Emmy episode analysis: Sterling K. Brown (‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’) gives a killer performance in ‘The Box’

Sterling K. Brown has quickly become an Emmy magnet. Following wins for “The People v. O.J. Simpson” (Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor, 2016) and “This Is Us” (Best Drama Actor, 2017), Brown earned two Emmy nominations this year — another Drama Actor nom for “This Is Us” and Best Comedy Guest Actor for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” his first nomination for a laffer.

In his episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” titled “The Box,” Brown plays Philip Davidson, a dentist who is interrogated for the murder of his work partner. Brown gets to square off with Andre Braugher, who just so happened to be the last black actor to win the Emmy for Best Drama Actor (for “Homicide: Life on the Street”), 19 years before Brown’s victory, which prompted Brown to thank Braugher in his acceptance speech.

This bottle episode centers completely on Philip as he is questioned by Capt. Holt (Braugher) and Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg). So can Brown actually win three Emmys in a row for three different shows in three different genres? Let’s take a look at his submission.


While Brown is primarily known for his gravitas, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” proves he is just as capable in a comedic part. He spends most of the episode still and calm, but he eventually shows more emotion when he turns the interrogation back on the police officers, including a humorous moment when he laughs in Jake’s face and compares him to a Muppet. And when Jake accuses the meticulous Philip of just getting lucky in pulling off his crime Brown finally lets loose as he makes a detailed confession.

“The Box” is so performance-driven that Emmy voters should be drawn into the dynamic between Brown, Braugher and Samberg. In particular, Braugher and Brown going toe-to-toe with their rapid-fire dialogue is a thrill to watch. Plus, even those voters who aren’t fans of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” may be inclined to just tick his name off due to their abundant goodwill for him.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” had fallen off many people’s radar, but its cancellation by FOX prompted such an outpouring of support for the series that NBC picked it up for a sixth season. Might that burst of support extend to the TV academy?


Emmy voters typically love laugh-out-loud moments in the comedy categories, especially in this race, which has gone to broad performances by Tim Conway (“30 Rock”), Justin Timberlake (twice for “Saturday Night Live”) and Jimmy Fallon (also twice for “SNL”) in recent years. While “The Box” delivers that kind of humor, much of it stems from Holt and Peralta rather than from Brown’s character. Voters may not go for a role that is mostly understated, though we have seen more nuanced performances win this category lately, like Bradley Whitford in “Transparent” (2015) and Peter Scolari in “Girls” (2016).

Emmy voters don’t seem to like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” very much in general. Best Stunt Coordination is its only other nomination this year, and in previous years the only recognition for the show was for its stunts and for Braugher’s supporting performance. The show hasn’t won in any category since 2015, when it claimed the second of its two stunt Emmys. Can the love for Brown outweigh this?

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on September 17. Be sure to also predict winners for the Creative Arts ceremonies slated for September 8 and 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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