After its cancellation by FOX last season, the cast and crew of much-loved police sitcom Brooklyn 99 thought that their show had come to an end. However, the fans had other ideas. Soon after news of the series’ cancellation broke online, an internet fan campaign began to save the beloved series. After only thirty-one hours, the sheer volume of the fan support brought NBC to the table to resurrect the Nine-Nine. As the show prepares to return on its new network this Thursday night at 9pm/8c, Brooklyn 99 star Dirk Blocker (Detective Michael Hitchcock) finally has time to reflect on the wild ride from cancellation to rebirth.
“It was a big emotional rollercoaster, and pretty much everybody seems to feel the same way about it,” he remembers. “I was shocked at first, but it didn’t take me long [to adjust]. I’ve been in the business long enough to know nothing lasts forever and I kind of accepted it. I thought we’d had a great run so we have nothing to complain about. My biggest regret was that I didn’t really have a chance to say goodbye to people because we all thought we’d come back. It wasn’t long before that before I started hearing all these other talk about Netflix and this and that. So, it was hard not to get your hopes up…”
“My wife on the other hand… had this intuition. She said, “You’re not going to be cancelled. You’re going to be picked up by NBC.” So, I did a little ‘husband-splaining’. [laughs] I said, “Honey, it doesn’t work that way. Then, I turned my phone off because we were on vacation… When I turned my phone back on the next evening, I had dozens of emails and messages… By the time I saw all that, I was in a restaurant and I literally whooped! So yeah, it was quite an emotional rollercoaster.”
After such an overwhelming display of support, Blocker believes that the moment was an eye-opener to the cast and crew of the series as they realized just how beloved the series had become to its fans.
“The lovely part about it for most of us I think was… you just don’t know [what type of support is] on the other side out there in the world,” he recalls. “To see the reaction that people had, [and] the passion that they had behind it was a lovely awakening to see how many people out there really, really, really cared deeply about the show… We had really good responses on social media and so forth so we knew we had a core [of fans] out there. I just don’t think we understood how deep that pool was of fans that we have.”
Asked why he thinks there’s such a unique attraction to the (mis)adventures of the Ninety-Ninth Precinct, Blocker believes that it stems from the show’s depiction of the characters as a loving family.
“My sense is that there’s a lot of alienation and loneliness in the world and a feeling of separateness,” Blocker believes. “This was a group of people who aren’t blood-related but really behave as loving family members. We’re all completely different. We push each other’s buttons but, in the end, we all love each other. I think that that comes through and the writing is so strong in that regard. Dan Goor, Michael Schur and his writers have really been strong about that from the first episode on… That’s just a part of how they operate. That’s who they are as people. They do care about people and they care about us. So, that sense carries over into the script writing and onto the set. Also, the casting director, I think she just did a miraculous job. She just somehow put the right ingredients together because really from day one, everybody just bonded really quickly.”
“I don’t want my bosses to hear this, but it’s not like work. It’s a playground. It’s just so much fun. Everybody comes prepared but, once we’re there, it’s just like kids in a sandbox. We’re just having a blast.”
Of course, one of the keys to any great series is endearing characters. As Detective Hitchcock, Blocker and his partner, Detective Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller), have formed a lovable pair of misfits who are often mentioned in the same breath as one another.
“The crew actually refers to us as The Twins,” Blocker laughs. “Scully and Hitchcock are so much alike, but Scully is a kind of a clean freak. Even though his body parts are constantly referred to in the show as being odd and weird, he doesn’t see them as odd or weird. He’s kind of meticulous whereas Hitchcock is just a hedonist. It’s all about pleasure [with him]. When we started out, there wasn’t a whole lot of information for us about Hitchcock and Scully because they were so focused on trying to make the main cast gel and kind of figuring out they were all about. So, it was a lot of that was kind of left up to Joel. I think that what we brought to the table was the idea that maybe we had always wanted to be cops, so we became cops as young guys. Then, we were good cops as young guys but, over time, we kind of got tired of it. We kind of started thinking that we spent all of our youth dreaming of becoming cops and now, as we’re getting older, it’s like we’re dreaming of becoming kids again in our temperament and our appetites and everything else. There are no rules really for us.”
One of the other endearing qualities of the show is its ability to balance comedy with social commentary. With a cast that emphasizes diversity ranging from race to sexuality, Brooklyn 99 continues to engage important social issues without becoming ‘preachy’. Speaking about the show’s diverse cast, Blocker believes that the intent was always to find the best people for the job as opposed to simply attempting to find specific representation.
“I honestly don’t believe that these guys set out to say ‘let’s make this that [sort of thing]’,” Blocker feels. “I think they focused on the humanity and the human beings involved and it just so happened that Captain Holt is gay, but in other terms, it absolutely makes no difference whether he’s gay or not. We have two Latina actresses, incredibly talented people. Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatrice, and from what I learned is that there was initially the only one role written for a Latina actress. They thought Melissa was the right choice for Amy but, when they looked at Stephanie, they just said, let’s just make her Rosa as opposed to whatever the character’s name was… I think they wanted the best people available for the job. Andre is proven to be the most incredible stone faced, robotic actor when he wants to be and Terry Crews’ enthusiasm [makes him] so huge as a human being. I don’t think that they were thinking that ‘this guy’s got to be African-American’. I think they just said we want the best actor in the funniest person for this role and Terry was the guy.”
“When Joel and I started out many years ago, the opposite was true. Most shows had five, six, seven Caucasian actors in the show… But it was always troubling and bothersome to notice that the one or two sideline characters (kind of like Hitchcock and Scully) were generally portrayed by minority people representatives. I view it as a very healthy and very positive spin that the industry in our world has changed to the degree that now the two main Caucasian guys in the show–Andy, of course, is the lead–are considered the punching bags. All the bad things that would need to happen to somebody in the show generally tends to happen to us… I view it as a very positive thing, but I don’t know how much of this was really something [intentional]. I mean they set it in Brooklyn and Brooklyn as a melting pot of different nationalities and backgrounds all over the place. So, I think they were just trying to be honest to that.”
Incidentally, the success of 99has also allowed him to pursue one of his other passions. As the author of Master and the Little Monk, Blocker is very excited to have created a charming fable that explores issues such as compassion, forgiveness and one’s purpose in life.
“I’m really pleased with it. I wrote a short fable [that] I wrote a couple of years ago,” he begins. “I dabble in writing. I don’t consider myself a writer… but I am when the impulse strikes me. It just helps me kind of figure things out. I’m an actor and I’m happy with that, but I wrote this one piece a couple of years back… So, when Brooklyn 99came around and I was a regular, I found myself in a position that I [could self-publish].”
“It really focuses on compassion and lack of compassion that we can tend to have towards each other and the power that compassion for each other can bring out in each other. Forgiveness is one of the themes. There’s an aspect of bullying and there’s also the that [asks] how can people mistreat each other so readily?… And it started to occur to me that until people could view the same kind of outlook in terms of how we treat animals, we don’t really have much hope for how we treat each other… I respect the idea of people providing food sources for their families. I have no problem with that. But when I see people paying large amounts of money to go out somewhere and shoot endangered animals, just to hang them on their wall. That just doesn’t make any sense to me… So, there’s that in the book as well. Hopefully it’s a story that will give people a brighter look on life and give people a lift… This story I think touches on our purpose of life. Are we here to do something? To accomplish something? I believe every person in the planet has some gift and it’s our job, I believe, to try our best to kind of uncover what that gift is. It may take us a lifetime to do it but, if we do, I think that we can add something of value to the planet and we can have a better life.”
As for Brooklyn 99, Blocker fully believes that, if people are watching, the show will continue for years to com.
“All of us just love this job. It’s just the greatest job in the history of the world,” he beams. “So, the longer it runs, the better, as far as we’re concerned. It seems as though that’s NBC’s desire as well. We’ll find out how well it’s received, I guess, when they start airing it, but NBC has made no secret of the fact that they’d like for this to extend beyond this season six… [into] maybe a seventh or eighth as well. But one step at a time. All we’re focused on right now is just making the best possible season six, and, if you’re a fan of the show, I think people are gonna freak out season six… [There’s] lots to be proud of and a lot to be excited about.
Season Six of Brooklyn 99 begins on Thursday, January 10th, 2018 at 9pm/8c on NBC
For more information on Dirk’s book, click here.
For full audio of our conversation with Dirk Blocker, click here.