Until recently, the cast and creator of Scrubs hadn’t all been in a room together since the series wrapped in 2010. That changed at Vulture Festival in Los Angeles, where Scrubs creator and writer Bill Lawrence joined the principal cast for a reunion panel to talk about the legacy of the beloved medical comedy that aired for nine progressively weirder seasons on two different networks.
Vulture moderated the lively conversation between Lawrence and actors Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, John C. McGinley, Christa Miller, Judy Reyes, Ken Jenkins, and Neil Flynn, who shared their behind-the-scenes memories of the show. In between razzing each other and a brief interruption from a certain high-fiving surgeon, the group discussed the stories they weren’t allowed to tell on network television, their reactions to Donald Faison’s “Poison” dance appearing in Fortnite, and their deep gratitude for the Scrubs fandom.
Jump to a section:
The Janitor’s Best Lines: Scripted vs. Improvised
“Why Don’t I Have Any Jokes?”
A Scrubs GIF for Every Occassion
Tapping Into Scrubs’s Serious Side
The Rhythm of a Scrubs Joke
Suddenly a Wild Todd Appears
What Scrubs Couldn’t Show on a Disney-Owned Network
The Battle Behind Dr. Cox’s Epic Monologues
Thinking About a Scrubs Reboot
The “Poison” Dance, Then and Now
How long has it been since you guys have all seen each other?
Bill Lawrence: We have not been together as a full group like this, I think, since the show wrapped. And if anybody’s doing a TV festival, if you call Zach [Braff] and you say there’s going to be free alcohol, there’s a chance that we’ll all come.
Zach Braff: But the truth is we’ve passed on a lot of these and this is the very first one we’ve all come to as a group.
When the show started, it was a slightly weird but not super-weird medical comedy, and then as it developed, it became really very, very weird. How did that happen? What gave you the confidence to say, “Yeah, we’re going to have a fantasy scene where J.D. and Turk plant one of Turk’s testicles and he grows into …
Lawrence: He grew another Turk.
Donald Faison: [Makes Plant-Turk sound.]
Lawrence: My favorite thing was that when he grew another Turk, he couldn’t talk.
So how did the show become that?
Lawrence: The way the show became weird, quite honestly, is we lived in a time that once your show had a very passionate fan base, you knew you could stay on for a while if you kept feeding people what they’re enjoying. And we pledged early on to, even if we kinda went down with the ship, to do stuff that we thought was funny and that made us all laugh. I was able to do that with a really talented writing staff, but also with actors and actresses.
You know, I can’t tell you how many lines [of dialogue from the show] where people would come up to me and say, “I really loved that.” And I know one of [the Scrubs actors] made it up on their feet. And you know what I say? I just go, “Thank you.” Like that, because I’m modest. But I think that the show was able to evolve because we had a fan base that followed us from time slot to time slot and year to year.
What were your favorite fantasy sequences? Were there ever any where you were like, “Nope, too weird, can’t do it. Not going to do it.”
Braff: Well, one thing I always thought was funny was Bill would … sometimes let something go through to the reality world that was completely a fantasy. Like Neil [Flynn] literally built a home-sized sandcastle that he was living in, in the parking lot.
Braff: Right, that was not the fantasy world.
Neil Flynn: That was toward the end, there was a time I remember you particularly saying, “But this … we’re not fantasizing at the moment, that means this exists.”
Wait, what? Why were you building a sandcastle?
Lawrence: Hey, look, it’s a slippery slope. You guys were all around for some of our mistakes. I wrote and directed an episode that I believe that Turk used to smuggle J.D. into movie theaters in his backpack.
Faison: In his backpack.
Braff: Yes, we did this shot where I was literally in a backpack. I mean, I put my head through a table.
Braff: And there was like a fake leg going up. I look back and it’s like, no, that wasn’t a fantasy. I was in the bag.
Lawrence: [Scrubs writer] Neil Goldman might have been the one that did it the most. But we reached a certain spot in the fifth year that we might have — I don’t want to say that there was marijuana involved, it doesn’t matter, it’s legal now — but we might have gone too far with crossing the line between fantasy and reality.
What are the moments on the show where you thought, nope, that’s too far?
Christa Miller: Never, never, never. I don’t think ever.
Sarah Chalke: The fantasies were all of our favorite thing to do, like the Star Wars one where we were all the Star Wars cast. And I got to make out with the hot ladies, Judy Reyes, Mandy Moore. But there was one fantasy where Bill was like, “It’s too far.” It was the first fantasy I did. I was supposed to be a nerd in headgear and lots of zits, and we kind of just were having fun with it, and I came down and Bill was like, “What is on your lip?” I’m like, “It’s a corn flake. It’s supposed to be a cold sore.” He’s like, “No. Lose the corn flake. That’s too far.”
Lawrence: You shouldn’t have to say “lose the cold sore” to somebody. They make that decision on their own.
The Janitor’s Best Lines: Scripted vs. Improvised
Miller: My favorite thing though, is if you would read a script — Bill, I shouldn’t say this because Bill is such a brilliant writer. But it would say …
Lawrence: Say that last part.
Miller: Bill is such a brilliant writer, [but the script] would say, “the janitor says whatever.”
Lawrence: If we couldn’t think of a janitor line, the script it would say “Janitor,” and underneath it, it would say, “Neil say something funny.”
Lawrence: People are so nice to ask me about different things in the show and what they were, and I can’t remember any of it. But one thing I do remember was … One of the times Neil had to say something funny was you had to explain why you had killed a duck once. You invented a riff that you guys got in a fight in your car, it was a duck by the way, and that you pulled over.
Flynn: Over the radio station.
Lawrence: Yes, over the radio station, and you pulled over to the side of the road.
Flynn: Took our shirts off.
Lawrence: You said, “The next thing you knew, me and the duck both had our shirts off.” And I’m like, The duck’s got a shirt on? And he’s like, “We were giving it to each other,” and so you beat a duck to death in a street-side fight. And that is one of the many moments that people come and say that was so funny. I’m like, “Thank you.”
Miller: No, my favorite is when you explain to Zach how your wife knitted the shorts.
Flynn: That was written, though. I did not make that up.
Braff: “I’m a doctor, I can’t wear short shorts to work!” If you look at the gag reel, the bloopers, I think that’s the hardest I’ve ever laughed. Just Neil explaining to me that his wife, with her limited fingers …
Faison: Right, all she had was a pinky, a pointer …
Braff: Using the scrubs material, she had made me short shorts, and it was an insult to not wear them. And my line was, “Look, I’m a doctor. I can’t wear short shorts to work.”
Neil, do you have a favorite moment that you remember ad-libbing or like a line that you thought, “I can’t even say it, it’s too goofy?”
Flynn: I haven’t been allowed to do that since, so I remember it even more fondly than I enjoyed it at the time. And I didn’t have a very big part in the show. So I got to have this extra fun, which was wonderful. I remember saying to Christa something about God — well this is all credit to Bill, because he would say, “And then if you think of something else, say that.” Or I would goof around in rehearsal, and he’d say, “Good, say that.” Or, “We’ll do one that way, too and we’ll do one [a different] way, too.” So I was telling you about the janitor’s childhood or something, and this just …
Faison: Was it when you had the cage? Was it the cage?
Flynn: I don’t remember that. I remember saying that my first pillow was a pile of handguns. I remember that.
Miller: What did I say?
Flynn: I don’t know, you just basically handed me the ball and then waited for my mouth to stop moving and then you would talk.
Braff: My favorite was when I said to you, “Is there some kind of underground canal system under the hospital? I think I saw a manatee.” And you said, “Was his name Julian?” And I said, “I don’t know, we didn’t exchange pleasantries.” And you said, “That’s Julian.”
Flynn: “That’s Julian.” I believe that was scripted, though, that was not improvised. People will sometimes say to me, “Is it true that you made up all your lines?” Of course that’s not true, that would be chaos. There’s another person in the scene with a scripted line! So sometimes I was allowed to ad-lib. Often times with Zach, we would change the dialogue a little bit. But most of it was written.
“Why Don’t I Have Any Jokes?”
So there are some people who are called upon to, I think, be the straight person in the scene more than the goofy ones. Judy, I feel like your job often was to …
Judy Reyes: Have the gravitas.
Reyes: That’s what Bill would tell me when I would go to him at least yearly.
Lawrence: And every year Judy would come in …
Reyes: And say, “Why don’t I have any jokes?”
Lawrence: She would go, “I’m funny, too. I’m funny as shit.”
Reyes: I’m funny!
Miller: Johnny C. [McGinley], say to Judy what you said to us in the car driving here.
John McGinley: I said she’s one of the best fucking actresses on the planet.
Ken Jenkins: Here, here. Absolutely, absolutely.
Reyes: I know, but I can act funny! I just need jokes, I need fantasies.
Chalke: But you just bust mad tears so well.
Reyes: I got really, really upset.
Lawrence: The reason we were talking about this in the car, and it’s corny, but shows like this only work if you have someone that can ground it and make it seem real, and Judy could kind of help us switch gears to the pathos and the drama and the emotional stuff in the show. And I was trying to catch up on the show and remember it, and was watching a scene that she did with Aloma Wright when Nurse Roberts passed away. She’s such a good actress, it was one of the main things that made the show work.
Reyes: Well, thank you.
Because you were able to be on together for so long, were there points where you felt like you were really happy that you were pushing the character in new directions? Moments where you thought, “This relationship now speaks to me differently.”
Lawrence: One of my favorite ones, and this is how TV shows evolve, is we became a family working together and enjoyed each other. [Ken] Jenkins and John C. McGinley had such a good relationship in real life and were such cantankerous antagonists on the show. I really enjoyed the end when we made them friends. It mattered to me on a personal level, because I could watch those two do scenes, instead of being mean to each other. You guys remember that part?
Jenkins: Yeah, vaguely. I really liked beating him up with balloons.
The J.D.–Turk relationship obviously is one of the cores of the show.
Faison: I think after we sang “Guy Love” I knew this relationship would last.
Braff: It is, once you sing a love song into another man’s eyes. About his hands being inside of you.
Faison: It was surgery.
A Scrubs GIF for Every Occassion
Lawrence: One of the fun things, have you guys gone online and seen bachelor parties and weddings where the best man sings that to his groom? They’re everywhere.
Faison: I have never seen that, but now I’m going to!
Braff: I’m going to. I see the GIFs a lot. I have to say, nine years of Scrubs GIFs are great because when you’re sending a text, there’s a GIF of yourself for every emotion. So I often use them, Scrubs GIFs.
Which ones do you use?
Braff: They’re often like me and Donald rubbing our heads together. I’m like, “I miss you.” And then it’s me and Donald rubbing our heads together.
Faison: That’s the best … I think that might be my favorite GIF I’ve ever seen in my life.
Braff: Yeah, but for any emotion you can think of, if I put in like, “Oh, I’m happy,” a Scrubs GIF will come up, and I’ll say, “Oh, I’ll just use that.”
But one thing I think that’s so unique about the show, and a credit to Bill and the other writers: I’ve never seen something that navigated in, without commercials, 22 minutes, from the broadest comedy you can think of, all the stuff we’re all laughing about, and then find a way to have a scene like the one with my character and Johnny C. [when Dr. Cox becomes depressed], and I played it completely straight. It’s just that the hairpin turns of that, on paper sometimes you wouldn’t even think that that can work. But it usually did.
Tapping Into Scrubs’s Serious Side
Lawrence: The weirdest thing, it’s a story we tell a lot, but Matt Tarses wrote an episode in the first year called “My Old Lady” with Kathryn Joosten. It’s the third episode of our show, and each one of our interns gets a patient. You’re told that one out of three of these people will die. And it was a trick, it was a manipulative trick. We decided in the writers room that all three of them were going to die, and this is how we were going to tell all of you that this show was going to be a little different. Right? The way TV works and network television, I never handed in outlines or scripts or anything on time, but when I did eventually tell ’em what we were doing, the first call we got is, “Do they all have to die?”
I’m like, “Well, yeah.” “Well, couldn’t one of them die or just get very, very sick?” And I’m like, “No, they’re all going to die.” Like, “Well, if they’re all going to die, could they be racists and horrible Nazis and people that we want to see die?” And I said, “No, they’re going to be people you like and they’re still going to die.”
The fact that we were able to do that show early and the people here embraced it, it was very nerve-racking for us. I thought there was a chance that everybody would turn on a show that they were hoping to laugh at and find that to be not what they wanted to see on TV. But once we got permission, not from the network, but from the audience, we decided to do it for the whole run.
Jenkins: Yes, and good for the network for doing it. I confess, I don’t remember much of this, it’s sort of like a Chinese chopped salad blowing in the tornado. A little bit, “Oh, yeah, I was there. I was there.” And I love it, it’s a wonderful feeling, but I remember one of those turns. I just thought of it and my favorite one of those turns was in an episode with Brendan Fraser. Boy, did it … It just felt like he’d been there right from the beginning constantly. But there was one where Johnny C. [McGinley] was talking and he was in an argument with Brendan, and he was having a tremendous argument with him. And Zach says, “Who do you think you’re talking to?”
And you pan back and you realize you’re at the funeral and you’re left with Johnny C.’s face and you just go into that face. And that was the whole drama of his death was just that one shot, just going into his face. You turned on a dime, just on an instantaneous dime. That’s a great trick. That’s real writing.
The Rhythm of a Scrubs Joke
Lawrence: Could I tell you guys my random favorite thing about Ken [Jenkins]? There’s a lot of people out here I’m sure who are actors, actresses, writers, in and around the industry. You always have to very careful with people this talented if you’re going to tell them any … I’m not good at giving notes. You’re not supposed to give line readings. When I started my career, if someone did a joke differently than I heard it in my head, since I knew I wasn’t supposed to give them a line reading, I’d say, “Don’t say it like that, say it like this.” [Mimics tone of a line reading, but with nonsense syllables rather than words]. Which is a line reading, just with noises.
Braff: By the way, you said when you started your career. You did that to us all the time.
Lawrence: All right.
Braff: You’re not supposed to give a line reading and Bill would get around it and be like, “And don’t …”
Miller: Just say it like this.
Braff: “Just be like buh-buh-buh, da-duh-duh-duh!” He thought if he made noises and didn’t say the words, it didn’t count.
Lawrence: But Ken Jenkins is one of my favorite experiences because — just so you all know, if you program his name onto your DVR, it’ll explode because he’s been in every movie ever since the dawn of time. And I used to come to Ken nervously when we started having you do really acerbic jokes. And I wasn’t sure if you always knew what I was going for, and I would fumfer around and then Ken would just interrupt me. He’s like, “Bill, I’m old, just tell me how to say it.”
Jenkins: It took me three seasons to get him to give me a line reading. It’s all I wanted.
Braff: And I didn’t want it.
Miller: And then we all did that. “Bill, just say how you want us to say it. Oh, that’s hilarious.”
Braff: Another Bill trick, for you aspiring filmmakers out there, directors, was something I’ve used and I stole from Bill. He’d go, “You know, at the table read you did it in a really, really funny way and I just want to get back to that. You did it like this.” And he would say how he wanted you to say it.
Miller: A lie.
Braff: And then it was a total lie.
Miller: It’s a lie.
Braff: And the actor would be like, “That is good. That’s how I did it?” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s exactly how you did it!” And it’s fucking genius and I’ve stolen that. Thank you.
Jenkins: But you know he was right, because if you get somebody to do it right in a rehearsal right before you go in to shoot it, you’re sure to fuck it up when you shoot it.
Braff: I just love that he preyed on the actor’s egos. They were like, “I was that good, wasn’t I? I was killing it at the table read, wasn’t I?”
Lawrence: It wasn’t on this show but on another show, I actually did that. The actress, Courtney Cox, said, “We didn’t have a table read.”
You’re all hilariously funny. Who is the worst at keeping a straight face?
Faison: Sarah Chalke is.
Braff: Sarah Chalke.
Chalke: Yeah, I think it got to the point where like these guys could make one noise and …
Faison: [High-pitched hum sound.] Hmmmmm.
Braff: It was this noise. Ready? We’d go like this. Hmmmm. And we’d do it at like 2 in the morning when the crew wanted to go home, and they would be so pissed off, and we just wanted Sarah to get yelled at.
Faison: [Mimicking Chalke asking them not to make the sound.] “Don’t you, don’t you don’t you, God, motha …”
Lawrence: By the way, that moment from an episode where Johnny C. is doing, “Help me to help you. Help me to help you.” You guys were enjoying that, and I was flashing back to [when we were filming it], that was at night and every time he got to this move, Sarah would go [mimics laughing sound]. It’s like, “Sarah!”
Chalke: And I would literally be like screaming at myself in my head, going, “These people have families! Everyone wants to go home! Get your fucking shit together Chalke!”
Braff: Yeah, so Sarah had a pep talk for herself to make her stop laughing. She would berate herself about the families of the crew. She’d be like, “These fucking people want to go home and take care of their kids.”
Chalke: I would literally get to a point where I just turn away and turn back into frame and I just have to see someone’s face and I’d be like [breaks into laughter].
Braff: And right after her pep talk, Donald and I would be like, hmmmm.
Chalke: I think we got to a point where, everyone’s like, “I guess we just move on, I don’t think we have it, but I don’t think we’re going to get it. So I guess we just …”
Miller: Or as Sarah would say, “One moresies?”
Lawrence: “Sarah One Moresies,” you guys remember?
Miller: Sarah One Moresies.
Lawrence: Just so you guys know what that means, that means Sarah wants one more take even when she’s had nine takes and everybody wants to go home.
Suddenly a Wild Todd Appears
There are so many amazing minor, secondary characters on the show.
Lawrence: One of the philosophies of this show, early on we were talking as a staff, was to do it like The Simpsons. Usually, the secondary character’s job is to come in and go, “Where ya going? Who ya dating? What time is it? Where do you work? What’s your job?” And on our show, we said what if we made them all be funny, like The Simpsons, whether it’s Moe the Bartender or Barney or whoever, they pop on their own. We decided to kind of fill our world with all these odd ducks.
Does anybody have a reference to who their favorite is? Is there a hand anywhere? Is there?
Robert Maschio [appears from the audience, runs onto stage]: I got a question. You guys are doing a Scrubs reunion without the Todd? Hell, yeah! I miss you [high] five. I miss you five. Yeah! And what’s under here? You know! You know! [Begins to remove his clothing.]
Faison: Take it off!
[Cast chants “Take it off,” and Maschio removes his pants to reveal scrubs underneath to lengthy audience applause.]
Maschio: Let me just say this, Scrubs fans, don’t forget this. You’re just a little bit better than everybody else. Scrubs reunion [high] five for people streaming at home! Long distance [high] five [to the audience], betrayal five [to the cast] for not inviting the big dog.
Braff: Rob, who told you where we were?
Maschio: Ted. Thank you, good night! [Leaves stage.]
Braff: Oh my God, unbelievable.
Lawrence: All jokes aside, I want to give a shout-out because one of the things that made this show work was that not everybody felt that their job, rightfully so, was the most important. And whether it’s Sam Lloyd playing Ted with my favorite a capella band of all time, or Rob Maschio playing the Todd, or Aloma Wright playing Nurse Roberts, just the people we brought into this world — I want to thank them and thank you guys for liking them so much.
[Rob Maschio briefly returns to stage holding a fiery-patterned men’s swimming thong, prompting the cast to chant “Put it on!” before Maschio eventually waves and leaves the stage again.]
What Scrubs Couldn’t Show on a Disney-Owned Network
Braff: You know, when we moved from NBC to ABC ’cause it’s Disney, we were no longer allowed to show Rob in his banana hammock.
Lawrence: That’s true.
Braff: That’s true. When I was directing, I had to frame above his penis.
Oh my God.
Lawrence: In the Bahamas episode, he comes out and flexes on the beach and we had to blow up that shot because it showed the banana hammock.
Braff: Rob’s banana hammock is not Disney-approved.
It’s a loss for humanity, really.
Lawrence: It is.
Were there other changes you had to make when you switched networks?
Braff: One thing, a lot of people don’t know this trivia, is we only shot one thing ever that Bill had to throw out, if I’m not mistaken.
Braff: It was a medicinal marijuana thing. That many years ago, they were like “medicinal marijuana, get the hell outta here.”
Lawrence: I don’t want to make a dumb point, but this is how screwed up network television is.
Braff: Bill, there’s people watching.
Lawrence: Donald Trump.
Braff: The lights go down.
Lawrence: No, they would not let us do a story about getting medicinal marijuana for somebody that was having trouble with chemo and cancer. And so to make a point, I said, “What if the patient that’s dying is a virgin and they want to have sex for the first time and Carla and Elliot want to go looking for a male prostitute for her?” And they’re like, “Oh, that’s fine.”
Chalke: But no pot.
Lawrence: I mean the kids on Disney can see us getting a prostitute, just not medicinal marijuana.
You actually shot it and you couldn’t use it?
Lawrence: We shot a couple scenes.
Faison: There was one where these two [John McGinley and Christa Miller] had a story line. It was one where, now forgive me if I’m wrong, if I remember this incorrectly, but didn’t you guys have a kid that didn’t make it and it got cut out of the show? Am I wrong for that?
Lawrence: Oh yeah, you’re right. We had a couple where, you guys, when you were married, we said that your marriage dissolved at one point because you had a kid that didn’t make it and we took that out.
Miller: Oh, wow. That’s a downer.
Faison: Thank you very much. Inside scoop y’all. Inside scoop.
Chalke: My most embarrassing moment, actually, was something that almost got [cut]. What happened was I had never gotten in trouble from Bill except for this one time.
Braff: That’s not true, but go ahead.
Faison: Because we can talk about the tan.
Chalke: There was something they almost had to take out, but they fixed it and Bill came up to me one day. He’s like, “Okay Chalke, so harder than any special effect we had to do in eight years, harder than making Zach’s head explode in a fantasy sequence, was making you look less like an Oompa-Loompa.” Because what had happened was I …
Lawrence: Somebody told Sarah that self-tanning is cool.
Chalke: No, wait, when Scrubs had gotten nominated for an Emmy, everyone was super-excited. I didn’t have anything to wear. Everyone’s like, “You’ve gotta hire a stylist.” I had never done that before. I did. She said, “You need to be tanned.” I said, “I’m not going to do that. I’m not going in the sun.”
She said, “Go to one of those booths.” And it was like the episode of Friends where Ross ends up like a nine. It’s really complicated! I mean, there’s this weird cream and there’s a mask and there’s all this stuff, and I had my dog with me. Anyways, I get to Scrubs and the tan increases over time.
Braff: You’ve never seen anything like it.
Lawrence: By the way, not to bring it back, she looked like Donald Trump. She was orange, she was literally a Cheeto.
Chalke: I did, and you were like, “You’re in the scene with Donald [Faison], and so we can’t adjust the …”
Faison [mimicking his response]: “Did you get a haircut or something? There’s something different about you. Have your eyes always been that blue?”
Chalke: Thank you. It was so embarrassing.
Faison: And you were like, “No, it’s a spray tan.”
Miller: You know, I think Bill called me from work.
Chalke: Oh shit.
Miller: He’s like, “What do you do?”
Chalke: I didn’t know that.
Miller: I said, “I don’t know what you do.”
Lawrence: Don’t do that stuff. It smells like rotten meat, too.
Chalke: It does.
Lawrence: It’s gross.
The Battle Behind Dr. Cox’s Epic Monologues
That sounds terrible.
Lawrence: I have an apology to make because … it was my fault. We always gave these guys material late. I think sometimes you guys would be shooting a scene from a show that you didn’t know what the show was yet because …
Faison: Dude, we used to get scripts in your handwriting.
Lawrence: But I used to hand John C. McGinley two-page monologues, handwritten. The morning of, I’d be like, “Hey John, if it’s cool, we’re going to shoot this right before lunch.” And then I would run. He’s a very scary human being, so I would scurry away as quickly as I could.
How did you do that? Do you have strategies for when you get handed a handwritten monologue and then you have to learn it right away?
McGinley: I’m just filled with self-loathing. So order to hate myself less, I had to do it. Otherwise, I would have to face the man in the mirror and just want to wrap my fist around my esophagus and kill myself.
That sounds very healthy.
McGinley: I was so competitive with Billy, I was like, “Fuck you. I’ll learn this motherfucker.”
Lawrence: He thought he was winning, but then in my 29-year-old head, or 30-year-old head, I would go, “Oh, I obviously don’t need to get him the material that early next time.” I could push it up right up against lunch.
Braff: Sometimes the scripts would come so late and we would be like, “Hey, Bill,” call down the writers room. “Can you tell Donald and I why we’re on a table because the scene just opens and we’re standing on a table, and we have no idea what’s going on.” He goes, “Oh, oh, sorry. Yeah, here’s what happens.” And so we’d like shoot a scene out of total context.
Miller: Well, Bill threatened Zach. I guess they had an argument over something.
Braff: He goes, “You know, a new intern can always walk in.”
Chalke: Oh shit.
Braff: And I was like, “Oh shit … he’s right.”
McGinley: I remember I was going to get back at Billy one time, I don’t know what season. It was the season you brought on the actor from Kids in the Hall, Foley. What’s his name?
Chalke: Dave Foley.
McGinley: Dave Foley, so you brought Dave Foley on, and he was going to walk everybody through the seven stages of loss or something. And so I had a monologue with him because I wasn’t buying any of the stuff that he was doing. And you gave it to me and I’d had enough time to subvert it, and so …
Lawrence: I remember this, by the way. You’re going to see a cathartic moment between the two of us because we battled.
McGinley: And so it was late in … the sixth episode, year five or six or seven, and so I had gotten into this [place where I was] playing with this really weird cadence for Dr. Cox, this really strange sound. And I’m like, all right, well, I’m going to take this to its logical extreme and the logical extreme was, I was going to make it incoherent.
I did it and I did it really fast, like this Martin Scorsese syncopation, really fast, and we shot it and we were good.
Lawrence: You guys don’t understand. When it went into editing — ’cause the crew was just happy to be done. We were six years in, and they’re gone, and I’m like, “I gotta cut this scene.” And I’m looking, and it’s literally John C. McGinley giving a speech, going like this. “You guys [completely incoherent babble].” I thought I had a stroke. I thought I wasn’t hearing correctly.
McGinley: Billy had the last laugh on this one ’cause he made me reshoot it, and Johnny C. don’t reshoot.
Lawrence: Here’s a good piece of trivia. You can see when John C. McGinley, as a performer, whether it’s because of the way it’s being shot or how the day is going, you can see when he’s actually angry. When you see this part of his jaw just start to twitch. Can you do it now? Can you flex that thing now?
McGinley: I’m not angry.
Thinking About a Scrubs Reboot
So when we were talking on the phone about doing this, one thing you said, Bill, was, “Well, we’re not really reboot people.” Could you explain a little bit about why that is, and why you don’t want that sweet, sweet reboot money?
Lawrence: All right, I’m going to navigate this without getting myself in trouble. I would do anything to get to work with not only this group, but the writers that are around and do it again. It was the best time in my life, so much so that I often find myself now trying to grab a gold ring that I’ve already been lucky enough to have grabbed before. You can never equal that experience.
That said, sometimes reboots, not all the time, sometimes they feel like a money grab. If this group came to me destitute and unemployed and said, “Oh my God, we need to do Scrubs again,” or the crew did, or the writing staff did, we would do it. But you are looking at a group of people that work whenever and however they want to because of how talented they are. So the only reason to do it would be to do something for you guys and enjoy the time together. If we ever do it, we’ll do it as a short little movie or something like that.
By the way, on that topic, you guys know everyone here is just crushing it. My son is here somewhere, and he’s so excited because Chalke is one of the voices on Rick and Morty. In the car [on the way here] with Johnny C. and Christa and me, [my son] said, “I just recently binge-watched the whole series of The Office.” And I said “Well, have you seen Scrubs yet?” And John, do you remember what he said?
McGinley: “I watched an episode or two.”
If you were in a position where you were going to do a revival, though, what kinds of stories would you imagine you wanting to tell about your characters now?
Chalke: The marijuana episode.
Lawrence: I’ve been asked [this] when people have asked me about doing the show again, and I think the problem for me is if I did it, I would just want to see where everybody was in their life. I would want to see where their marriage is. I would want to see if they’re still friends.
Flynn: The janitor’s back working for the CIA.
Braff: That’d be great.
Faison: That’s … speaking of favorite episodes, hold on. Let’s talk about frickin’ watching The Fugitive and waiting for the credits to roll just, so we could find out what the janitor’s name is.
Reyes: Oh yeah.
Lawrence: Raise your hand if you’re one of the people that found a way to contact me and go, “If the janitor was in The Fugitive, then his name is Neil Flynn.” By the way, everybody that found a way to contact me and say that, I personally got back to them and said, “He lied, that’s not his name. His name’s Glen Matthews.”
Braff: Or is it?
Neil, did you feel like your character had a name, he just never told anyone what it was going to be? Did you secretly pick a name for yourself?
Braff: Your backstory, Neil.
Flynn: No, I would have been fine never having a name. And at the end when it said Glen Matthews, that could easily be a lie. In fact, the very next day, someone says, “Hey Joe.” I’m like, “Hi, how ya doing?”
Lawrence: Do you know when we decided on the name Glen?
Flynn: Because of Clone High?
Lawrence: In Clone High, he played a janitor named Glen, we decided it was his actual name.
Chalke: I didn’t know that.
Jenkins: I liked it when he was Jan Itor.
Judy where do you imagine Carla would be now?
Reyes: Definitely with a couple of kids. And we talked early in Scrubs about her aspiring to be a doctor, and I didn’t think … I liked her running the show as a nurse.
Lawrence: Judy and all the actors and actresses were so protective of their characters. I would talk about things to them and Judy took the time to say that she thinks that Carla’s very proud of her job and would do it for life and that’s who she was.
Reyes: I’m protective, I’m like defensive. It’s like, “I think she wants to be a doctor.” I’m like, “Why? She’s an amazing nurse. No.” And then I’d feel bad. I was like, “I think I was a little bitchy.”
The “Poison” Dance, Then and Now
I have one question that I was told that I had to ask if I was going to come out here, which is about the “Poison” dance.
Braff: Oh yeah.
Miller: Are you going to do it?
Faison: No, there’s no way I’m doing, no, absolutely not.
Chalke: Do it, do it.
Faison: Absolutely not, absolutely not.
Braff: Dance, dance.
Faison: No. If you want to see it, you can play Fortnite because they jacked that shit.
Reyes: Yeah, they did. Look, my kid is here and she’s a huge fan and she [plays] that, yeah.
Lawrence: By the way, just so you guys know, it’s real trivia. Fortnite had to inquire for the legality of it.
Braff: Did they?
Lawrence: They did, and it’s fine because it’s just a character dancing.
Faison: I didn’t get no money. No, I didn’t get no money. I know, that’s what y’all are thinking, right? Somebody got paid. No, no, I did not. Somebody stole that shit. That’s not mine no more.
Lawrence: I made the decision, I knew that Donald would be cool with me getting the money for that.
Faison: No, hold on. Hold on. God damn it, no.
Miller: That was good money for us.
Faison: Will [meaning Bill Lawrence], you owe me some money, man. That private school that you’re going to right now? [Gestures to Lawrence and Miller’s son sitting in the audience.] Fortnite.
Braff: Bill and Christa sent me a picture of them on vacation and I was like, “What are you doing?” And they were like, “We’re spending our Donald Fortnite money.”
Faison: Now that’s some bullshit. That’s not true, it’s not, it’s not true. Nobody got no money. Nobody got money for it.
Lawrence: Seen side by side, by the way, it’s awesome.
Faison: Yeah, it’s the exact same dance.
That’s amazing. How long did it take you to learn the dance?
Braff: He made it up.
Faison: I made it up on the spot.
Lawrence: He made it up that second.
Oh my God.
Lawrence: I don’t think you had even read the scene when you got there.
Braff: No, he hadn’t. Sometimes Donald …
Faison: Shut up.
Braff: Let me just say this one part.
Faison: Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up. Shut up, shut up. Shut up.
Braff: Donald didn’t know his scripts.
Faison: That day I was late. Hold on let’s be clear …
Lawrence: “What am I doing, an air band?”
Faison: Right, yeah. I walked in and I was late, and I remember you being like, “Yo, what the fuck, man?” And me being like, “All right, all right.” And I remember the whole studio, the whole crew being in the room when I had to do that dance, and I was like …
Lawrence: By the way, here’s the best thing about Donald, just so you guys know how talented he is. I go, “Did you work on this shit, because it’s supposed to be good.” He’s like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” But when they played the song you could see him registering, because he had no idea what the song was gonna be, even though it was in the script. He’s like, “Oh, ‘Poison,’ I get that.”
Faison: I know this one.
Chalke: And I’m the opposite. I’m so type A, Bill’s like, “Will you do an ‘I told you so’ dance?” I’m in my dressing room trying to plan every single move, and such a dork.
Audience question: I am doctor myself, because of you guys. You kept the sense of humor alive and I wanted to know throughout your time filming, did you guys yourselves get to go to a hospital and really see how boring and lame it is on a daily basis?
Lawrence: Before these guys talk I’m gonna say two things. One thing that I’m most proud of about this show is the amount of medical professionals that have said that we either caught what they were going through, or influenced them in becoming nurses or doctors. It means so much to me, so thank you so much for saying that, for doing it. I think it’s really cool.
Number two. My best friend, the real J.D., Doctor John Doris, is a cardiologist, a heart surgeon. He was my best friend from age 18 on. We went to college together and were roommates. I don’t know about you guys, but he was a screwup, and my nightmare would be waking up in an emergency room and seeing him [standing] over me and going, “You’re going to be fine.” I’d be like, “I’ve seen you so drunk.”
But it created a feeling for me that doctors and nurses are like any of us. They laugh, they joke, they do what they can to get through stuff. And I think everybody here had moments with him. One of my favorite things about this show is that he and his wife, who Elliot was based on, he married a doctor who’s also a family physician out here named Dolly Clock. When they were medical advisers on the show, and when he was on set helping us with the medical stuff, they all called him …
Lawrence: They called him Real J.D. So his nickname was Real.
Braff: The best part is he’s a real cardiologist and he’d be advising us, saying, “Okay, you’re gonna hold this like this and this.” And then this was still in the time of pagers I think, right? Wasn’t it? Well doctors have pagers and he’d be like [pauses to look at a pager], “… I got to go.”
Lawrence: If you all watched the real finale of the show, this would mean a lot to me. The real finale of the show is when Zach …
Braff: Season nine. [Ed note: This is a joke about the widely unpopular season nine; Lawrence is referring to the end of season eight.]
Lawrence: Zach walks by a doctor that looks a little like him with black, slicked-back hair and says good night. And that guy is the real J.D., and he’s the one the whole show is based on.
Chalke: He’s made the mistake of giving me his cell phone number, and numerous times I’ve [called and] been like, “Real, do you think this is a problem?”
Braff: And you know Bill [Lawrence] not only played the guy who married [Janitor and Lady Janitor], he also was the janitor at the very end of season eight that pulls down the sheet.
Lawrence: By the way, the Bahamas part, I feel I was amazing in it. I knew it was my moment to shine and the entire cast was in the pool off camera watching me and drinking. I feel I was amazing. They feel I was horrible.
Braff: It’s a good thing you’re such a great writer.
Faison: No, I thought you was amazing Bill.
Braff: You were great.
Lawrence: Just so you guys know, that tiny island in the Bahamas [where they filmed the wedding in season eight] is called Hope Town. The population is about 600. We took the whole island over to shoot it. The reason I did it there, the gentleman sitting next to Ken Jenkins at the bar for the whole show is my father. And that’s where they live.
Jenkins: And he’s a terrific actor. He was really putting away those Bahama Mamas.
Chalke: How did we get that episode shot? I don’t even know how that … We got a talking-to at the beginning, and they were like, “Guys, if you don’t show up at your call time we’re going to have no way of getting a hold of you.”
Lawrence: That island had no roads, we just took our entire crew there and a whole bunch of booze and went around on boats and shot that show for weeks. It was super-fun.
Audience question: You guys did an episode where Turk gets a new cell phone and his cell phone number was 916-Call-Turk. I was in high school on the message boards on NBC.com, and people were like, call this number you’ll get to the set. And I did. And Donald Faison answered.
Faison: I remember dude! How have you been?
Audience member: My boy.
Faison: How you been? I recognize that voice. I recognize that voice. Wait, wait. Steve?
Audience member: Close — Sam.
Faison: I knew it. Sam. Dude, I fucking miss you, man.
Lawrence: Can I tell you the funniest part to this, and then you’ll do your question. It’s a good opportunity to say how grateful we are, because this show stayed on because people this loyal to the show stayed engaged, you know, and did stuff like this. The phone was a marketing moment, and we all took turns answering that phone ’cause we thought it would be a great idea to put that number out. That number is discontinued, because ten years after, if you turn that phone on, it never stops ringing.
Every person up here took turns answering it. My favorite moment, and I’m sorry I’m gonna tell them this [looks at Christa Miller]: I was working late and my wife loves to sleep. She has this magic trick, where if you look away, when you look back she’s got a mouth guard and sleep mask on. It’s very weird. I came home talking to a fan [who’d called the phone number] and because I’m a nerd, I’m so excited that someone cares about a writer. My wife screams from the bedroom, “Are you fucking talking on the phone at 1 in the morning?!” And the girl on the phone goes, “Oh, my God, is that Jordan?” I go, “It is, but I have to go.”
Sorry, your question man. Look, I believe and the staff …
Reyes: Just say thank you.
Lawrence: All right, yes, thank you. One of my things that I think you have to do if you’re creating any type of art out there, any of you. We live in a world that if you’re passionate about it, market it yourself. And we used to sit around coming up with ideas to engage you guys and take it to people, and that was one of mine.
We did a multi-camera episode of show and we brought in a lot of Scrubs fans to see it tape live, even though it’s not a sitcom. I just believe that if people are [so] passionate they’re going to show up 17 years later, you’ve got to feed them stuff like that, so that they can have access to you. It’s part of the fun, you know?
The last thing I told myself and my wife that I would do [is this]: You guys might not realize it. It is a gift that anybody would still care about something that we did this long after the fact. I’m touched, I’m grateful. This show would not exist were it not for the fans and for people still keeping it alive. I just wanted to take this opportunity for me and for the whole cast to say thank you. That’s it.