The hilarious "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" debuted it's third season last Sunday, and fans already saw some major changes to the precinct and the lovable law enforcers therein: Captain Holt is now relegated to pigeon mascot-naming in the NYPD's ineffective PR department with faithful assistant and "the human form of the 100 emoji," Gina Linetti. Bill Hader enters as Captain Seth Dozerman, complete with tablets that track productivity. Amy and Jake are in L-U-V and are, finally, not afraid to say it. If the premiere was any indication, we're in for a few more surprises before season's end.
Grounding us in all the newness is Stephanie Beatriz, who plays the no-nonsense, leather-jacket wearing Rosa Diaz. Beatriz spoke on the phone with The Huffington Post to give us insight into the new season, her character's tough exterior and how she pursues her interests outside of acting.
What was it like having Bill Hader as your police captain?
Hilarious, adorable and extremely humble. I complimented him, obviously, on his work in Amy Schumer’s film, “Trainwreck.” He was so good in that. And he’s so humble about it, like, “Oh, thanks, thanks for seeing it,” like it was some little movie, and I’m like, “Dude. That was a big movie.” It’s funny, because he breaks a lot, which is really fun to have on set. He’s so joyous in his work that it was really infectious.
Will we see, in Season 3, the captain position at the Nine-Nine sort of become this Defense Against the Dark Arts Hogwarts situation? [Spoiler: Hader's character dies the same episode he's introduced.]
Ha! Um, I love that you’re a "Harry Potter" fan like myself. I think, definitely, there’s some shift ups happening. I mean, as you’ve already seen in the first episode, that the Vulture’s back. I know the squad doesn’t want him to stay for long, so I’m pretty sure they’re going to do their best to get him out of that position, whether or not that will be seen in the rest of the season, I can’t say more than that. You wanna hate the Vulture, so how long is he gonna last? That’s a really good question. So we’ll get to see it all get played out.
When you started the show, how much of Rosa was described to you, and how much of her character did you bring to it?
When I auditioned for the role of Rosa, she was actually called Megan. The name changed after I won the role. When I auditioned, there were just little scenes that were written. There wasn’t a full pilot that I got to see at that point. So I had to make predictions based on what was written, and there was a great scene where the camera’s on Rosa -- kind of one of the flashbacks -- she’s sitting around the precinct and it’s her birthday and somebody hands her a gift. She opens the gift and pulls out a sweater, and the sweater looks exactly like the sweater that she’s got on. And the lines were: “What the hell is this? What makes you idiots think that I would ever wear something like this?” I thought, OK, that’s really clear as to who she is. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, she knows herself really well, and regardless of whether it's logical to other people, she’s gonna stand by her decisions.
Some of the further characterizations like the leather jacket, and the all black [clothes], that came from me. It’s logical that that’s who she’d be, so I went through my closet and pulled out my badass leather jacket, and my cool, big black boots, and my jeans with the leather on the side, all that stuff came from what I thought she was gonna look like. I’m not ever trying to put myself in somebody else’s box, you just have to sort of go, what would be the most logical, the most rational, the most exciting to me? That’s sort of where I started with her. Physically, I think Rosa always looks like maybe she just stepped out of a Whitesnake video.
Do you think it’s important to have a female character on TV who’s as unapologetic as Rosa?
Yeah! I mean, I think particularly for women, it can be very difficult to be labeled a “bitch.” You know? Tina Fey has really said it best in her book: “Bitches get shit done!” It can be hard to say what you think and put yourself out there in that way. I mean, it’s important to see characters, for example, like the ones Shonda Rhimes writes, seeing strong female characters that go after what they need and want in life. It’s important for those stories to be told because they’re real stories. There are badass women all around us, all the time. Those kinds of pictures need to be reflected on television. Not only because it’s awesome to see them be badass, but also because they reflect real people.
Obviously, Rosa’s a really blown-up version of that, but I think that it’s really fun to see a woman in that kind of role. Granted, you don’t want to run into just archetypes, but the writers have done a really great job in the last season, and this season, of letting [Rosa’s] veneer crack a little bit, you know, she’s not the Terminator. Even the Terminator has feelings! So I think it will be fun to see some of her vulnerabilities come out. She’s always gonna be badass Rosa, but she’s got some feelings in there, too.
There are badass women all around us, all the time. Those kinds of pictures need to be reflected on television." Stephanie Beatriz
Especially with her relationship with Nick Cannon’s character, we’ve sort of seen more of her tenderness come out, slowly.
Yeah, truly. And also her friendship with Amy, her friendship with Gina; I mean, there’s tenderness in there in her weird way of expressing it. For example, that time that she went to Charles’ ex-wife’s engagement party with a dress that she’d never be caught dead in. She did that for her friend, so that her friend would feel supported. She and Amy set up [Gina’s] apartment in the first season so that she would feel safer; she put locks on her windows and timers on her lights. It’s not always about a hug for her, but it’s always about showing her friends that she’s always there for them.
What female characters, while you were growing up, stuck out for you?
Well, definitely Elaine from “Seinfeld.” I mean, that to me is one of the greatest female characters ever. Also, sort of like a very interesting character in that like, in that show she’s part of a crew, kind of a dude crew. And she’s allowed to have all the female emotions she wanted ― all the human emotions she wanted. It spans the breadth of craziness, vulnerability, ridiculousness. It was very rare that it’d be like, “Oh, she’s the only girl on this crew.” She’s just part of the group, and I love that she wasn’t just defined by her gender, she was defined more by her character ― or lack thereof. [Laughs] [Julia Louis-Dreyfus] is just an absolutely brilliant actress.
You used to live in New York. Are there things about that experience that you use in the show?
It probably has filtered in there somewhere. It’s been a minute since I lived there ― I moved to Los Angeles in 2011 ― but there are things about living in Brooklyn that are reflected in our show. For example, the proximity to people, like there’s always people around. In LA, a lot of times you’re in a car, just by yourself all day running from this thing to this thing. In New York, if you do have a day that’s filled with shit like that, you’re up in everyone’s faces all the time. You see that a lot in the precinct: you’re never really alone unless you’ve got a scene in the interrogation room. Especially in that first episode [of Season 3], with Jake and Amy trying to keep their burgeoning relationship secret within this very crowded precinct, it’s gonna come out eventually. That’s the main thing that New York taught me is like, whatever it is, it’s on display for everyone to see. Having a bad day, crying in the subway ― 85 people are gonna see it. It’s a lot of like, everything that you’re going through is there for everyone else to see. And that is definitely reflected in the show.
I also wanted to ask about your spot on the LA City Municipal Dance Squad. What drew you to audition for them?
I started following their Instagram. I used to be on dance team in high school, it was called drill team in Texas. And when I started doing theater sophomore year, I had to make a decision which thing I was gonna follow. It was a big shift because I sort of had all these friends on dance squad, and when I started to do theater, my whole identity shifted. Bascially, the popular kids stopped hanging out with me and I found my place within the weirdos of the theater group and that felt like home.
I’ve always missed dancing, so joining the dance squad was like, “Oh, it’s a bunch of weirdos who also like dance!” They’re all comedy people, and actors -- I don’t know if you’ve seen any videos of Angela [Trimbur] on YouTube, but they’re ridiculous, she’s so funny. She will dance like no one’s watching. So I just thought, what do I have to lose? And it’s been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life. Plus, it’s led me to some really amazing friends. It’s been a really cool experience, because not only is it a great workout, but it’s also a way to bond with women. It’s hard to make friends as an adult. You gotta work at it, you know? You have to ask people to lunch, and if you don’t know them, it’s weird. It’s really like, “I don’t know how to make friends!” It’s so much easier in college. And [the dance squad] is a way to unite girls with similar interests.
It’s a cool thing to see that you can take the creative drive and use it for acting and also dancing.
The cool thing about that kind of stuff -- extracurriculars, if you will, is that you don’t have to do just one thing. Some people want to say, “Oh, you’re just this, or you’re just that,” when it’s like, I don’t know. I do that, and then I also have these other things that I love and that I want to experience.
Are you still filming the third season?
Yeah, we’re filming! We’re doing Episode 7 and then next will be Episode 8, but we’ll be shooting probably up until the spring.
Are you involved in any other projects you can tell me about?
This summer I wrapped “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” for Netflix, the new one produced by Judd Apatow, which I’m super excited about. It’s going to be really fun. Lots of ridiculous, fun memories from shooting that. I’m part of the girl gang in that with Jess Pohly and Alia Shawkat. Total departure from Rosa. I’m slightly unrecognizable, which might be kind of fun.
One last very important question: were you team “Petey” or team “Polly” for the NYPD pigeon mascot -- or did you like Captain Holt’s Pepper O’Pigeon?
I really liked Pepper O’Pigeon. It was the obvious choice. Pepper all the way. I mean, Captain Holt’s rarely wrong about anything.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" airs Sundays on Fox at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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