TiVo Central – Interview with Star of Scrubs, Zach Braff, and Creator, Bill Lawrence

Features, Interviews, Shows

The seventh and final season of Scrubs premieres tonight, Thursday, October 25 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. To talk about the final season, Zach Braff, star of the show, and creator, Bill Lawrence, did a conference call with press from around the world. I was there to cover it for you.

If you have been living under a rock since the year 2000, Scrubs is basically a show that focuses on the professional and personal lives of several characters working at Sacred Heart, a teaching hospital. It features verbose characters, slapstick, fast-paced dialogue, and surreal vignettes which are presented as the daydreams of the main characters. It has also been nominated and has won several Emmy Awards in various categories.

Zach Braff (John “J.D.” Dorian)

Zach Braff is an American television and film actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. During the 2000s, he became known for his role as J.D. on the NBC sitcom Scrubs, as well as starring in several films. Braff also wrote and directed 2004’s Garden State. The soundtrack record, which he selected and produced, earned him a Grammy for Best Soundtrack Album in 2005. He has also starred recently in movies, The Last Kiss and The Ex.

Braff is currently working on Open Hearts, which he will direct and adapt based on a Danish film. He has also co-written a film version of Andrew Henry’s Meadow, a children’s book, with his brother, and is scheduled to direct one of the segments for the film New York, Je T’Aime.

Here are the highlights of what Zach Braff and Bill Lawrence said in this conference call for Scrubs

Bill, is it possible to clear up two mysteries at once? Will we find out that the janitor’s real name is Jimmy Hoffa?

Bill Lawrence: Oh yeah, that’d be funny if he was actually him. I could steal that and take credit for it. I always promised Neil Flynn, the guy that plays the Janitor, two things. That’d by the end of the show, he’d have a name and he’d eventually get to have a girlfriend. So I had to make good on both of those this year. He’s the one character that hasn’t ever had a romantic interest as well. I always thought this show was going to last for one season, so Neil was just going to be a figment of Zach’s imagination and then Neil Flynn said during the second season “since this show keeps going on, I’d like to talk to some of the other actors.” I said alright, whatever.

Bill, what’s the status of Aloma Wright on the show?

BL: Well here’s the scoop, and you can totally help me out with that because I have a feeling that I’m going to get a lot crap from our fan base But I wanted to get this story out, which is basically when I killed Aloma last year, I would never take work away from an actress that we consider part of the family. We thought last year would be the last season. So when I killed Laverne, it was because we basically said “hey, what’s a good, dramatic arc for the end of the year since we’re kind’ve ending up the show.” Once we got there, we had already written the stuff, but we had been told by our studios that the show would continue for another year. So I promised her that she would come back. I don’t want people to get mad at me.
She returns as a nurse name Shirley. She looks slightly different but she still looks like the same actress. But the only thing we’re doing is that only Zach’s character thinks the two of them look alike.

Zach Braff: There was talk, and we haven’t done this yet, that she would be a Coquettish atheist.

BL: Then there’s a lot of talk too that because she’s a new character that some of the writers think that we should kill her yet again. But this time nobody cares.

ZB: Yeah, “did you hear Shirley got run over by a car.”

BL: It was “she got hit by a bus. Aw, hey do they have any donuts?”
So she will be back and I apologize to people and hopefully they will let it go and she will be back. I figured Bewitched had two different guys play her husband, so I can have someone as a joke come back as a different character.

Zach, is there any side of J.D. that hasn’t been explored in the show yet that you’d like to see explored in the final season?

ZB: I mean seven years worth of sides of J.D. I don’t know. I like it when we explore his love of Donald’s side. I think we can always have more of that.

BL: Zach’s already doing it even though he’s not saying it, the ending of this show will be unsatisfying for people if they don’t feel like his character has finally grown up, you know? And one of the things it’s tough about being lucky enough to go on this long is that you can only do the young kind of man child who hasn’t matured yet for so long before Zach’s coming to me and be like “Bill, my character is 30 years old now. I think he might not wear cartoon t-shirts or jammies to bed.” So we’re trying to make him a little more mature.

Bill, where did the original idea of Scrubs come from?

BL: The original idea of Scrubs was there is a guy named Jon Doris who is a medical advisor on the show and his name is J.D. And we call him Real J.D. when he’s here on the set. We call him “Real” and he’s one of my best friends from college. He became a doctor. He’s actually a notable cardiologist out here in LA. We were just drinking some beers and he was telling me about his internship. He’s one of the funnier guys I knew in college and it just struck me that here on American TV we like our doctors to be very serious and they yell the word stat a lot and they burst through doors a lot. when I was talking to him he’s still the same funny guy and he was just talking to me about all the weird personalities and situations, and how they use humor to get by in the hospitals. I just thought it would be a good TV show. I have since, systematically stolen every funny medical story I can from all my friends that are physicians. One of the things we take pride in on the show is that all of the medical stuff, even though we exaggerate it for comedy, is real.

What has been your favorite episode so far and your favorite moment on or off screen?

ZB: There’s so many, that’s a really hard question to ask. But I guess because it’s most recent, I would say the musical was the most fun to do. Thwn, I really like the ones I direct just because I have so much more invested in them. So I really like the “Wizard of Oz” and the one that, I don’t know which one it was called, but the one where Donald and I go on a quest to find Heather Graham so J.D. can have sex with her.

BL: Really I like when we bridge the gap between kind of broad, goofy comedy and emotional episodes, so my two favorites are the one at the beginning of the first year of the show has so much meaning to me because we had three different patients and they all died. Each character had a patient. We killed all of them. I thought it was a way to tell people that might watch the show early on that it was going to be different than your average sitcom. Like the same way where we killed Brendan Fraser. I like it when we kill people. I liked it when we killed Brendan Fraser on the show because I thought it was just as good as any dramas out there.

On the comedy side, there was some weird fantasy about Donald Faison and Judy Reyes raising a pumpkin as if it were their baby. It really made me laugh. Then I have a favorite joke. I don’t know why I’m just rattling this off. My favorite joke is Sarah Chalke is putting on bright red lipstick and she says to John McGinley, Dr. Cox, she says, “Does this lipstick make me look like a clown?” And he says, “No, it makes you look like a prostitute that caters exclusively to clowns.” That was one of my favorite jokes of all time because of how sad Sarah looked when he said it to her.

Zach, in your movie career, you tend to pick some characters that have a lot of internal struggles. What draws you to those characters?

BL: Zach, I’ll take this. I’m joking. Go ahead.

ZB: I think that probably has something to do with my personality. I mean, there’s a lot of me in that. I like playing a character that is sort of a straight man to the world around him. So I guess if there was a common thing in the film characters I’ve done it is that I do such broad, goofy stuff here on Scrubs that I was looking to do something else. But I like the character of the introverted guy, self-examining his own life and learning about himself through other people. I guess there’s a lot of me in that, probably.

Any clue on possible guest stars in the final season?

ZB: Well Bill can tell you better because he writes the show. I mean, I know that one thing he said that I really liked is the idea of, a la The Simpsons, all of the people that had smaller parts finding a place to come back, even for a couple lines, at some point over these 18 episodes. Some of the bigger parts Bill’s killed off, so they can’t come back. But then there are some of the other people we can’t afford this year to have them come back.

BL: Yeah, Tom Cavanagh is back on the show. Elizabeth Banks is back doing the show again this year. I’ll probably try to bring Scott Foley because he did a whole bunch of them and we really liked having him around. We killed Brendan Fraser. We killed Nicole Sullivan. We brought Mike McDonald back from MADtv because he’s also a Director of the show now. Other than that, they aren’t really big, famous names but they’re people that our nerdy fans will care about, little kind of secondary characters named like Hooch and Dr. Zeltzer. All these people that we think have made kind of an imprint on people in the past, we’re trying to get everybody their last hurrah.

Will The Todd ever find love on the show? Is it possible?

BL: The Todd will continue to be, I’m laughing because Zach’s directing this fairytale episode right now which is kind of our musical of this year. Every year we choose one episode to spend a whole lot of money on and try to be our showcase thing. This one’s an homage to The Princess Bride. Zach’s the village idiot and Sarah’s the princess. The Janitor is a giant. But The Todd is the Fairy Todd Something. I think that he will continue to be ambisexual and never really sure what he is. But you say will he ever find love? I think in Todd’s head he’s very happy, that he has found it.

ZB: He’d be terrified if he found love. It would cramp his style.

There’s a huge fan contingent that wants J.D. and Elliot together. Bill, how do you and the writers feel about it? Do you think that they belong together?

BL: Well here’s what I think. Zach always says there’s no way you can satisfy everybody because if you go on to our fan sites there’s a lot of people that want them together and then there’s a lot of people that say that’s not what this show is about. So they don’t want them together. I think the answer is right in the middle, which we pride ourselves on. This show was never a will they or won’t they show. It was not Ross and Rachel or Moonlighting, are these characters ever going to end up? I think that if we were to end this series on Zach going to the airport to keep Rachel or to keep Elliot from flying away…

ZB: Even better, Rachel.

BL: Yeah, everybody would feel cheated, you know, because that’s not what this show has been about. It’s been about all the relationships. That being said Zach and Sarah as actor and actress have made people invested in this. So I am going to resolve it, but I’m not going to make that the end of the series. I think that it’ll happen before people expect it to happen. I think I put a lot of clues what I’m going to do along the way.

ZB: You’re giving away too much right now.

BL: I think I’ve found a way through it that people will be satisfied. Zach always says you can’t make everybody happy, but…

ZB: You’re going to.

BL: …that’s my psychological weakness. I’m going to.

Bill, how bittersweet will it be that this is the end?

BL: Oh, man. No one believes me because I’ve been saying this a lot to other TV writers. Honestly, I’ve finally reached a place way too late in my career that I don’t really care about that stuff or watch it. The joy and the thing that you shoot for is to get to keep doing the show. It’s like, am I having less fun doing this show for seven years than the people that are doing Dancing with the Stars are having doing that show? No. I mean their show is the world’s biggest hit, even though it technically shouldn’t be called Dancing with the Stars unless I’ve missed all the Mark Cuban movies that have been out the last couple years. But just getting to do this show is such a cool thing. If anybody here acts bittersweet about it they deserve a kick in the head. We have the coolest job on earth.

Bill, resolve one little controversy that’s been going on. There have been two different stories from you guys about that x-ray at the beginning. Was it intentional or was it not intentional?

BL: I’ll tell you the…

ZB: I want to hear which version you’re going to tell him.

BL: No, I’ll tell you the exact truth of how it actually happened, which was we shot that when we were shooting opening credits and J.D., the medical advisor, said the x-ray is backwards because he’s a cardiologist. Then Randall, our line producer, is like oh it’s no big deal, we’ll just go shoot the x-ray being put up the right way. Then I said, “No, you know what, I think that’s funny. They’re supposed to be Scrubs and new kids that are just learning medicine.” Even though no one will ever notice, me being an idiot, I think it’s really a funny inside joke. As a result of that, we averaged about 9 million snarky emails, “hey, the x-ray is backwards”, from people until eventually we had Elizabeth Banks’ character in the opening credits of one, flip the x-ray around and go, that’s been bugging me for years. So it was initially an accident, but in the end we know.

ZB: We know. Stop emailing. We know.

BL: Stop telling me. I get it.

Who comes up with the ideas for J.D.’s daydreams and the things that he sees in his head? Are there any ones that stand out, that you guys remember are your favorites?

BL: All the writers, but Zach as well. But I have a bunch of favorites. But you can start if you want, Zach.

ZB: I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard. There’s hundreds of them.

BL: It’s hard to get the weird ones from this year that haven’t been on out of my head because I think there’s one this year that Zach is wishing that he could breastfeed his new baby and that all the men have breasts and are taking turns trying to get the baby to latch on. That was very funny and creepy, and disturbing. There was one this year that Zach is very nice to a group of day laborers and so they take him to a magical land called Amigoville, where I think there’s a guacamole lake and churros the size of humans. That one was really weird.

My favorite one of all time is Donald Faison and Judy raise a pumpkin as if it were their baby. When they raise it, it’s like a five minute long fantasy. They raise it over a series of years until eventually at its college graduation they drop it and it breaks. Just as they’re crying, they see their actually son who they lost when he was a baby across the street. They wave to him and he’s coming across the street for a tearful reunion and he gets hit by a bus. It made me laugh. I don’t know why that made me laugh because I watched that with my wife and she didn’t even crack a smile. But it could be my favorite fantasy.

ZB: I like that. I think it’s very stoneriffic.

BL: I also liked Zach Braff as a caveman trying to tell a girl why he was leaving her cave in the morning after they had hooked up the night before.

ZB: Yeah, that was pretty good.

BL: That made me laugh.

Zach, how do you feel about the character of J.D.? Do you think he’s evolved or changed any in the seven seasons so far?

ZB: I think he’s evolved definitely if you look over the seven years. But the thing I’ve learned in doing half hour TV comedy is that it’s kind of like a comic strip. I find that the audience really wanted to sort of check in with their favorite characters and see what they’re going to do this week. They don’t really want them to evolve too much. I think of course over seven years the character has evolved a little bit and grown up a little bit. But I think it’s really about people had a hard day at work. They want to come home and check in with the people that make them laugh. They want to see the Janitor be the Janitor and Todd be bisexually weird. They want to see J.D. be a goofball and Dr. Cox yell at him. So I think that we’ve done a good job of evolving them slightly, but also just giving the fans what they want, which is to see the characters be themselves.

Bill, when you’re going into this season, how do you balance the desire to put everything in a neat bow and maybe sort of imply that these characters will have lives after the end of the year?

BL: Well I think the biggest thing is we don’t have the burden of The Sopranos. I would have hated to have to deal where there’s no winning in that finale because there’s such a burden for how does this saga truly end? Does he die? Does he live? I don’t feel like there’s that burden here. I feel like it’s a more of a life goes on type of thing. Hopefully people will be satisfied that way.

I mean, it’s a hospital so it’s not like we can have J.D. walk out, look back nostalgically and turn off the lights, and the whole building goes dark. So for us there’s two things, one, the trap that people fall into when they do finales is that they wait for the finale to tie up every single loose end. “We’re having a baby. We’re running off together. We’re getting married,” you know. I think that what we’re going to do is kind of spend the year tying up any loose ends between characters and dynamics and stuff. Then, at the end just do something that we hope is kind of a sweet, funny goodbye to the people that actually watch the show. I think we’re allowed to do that because I don’t think people are sitting on the edge of their chair going oh my God, is J.D. finally going to get killed at the end?

ZB: Although that’d be funny.

BL: Yeah, well that would be funny if you got shot. But that’s the only thing I would do that would be weird. If we could get James Gandolfini to come on the show and shoot you, I would end that way.

Bill, if the Writers Guild votes for a strike, how does that affect you in terms of also being a producer?

BL: Well shoot, you know, I’m a member of the Writers Guild. I’m a big believer in all the stuff that we’re taking a stand on. But I’m also an optimist, you know. I feel there’s so much at stake for both sides. A, I would be very shocked if there actually was a strike because I truly feel that both sides have too much to lose. And B, if there is one, I’m not going to believe that it’s going to be catastrophic. I mean, because the truth is anything if the work stops for a couple weeks or a month, it’s not going to do any damage. The only thing that can really screw up everything is if it’s like it was in 1988 when it went on for 22 weeks. Then you’re talking about drastically altering this TV season as well as the next one. I just think that scripted television is in such bad shape right now anyways that both sides are going to do everything they can to keep that from happening.

I was really optimistic about what’s been going on in the last couple days with it. So I mean the one burden I’ll be in is to not offend either side. I’ll have to shoot any shows that are already written, so we have this script and we have two other rough drafts in. And so after Zach shoots this one which will be before the strike, if there’s a strike, I’m assuming that we’ll have two, maybe three scripts total. The company, as a producer that works for them, will make me shoot those.

Then the Writers Guild, I’m sure will say don’t you dare write anymore or do anything beyond this. And the one thing that’s keeping me from panicking completely as far as Scrubs goes is I have such a good relationship with the studio, with Mark Pedowitz and the people over at ABC Studios, that were there something that essentially erased the rest of the year, Mark and I already chit-chatted about still doing a finale of the series even if it was something that would just be released on a DVD or something because to tell you the truth it’d probably end up making more money.

How much of the script do you follow word-by-word? How much are you allowed to improvise?

ZB: I’ll say that we always get what’s written because that’s usually what’s funniest and then certain actors, depending on what their improv capabilities are will sort of riff after we’ve gotten what’s written, if they have ideas for their own punchlines and stuff like that. It’s rarely anything more than a different punchline to a joke, with the exception of maybe Neil Flynn, sometimes in the script Bill will just write, and then Neil says something funny. Neil’s such a great improv comedian. But I think we always do what’s written and then often we’ll riff on different punchlines that either Bill comes up with or one of the writers comes up with, or one of the actors comes up with.

BL: It’s one of the fun things that we do on the show. The one thing that you should be including in improv, though, is unlike a lot of TV shows the actors and directors, and everybody involved, pitches jokes and ideas, and scenes and stuff. So it’s kind of creatively everybody here has input and then the one rule we have when we do the show, because it’s a single camera show, is you shoot one take the way it’s written and as long as you’re happy with it and the director is happy with it, then you can goof around and do whatever you want.

Zach’s being modest. We’re a very claustrophobic show, so the writers are on set and the actors are always hanging around. And somebody will say, “try saying this” or Zach will say something completely different and Neil Flynn or Donald will. It ends up making it seem like a kind of spontaneous funny. The one thing you miss in a single camera show is in classic sitcoms that I worked on, you get immediate audience feedback if something works. So here it’s usually let’s see if we can make the crew laugh. It’s something different that we say. And if they do, more often than not it ends up in the show.

Zach, if you could only do acting or only do directing, which one would you pick and why?

ZB: I’d pick directing because I really enjoy acting a lot and there’s nothing that makes me happier in life than making people laugh. But I find that directing asks so much more of me because you get to be a little bit of a writer, a little bit of a photographer, a little bit of a set designer. I just love working with lots of creative people. So when you direct something, you hire all these really creative people and artists, and actors. And then you’re sort of the conductor to that orchestra. I really, really love doing that more than anything.

Bill, what inspired you to create Dr. Cox? He’s such a fascinating character and where did he come from?

BL: I’ll tell you, he came from two things which is the main one, and I always got to be careful I talk about it, is when I started doing research, my buddy J.D. who, you know, who the show is based on, his residency and his experiences as an intern when I started doing research after I’d talked to him and was forming this show, I was just then engaged to my now wife Christa Miller, who plays Dr. Cox’s wife. Her father, who is named Dr. John Marino, when I talked to him and talked to people that worked with him, was one of the scariest doctors in the history of Lenox Hill Hospital. All the nurses were afraid of him. They all found him to be an incredible doctor and incredibly loyal to him, but they all still, even though he had long since retired, whispered about him and wanted to be very careful not to say anything that would ever make him mad.

As I got to know him as a young suitor of his daughter, I found him so intimidating and horrifying initially and I combined that with the fact that Christa’s father, the amazing thing about Dr. Marino was he’s this scary, gruff guy but now that you talk to him he cared so much about his patients and so much about the other doctors that he trained, he just never let them know that. I thought that was a really interesting character.

Was there a specific moment or event when you knew Scrubs was going to be a success?

BL: Thank you for saying the show is a success. It’s very nice. This is one of the first times I’ve heard it.

ZB: I’m still waiting for anyone to tell me that.

BL: We’re a success. No, but I’ll tell when we first did this pilot, there was no single camera comedies really back then and they were like, they aren’t funny enough so you got to make it really goofy and funny. I had like 1000 sound effects in it like zip – any time somebody turned their head it went sound effect. I was doing anything I could to make the network think it was funny. All the promos were slap-sticky and goofy, and it really seemed like they were marketing a show that was like the movie Airplane. Then the third episode of this series I was like that’s not what this series is. It’s supposed to have this element of drama. Donald, Turk, Elliot and J.D. are all going to get a patient. I’m going to say at the beginning that statistically one out of three of these patients are going to die. Then I’m going to kill all of them just so people remember early on that this is a hospital and there’s real stuff at stake. It was such an arduous process because back then I had to actually pitch the shows to the network, and the network was not super psyched about their new comedy killing three people.

They were like, couldn’t they just all get really sick? Couldn’t maybe just one of the three of them die, but he could be really mean or a racist or something? I was like, no, they’re all going to die. It’s going to work. That episode, not only worked but it won the Humanitas Award and it got nominated for an Emmy. It just made me think that wow, you know, people out there don’t mind their comedy being connected to stories of some emotional depth. Because of that, I thought the show had a chance to survive and be like one of the shows that I used to love, like Wonder Years or M.A.S.H or even Cheers, which people watched because they were funny but stayed invested to because they actually meant something to them. It’s so lucky that people care enough to still give a crap about what happens to these people.

ZB: I haven’t figured it out yet.

BL: It can’t be when we sprayed you with seltzer water after you got back from selling Garden State.

ZB: That was a funny story. Actually, I came back from selling Garden State at Sundance and it was like the highlight of my life and Bill wanted to make sure that I hadn’t gotten too cocky. So the first scene back was me in full clown make-up getting sprayed with seltzer bottles by the Janitor.

BL: While the crew applauded madly.

ZB: That’s when I knew I was a success.

Speaking of Garden State, Zach, considering you won a Grammy for the Best Soundtrack Album has music always influenced you?

ZB: The funny thing about the Garden State, and I’m not being self-deprecating, but I don’t know anything more about music than anybody else. I just have a lot of friends that are musicians so everyone is always giving me music and sharing music, and talking about music. But I don’t have like some great collection of classic Beatles albums. I’m by no means an aficionado on music. I just know what I like. The Garden State soundtrack was essentially a great mix CD that people, for some reason, flipped out over and it was kind of lightning in a bottle. It’s still selling like crazy and it’s beyond anyone’s real explanation. But I’m very happy to have my Grammy. It makes my musician friends very angry when they come over and see that I have a Grammy.

Bill, do you really not have ideas for the finale, since you have asked fans online to send in their ideas for the finale?

BL: No, I do. The truth is I’ve known how I was going to end this show for a long time because I thought it was going to end the last year and the year before at one point or another. There’s two things to that question. One of the coolest things about this particular show that always blows me away are the true fans, how into it they are and the minutia of the show and continuity issues. Whether it’s somebody calling that Call Turk Phone that we still answer occasionally or there’s a weird thing going on right now in which the show has become very big overseas and one time a group of Europeans came here and they were taking pictures of the set.

I let them on the set just to wander around and see the actors. And somehow online they got it around that hey, if you’re visiting America from a foreign country, the Scrubs set will take you around and let you meet all the famous people. So there’s odd packs of Europeans asking me weird questions about the show here on a daily basis.

But anyways, every time I’ve met a passionate fan they always have these really tiny questions and the coolest thing is we obsess over the minutia, so we can actually answer them, whether or not it’s like when did Ted lose his hair? He started losing it in eighth grade. So I just wanted one of the features of the DVD at the end, I told the DVD people if you guys aren’t going to work really hard on extras and stuff, how about I answer 10,000 questions. That became a thing that I’ll gladly do it on NBC. I’m going to do it on our DVD. And as far as the finale ideas, I know what I want to do. I just wanted people to weigh in on things that they do and don’t want to happen. It helps me get a gauge for what people are expecting and what people don’t want to see. I’m still going to make up my own decisions. But it’s been really kind of informative. I don’t think there’s as big a burden on this show how we end. I think it’s really just about hopefully rewarding the people that stuck with it so long that they have a good feeling when the TV goes off.

Bill, you just decided at one point that you would do every show you wanted to do and not worry so much about the ratings. Do you think the show would have been different if it had been a huge hit?

BL: No. You know what is really interesting? I think the way that television works, if the show is a big giant hit, you get leverage, you know what I mean? So I mean the way that scripted TV works is you do your show and you deal with the network. Then if becomes a giant hit, you essentially get to tell the network, “Hey, we’re doing great. We’re going to be fine here on our own doing whatever we want to do.” And what’s generally happened is a pattern in TV is if your show’s not a big hit, and by the way, it’s not mean spirited. Networks generally are trying to help. You know, “Hey, maybe it’ll be a bigger hit if these two characters fall in love. Maybe it’ll be a bigger hit if we get this super attractive model to come on the show and be a girlfriend.” They’re trying to help, but you end up going down a road that creatively you never would’ve done. When the shows fails anyways, you always end up regretting having done it.

So the really weird thing on Scrubs is that I’m a competitive guy and I realize that the audience we had was the audience we were going to have, so continuing to try and jump through hoops and get special guest stars and new cast members, you know, to try and make the audience bigger and become some weird Juggernaut hit wasn’t going to happen. And yet we had the luxury of doing well enough that we were going to be on for a long time. So I was able to finally say, you know, “Guys, I think I’m good with all the ideas.” You know, I think we’re happy with the show we’re doing and we’re just going to do stuff that makes us laugh and that we want to do.

It was also a product too of NBC especially. And I think they’ve changed a little bit, but they were so stunt casting happy that I always joked that, you know, it would be like, “This week on Will & Grace, God,” you know, “Osama Bin Laden,” you know. And so you always go like, “Hey you guys going to have on the show this week?” And I don’t think that’s why people watch TV. I think they watch TV to watch the people that are actually on the show, you know? I think that that the reason that networks got confused is that when they get a cool guest star to be on a show, they promote the hell out of it and people tune in and there’s higher ratings. But I would always maintain that if you promoted the hell out of a show when it was just a normal cast, it would also do higher ratings. So it just kind of freed us up to do the show we always wanted to do, and we are lucky enough to survive anyway.

You’ve talked a lot about the drama and how you enjoy doing those episodes. With such a funny show and a cast, how do you handle these like when you’re filming them?

BL: Zach can talk about it a little too. The one thing that these guys have all been very respectful of is at the beginning when we first started, I told everybody, I’m like, “Look, you can’t – when there’s real stuff going on, the one thing that would make this show not work is people not believing that you are real doctors and that you don’t care about patients.” So we’ve always had some kind of, you know, casual rules, which are we never really do things at the patient’s expense, you know, and we always treat those stories with the utmost of respect and attention.

The coolest thing is — Zach can speak to this a little more — I think that the actors really relish their opportunity when they get a script that says, “Oh wow, something real is happening to my character,” whether it’s I’m accidentally killing somebody or I have to try and get, you know, a heart transplant from a father who’s not ready to let his kid go or I’m dealing with post-partum depression. I think because we’re mostly a comedy that they really look forward to this stuff. Zach?

ZB: Yeah, I think we like doing it, because we do so much comedy and so much broad stuff that I think when there’s a chance to do something 180 degrees, I think we all really look forward to it.

Is anyone else really different from their characters?

ZB: Ken Jenkins.

BL: Ken Jenkins is the world’s nicest man. So much so that you would think it’s fake. And it’s exacerbated even more by what a jerk he is on television, you know? He’s the kindest human being I have truly ever met.

ZB: He’s the biggest difference. Maschio going to Columbia University does make him different from his character.

BL: Yes.

ZB: But I would think Maschio is the one who’s most like his character.

BL: You know who else. Sam Lloyd who plays Ted, we make him wear horrible clothes and we put slop sweat on him, and we make him look sick. He is not that big of a loser in real life. In real life he’s actually kind of a cool guy that plays in a band and gets the ladies once in a while, you know?

ZB: And he’s really good at basketball.

BL: Yes, which is shocking. My wife is not actually acting. She just plays herself on the show.

ZB: People always ask me what Johnny C’s like. I say, “He’s exactly like Dr. Cox but like 4% nicer.”

Bill, do you like working with your wife still?

BL: Oh shoosh. Do I like working with my wife? I love working with my wife. I’ll tell you why. A, it’s not every day. Because as Zach knows, as a director, she only works when she wants to work. And so, you know, when she feels like working, whether she’s in the script or not, she gets to work. And B, I am the only husband on the face of the planet that a few times a month gets to tell his wife what to wear, what to say, and where to stand. It’s awesome. And sometimes I’ll just do it to have that moment when I’m not at my house. Like she’ll come out in an outfit. I’m like, “I don’t like that outfit. Your character needs to be a in a different outfit,” and it is fantastic for our marriage, seeing as apparently I can’t even decide what to wear or eat when I’m at home. So at work it’s awesome. And she’s funny, by the way. Joking aside, if it wasn’t funny it would suck, but I think she’s funny as all get out.

There’ been a lot of talk with some other shows that have gone off the air a while ago about doing reunions. Do you think you’d ever do a Scrubs reunion?

BL: I would do it if and only if we could get the cast of Gilligan’s Island to do it with us. And it would have to be on that island. It would have to be they took our cast out for a three hour tour.

ZB: And Mindy Cohn was for some reason on it.

BL: Yes. From the Facts of Life.

ZB: From Facts of Life.

BL: We’ll do a reunions in real life because we actually enjoy each other’s time and seeing each other and hanging around, but I don’t have the need to get everybody back on television again.

ZB: It’s over.

With this being the final season did you find yourselves being relieved, happy, sad? Did anything surprise you about this actually being the real last season?

BL: I tell you, I’m not usually an emotional guy and I’m shockingly nostalgic, which is making me almost continually uncomfortable and irritable, because the show’s in a very strange position. It doesn’t happen a lot in TV because usually your show ends one of two ways, which is one, it ends unexpectedly when you get cancelled and it’s just like a knife to the gut and you don’t expect it and you weren’t prepared for it. Or two, you’re a giant hit, and up until the very last second, the powers that be are trying to figure out ways to milk more money out of the show and to keep it on another year. You don’t really know if you’re going to end or not. This show, since the pre-production, we’re like, “Hey we’re doing a last season,” and this is the last season. Nobody usually gets that luxury, and it’s been kind of a ride down memory lane. I’ve really been enjoying it and I’ve really been trying to focus on how, you know, we all I think as human being are prone to complaining about our lot in life. And I’m just not having it, because it’s been such a great experience for me that everybody that works here is truly so lucky, in what is a tough time for comedy on television, to have had a job this long. And I’m really soaking it up. That might have been too emotional, Zach, but you can add to it if you want.

ZB: Well I agree. I think it’s going to be really sad. I mean this has been a giant chunk of my life and to change my entire life. I mean it could not have changed my life more. And it’s like winning the lottery in more ways obviously financially, but what I mean is like getting to be on a television show for seven years where you really respect what you’re doing and you respect who work with and you’re laughing a lot.

I mean there’s plenty of people who go on shows that go a long time. And by the time it’s over, they hate everyone they work with and they don’t respect the show anymore. And that’s just not the case. I mean we still all hang out. I mean I’m going to dinner on Friday night with Donald and Sarah. I mean we all hang out. We’re all really close and so, you know, I think now we’re still in the thick of it. You know, we’re producing episodes, we’re racing against whether the strike’s going to happen or not, so we’re all sort of caught up in all of that. But I do think that when it’s over, it’s really going to hit us hard.

BL: I may actually hug you at the end, Zach.

ZB: Okay.

Zach, when you started doing the directing part, was that something that you like doing for television or for feature films? Was it just about learning about directing for you, or do you find yourself more comfortable doing one or the other in feature films?

ZB: Well obviously I really enjoy directing a lot. And I started directing the show and really enjoyed it. You can’t do it every week, but I had a really good experience doing it. And Bill, you know, typically is nice and gives me episodes that have a little extra something to them so I can, you know, put my own sort of imprints on them a little bit. And that’s what we’re about to do a giant fairytale episode that’s a homage to Princess Bride. So I have a lot of fun directing the show.

How do you keep your interest in the show for seven seasons and what was it that helped you keep going?

BL: I think it’s a testament to the personalities involved. I got to tell you, we were just talking about that earlier that it’s the strangest thing in the world, man. We had a premiere party last night and I’m like, “I’ve never been on a show for seven years that they’re still having premiere parties,” you know? And I think we have a great work environment because we, you know, we don’t work in a corporate environment with the executives around all the time. We work in creepy deserted hospital that we’ve managed to make livable by building a gym here and adding a kitchen and a game room, and filling those places with people that like each other’s company. And it’s not like, you know, one of those shows where you go, “Hey, the actors and writers know each other,” and then crew doesn’t. I have been on trips with Zach and grips.

ZB: My best friends on the crew are grips and electricians.

BL: Yes. But everybody’s got to work. And when you have a job, you know, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be fun. And the fact that this is a great place to be and with good people, man I would do it for 27 years if I had to, you know, because I’ve been around long enough to know that the next experience out there, because there’s so much out of your control in television, the odds are that it’ll never be this good again.

The daydream sequences. Do they actually get attached to a specific episode, or do you guys just toss around idea, and then you figure out how you can use them?

BL: At the beginning, we do a couple things. One, at the beginning of the year, we fill this thing up with a funny board of weird fantasies we’d like to see and weird jokes and moments, and stuff like that.
But then we try to specifically attach things to episodes, you know, and try to make it somewhat relevant to what’s going on or organic to the scene.
I mean we have all these nerdy rules that would bore you to death if you heard them all. They always have to be from Zach’s perspective, we always have to justify if they’re really long, what was happening while he was standing around having this daydream, and rules that no one cares about but us. But we’re pretty meticulous about it.

ZB: I have one that I’ve pitched, but it never made it in, because you got to be down there to sort of campaign for your wacky, weird, tripped out fantasy.

BL: Which one did you pitch that you never got?

ZB: I’ve always wanted to do J.D. and Turk as like kind of spoofing Law & Order like interrogating cops.

BL: I put that in. That’s in one of the upcoming episodes.

ZB: Really?

BL: Yes.

ZB: Thanks. I was one day watching one of those daytime judges, you know, like Wapner started the whole thing, but now there’s like Judge Joe Brown and all these people that is the most horrible thing on television. But I always wanted to do a fantasy where ‘sometimes I always felt like Turk was judging me’ and then Donald just riffing as a daytime judge.

BL: And Zach’s right. The way that most of these things come to be is comedy writers — men and women — have things that they’ve always wanted to do. And one of the fun things about our show is that we’ve created this kind of avenue that hopefully you can do them. I remember one specifically, which is I’m not a giant fan of fart jokes, but there’s a young writer named Kevin Biegel who said, “I’ve always thought it would funny in a fantasy if somebody farted and actually farted themselves up into the sky out of the building.” And I’m like, “I’m not going to do that.” And he kept just trying and trying. He’s like, “It’s only 30 seconds of a show. The one that I write, let Turk fart himself out of the building.” And the way that he finally got me was that he said, “He’ll do it. He’ll shoot out into the sky and then he’ll start to fall down a little bit and then he‘ll fart out again and go up even farther.” And I giggled a little and I said, “Fine you can do it.” But that’s how this stuff comes to be.

ZB: And that’s how a fart joke gets on TV. The evolution of a fart joke by Bill Lawrence.

BL: The most annoying thing about comedy writers. I announced in the show at the beginning, I’m like, “I’m not a huge fan of poo-poo, pee-pee, fart, penis jokes.” And they didn’t take that as don’t do it. They took it as a challenge, “we must construct penis and fart jokes that Bill will put in the show.”

ZB: It’s forces you to really dig deep and come up with a good fart joke.

BL: Or a good penis joke. In fact, the first penis joke that broke the ice, I don’t know if you remember it Zach, was you were examining a growth on Neil Flynn’s penis.

ZB: Yes.

BL: And you said, “It looks benign,” and he said, “Benign, benign and a half.”

ZB: Yes.

BL: And I made the mistake of laughing at that, and it kind of opened the flood gates.

ZB: I’m going to try and do the ultimate challenge come up with a joke where a penis farts.

BL: Oh man. I’ve just written so many of those in my life as a sitcom writer. I’m just trying not to…

ZB: Sorry, we’re getting a little batty.

Will we see any sort of musical moments this season?

ZB: Bill’s a giant fan of Ted’s a cappella group.

BL: Oh, yeah, they sing Who Are You by the Who this year in a way that’s really, really funny. We always do big musical things in this show partly because I’m a musical theater nerd and Zach is, too, but also partly because there’s a ton of talented people on the show as far as singing and dancing goes. So without a doubt we’ll do it again before the end of the year.

What projects do either of you have lined up after Scrubs is finished?

ZB: I don’t know. I mean, I want to direct something, so I’m working on directing my second movie, whatever that’s going to be. I’m not quite sure yet whether it’s something I write or something I adapt. And then Bill and I are talking about producing a television show together, so that’s something I’m really excited about.

BL: I’m contractually obligated to do for the next four years to try and create TV shows for ABC, and so initially I’m thinking about something maybe with cavewomen. I think that might be funny and interesting.

ZB: To piggyback on the set.

BL: Yeah, or you watch Cavemen and then a half an hour after that you watch Futuremen; maybe with robots. Any cool commercial, I’m going to make a TV show out of that.

ZB: Yeah. There’s a great Cialis commercial out there you could use.

Zach, what do you watch on television?

ZB: I love Lost. I’m going to start with the reputable stuff. I really love Lost. I watch every night now my new ritual is I watch Keith Olbermann on Countdown.

BL: Oh, now you’re just trying to sound smart.

ZB: That might reveal my politics. So those are the reputable shows I watch. Oh, and also I love 30 Rock and I love The Office. I watch those every week. I also love the Tim Gunn Design Show, Project Runway.

BL: And I want to give props out. The entire writer’s room is obsessed with Dexter right now. It’s really well-written. It’s a cool show.

ZB: I’ve never seen Dexter.

BL: You got to get into it, man. It’s awesome.

ZB: I hear a lot about it. That’s it.

Aside from the people, what will you miss the most, Zach.

ZB: What we’ll miss beside the people, I think just cracking up. I mean it’s hard to find a job where you come to work and really just laugh all day, so I think that’s like the ultimate job for me. So I need to quickly find another job where I’m surrounded by people that make me laugh a lot.

BL: The DMV is pretty good for stuff like that.

ZB: Yeah, I’ll apply there.

Zach, is there any status on those scripts that you were writing, Open Hearts or Andrew Henry’s Meadow anything like that?

ZB: Andrew Henry’s Meadow is a kid’s movie I’m producing with my brother. John Davis is producing that at Fox, so we’re really excited about that. Obviously the strike is confusing everyone, so we plan on that being a post-actor strike movie, depending on what happens with that. Open Hearts is one of the things that I might direct this spring.
It’s a film I adapted from a Danish Susanne Bier’s Danish film and it’s something I’d really like to do. It’s definitely one of the options of something I might do in the spring.

Zach, would you want to do a comedy or do you want to do something more dramatic for your next directorial?

ZB: I think next probably something more dramatic. I mean, with laughs in it, but definitely something away from Scrubs, you know, just to make it interesting. Open Hearts is actually a pretty dark comma. I just want to do everything, you know. I want to try lots of different things and at this point in my life I feel drawn to doing something more dramatic.

Bill, are you going to have some withdrawals not having that interaction with them or do you think it will continue?

BL: Oh. You know what? I think that I have the potential to be one of those desperate people that was involved in a TV show once that still trys to get people to talk about it years after it’s over.

ZB: Watching his own dailies.

BL: Yeah, “hey, do you guys remember that episode of Scrubs when…” No. You know what? I’m desperately hoping that I get to do something again that people are hopefully interested in. You know, I’m divulging too much, but I had a constant phobia about doing more TV because I’ve gotten so lucky twice, you know that the odds of having such a positive experience again are so slim because there’s so many intangible things that are out of your control.

But no, I’ll probably just continue to be, you know, some desperate guy that surfs the internet under a fake name to see if anybody is talking about stuff that he used to be involved in. And then I’ll be the guy that types, “that Bill Lawrence was a really funny writer.” And when someone says, “who are you?”, I’ll immediately exit the internet.

When you’re looking at the finale and everything, you’ve got the give the Janitor a name, right?

BL: Yeah, without a doubt. We have always sworn that when you hear him addressed by a real name, that means the show is over.

ZB: I thought you were going to do, which I think it would be funny, is if he’s like, “fine, I’ll tell you my name” and as he says it, a siren goes by and you never actually hear it.

BL: No, because I don’t think we can mess with people on this show. I think we just have to give them it.

ZB: You can’t give him a normal name, though. It’s got to be something…

BL: No, I know what I’m doing Zach. I’m not going to tip that one. It’s a funny one.

ZB: You know it already? You’ve got it locked up?

BL: Hell, yeah, I know it. Although, the only thing we’re tied by which is a weird thing because we have such obsessive fans is there’s a small contingent that insists his name is Neil Flynn because of the episode that we did when he was in the movie The Fugitive and they went and said in the credits of The Fugitive, it says that that cop is played by Neil Flynn, so the Janitor’s name has to be Neil Flynn, so we haven’t figured our way out of that one yet.

Bill, have you thought about what happens to Sacred Heart and don’t say that it’s inside a snow globe. I’m wondering if the hospital goes on or something happens to the hospital?

BL: Yeah. I think when you’re a fan of TV and your write TV, you can’t help but borrow from TV that you loved, like the Wonder Years had a great finale. It didn’t really end. It just it meant their world got a little bigger and they were moving forward, so yeah, the hospital goes on. There’s going to be no the hospital is closing the doors, shut the windows type of thing. Our finale is a very much life goes on type of finales and it’s more about the relationship and the dynamics between the people.

Is there any guest star that you’d like to have that you have not gotten yet?

BL: John Cusack. I always say it because he used to come by here and steal our food and he always tells me, you know, that he’d think about doing it and then he’s always busy being a movie star.

ZB: Jenna Jameson.

– The last season of Scrubs premieres Thursday, October 25 on NBC in the U.S. at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.

Sir Linksalot: Television News

I'm not embarrassed to say that my favorite television show of all-time is The O.C. I live by the motto "you can't fight fate!" More importantly, I watch WAY too much television, but I do so for the benefit of everyone reading this now. So to my mom and my wife, I say thanks for reading! To everyone else that might stumble across this, remember TiVo should be your best friend!