It’s not easy to interview Zach Braff and Donald Faison. It’s not their fault. They’re both very personable and funny and nice. The problem is that the two of them have been friends since Scrubs premiered in 2001 and they have the ability to play off of each other that only a 20-year friendship can create. I’m not entirely sure I needed to be on the call, which I say in the best and nicest way possible. Just hit record and let them run free.
It’s one of the many reasons their new Scrubs rewatch podcast — Fake Doctors, Real Friends, produced by iHeartRadio — is such a blast to listen to, even in its very early stages. There’s no forced chemistry. It’s just two good buds with a lot of history telling stories about a very good television show they made together. You could do much worse in a listening experience. Below, please find a lightly edited and condensed version of our conversation, which touches on everything from watching episodes they haven’t seen in over a decade, to recording in a bedroom closet, to Turk’s legendary performance of “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe. This was a fun one. Enjoy.
I just got done listening to the second episode and at the risk of asking you guys to give away primo podcast content in an interview, I was wondering if we could start with a quick summary of the time Donald gave Jeff Zucker a noogie.
Donald: Let’s get into it. What do you want to know?
Zach: Well, they have to tune into the podcast to get the full story. We’ll give you an abridged version.
Exactly. This is a teaser.
Donald: Let’s just say we were at the upfronts, which is where they hold a conference for all of the new television shows coming to certain networks. They usually hold it in New York and, this was not my first time around executives, but it was my first time meeting these executives. I had no knowledge because sometimes I don’t pay attention as much as I should to who the boss is. I thought Jeff Zucker [then the head of NBC, now the head of CNN] just so happened to be an assistant to a head executive who was just really nice to us. We were at a party, late-night, drinks had been had. Let’s just say I might have … I definitely noogied Jeff Zucker.
Zach: Yes. He gave noogies to the head of the network so hard and so uncomfortably that the head of the network could be heard saying, “Please, Donald, no.”
This has immediately become one of my favorite stories.
Zach: Ever since that noogie, his career took off. Maybe that noogie was good luck.
Donald: I was his Buddha. It was like a reverse Buddha.
Zach: Maybe those noogies we’ve been making fun of are actually magic.
Donald: They are magical.
Zach: I’m glad we’re making you laugh. We’re having so much fun doing it. To be honest, I never thought it would be so much fun. When the idea was presented to us, I thought, “Oh, that could be fun just reliving some of these things,” because we haven’t seen those episodes in 20 years. Just talking to Donald, we get on the phone together and hit record. Just telling some of those stories, reliving those memories has really been a lot of fun for us.
That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed about the podcast. There’s a mix of actual episode analysis with these fun behind-the-scene stories that even the most die-hard fans of the show could never know. Do you guys go into each episode planning to balance it 50/50 or do you just hit record, roll with it, and see where it takes you?
Zach: So far as in the few we’ve done, we just hit record and we talk. When I’ve done DVD commentaries before, the movie’s playing at the same time. You can go on tangents a little bit, but then you’re really trying to go, okay, wait, we’re getting behind the movie. Whereas we don’t watch this live. We watch it beforehand and make notes on stuff we want to talk about. We don’t discuss it beforehand. It’s more of a surprise. Then, we just ramble, but use getting through the episode as a structure.
How has it been so far looking back at the episodes? I know you said you haven’t seen some in 20 years. It’s got to be fun but also really weird, right?
Donald: Well, yes. You don’t remember most of them. I remember the gist of the first episode because that was the jumping-off point. The second episode and then the third episode, I didn’t remember them that well. We made a mistake at one point and we thought that we were going to be doing a different episode because in our memory, our order went a different way. We got to episode three and it wasn’t the episode that we thought it was going to be. It was a wake-up call, like we don’t really know. I know we were in the show, but we don’t really know the show as much as we did back then.
Zach: For years, everyone, including Bill Lawrence, the creator of the show, we’ve all referenced 103 as a pivotal episode that set the tone for what Scrubs was going to be. We learned a few days ago that now that it’s 104 that we’re talking about.
Zach: I think it’s great in that way actually because we haven’t seen them and then we’re looking at them with new eyes. I mean, there are fans that reach out to us on social media that say, “Oh my God guys, I love the show, I’m on my sixth rewatch” or whatever. I’ve only seen those episodes once in my whole life. You know, I remember back in the day, we just watched them when they aired.
Donald: Listen, we made 180 of them. I probably remember maybe five. You know what I mean?
Of the episodes you remember or moments you remember, is there any specific thing from the show that you’re really excited about getting to, or nervous about getting to, or even dreading?
Donald: I remember the first Christmas episode we did. That’s when you discovered that Chris Turk is a very religious person. I’m looking forward to that one because I remember I did a preacher in a church with the choir behind me.
Zach: That was hilarious.
Donald: I’m really excited to see that because I vaguely remember what surrounded it. I remember that being a highlight because I always was a huge fan of Arsenio Hall in Coming to America where he played the reverend and Eddie Murphy played the singer. I had a great time doing that. I can’t wait to see that again.
Zach: We might remember a handful of classic jokes that stood out to us. I’m watching the episodes and I’m watching it like a new viewer. I was 25 years old or something. I’m looking at this young version of myself and then something funny happens, whether it’s related to me or somebody else. I just genuinely laugh. That’s what’s cool about it is looking back and going like, Oh my God, this, this still holds up. This is pretty funny.
It’s going to put you guys in a weird situation if you’re out with friends like, “You know what’s a really good show I’ve been watching lately? Scrubs.”
Zach: Everyone’s talking about what they’re binging and Donald and I have to embarrassingly say we’re binging our own show.
The timing of it is actually kind of perfect in a strange and morbid way because we have a pandemic going on and it’s really shining a light on hospitals and healthcare workers. I know Scrubs was a silly and fun show, but it wasn’t ever afraid to get a little heavy in places. When you guys get to those episodes, are you going to try to lean into that or are you going to try to just keep it lighter?
Donald: Oh, that’s interesting …
Zach: We’re about to find out because we’re going to record the first super dramatic one tomorrow. We have Sarah Chalke coming on for the episode we’re talking about, 104 (“My Old Lady,” the first time the doctors lose a patient), which was the first real dramatic episode. I think we will go there. I mean, we were planning on doing this before this pandemic. In fact, when the pandemic happened we thought, “Oh, how do we still do it?” Everyone was still trying to figure out. Donald and I were planning on going into a studio. We didn’t know that we could do it from home. Then, iHeartRadio sent us recording devices, microphones, and we were able to do it from our house. It’s actually working out because we can’t do anything, we can’t go anywhere, so at least we can be productive and hopefully make some people laugh by cranking out as many of these as we can.
What’s the recording situation look like at home? I mean, I work from home all the time and I know that can be chaotic as hell with the doorbell ringing and people making noise. Have you guys run into any problems with that so far?
Zach: Donald has the most amazing recording studio ever. Donald, tell him.
Donald: I hide in my closet.
Donald: From my children and my wife. I found that for some reason no one wants to hang out in the closet, so I’ve been hiding in the closet for the past four weeks away from my kids, recording and doing interviews. That’s where I am right now. That’s how I keep the chaos out. The kids don’t come up to the closet for some reason. Maybe it’s spooky. I don’t know what it is, but I find myself getting away. Whenever I need to get away, I go to the closet.
Zach: Donald, admitted the other day that he sometimes tells his wife and kids that he has to do an interview or a podcast in the closet when he’s just in there having some quiet time.
Here’s a professional journalistic follow-up. What kind of closet are we talking here? Are we talking like a big, walk-in bedroom closet or are we talking like a little hallway pantry closet?
Donald: No, it’s not a hallway pantry closet. You can walk into it, but I’m not like Mike Lowery from Bad Boys where the closet has watches and a bunch of stuff like that. My wife and I share this bad boy, so most of it is her clothes.
You’re not in a recliner in your closet with a mini-fridge next to you?
Donald: No, it ain’t like Cher Horowitz’s closet. Dude, I wish I had that. I wish I could say my closet turns into a man den. No, it does not. It’s really good for sound and also the kids don’t come up here.
You said Sarah Chalke is going to be on an episode coming up. Are you planning on bringing in more guests throughout the run of the podcast?
Zach: Yes, that’s our idea. Our idea is to have cast members, crew members, and maybe some super fans. We take a caller every week and …
Donald: It would be nice to get fans of the show who are also in the industry come on. That would be cool. I have no problem running up to people and saying, “I really love your show, I’d love to do something with you guys.” I wish that was the case for everyone because it would be great to have other actors and actresses who aren’t necessarily in Scrubs come on in, just to talk about their experiences and how it works.
What if you find out, like, Vin Diesel is a Scrubs super fan?
Donald: That would be so dope. It would be an honor to have Vin.
Zach: I think we’ll have people that were guest stars on the show. Hopefully, they’ll say yes to coming on. Brendan Fraser, I’m hoping he will come on. Scott Foley and people that did guest spots, I think that would be fun.
Okay, this is the part of the interview where I’m going to ask questions about the scene where Turk dances to “Poison.”
Zach: It’s been such a hit, that dance.
First question: Was this a “Donald is very good at dancing, let’s give him a dancing showcase” thing? Or was this a “they wrote this without any knowledge and then said ‘holy shit, Donald can really dance’” thing?
Donald: The way I remember it is it was supposed to be a lip-sync battle. You guys have never seen the uncut version. Rob [Maschio, who played The Todd] does like a one-minute version of “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” and they cut it for time. It wasn’t necessarily the dancing that was important. It was the lip-syncing that was important. I was late that day and I remember they were like, “All right, Donald, let’s go,” and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.
Zach: He was supposed to have prepared a dance. It was in the script, but he never got around to that.
Zach: What you see, what’s become so famous, and what is a Fortnite celebration dance, is something Donald just improvised on the spot.
Did you even know the song was going to be “Poison” at that point?
Donald: Yes. That’s probably why I didn’t prepare because I was like, “That’s ‘Poison,’ Bell Biv Devoe. I’ve been dancing to this song since I was 18 years old, since ’92 when it came out. I’m sure I could figure something out.” That’s what you saw.
If you were at a wedding and the DJ played “Poison” and everyone looked at you, do you still think you could do that dance beat-for-beat like you did in the episode?
Donald: No, I wouldn’t do that dance again, ever.
Zach: No, but he’s asking. Could you remember beat-for-beat what you did?
Donald: No, not at all. My kids asked me the other night for TikTok. I even tried to do it.
Zach: That’s such a good idea. You should do that.
Donald: I don’t remember how I did it, dude.
Zach: I’m sure you can learn it, come on. The people need to see it.
Donald: I was very athletic back then.
Okay, last question: Zach… same question, I guess. Do you think you could do that dance at a wedding if the song came on?
Zach: I can’t dance like that. I wish I could. I literally have been watching a couple that dances on Instagram. They’re so adorable together and it makes me just wish that someone had taught me how to dance. I can do sort of the white man’s overbite at a wedding kind of dancing, but I can’t do a fraction of what Donald can do and I’m jealous.
I think everyone is.
Zach: But, yes.
You can subscribe to Zach and Donald’s ‘Scrubs’ podcast via Apple Podcasts and other podcast platforms.