16 "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" Behind-The-Scenes Stories Straight From Melissa Fumero
"The first time me and Andy said our lines in character, Lin-Manuel Miranda got so giddy."
For the last eight years, Melissa Fumero has captured our hearts with her hilarious, heartfelt, and dorky portrayal of Amy Santiago on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Not only has Amy become a TV character that will stand the test of time, but Jake and Amy have become one of the most beloved TV couples.
To celebrate the final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Melissa sat down with me to chat about everything — like her favorite Jake and Amy scenes, what she took from set after filming wrapped, a perfect behind-the-scenes story involving Bill Hader, and much more. Here's everything we chatted about:
Things you love about playing Amy Santiago on Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
1. I love that she doesn't apologize for who she is. She's a nerd and she's emotional, but she's also really smart, really capable, and really good at being a cop. All the things that on other shows, or even in life, that we tend to apologize for, she's just like, "No, this is me. I'm a dork. When I'm a dork, I'm gonna do a dork dance. Deal with it." She's so unapologetic about her "flaws" or things that would be perceived as weakness. I love that about Amy, and I feel like I've learned from her.
BuzzFeed: How has it been playing Amy's character growth throughout the series?
One of the things that I love about the show, and that I was even so excited about in the very beginning, was that I knew the writers weren't going to keep these characters where they started. I knew there were going to be arcs because we were coming from the Parks and Rec world where those characters grew so much. I knew there was going to be growth, and I was really excited for that.
I didn't know what it was always going to be for Amy, but it was exciting for me to go on that journey. Dan [Goor], Luke Del Tredici, and all the writers are brilliant, and the way they figured out the growth of these characters and their evolutions was astounding to me. It was fun to see Amy start more anxious and a little unsure of herself, socially awkward, and then becoming the woman she is now.
BuzzFeed: Did you audition for Amy originally?
I did, but she was very different in the audition. She was really confident, like a tough girl, you know? It's funny because especially seeing how Rosa turned out, it's almost like the original version of Amy and Rosa would've been too similar. I remember my test with Andy [Samberg] — even the dynamic was different. She was always trying to top him, and there was a real competitiveness with them.
I was so nervous shooting the pilot and was so dorky and awkward; I've convinced myself that the writers were watching me and were like, "We should write that in," because with every draft after the pilot she got more awkward and more anxious.
2. That she is a different, but very modern, kind of feminist. I love her female friendships, and I love how much she loves and values the women in her life. She's a different feminist than we're used to seeing, and I love that.
BuzzFeed: Do you have a favorite Amy and Rosa moment?
It was one of the very first friendship scenes where Rosa says like, "We work in an office with a bunch of dudes, and we have to look out for each other." And Amy is taken aback by it. She's kind of like, "Oh, I was ready to do that, but I didn't know you were." I felt like that was really the beginning of their close friendship. They were partners and colleagues before that, but after that moment they really became best friends.
3. All of the "Title of Your Sex Tape" jokes. Even though they come from Jake, we have Amy Santiago to thank for them. I feel like they're one of the most iconic running jokes on the show.
4. I love drunk Amy. I love that it was a running gag, but I think at a certain point the writers started to look for any reason to kind of make her drunk, which was fun to play.
BuzzFeed: Do you have a favorite drunk Amy?
I mean, Pervy Amy. Hands down.
5. How much energy she has, even though she would literally exhaust me the first few seasons. As the show went on, I got addicted to her energy. She was my workout every day.
Favorite guest stars from Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
Oh god, this is so hard! There are so many good ones. Apologies to anyone I leave out. OK...
1. Garry Marshall. I will never forget that day. It was one of the most magical days I've ever had on set. He was so sharp, so smart, and ad-libbing absolutely hilarious stuff on every take. I think one of the ad-libs that made it into the episode was about his corduroy pants. He just blew us all away. But then, he sat and talked and told us stories about his career and his life all day. We were all stunned. He was magical. The crew loved it too. Everybody was like, "Oh my god, Garry Marshall's here." Like, everyone has seen a Garry Marshall movie. He even told us stories about his sister [Penny Marshall]'s movies. He was so happy to do it and would be like, "Let me tell you another story."
2. Bill Hader. Not only because he's brilliant and hilarious, but on a personal note, I was pregnant and hadn't told anyone yet when he guest starred. I'd found out I was pregnant maybe the week before, and I was still in the mindset of freaking out about being pregnant and having a kid. Anyway, we're doing the scene and Bill Hader, out of nowhere, turns to me and goes, "Do you have kids?" I went, "No," and he goes, "You should. It's the best. It's so much fun." He just went on about how he loves his kids and it's such a fun adventure. So I went home, and I literally said to my husband, "We're gonna be OK because Bill Hader said so." I felt calmer after that day. Bill Hader said it's cool; it's all going to be OK.
3. Fred Armisen. When we were shooting the pilot — and I was just freaking out about everything and was so nervous — I'll never forget the day that I shot that scene with Fred and Andy. I was trying to play it really cool, but inside my head I was like, "I cannot believe I am doing a scene with Fred Armisen and Andy Samberg right now! What is my life?! I want this day to last forever!" I enjoy just watching Fred be Fred and be hilarious. I never expected him to come back and play that role again. It was amazing.
4. Jason Mantzoukas. He's so delightfully weird. You never know what he's going to say. He comes up with the bed ad-libs. He's just a true genius, and he just made that wacky character so amazing.
5. OK, I'm cheating, but also Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lin had been a fan of the show since the very beginning. Before Hamilton, I would always be like, "Did you guys know that Lin-Manuel Miranda watches Brooklyn?" So when he was on, everyone was so excited that Lin was there, but then Lin shows up and is, like, singing, "I'm in my favorite show!" Like, the first time me and Andy said our lines in character, he got so giddy. The bummer about that episode was I was so sick with strep throat. I had like a 102-degree fever in half those scenes, especially the ones in the bullpen.
Favorite Jake and Amy scenes from Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
Oh my god. This is an impossible interview. Alright...alright!
1. The proposal. We played with that scene a lot. I remember when Dan Goor called me to tell me that the Halloween Heist was going to be the proposal. He was so excited. We played with a lot of different versions of that scene. A lot of different jokes. I really liked the Die Hard stuff that ended up in it. We kept wondering like, "Should it all be sweet? Should it be really jokey?" I think at first it was very sweet and heartfelt, and then we started adding jokes into it. Then, we ended up bouncing back and forth between sweet and jokey. Whenever it's Jake and Amy scenes, we're always playing with the tone of it. We're just really proud of how the proposal came out, and we worked really, really hard on the moment. It was really satisfying, and seeing fans respond positively to it was amazing. Also, the fact that fans didn't see it coming and we truly surprised people.
2. When Jake and Amy decide to try for a baby. I just loved the whole arc. Going from the crazy debate in the hospital during a bomb threat and everything leading up to it. I thought it was a nice setup for them having a hard time getting there. I loved their whole journey to parenthood, but the moment when Jake says, "Let's try," is perfect. Andy acted it beautifully, wonderfully, and heartfelt.
BuzzFeed: Did you have a lot of input on Amy's pregnancy storyline?
It might've been two seasons before, but Dan Goor texted me one day and was like, "Answer without thinking. Do you think Amy wants kids?" And I said, "Yes. I think she wants to have it all. I don't think it should come easy to her because it's the one thing she can't study for. It's the one thing she can't control, and she's all about control and being the best." Dan agreed right away too. I just thought that it was something we could mine a lot of story and comedy from because it's such a conflict and an obstacle for her. It goes against everything she is. I was really glad that Dan agreed, and I think the way he went into it was really beautiful. It was lovely for us to get such a warm response from so many people who felt seen and understood Amy's struggle. I know the writers worked really hard at being sensitive to the topic of infertility, while also mining the story for comedy.
BuzzFeed: When Amy cuts into the gender reveal cake and it's green, I laugh as if I've never seen this episode of TV before.
Oh my god, that was such a fun scene to shoot. I tweeted the photo once, but the blood gag with Bradley [Whitford] malfunctioned on the first take. It sprayed so much fake blood that it got all over his face, hair, and shirt. I have this hilarious picture of him laughing and covered in fake blood. Andy and I died laughing. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.
3. It's a really small moment. It's from Season 1 — I think it's from "The Vulture." We're on a bus, and we have a little back and forth. Andy and I ended up ad-libbing something. I don't even remember what Jake says, but I say, "Shut up." It's just this really small moment, but it's kind of flirty, and it's one of the first flirty moments they have. We toyed with that moment when we were shooting it. It was so small, but it planted the seed for us, I think, of what their dynamic was. Like, their competitiveness and pushing each other's buttons, but doing it in a flirty way. There was just a chemistry there, and I think for me as an actor it was the first moment where I was like, "Oh, this is good."
BuzzFeed: You mentioned ad-libbing a lot while shooting. Did you always film a scripted take and then improv?
In the beginning we did, yeah. We called them "fun runs." I think that was something from Parks and Rec. It would be a few takes scripted and then a "fun run." As we went along, it sort of became more mixed. We'd always start scripted, and then we would play with a section and ad-lib. There was less of like, "Here's the scripted take. Now here's the improv take." We began to do it more naturally and just have options.
BuzzFeed: How was it improvising with Andy Samberg the first time?
Honestly, it was nerve-racking the first few seasons. I was just trying not to screw it up. But, like anything, you get more confident about it. We also found our own groove season after season. Andy's so good at coming up with stuff on the spot. He added to every single scene and would always make things better. Our writers were also incredible coming up with stuff day of. I would say like 20%–30% of every episode was stuff that came out on the day.
Behind-the-scenes memories from Brooklyn Nine-Nine — one from filming the pilot and one from the series finale.
1. It was actually right before we started shooting. We sort of did some days of rehearsal, where we got some police training and sat with detectives. There was a day where we were all hanging out in between, and I don't remember what we were even talking and laughing about, but it was like everybody was getting along so damn well. We were making each other laugh, and just the conversation flowed so effortlessly. I had a moment where I was like, "Oh, I love these people. I really hope this show gets picked up because something magical is happening with us." So, when the show got picked up, it was so thrilling because it was almost like you could sense that we were going to become really close.
2. The whole last week — the whole last day especially — was filled with a million little moments that were special and sad, and just filled with gratitude. After we wrapped, we went back on set and just did a little walk-through. I would say those last few weeks, too, when we were in between scenes, we had a tent outside, and whenever we were out there together, everyone had their phone away and everyone was talking to each other and just spending quality time together before it all ended. There was a lot of crying on the last day.
BuzzFeed: Did you get to keep anything from set?
I got a bunch of my chair backs throughout the seasons. I actually just got a box of more stuff, but some of it is spoiler-y. I got Amy's nameplate from her desk, which was nice because I did go to set and try to steal it.
BuzzFeed: Was the stuff on Amy's desk always from the props department, or did you put some of your own things there throughout the seasons?
It was always props department, and they're so amazing. I think in Season 1 I had gotten rid of some stuff in order to keep it really simple and organized, especially because Jake's desk was so messy. The opposites of their two desks always made me laugh. The first few seasons when I was at that desk, I had a ritual where I would sit down and I would fix everything. I would make sure everything was perfectly straight and everything was in a line. It was a little thing I did.
Favorite cold open from Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
1. Oh, I mean, the Backstreet Boys one is iconic — I think in general that's probably the best one we ever did — but my personal favorite one was when they're talking about the oldest people they've arrested, and Charles walks in and thinks they're talking about the oldest person they've slept with. Joe [Lo Truglio] is so funny. There's a shot of Andy laughing — when he's genuinely laughing — in the final cut I think. He stayed in character, but he's genuinely laughing like half as Andy and half as Jake. I just remember breaking a lot during that, and it was so funny to me. Joe is one of the funniest people alive. Boyle has all the best cold opens. All of the best cold opens, besides the Backstreet Boys, involve Joe Lo Truglio. Like the Dianne Wiest one too.
BuzzFeed: I always think of the Backstreet Boys one and Holt's "Hot damn!"
That is probably Andre Braugher's most iconic ad-lib. I'm pretty sure that is one of the ones where as soon as they said, "Cut," everybody laughed out loud, which happens a lot because we can't keep it together. You can tell the cut will come kind of fast because everyone's on the verge of breaking.