André Braugher
André Braugher as Capt. Raymond Holt in 'Brooklyn 99' André Braugher's Instagram

André Braugher, a towering figure in TV entertainment, not only graced the screen with his undeniable talent but also used his platform to advocate for diversity and inclusion in Hollywood.

Braugher's career began in the 1980s, a time when opportunities for Black actors were limited and stereotypical roles were the norm. He refused to be confined by such limitations, choosing instead to portray complex, nuanced characters that defied expectations.

From his groundbreaking role as Detective Frank Pembleton on "Homicide: Life on the Street" to his captivating performance as Captain Raymond Holt on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Braugher demonstrated his range and depth, earning critical acclaim and numerous awards along the way.

The actor, who died Tuesday at 61, was mostly famous for his role as beloved Captain Holt in 'Brooklyn 99,' a Fox comedy that lasted seven seasons and in which Braugher played an eccentric police officer leading a diverse squad of detectives to solve crimes in this New York City's borough.

But Capt. Holt was just one of the roles in which Braugher became a trailblazer for diversity and inclusion. During most of his career he moved around performances that required him to portrait people on the fringe or exposed to abuse, either for being a minority or for being part of the LGBT community.

Here are five roles for which Braugher was a true champion of diversity:

1. Captain Raymond Holt on "Brooklyn 99"

Braugher's role as Captain Raymond Holt on the hit comedy series "Brooklyn 99" has made him a household name. Holt is a gay, Black police captain who is known for his stoic demeanor and dry wit. He is a role model for many viewers, and he has helped to change the way that LGBTQ+ characters are portrayed on television.

2. Detective Frank Pembleton on "Homicide: Life on the Street"

Braugher's breakout role was as Detective Frank Pembleton on the NBC drama 'Homicide: Life on the Street'. Pembleton was a complex and nuanced character, and Braugher's performance earned him critical acclaim. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role in 1995.

3. Attorney Bayard Ellis on "Law & Order Special Victims Unit"

André Braugher played a defense attorney for six episodes spanning three seasons. Ellis defended clients charged with drug related crimes and in the show he founded the New York Center for Civil Liberties to help fight judicial system's failures.

Despite appearing in a limited number of episodes, Ellis's character left a lasting impression. He served as a reminder of the importance of due process and the need for dedicated advocates who challenge the system and fight for the rights of the underprivileged.

3. Owen Thoreau Jr. on "Men of a Certain Age"

In this dramedy, Braugher's character is a man who is sick and must fight the system to accommodate his needs and his family's. He plays Owen, a middle-aged diabetic man frustrated because he works at his father's car dealership, a former NBA player. The show was praised for its realistic portrayal of middle-aged men, and Braugher's performance was a highlight.

4. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. on "The Tuskegee Airmen"

This 1995 HBO movie tells the story of the first African-American combat pilots in the U.S. Army Aircops who fought in Wold War II. Braugher plays Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. For his performance, he was nominated as Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series by the NAACP Image Awards in 1995.

5. Thomas Searles on "Glory"

In 1989, Braugher had his first role in film playing Thomas Searles, a free, educated Black man during the U.S. civil war who joins the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment as its first volunteer. The unit was one of the first all-Black regiment in the Union Army.

Braugher's performance is both powerful and heartbreaking, capturing the courage and resilience of Black soldiers fighting for their freedom.

Beyond his acting prowess, Braugher was a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion. He spoke out against the underrepresentation of minority actors and the lack of opportunities available to them. His commitment to change went beyond words; he actively worked to create opportunities for others by mentoring young actors and supporting initiatives that promote diversity in the entertainment industry.

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