Andre Braugher©

Raising An Emotional Toast To Captain Holt AKA Andre Braugher

Today morning, I woke up to the heartbreaking news that Andre Braugher had passed away on Monday, aged 61, following a short illness. A darkness washed over me and it actually felt that our world had lost one of it’s ‘finest’. It’s always weird when celebrity deaths have such a heavy impact on you—it’s not like you knew them personally. But, a single character played by fine actors like Braugher, who enacted Captain Raymond Holt in Brooklyn 99, can impact your life in more ways than you can count. This is not an obituary, because if I was being asked to “deliver a message of hope”, just like Captain Holt, the only words I could think of would be, ‘paaaiiinnnn. That’s it.’

This is my version of Amy’s Thanksgiving toast dedicated to Captain Holt, to thank him for being the best mentor in all the ways that he could, which I can promise you, won’t be eight pages (double-sided!) long.

Brooklyn 99 was a show that was recommended to me a lot, not just by friends but also by streaming platforms, who knew of my unhealthy binge-watching habits (of watching one show on repeat over and over again) well. Having read the summary, I dismissed it as a “cop show” for far too long.

I was in the worst job of my life when short clips of the “funny moments” or “best pranks” slowly began making their way to me through reels and YouTube shorts and I realised, I had unfairly judged the show. So, I mustered the courage to take on a new commitment of watching eight full seasons of a show that had the potential to make it into my personal list of ‘GOATs’. This list basically includes TV shows and sitcoms that I have playing in the background everyday to drain out the silence around me, be it while showering, doing chores, recovering from heartbreaks or when I can simply not find anything else to watch. So far, that list only included Friends, How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family. And I’m happy to report that Brooklyn 99 has become a mainstay in the list, largely due to Captain Holt.

To no one’s surprise, I was quickly hooked and for a change, I actually loved the entire cast. However, the one person who I wished was real and would have actually loved to have met from the get-go was, without a doubt, Captain Raymond Holt. When we first met him, he’s a “robot” who’s a stickler for rules like most authoritarian figures and I related to Jake (Andy Samberg) in his irritation towards him.

However, all you need is one episode to understand just how wrong you are about Captain Holt. While he gathers information on how each detective in his precint works, he was also gaining insight on what is the best way to motivate them to complete the work at hand, while also letting them excel on their own terms and as per their potential. His orders may seem like punishments at first, but they always result in detectives finding their way on their own. When was the last time your boss was concerned about learning more about you, figuring out the best method to help you grow, while also winning your trust and respect?

He understood his team’s weakness and strengths, and on the few times that he was wrong, he made sure to take accountability. Being an openly gay cop in the NYPD sounded like an anomaly in itself, but with his unapologetic attitude, Captain Holt inspired everyone watching to be true to themselves, believe in their capabilities and stand up for what’s right, no matter who’s up against you — be it Deputy Wuntch, the entire NYPD or the mafia.

But that isn’t even the best part of Captain Holt. As the seasons and episodes progress, we see Captain Holt truly become a part of the team — be it through the ‘Halloween Heists’, taking on Jake’s made-up undercover characters like Maxwell Maxwell, pooling together resources to find Detective Pimento and doing everything in his power to help and protect Rosa and Jake against corrupted and evil counterparts like Melanie Hopkins or ‘The Vulture’. These unexpected moments of rolling with the puns is what made all of us watching also want to work for someone like Holt.

No Captain Holt story should ever be complete without Kevin and Cheddar (his husband and dog), and this one is no exception. The writers of the show did an excellent job in capturing the reality of a couple that is similar to one another, but holds very different idealogies, and despite differences, respect the other’s point of view, journeys and capabilities, making them the perfect soulmates. The actors made sure that their chemistry and love story shined brighter than all the other romantic angles in the show.

Especially during the time period where the two get seperated, you see Captain Holt be miserable and spiteful, basically represent all of us when we fight or breakup with our significant other. But, anyone can clearly see that the toughness is just an act he’s putting up and how much the two long to be with one another. Their romantic ‘make up’ kiss in the rain can give any romcom a run for it’s money and make you ugly cry. As for Mr Cheddar, he is Holt’s true best friend. From helping him in heists to solving crime, Captain Ray made sure Cheddar was a part of it all. And when he is abducted, we all felt the rage with the Captain as he knocked out the kidnapper screaming the words, ‘You took the wrong fluffy boy!’ You have to be a really, really good actor to convincingly deliver that line.

All in all, Andre Braugher played the perfect Captain Holt, a beacon in times of peak corporate slavery and when good managers seem like a thing of the past. The Emmy-winning actor was many things to everyone in his life, besides their Captain. He learnt about Jake’s daddy issues and had no qualms playing a father figure to him. When he saw Rosa go through the torment of coming out to an unaccepting family, he made sure that she had her work family to turn to. He mentored Amy with binders, just like she wanted. He was Gina’s sassy best friend, and the first person to see her talents beyond her vanity. He believed in the capabilities of Terry and Boyle as cops and as fathers, treating them as family and lifting them up, in every way possible.

Just like in the show, no one can ever take Andre Braugher’s place as Captain Holt in our lives. The stoic persona paired with the personality of a goofball is a contrasting combination that very few people can achieve, but Braugher did it with such ease and perfection (Credit it to his Julliard training or his experience as Detective Pemberton on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street). Not to mention the countless life lessons he imparted knowingly or unknowingly, not just to his squad but also us viewers. While we will miss his over-pronunciation of words like ‘punk’ and ‘Turkish Bazar’, the one thing that will stay with me for a long time is the advice he gave Rosa in his characteristic deep voice, “Every time someone steps up and says who they truly are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.”

We will miss you, Captain Dad.