In its final season, NBC comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine is venturing slightly out of its comfort zone to address policing issues more seriously than it ever has over the past seven seasons. Before filming on season eight began, a few scripts were famously thrown out to make room for new ones to accurately reflect real world stories about George Floyd’s tragic death and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed. The first part of the season premiere, titled “The Good Ones,” reveals Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) quit her job at the 99th precinct to become a private investigator and help citizens impacted by various forms of police brutality. She teams up with Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) to help out a client, a Black woman, who was targeted by two cops. Their attempts to seek justice for her are thwarted by Frank O’Sullivan, the head of the patrolman’s union. Veteran actor and Scrubs alum John C. McGinley, who plays Frank, tells The A.V. Club it was a gift to join the popular sitcom before it wraps up.
McGinley says he was offered the part of Frank O’Sullivan in February, and after reading the scripts, he was immediately on board. “I called back [series co-creator and executive producer] Dan Goor, who I think is the Norman Lear of his generation, and I told him nothing cries the character of Frank more than ‘Archie Bunker meets Yosemite Sam.’ It was too delicious of a character to pass up,” he adds. Like most B99 characters with their peculiar traits, Frank is equipped with a few of his own. In “The Good Ones,” he shared with Rosa and Jake that only three things matter to him—his ma, the NYPD, and Billy Joel. His love for the city’s police officers drives his agenda in this episode and beyond: “This guy only has to see blue, that’s the only color he sees, that gives so much fuel to Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), Rosa, and Jake.”
Frank’s undying loyalty to the “brave officers” of the NYPD is quickly established, but he takes it one step beyond with proclamations such as “I would oppose marching because marching leads to rioting, and rioting leads to looting.” Through this character, and the reactions to his choices from the 99th precinct over the season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine endeavors to thread the needle of tackling pivotal, timely topics through its trademark goofy humor. McGinley praises Goor’s handling of this slippery slope. “Any insensitivity here would lead to a total mess,” he says. “Dan was keenly aware of any traps they may have fallen into during the past seven seasons. The writers made Frank his own worst enemy.”
This fact is evident even in “The Good Ones” when Frank is easily tricked by Jake into believing he is a potential random client while Rosa steals bodycam footage from his computer. “This scene, to me, signifies that Frank is the kind of guy who thinks he is the smartest one in the room when he’s not. There’s an enormous ego there that is destined to fail. He’s full throttle in how the only color he chooses to see is blue, and it’s a recipe for disaster,” the Scrubs actor says.
Since the character is a blend of Archie and Yosemite Sam, McGinley crafted Frank to be someone with extremely animated hand gestures. “I wanted to show this guy wants to keep delivering for his union. It’s not enough for him to just speak the words, he has to illustrate exactly what he is talking about.” Frank is set to appear in three more episodes this season, including next week’s third one, “Blue Flu.” McGinley teases Frank’s journey by saying that he has the knack to take all the wind out of himself. “He holds his long for as long as he can, but characters who operate in a fanatical fashion are doomed to shoot themselves in the foot.”
As a proper fan of the NBC sitcom, McGinley says he was most excited to work with friend Braugher and join the ensemble. The actor, who played Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs for nine seasons, was thrilled to join another long-running comedy, even if briefly. “It reminded me of how watertight the ensemble was on Scrubs. We were all playing at an elevated level, so when we had guests coming in, from Heather Graham to Michael Fox, everyone had to simply bring their A game. That’s how I felt stepping into this thrilling, well-oiled machine, especially as a delightful new comic foil for Andre and Andy.”