André Braugher, RIP

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuttle in fear
Nothing denied to

—Paul Simon, “Born at the Right Time”
André Braugher as Detective Pembleton in Homicide: Life on the Streets — taken from the Baltimore Stun's website

I first remember André Braugher from his performance in Glory where he played perhaps—low key—the most important role in the movie. He played the person with the most to lose and the least to gain by joining the army and fighting to end slavery (something the movie later acknowledges is pretty much a fool’s errand). He plays the person we—the viewer comfortably separated from the events portrayed by circumstances, time, and knowledge of what will happen—should be but almost certainly won’t be. (No more details: watch the movie if you haven’t seen it.)

Most people will know him either from his role in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, an above average a great sitcom of recent years, or Homicide: Life on the Street, the best police procedural ever made, based on a fantastic non-fiction book by David Simon. (I revised this paragraph after conferring with numerous colleagues and discovering that my daughters’ opinion is widely held; I am outvoted!)

In Homicide he is again playing someone who stands for justice despite his own self-interest. He is the black man with obvious intellect and education who chooses to work as a Homicide detective when there are so many better options for him, it ruins his marriage, and it is killing him. He works within a corrupt and under-resourced system and with colleagues he pretty much despises trying to make the tiniest difference when and where he can, and usually to his own disadvantage.

And, despite its being a comedy, as Raymond Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine he somehow again plays someone pretty much in this situation except that, now an older man and a captain, he has somehow navigated an earlier phase of life in which all of… this… was much worse, and today is comfortable enough that the horribleness is purely and not always darkly comic.

Homicide is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is my daughter’s favorite TV show of all time.

André Braugher is already missed.