Four months after Andy Samberg’s departure from Saturday Night Live, Parks And Recreation co-creators Michael Schur and Daniel Goor lassoed him to anchor their police comedy pilot Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which airs on Fox. Much like his SNL alter egos — such as his cocky Nicolas Cage and the accountant Mort Feingold — Samberg’s Detective Jake Peralta is a goofy, affable, outspoken guy who breaks the rules and somehow, despite his attention deficit disorder, always gets his man (by the seat of his pants). Like previous SNL peers, Samberg shot for the big screen but with mixed results, from the Adam Sandler misfire That’s My Boy to the well-received Celeste And Jesse Forever. However, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s bumbling detective fits the actor like a glove. In January, Samberg walked away with a Golden Globe award for best comedy actor for the role, immediately gaining awards-season traction as the contender to watch.
AWARDSLINE: Was there any hesitation about returning to TV since most SNL alums graduate to feature films?
ANDY SAMBERG: I never gave it a second thought. As soon as Mike (Schur) and Dan (Goor) asked, I knew I was going to do the show. I respect their work so much. I had people like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey to look to in terms of seguing from SNL to TV. And as far as staying in the world of movies, I had Steve Carell and Tina, who were both making movies and starring in TV shows at the same time.
AWARDSLINE: What does your job as a producer on the show entail?
SAMBERG: I’m not in the writers room unless it’s to visit. I don’t put my hands on the keyboard. I will give thoughts on scripts — sometimes, not always. The schedule can be very intense, and scripts will sometimes come the day production is happening. I’ll ask questions about where things are going. Dan and Mike will pitch me future episode ideas. We’ll discuss where we want the character to be going. I’ll pitch ideas on other characters and give a ton of editing notes.
AWARDSLINE: After winning the Golden Globe for best comedy series, as well as yours for comedy actor, was there any added pressure to raise the bar or was it business as usual?
SAMBERG: Winning the Golden Globe didn’t change anything creatively. Everyone was a little bit happier. We felt creatively we were heading in the right direction. It was a chance to continue what we are doing.
AWARDSLINE: What episode are you selecting as part of your Emmy submission?
SAMBERG: I haven’t picked one.
AWARDSLINE: What are some of your favorite moments with Detective Jake Peralta?
SAMBERG: I loved the episode (with Stacey Keach) where the dart was thrown at me. I’ve been a huge fan of his for so long. And with actors like Andre (Braugher) on set — he is someone who has such a genuine, grounded gravitas — one only comes off looking better. There’s something real there to play off of. It was also great working with Adam Sandler again. There are big set pieces for Jake, and then there are the little moments that have built-in humanity. Certainly the episode where he makes the push-up bet with Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz). She’s an old police academy friend, and that played out nicely. I loved the moment where Jake teams up with Craig Robinson (the Pontiac bandit) and he goes over to his house to dress up in his dad’s white zoot suit to go undercover. When we exit his house in slo-mo — I love that style because I’m from that fake music video world.
AWARDSLINE: The digital shorts you did on SNL appealed to both TV and Internet audiences. Given the lack of boundaries on the Internet, has it raised the audience’s appetite for comedy so much that a network sitcom such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine is impacted in the ratings?
SAMBERG: There are a lot of types of comedy nowadays, probably more than ever, because there are niche places for different tones. In terms of whether there’s a ferocious appetite for network TV comedy shows, it depends totally on the show. With Parks And Rec or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I think a lot of people are watching them on their DVRs, Netflix, Hulu Plus, on their computers or on their phones. Audience viewing habits are just changing fast. I think Mike Schur said something similar — our viewership more than doubles over 30 days. The trick is to make a show you believe in and are proud of. Speaking from personal experience, I watch zero shows when they air. The only shows I watch live are awards shows or sports. Shows like True Detective and Game Of Thrones, I watch every episode, but I don’t watch them as they air, and I think that’s becoming the case for people more. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an example of how more and more people are watching the show every week. A lot of my friends aren’t watching (it) when it airs live but are recording it and watching it later. Watching a show live isn’t in the language anymore. I know that’s not yet a good (model) when a network is trying to monetize the show. But TV comedy isn’t like it was when I was growing up, where a ton of people watched The Cosby Show or Family Ties when it aired because it was the only way to see it.
Original photo atop interview by J.R. Mankoff