From a Stanford Stage to the Silver Screen

Andre Keith Braugher, ’84

March 2024

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Emmy-winning actor Andre Braugher was a serious entertainer. He shone as an erudite corporal alongside Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman in the Oscar-winning Civil War drama Glory and as an abrasive detective on the television series Homicide: Life on the Street.

Portrait of Andre BraugherPhoto: Blackdiamond2015/Wikimedia Commons

But his Stanford friends remember the exuberant actor behind the heavy roles. “He was a total goof,” says Lindsay Chag, ’84. In Alondra House, he could be found pirouetting down the halls, shouting lines from Shakespeare, and singing opera fresh out of the shower, clad in just a towel. He was not out for attention, Chag says. He simply loved to perform.

Braugher’s lighter side stole the spotlight later in his career, most notably from 2013 to 2021 in his role as Capt. Raymond Holt on the police procedural sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Andre Keith Braugher, ’84, died on December 11 of lung cancer. He was 61.

Braugher entered Stanford as an engineering major, but when he discovered the lyrical language and complex drama of Shakespeare, he switched his major to speech and drama. “I taught for almost 30 years in the drama department, and he was certainly the brightest light in my memory,” says Patricia Ryan Madson, an emerita senior lecturer in drama and former head of the undergraduate acting program. She remembers passing by Stanford’s Little Theater and seeing Braugher alone on the stage, in front of 250 empty seats, practicing. “He’d be between classes, working on scenes and monologues,” she says. “There was some way in which being onstage meant a great deal to him.”

But after graduating from Stanford and then Juilliard, Braugher found a dearth of substantive roles for Black men. “When I came out of school in 1988, there were not a lot of role models,” he said during an interview in 2015 on the SiriusXM show Sway in the Morning. “I felt as though I needed to blaze a path for myself.” He rejected roles that reinforced stereotypes—“third thug from the left, Act I drug dealer,” he said—and fought for ones with greater depth. “I’ve played bad guys and I’ve played good guys, but they’re all human beings—complex human beings.”

“He broke [characters] down as if he was an engineer,” says Ty Jones, an actor and the producing artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem, where Braugher was vice chairman of the board. 

Madson, too, remembers his relentless commitment to the craft. “He could always find something more, or deeper, or more interesting. More human. He was so many people,” she says.

Braugher appeared in roughly two dozen TV shows, more than 40 films, and many theater productions, and won two Primetime Emmys.

He is survived by his wife, Ami Brabson; sons, Michael, Isaiah, and John Wesley; mother; and brother.

Kali Shiloh is a staff writer at Stanford. Email her at kshiloh@stanford.edu.

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