Andre Braugher might be most familiar right now as the face of Captain Ray Holt in the hit (now NBC) sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine—a role that’s earned him three of his ten total Emmy nominations—but the actor’s three-decade career originated in theatre. A Juilliard graduate, Braugher won an Obie Award for his performance as the titular role in Henry V at the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park in 1996. He won a second Obie Award in Manhattan Theatre Club’s The Whipping Man in 2011.
From his first film Glory to series like Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Men of a Certain Age, Braugher has found much success on the screen. This winter, he returns to the stage alongside Tony winner Michele Pawk in the new play Tell Them I’m Still Young, written by Julia Doolittle. Playing at South Orange Performing Arts Center through February 3, Braugher plays Allen, “a talented professor of Martial History who is struggling to hold onto his 30-year marriage in the wake of his daughter's death in a car wreck,” the actor explains. “He copes by channeling his grief into developing his most promising student.”
Here, Braugher recalls some of the most influential theatrical moments in his career and how they’ve helped him forge a successful path for longevity in the arts as he proves his theatre credentials.
What was your first professional job?
Andre Braugher: Coriolanus at the Public Theater directed by Steven Berkoff and starring Chris Walken, Irene Worth, and Keith David.
What was the stage show that has most influenced you?
Henry V directed by Doug Hughes, where I discovered how important the character's spiritual journey is.
Is there a stage moment you witnessed that stays with you?
There's a startling moment in the recent production of Is God Is where one character literally pushes down the entire set to create a sloping mountain top!
What's the biggest challenge of your career?
My career has taken me away for many years and the biggest challenge is maintaining my home life.
What's been the most rewarding experience onstage for you?
It's funny but I find rehearsal to be the most rewarding part of the whole journey. I love the exploration most!
Who is a collaborator from theatre that made you better?
My collaboration with Doug Hughes has been especially rewarding. He has an admirable insight into character development that has been invaluable throughout my career.
Now that you've broken big in TV, how do you balance stage and screen?
The only balance really has been in the pursuit of excellent material.
What is your favorite part of doing TV that's different from theatre?
Well, one beautiful part about performing on camera is that you only have to get it right once!
What are you most anxious to get back to with jumping back to the stage?
That lovely immediate connection between the story and the audience.
Tell Them I’m Still Young plays the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24–February 3. Click here for tickets and information.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Thursdays on NBC at 9PM ET.