Andre Braugher once joked to The New York Times that he had an “addiction” to working on critically acclaimed but little-watched shows. This may explain why lots of his work is not readily available — including, most surprisingly, the classic yet underappreciated cop show “Homicide: Life on the Street.”
Braugher, who died on Monday at age 61, became a breakout scene-stealer in this series as Frank Pembleton, a Baltimore detective who acted as the squad’s frustrated moral center. He was renowned for his ability to extract confessions from the guilty (and, to prove a point, sometimes the innocent) with his intense interrogation techniques. This was a role that earned Braugher his first Emmy, in 1998, but while the show is still available on DVD, and there is also a TV movie and a 2018 reunion panel (a snippet of which is available from the Paley Center’s YouTube channel), the original series has yet to arrive on streaming. Clearly, there is no justice.
Many of Braugher’s post-“Homicide” shows — “Gideon’s Crossing,” “Hack,” “Thief” (for which he won his second Emmy) — aren’t available in the streaming universe, but his more recent work is largely accessible. Here’s some of what you can stream right now:
Braugher’s first film role was in this exceptional Civil War movie, playing Thomas Searles, a free man who enlists in the Black 54th Massachusetts regiment. The actor was so green at the time, he said in interviews, that his co-stars Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman had to teach him how to hit marks and match eyelines. But Braugher is nevertheless masterful playing what in the film is presented as a highly unusual character — a Black man who had always been free — yet is actually more representative of the real-life soldiers, since the regiment recruited mainly in the North. Watch the film with that in mind, as Searles — at first effete, bookish, utterly unequipped for war — breaks down during training before embarking on a most harrowing journey. Braugher’s portrayal signaled the arrival of an exciting new talent.
Stream it on Pluto. Rent it on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu and YouTube.
‘The Tuskegee Airmen’ (1995)
Black men in the U.S. military were still battling racism in World War II — especially the first Black fighter pilots. Here, playing the real-life Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Braugher delivers a great speech in his defining scene. Testifying at a congressional hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, with politicians asking whether this “experiment” should continue, he delivers salient counterarguments and points out the fallacy of theirs: “How do I feel about my country, and how does my country feel about me? Are we only to be Americans when the mood suits you?” It’s an impeccable performance — one which earned an Emmy nomination.
Stream it on Max.
‘Men of a Certain Age’ (2009-2011)
Braugher got his first chance to play against type when Ray Romano and Mike Royce recruited him to replace Wendell Pierce in this TNT dramedy. (Pierce had gone on to do “Treme.”) This series gave Braugher a chance to demonstrate both his comedy chops and his soliloquy skills. The show, which co-starred Romano and Scott Bakula, was a sort of male version of “And Just Like That …” long before it was trendy to examine midlife friendships. (Instead of menopause, these characters dished on colonoscopies.) As the car salesman Owen Thoreau Jr., Braugher gave us an intimate look at the disappointments of middle age — being humiliated by relatives, bosses and peers; being betrayed by his own body — and earned two more Emmy nominations for his work.
Stream it on Max.
‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ (2013-2021)
After “Men of a Certain Age” was canceled, the producer Michael Schur reached out to Braugher about appearing in, of all things, a sitcom. Casting him as the stoic Capt. Raymond Holt, an openly gay cop in Brooklyn’s 99th precinct, was a clever repurposing of Braugher’s intense gravitas in previous TV detective roles such as “Homicide.” And his approach to this workplace comedy was to take his role seriously — talking to actual precinct commanders, questioning directors and producers about his character’s motivations, and rehearsing for endless hours. This hard work paid off — Braugher became a fan favorite, received four Emmy nominations for best supporting actor, and was surely one of the reasons NBC picked up the show when Fox canceled it. Vindication!
Stream it on Peacock.
‘BoJack Horseman’ (2017)
In the fourth season of this absurd animated comedy, Braugher channeled his best Barack Obama — and made the most of his exasperated deadpan — by playing the sitting governor of California, Woodchuck Coodchuck-Berkowitz. He’s a capable, if slightly boring, leader — he’d rather focus on substantive policy than publicity stunts — which makes him vulnerable to flashier celebrity opponents. When one of these dubious rivals proposes bypassing an actual election and replacing it with a ski-race challenge, Braugher’s character hits a comic peak, only to be surpassed by his glee when the election finally takes place.
Stream it on Netflix.
‘The Good Fight’ (2022)
After deadpanning for years on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Braugher got a more flamboyant character to play when he joined the sixth and final season of this witty spinoff to “The Good Wife.” As Ri’Chard Lane, a new partner at a Black law firm, Braugher was extravagantly extroverted and soon a source of simmering tension. His Ri’Chard also had a vulnerable side, which made him more endearing (but more suspicious, too). If you only have time for one episode, watch “The End of a Saturday” — it’s among the series’s shortest, it’s one of the best and you even get to hear Braugher sing.
Stream it on Paramount+.
‘She Said’ (2022)
In his last film role, Braugher once again played a real-life person, Dean Baquet, The New York Times’s former executive editor. Braugher didn’t meet Baquet until the film was wrapped, but he prepped for the role by watching YouTube videos and documentaries such as “The Fourth Estate” (a process he talked about in interviews with The Hollywood Reporter and Vanity Fair). His Baquet is steady and unflappable, especially when dealing with a pugnacious Harvey Weinstein during a Times investigation of the film mogul’s sexual misconduct. Braugher calmly established Baquet’s command of the relationship, addressing the producer’s telephonic dodges in one scene and shutting him down altogether in another. It’s a slow-burn performance, one that left Braugher fans wanting more.
Stream it on Amazon.