Dennis Franz, David Caruso, and Gail O'Grady may be the best-known actors to achieve stardom out of the series NYPD Blue, but there are others who have moved into the spotlight during the program's run -- Bill Brochtrup is one of the latest. Playing Police Administrative Aide John Irvin since the late '90s, Brochtrup has brought a unique combination of wit and sensitivity to the rough-hewn crime series. Born in California in 1963, Brochtrup was raised in Tacoma, WA, and graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. His early stage credits included roles in D.H. Lawrence's The Fox (earning a DramaLogue Award) and Raft of the Medusa, and he earned rave reviews for his starring role in the off-Broadway production of Snakebit, which he also brought to West Hollywood. He made his television acting debut in the space-alien sitcom ALF in 1990, and did an episode of Diagnosis Murder in (1994) before being picked to play John Irvin in what was originally supposed to be a two-episode arc of NYPD Blue, as the temporary police administrative aide to the detective squad. The character ended up being kept on the series for much of that season, and producer Steven Bochco was sufficiently impressed with Brochtrup's work to ask him to move into the series Public Morals, playing the same role. After its cancellation, Brochtrup moved on to Total Security in the role of George LaSalle, and, after that series' end, returned to NYPD Blue as John Irvin, this time permanently as one of the co-stars.
Brochtrup, who also appeared in episodes of Murder, She Wrote, Picket Fences, and Dharma & Greg, has cut a major figure as John Irvin, despite the fact that the character isn't even a police officer. Playing one of the first avowedly gay characters on a prime-time network police drama, Brochtrup walked a fine line, bringing sensitivity and a gentle, subtle wit to the role, which encouraged the writers to do more with the character. In particular, seeing what he could do with the role, the writers made it their business to put Brochtrup's John Irvin together with Dennis Franz's easily exasperated, not very enlightened Detective Andy Sipowicz, and they have used the relationship between the two to help evolve the detective's character. As a result of the series' high profile and the quality of the writing and acting that goes into the character, John Irvin has become something of a minor pop-culture icon among the gay community, while Brochtrup's work has become one of the highlights of the late run of the series. He has also appeared in a handful of movies, including Man of the Year and Space Marines, in between his television and theater roles.