticed anything. He is creating a dramatic effect and relishing it. Still seeing the team's confusion, he then flatly states there was a slight movement in his lips, before breaking out into a rare almost-smile to reveal he got the job. With less skilled actors the sudden change would be disregarded, but after playing Holt for five years, Braugher manages to make even the slightest change in demeanor meaningful. When Jake (Andy Samberg) dashes off to retrieve some celebratory music, Holt quickly begins thanking the others before pulling up the email to read it, with an unmistakably triumphant flourish of his arm. Holt instantly realizes he didn't get the job, with Braugher's face drastically turning on a dime from pride to astonishment. He turns back to look at everybody, repeating his new status out loud, that he is not actually the commissioner. As Jake returns to ramp up the celebration, Holt just stands there. Braugher lets the astonishment fade into despondency, as Holt clearly begins to grieve what he has lost. Braugher deftly balances the comedic and tragic notes of the scene.

Captain Holt is resilient in a way that few people are, which permits Braugher to explore uncharted sides of his character with how Holt reacts to this incredibly disappointing setback. Jake and Amy (Melissa Fumero) embark on their honeymoon, only to discover their buttoned-up boss is at their destination resort. Something is off. It might be that it takes Holt a few seconds to actually recognize them. It might be his neon pink tank top and mint shorts. It might even be that his beverage has a candy cane pattern straw. The typical nonchalant yet perfect posture Braugher usually displays has changed to a sprawling slump to better reflect the great sadness Holt tells Jake and Amy he has been unable to shake. He patiently listens to Amy compare at length how a first-grade experience she had compares to what he's presently going through. Other than a rather large eyebrow raise, he doesn't give away any surprise or other emotions. When Amy is done talking and not a minute sooner, as Holt usually doesn't interrupt other people, Holt clarifies that it's not just that he lost but who he lost to. His opponent John Kelly is his total opposite, and Holt sees his election as a betrayal of everything that really matters. Braugher underlines his tone here with the hurt of righteous indignation. He shows us that Holt is in going through crisis both mental and emotional. He rushes briskly through telling them how he tried to come in work but couldn't, doing his best to maintain composure. Even then, Braugher adds in another dimension when Holt apologetically insists he had no idea Jake and Amy would be there and doesn't want to spoil their honeymoon. He can't help but think of others, even in his darkest moments.

Despite his best intentions, Holt can't shake the clouds hanging over his head, and in a great montage he repeatedly, unintentionally shares them with Jake and Amy. First, a romantic dinner comes to a halt when the couple sees a pensive Holt sitting nearby. Braugher leans his head on his right hand, staring off into space and directly into the camera. He flatly refers to the coldness of fate but emphasizes the word darkness with tragic deliberation. You also see him floating on his stomach across the pool, nearly empty drink in hand, bumping into Jake and Amy. He tells them to push him away because everyone else does, punctuating the moment with a tired upward glance. His interruptions escalate when he suddenly appears in front of Jake and Amy in their room as they get a couple's massage. He stands there with his hands in his pockets, with an introspective yet agitated look on his face. He asks them to tell him what about him screams loser, but Jake points out they're getting massages. Holt apologizes and drops to lay on the ground so that he's looking up at them both. He repeats the question with extra emphasis through hand gestures, completely sincere in how he asks the question. Braugher doesn't have a trace of mean spirit in his performance, instead showing us just how hard Holt has hit rock bottom. In all these interactions, Holt is breaking into Jake and Amy's personal time, but it's never unwelcome to the audience. That is the brilliance in a performer like Braugher; you want him to be there to interrupt because if he didn't, the show and the audience would be missing something magical.

Amy and Jake decide to let Holt in on their activities, which seems to inspire a return to usual form for him. At a sensual food tasting class, his composed posture has returned, and he has folded his hands and rested them on the table in front of him. He announces loudly and matter-of-factly that he feels out-of-place. Later, in a bathtub full of flower petals, Braugher delivers a short but heartfelt speech to Jake and Amy. He thanks them for including him, mentioning casually that he would have been content watching a bee struggle to survive but is grateful they reminded him there is more to the world than the NYPD. Braugher lets Holt speak with a sense of hopefulness for the first time this episode as he reaches a turning point. There's a joyful lilt to his voice a little later when Jake encounters him checking out. He's donned his reading glasses, which only accentuate the upbeat lift to his face. Jake mentions he'll see him back at work, at which point Braugher delivers an impassioned bombshell. Holt tells Jake he has no plans of returning to the NYPD. He leans forward, repeating how Jake and Amy have shown him that there are more things in life, and this time there's disdain in his voice when he references the NYPD. Overall, though, Braugher keeps the scene's tone level. He shows how Holt is giving no more weight to this NYPD decision than he is calculating the hotel charges. In fact, where he puts the emphasis is on getting to the airport six hours before his flight. Braugher's utterly serene composure is the perfect foil for the panic that Samberg is displaying through Jake, which can't help but transfer to the audience.

In hopes of stalling any major decisions, Jake whisks Holt back to Jake and Amy's room on the pretense of getting his keys to drive Holt to the airport. The scene that follows is the most hilarious and poignant of the episode. Upon entering the room, Braugher demands to know what is going on, the pitch of his voice rising several octaves. He clarifies in a calmer voice that he was asking about the candles and roses, which you see for the first time as the camera pulls away to show the romantic setting. Amy enters in a romantic cosplay outfit, immediately shrieks, and begins questioning Jake. This whole time, Holt stands off to the side slightly perturbed, holding his glasses loosely in one hand and his plastic bag of novelty tank tops and bottoms in his other hand. When Jake moves up to Amy to ask if her costume is meant for sexy times, Holt falls off the frame, but the next shot shows him staring determinedly at the ceiling. He maintains this pose with visible strain until Jake decides to push him back out of the room. Amy blocks his path, though, and asks if he's really quitting. Braugher puts some irritation in his affirmative response. He sarcastically asks if they're going to tie him up to keep him there. He is tied up, spread-eagle on the bed, but the scene and Braugher barely acknowledge the diminished dignity. Not once does he struggle against the bindings, which somehow makes the scene play even funnier. He just stares apathetically upwards. His facial expressions too, when Amy is scolding him showcase Braugher's brilliant comedic timing. When he makes dismissive, arrogant comments about ending crime in Brooklyn and police being beloved by all, you can't help but laugh at how every word is imbibed with arrogant oversimplification. At the same time, he doesn't let you forget that Holt's dialogue comes from a place where he's feeling belittled and beaten. When he turns around and belittles the plea that Jake makes for him to return to the Nine-Nine, Amy turns her wrath upon him. She doesn't just rain on his pity picnic; she thunders. Braugher's facial expressions absolutely define this scene, as startled dismay gives way to almost tearful anger which is trumped by brief yet absolute fear. Holt ends the scene looking completely emotionally deflated and yet oddly relieved, another testament to just how adept Braugher is with handling the nuances of his character.

That relief carries over to the next scene where Holt again appears in the middle of Jake and Amy celebrating their alone time. He's wearing yet another delightfully ludicrous outfit, but this time the wardrobe isn't a reflection of his feelings as much as it's out of necessity as he has no other clothes. Holt has come to apologize, although first, he takes a moment to explain the wording on his t-shirt to Jake. His frank description indicates that he has returned to his usual self. And Braugher has modified his entire body language to complement the emotional transformation. He pulls over a chair and makes eye contact with both Jake and Amy more than once. There's strength and purpose in his voice again, as he apologizes for his words and actions throughout the honeymoon. This time, Holt can share his whole perspective with them. As Holt explains his vision for making real change in the NYPD and how he now sees there are other ways to do that, Braugher crackles with passion and conviction. And while there are multiple lines that his deadpan delivery makes instant highlights out of, he burns the whole house down when Holt exuberantly declares that he could choose to not give a hoot. Holt is choosing to fight for what matters to him, and Braugher lets that energy simmer just enough to make the renewal of Holt's determination an uplifting conclusion.

The coda of the episode sees Holt welcoming Amy and Jack back to the precinct. He greets them politely by asking how the rest of their honeymoon went. He then enthusiastically responds to their questions and confirms he did voice his opposition to John Kelly to the mayor. He even meets Amy's high-five with a smile and a high-five of his own. Braugher then reveals Holt buried the lead by quickly sharing that Kelly retaliated. He steps off the elevator with a warning that they should prepare themselves. As they view the chaos unfolding before their eyes, Braugher pauses and turns back for one last bit of understated humor. He calmly announces they are at war. It is hard to imagine another actor playing this role with the same excellent comedic timing interwoven with such sincerity. From episode one, Andre Braugher has delivered an impeccably well-polished character, with every one of Holt's characteristics refined to perfection. There is no actor visible here. There is only Captain Raymond Holt. And that is the hallmark of a truly outstanding performance. This article covers a small portion of that journey from this episode that rightfully earned him this honor of being SpoilerTV’sStaff Choice Performer of the Month for January. What did you think of his performance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.