Andre Braugher was born in Chicago in 1962. He majored in theater at Stanford University before going on to study at the Julliard School, from which he graduated with an MFA in 1988. The following year, he landed his first film role in the Civil War drama Glory, and in 1993 began a career-making run as Detective Frank Pembleton in the police drama Homicide: Life on the Street. He received several Emmy nominations and one win for the part before moving on to roles in countless other TV shows and films for which he would receive further critical praise and honors. In 2013 Braugher showed his versatility yet again in his portrayal of police captain Ray Holt in the comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Early Life and Education
Andre Braugher was born in a tough neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side on July 1, 1962. His father was a heavy-machinery laborer employed by the state and his mother was a postal worker, and both set aside time and money to devote to their four children’s education. Andre excelled in his studies and attended St. Ignatius College Prep and eventually earned a scholarship to Stanford University.
At his father’s behest, Braugher began his college career in pursuit of an engineering degree. However, when a friend encouraged him to audition for a school production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Braugher found the course of both his education and life irreversibly altered. Much to the chagrin of his father, Braugher changed his major to theater. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Stanford in 1984, Braugher was accepted at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, where, inspired by the likes of James Earl Jones and Sidney Poitier, he not only continued to hone his craft but also decided that it would be his personal mission to use acting to challenge stereotypes of race. With these lofty goals in mind, in 1988 Braugher graduated from Juilliard with an MFA and the honor of being named his class’s Most Outstanding Theater Student.
Successful Debut & Acclaim
Work came quickly for Braugher, who in 1989 made his small- and big-screen debuts in the made-for-TV detective movie Ariana (the first of five he would make in the coming years) and the Civil War drama Glory, in which—alongside Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman—he portrayed a Harvard-educated man serving in an all-black regiment. In 1991, Braugher began a family as well, marrying actress Ami Brabson, with whom he would go on to have three children.
After several more television roles, including appearances as a civil rights activist and as legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, in 1993 Braugher landed the career-making part for which he is perhaps best known, portraying Detective Frank Pendleton in the David Simon–created police drama Homicide: Life on the Street. Over the next five years, the intensity that Braugher brought to the role would earn him much critical acclaim, including one Emmy Award nomination in 1996 and one Emmy win in 1998.
But Braugher found plenty of other work during this time as well, appearing in such films as Striking Distance (1993) and Primal Fear (1996) as well as HBO’s The Tuskegee Airmen, in which his portrayal of a World War II pilot earned him yet another Emmy Award nomination. Braugher found success offscreen as well, with roles in theater productions that included a 1996 performance in the title role of Shakespeare’s Henry V, for which he received an Obie Award.
A Varied Career
Wishing to avoid being typecast as a hard-boiled cop, in 1998 Braugher left Homicide to seek out new, more challenging parts. Since that time, he has played a wide range of characters, moving easily across formats and genres. On the big screen he portrayed an angel in the 1998 film City of Angels opposite Nicolas Cage, played a priest in the TV movie Passing Glory (1990) and a gay lawyer in All the Rage (1999). He has also appeared in such films as Stephen King’s The Mist (2007) and the 2010 Angelina Jolie action film Salt as well as the fantasy/sci-fi pictures Poseidon (2006) and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007).
However, it has been in television series that Braugher continues to find the most success, and despite having the misfortune of landing parts on short-lived series, he has continued to distinguish himself as a talented and versatile actor. His performance as Dr. Ben Gideon in Gideon’s Crossing (2000) earned him both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, as did his role as a criminal in the miniseries Thief, for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in 2006. Roles in the 2008 miniseries Andromeda Strain and the drama/mystery House M.D. followed before Braugher further demonstrated his range by appearing in comedies Everybody Loves Raymond and Men of a Certain Age, for which he again received Emmy nominations, in 2010 and 2011.
More recently, Braugher has appeared in the ongoing comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in which he portrays gay police captain Ray Holt, whose humorless demeanor is the foil to Andy Samberg’s punchier Jake Peralta. In keeping with Braugher’s convictions, he plays his part without resorting to stereotypes, and he has been honored with two Emmy Award nominations for his work on the show to date.
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