How ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Nailed its Backstreet Boys Cold Open and Achieved Sketch Comedy Perfection

Topolski: Everyone was dying.

Jaffar Mahmood, director: So I was like, holy shit, this is gonna be really cool to direct. The most gut-wrenching part was that as soon as that finished, the line producer who is in charge of the money is like, “Guys, I hate to burst anyone’s bubbles, but I just want to warn you all that we don’t know if we can afford this song.”

Topolski: There was a day that I spent looking up other songs, and all of the royalty-free songs are all really old, lame songs. It’s like “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain When She Comes.” After that the producers were like, “Okay, we can make it work.” So that was a huge relief. We were moving very quickly. Our table read was on a Wednesday, and we started shooting on the following Monday.

The Shoot

Mahmood: We knew we had to get great singers. We obviously wanted vocal ranges.

Adam Bucci, “Perp No. 2”: I come from a theater background and a singing background, so it was really refreshing to have an audition where you didn’t have to memorize too many lines.

Devin Sidell, “Gwen”: I remember in the audition it was a lot more emotional; I was crying, and we were sort of getting the comedy out of that.

Bucci: When we arrived on set that was our first chance to meet each other, an hour before shooting.

Ahmed Brooks, “Perp No. 1”: We had done a little practice, a couple of run-throughs actually singing the song; we’re working on the harmonies and stuff.

Bucci: So we literally took 5, 10 minutes and just harmonized and tried to sound like the Backstreet Boys.

Mahmood: It was starting to feel almost like a barbershop quartet.

Bucci: They were like, “Okay, cut. You guys are sounding way too good. That’s not the point of this.” I tried to take the note and tried to be a little flat but I feel like some people didn’t take the note and they sounded good. I saw some comments later and they were like, “Number two is flat,” and I was so offended. This is my chance to redeem myself, in this interview.

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