Remembering Andre Braugher ’84: A magnificent man and his magnificent work

Dec. 23, 2023, 5:09 p.m.

Andre Braugher ’84 passed away from lung cancer at the age of 61 on Dec. 11. The Emmy-winning actor, best known for his performances as Captain Holt in the comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and Detective Frank Pembleton in the ’90s drama “Homicide: Life on the Street,” has long inspired members of the Stanford community on and off the stage. 

Braugher was first introduced to acting while attending Stanford. He went on to graduate with a degree in drama (the predecessor to today’s theater & performance studies degree) before obtaining a graduate degree from Juilliard. 

Steven Fuller ’82 M.A. ’84 Ph.D. ’91 played Horatio alongside Braugher’s Hamlet in a 1984 student show. According to Fuller, Braugher clearly stood out during his audition.

“Andre got up and did ‘To Be or Not to Be,’” Fuller said. “And from then on, everybody was thinking, ‘We are there for the crumbs because he clearly was gonna get the role.’ He was just so superb from the beginning.”

Bradley Rubidge M.A. ’84 M.A. ’85 Ph.D. ’93, in his review of “Hamlet” for The Daily, praised Braugher’s performance. 

“Stanford audiences have the opportunity to see an astonishing young actor in the title role,” Rubidge wrote. “Braugher has tremendous energy, tempered by the comfort he obviously feels on stage. His movements, big and small, are expressive and direct, and his voice, too, projects supple power.”

More than his talent, what made Braugher stand out was his generosity as a performer, according to Fuller.

“They’ve talked about him in his obituaries being an actor’s actor, and he was really that,” Fuller said. “There was a process of give and take that was like no one else I’ve ever worked with, really.”

Offstage, Braugher was “a character on campus,” widely known for his personality and “punker” style, according to Fuller. But “underneath all of that, he was just a lovable, caring person,” Fuller noted. 

Rush Rehm Ph.D. ’85, professor of theater & performance studies and of classics, cast Braugher in several shows during his time as a graduate student in the drama department’s directing and criticism program. He first met Braugher during the actor’s frosh year, and decided to cast Braugher in the spring production of “Oedipus Tyrannus.”

“He was a raw, but rare talent; anyone could see his potential was extraordinary,” Rehm wrote in a statement to The Daily. “Most people know him as a film and TV actor, but Andre on stage was something else again: powerful, commanding, arresting and committed to his art; and at the same time he remained a wonderful, fun, energetic and joyful presence.”

Rehm and Braugher’s paths crossed later, too — once when Braugher was driving a cab during his time at Juilliard, and again on the subway when Braugher was preparing his Shakespeare audition for the Public Theater. Some years later, Braugher visited Stanford with his wife Ami Brabson and young children, when Rehm was already a member of faculty. 

“I cannot claim I knew him well once his career took off, but I remember him very fondly,” Rehm wrote. “His death leaves us so much the poorer. He was a great actor and a fine human being.”

Fellow Emmy-winner and former Stanford drama major Sterling K. Brown ’98 posted an Instagram video on Dec. 14 referring to Braugher as “one of my favorite actors and somebody that I’ve looked up to my entire career.” He recalled people around him telling him he could “be like Andre Braugher” during his time at Stanford. 

Brown worked with Braugher once, during a guest appearance on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” 

“I remember how he valued his family and his presence in his family. Besides his magnificent work, he was a magnificent human being,” Brown said in the video. 

Calvin Laughlin ’24, president of Stanford Students in Entertainment, watched “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” with his family growing up and felt “completely surprised and sad” to hear of Braugher’s passing. “I felt like I knew him,” Laughlin said.

After Braugher passed away, Laughlin learned that Braugher was a Stanford alum. Laughlin was inspired by Braugher’s decision to change course to pursue a drama degree despite his family’s objections. 

“I feel like he’s a symbol for not being afraid to follow your passions,” said Laughlin, who hopes to pursue a career in entertainment. “I look to him as a source of inspiration and knowledge that it’s a daunting task, but it’s doable.”

Cameron Duran '24 is a vol. 265 Arts & Life Managing Editor. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’

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