John C. McGinley was well aware that he was being offered a role in what would be the final season of the NBC comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” He was happy to join the cast despite there only being 10 episodes left starting at 8 p.m. Aug. 12 because of the character he would get to portray.
He saw the character sent to him by Emmy Award-winning writer/producer Dan Goor as a mix of Archine Bunker from “All in the Family” and the rootin’-tootin’ gunslinger Yosemite Sam from cartoon fame.
“Nothing says McGinley like Archie Bunker meets Yosemite Sam,” McGinley says. “I was sitting here in February during the pandemic taking care of everybody and Dan called to ask if I wanted to come over to Culver City to play for a while.
“Dan encouraged me to bring as much of my own flavor as I wanted and I did. I was thrilled.”
McGinley pauses and then reflects on whether it is a compliment or a disrespect that he would be the person thought of for a character with Archie Bunker and Yosemite Sam characteristics. He decides the role was too good to ponder such a question.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” follows Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) and the other diverse members of NYPD’s 99th Precinct. In this final season, Jake and the squad must try to balance their personal lives and their professional lives over the course of a very difficult year.
Adding to their turmoil is McGinley’s character of Frank O’Sullivan, the Head of the Patrolman’s Union. He lives in the basement of his mother’s home, loves Billy Joel and enjoys being a thorn in the side of the police officers.
One of the places where McGinley ran with the character is his passion for Billy Joel. McGinley sang as many Billy Joel tunes as he could during the filming. He’s just not certain how much of his musical abilities will be shown because of the cost for the production company to license the tunes.
McGinley has a long career on television being part of the cast at the start of a series with the most notable being the nine seasons he spent playing Dr. Perry Cox on “Scrubs.” In the case of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” McGinley was stepping into a series where the cast had seven previous seasons to bond.
As far as McGinley’s concerned, there is no big difference between being part of a cast from the start of a series or for the final season.
“Someone is going to call action and you have to bring your A game,” McGinley says. “It doesn’t matter if you are on Broadway doing ‘Glengarry Glen Ross” or if you are stepping into ‘Chicago P.D.’ or starting ‘Scrubs.’
“Sooner or later, someone is going to call action and it is go time.”
McGinley agreed to take on the character because he would be there for an entire season. He doesn’t like to do one-shot cameo roles because those characters are never fully formed. Getting 10 episodes to play the role was perfect for McGinley.
O’Sullivan often finds himself going head-to-head with Captain Holt. McGinley praises the entire “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” cast for their comic skills but found some of his favorite scenes to be those working with Braugher. He holds the actor in high esteem and has always found he brings his best game when working in a scene with someone who is extremely talented.
The one season of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will be the only one for McGinley (despite playing the role to the level of a character who often gets a spinoff) but he’s not just sitting around waiting for the next call. He is part of a script for a new comedy that is being shopped around Hollywood at this time.
If that show launches, it could go for multiple seasons or die a quick death. Such is the nature of the career path McGinley has taken. He saw his comedy “Ground Floor” canceled after only two seasons despite what he saw as great writing and strong ensemble cast. And his “Stan Against Evil” only completed three seasons before the money ran out.
The lifespan of an acting job is not a big worry for McGinley as he has more important priorities in his life. As the father of Max, his 23-year-old son with Down syndrome, McGinley’s chief priority is to build awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome.
McGinley also serves as an Ambassador for Special Olympics and is a board member of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. He’s also one of the original creators, in conjunction with Special Olympics, of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” national campaign to eradicate the word “retard.”
He is also a partner at McGinley Entertainment Inc., an independent film production company with several projects currently in development.