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Andre Braugher in ‘Thief’

Actor in the mix

If you ask Andre Braugher, the demise of FX’s “Thief” was, well, a crime.

Braugher played complicated crook Nick Atwater, the ringleader of a small group of New Orleans-based hoods. Critics thought the show succeeded in breaking out of bad-guy stereotypes, namely his. Viewers never gave it a chance.

“I was baffled like everybody else,” says Braugher, who won an Emmy in 1998 for his role as Baltimore Det. Frank Pembleton in the seminal cop series “Homicide: Life on the Street.” “There’s a certain measure of frustration that the show didn’t find an audience.”

What made Braugher’s character delightfully complex was how his family life spilled over into his work. In the pilot, Nick’s wife is killed in an auto accident and he’s forced to care for his teenage stepdaughter Tammi (Mae Whitman).

At the end of this harrowing day, Braugher’s colleagues gather at his home and when one of them pulls a gun, Nick is forced to shoot him — right in front of Tammi.

Braugher says even though Nick doesn’t make an honest living, he needs to feel somewhat redeemed by providing a safety net for Whitman — and at the same time transforming himself into a caring parent.

“On a certain level, every man wants to consider themselves rational and loving,” he explains. “Very rarely do you find people who consider themselves to be a bad man.”

Braugher’s been in the “best shows you’re not watching” category before. Ratings were never stellar for “Homicide” but the Peacock kept it alive nonetheless. He also starred in ABC’s “Gideon’s Crossing,” canceled after one season.

Failures don’t deter Braugher, who calls himself “a universal lover of television.”

“Some of the best writing is on TV,” Braugher says. “I’m going to be on TV as long as they’re fighting the good fight. I’m attracted to complex characters, and I’ll do it again and again. There’s a lesson to be learned in a show’s failure, but the lesson is not to draw back.”

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