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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Tuesday’s “Coral Palms Pt. 2” episode of Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine.]
Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine welcomed its second main Parks and Recreation alum during Tuesday’s all-new episode as Jim O’Heir — aka Jerry (or Terry or Larry) — popped in as a slightly racist and homophobic Florida sheriff.
In a bid to track down mob boss Figgis (to be played by Eric Roberts), Jake (Andy Samberg) and Holt (Andre Braugher) wind up in the witness protection program in Florida where they wind up being arrested by none other than O’Heir’s Sheriff Reynolds.
When Jake and Holt, who had been posing as a couple, come clean — that they’re actually cops from Brooklyn who are in the witness protection program — Reynolds doesn’t believe them. In a bid to escape, Jake and Holt wind up kissing and freak out the homophobic sheriff and seize their opportunity to escape.
To hear showrunner Dan Goor tell it, producers have been trying to get O’Heir — and any other Parks grad — to reunite with them on Brooklyn. The series previously featured Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) as Frederick, Holt’s ex-boyfriend. And while Amy Poehler (Leslie Knope) hasn’t popped up on screen, she visited the set in season one.
Below, Goor talks with THR about why O’Heir was right for this part, courting other Parks grads and seeing Sheriff Reynolds and the Florida characters again.
How long has this been in the works?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Jim’s. We’re always trying to figure out a part — and have been since the first minute of the show — that Jim could play. It always felt like someone somewhere in the world of Hitchcock and Scully was a Jim O’Heir-type person. When we started talking about this Florida cop and the idea that Holt was pulled over, it immediately crystalized the idea that Jim would be funny playing that part.
Did you write the role specifically for him?
We had the idea and before we wrote it, had the idea for it to be Jim. So we started talking to him as we were writing it. It felt good that Holt and Jake got arrested and then had to break out of jail. Then early on in talking about who should arrest them, Jim was the idea.
The timing of this episode coming two nights after Jon Hamm surprised everyone on Fox’s Last Man on Earth is pretty great.
I think Jim O’Heir will be flattered being compared to Jon Hamm! But in truth, Jon Hamm should be flattered being compared to Jim O’Heir! They are our country’s two greatest leading men! (Laughing.)
Is there a chance we’ll see Jim again?
We do see him again in episode three. After that, there are a few people from Florida that will be really fun to see in Brooklyn, if we can figure out a way to get them there — or if our guys had to go back to Florida — and one of them is definitely Jim. I think it’d be really fun to see Maya Rudolph and her U.S. Marshal again. We always try to bring people back if we can.
Sheriff Reynolds was very Jerry-like — but also a bit racist and homophobic. Why go that route?
Jerry didn’t have a hateful bone in his body! But Jerry is a product of the Midwest and a sweet, Midwest town. Sheriff Reynolds has a different upbringing from experience he needs to overcome. The idea for him was that he outwardly appeared to be a dolt but then actually was effective as a cop in the sense that his Newlywed Game tactic, for instance, surprisingly works and he does catch Holt and Jake in a lie. That’s a thing that Jim is able to play: he’s able to play simple and sweet on the outside but there’s something under the surface.
Were there any other roles that you thought of Jim to play?
We had talked about Jim as a guy who had been [like] Jake 20 years before in precinct and then had become Jerry 20 years later. That seemed funny. Or like a former partner of Hitchcock and Scully or a former partner of Holt’s or a former captain. We bandied about ideas for Jim but since none of those resulted in a story, we thought let’s use him and he’ll be great in this role rather than waiting for a story to come to fruition.
You’ve had Nick Offerman guest in the past. Is the goal to get everyone else from Parks on the show?
The cast of Parks is one of all-time great TV casts. It would be a dream and is a dream to work with any and all of them. We’d love to bring Nick back but he’s so busy that it’s difficult. It’d be nice to see an episode where we had more time for Nick with Holt and see more time between the two of them. There are no immediate plans [for the other Parks stars] but as roles come up, we always look to them. It would be funny if we had a walk-on part for Chris Pratt with a two-line bit but he’s a bit busy. But they’re all such huge stars after Parks and have movie careers that it’s hard for scheduling. part for Pratt, a two-line run. They’re all such huge stars after Parks and have movie careers that scheduling is hard.
Any fun anecdotes from your time on set with Jim?
I was on set for his second episode and he reminded me, as he always does, of the episode of mine where it was revealed that Jerry had a very large, ahem, penis. Jim is always eternally grateful that we gave Jerry that character trait. (Laughing.)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
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