Q: I'm just catching up on the most recent season of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," and was wondering about the guy who plays Gina's new boyfriend in the second-to-last episode of the new season. He looks so familiar.

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

The casting of Milton Boyle, Gina's new boyfriend (and Charles's cousin), is a clever bit of meta-humor by the writers -- the identity of the actor himself is part of the joke.

Gina says at one point that he's famous, but then admits that was a lie. Later, when he is revealed to be Charles's cousin (but before he appears on screen), Charles says multiple times how ugly he is. When he finally shows up, near the end of the episode, he's not ugly at all. He's Ryan Phillippe.

Of course, that means that the actor is, in fact, famous, though the character isn't. That's the essence of meta-humor in TV: It's a joke about the making of the show. 

Phillippe is an established star, though perhaps not as big as he once was. In the late '90s, he was in demand and promised to be Hollywood's next big thing, having starred in a string of teen hits such as "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997) and "Cruel Intentions" (1999). This is likely the source of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine's" joke regarding his looks -- he's best remembered as a teen heartthrob.

He made the right moves after that, appearing in smaller roles in a couple of prestige dramas, namely "Gosford Park" (2001) and "Crash" (2004), both of which earned him multiple awards.

Nonetheless, he sort of fizzled afterwards -- he's worked fairly steadily but hasn't drawn the attention he did in his earlier days.

That may be about to change, though, thanks to a move to TV. He's starring in a new show on USA Network called "Shooter." Though it's new to the schedule, the show has actually been around for years, plagued by a long series of delays. It's a pretty high-profile show, based on a popular 2007 film of the same name, which in turn is based on a book ("Point of Impact" by Stephen Hunter).

And of course, his brief turn in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" could turn in to a recurring thing. We'll find out when show returns Sept. 26 on Fox.


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