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New Mindy Kaling series ‘Champions’ finds humor in Brooklyn backdrop

Anders Holm and Andy Favreau play Brooklyn-based brothers.

Andy Favreau and Anders Holm star as brothers

Andy Favreau and Anders Holm star as brothers who own the fictional Brooklyn Champions Athletic Club in "Champions." Photo Credit: NBC / Jordin Althaus

NBC’s new series “Champions” by Mindy Kaling may be set in Brooklyn, but it’s not one of those “only in New York City”-type shows, lead Anders Holm says.

“I always laugh when people say, ‘The city is a real character.’ It’s not really a character,” Holm, who plays Vince, says. The “Mindy Project” actor appears as a former high school sports star who’s living the life of a carefree bachelor in the city with his younger brother (Andy Favreau).

That plotline sticks for about five minutes until he finds out he’s the father of teenage theater buff Michael (J.J. Totah). Michael shows up out seemingly of nowhere in the pilot with his mom, Vince’s former high school fling (Kaling).

The series was filmed on set and its rare street scenes make that abundantly clear. A gym (somewhere in Brooklyn aka a set in California) called the Brooklyn Champions Athletic Club serves as the central hub for the brothers, the business’ co-owners.

Kaling’s character Priya, who makes her sole appearance in the pilot, gets in a jab at the borough early on — the “Sex and the City” clan “never came here, unless they were dating a loser,” she says.

“We’re not trying to keep it real Brooklyn,” Holm admits, “but it seems to be more a backdrop to show how diverse our world can be. Brooklyn is a place where lots of different people from different walks of life coexist and that’s what we’re trying to create within the gym of Champions.”

There is another glaring reason the show fits well in the bustling borough. Naturally, NYC serves as an ideal setting for the Broadway-aspiring teen.

“Michael is this confident, young, gay teenager who wants to go to a prestigious performing arts school in New York and be around a bunch of kids who are like him, like any teenager he’s trying to figure out where he fits in,” Favreau explains. “New York’s where people go to make their dreams come true.”

But the series isn’t solely about Michael’s journey to the stage. It is a 10-episode comedy, after all. Each member of this new dad-son-uncle trio brings something else to the picture, like Michael for his optimism or Matthew for comedic relief.

“Vince is certainly dim, but he makes up for it with his emotional IQ,” Favreau says. “He constantly sees the best in people he’s a glass-half-full kind of guy . . . during the whole series, he’s just working as hard as he can to make it all work out (for Vince and Michael).”

“As cliché as it sounds, they learn from each other,” Holm adds.

The series premieres March 8 at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

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