Up in the air: Look that up in the dictionary and you'll see a picture of the cast of Scrubs that maybe will include Zach Braff ... depending on what day it is. As the ABC show (formerly an NBC show) completes its eighth and possibly final season May 6, Braff, who plays Dr. John (J.D.) Dorian on the series, talked to TIME about what it is about Scrubs that got it saved after being dropped by one network and how his future plans will intersect with the show's still-undetermined future.
So for the record, you're leaving Scrubs, right?
Well I'm leaving the show as you know it. There's always been talk about continuing the show in some capacity, whether it be the same incarnation or something that was analogous to Frasier and Cheers and so if there is that new incarnation, depending on all the powers that be, I'll definitely participate in some capacity, whether it's directing or doing a few episodes here and there. I just won't be there every day. (See the top 10 movie performances of 2008.)
When NBC decided not to renew the show in 2008, it might have been a good time to bow out, but you didn't. Why now?
We'd been so blessed. It's so rare to have an eight-year run. Bill Lawrence, who created the show, was talking about moving on and I felt like it was time to move on. We thought the show was over, to be frank. When ABC decided to bring it back to life we were so thrilled. But we all had sort of gotten in a mindset that it was the end. I have lots of other things I'd like to do that it's hard to do when you're so married to a show.
What do you think it was about the show that kept the fans coming back?
I have no idea. But I'm so glad they did. I mean, we always joke that no matter where they put the show whether it's Saturday morning after cartoons or after Carson Daly on weeknights no matter where they put it, the same audience followed us. We used to say, Hey, how were the numbers last night? It turned out to pretty much always be the same number no matter whether it was a giant promoted episode or had a big [guest] star on it. It turns out that in this climate that audience, particularly in the [18 to 35 year-old] demographic, is large enough to keep the show going.
Part of the reason it seems that NBC decided to let go of the show was because of the writers strike and how much it hurt the networks. Now that the dust has settled what are your thoughts about streaming content online?
I think you have to embrace the new technology, [but] you can't not compensate writers for content on the web. That's just ridiculous. It's a time of change for the industry, for all industries, every single industry is being affected by the web. Network television is already technically free, so when they have sites like Hulu that are figuring out a way to still have ad revenue, I think it's really smart. You can't fight it. You have to think outside the box and find a new way to deal with it. I'm not sure they have yet.
Speaking of technology, you've said you're not interested in joining Twitter because MySpace is more appropriate for your purposes. Do you know that there's a Twitter feed already in your name and fans trying to coax you to join?
There's tons of stuff in my name. I mean, if I told you how many Facebook pages have my name on it, you wouldn't believe it. But I am going to join Facebook. I've been doing the MySpace thing a long time and I realize a lot of people are doing Twitter, I just don't want to know what people are doing every single second of their day. I find it a little invasive, but people are into it. To each their own. I don't have the desire to send out messages all day long. That's not me. I'd rather be doing something else.
What are your specific plans for the near future?
I'm writing a new movie which is the first thing I've written since Garden State (2004). I haven't really had time. That was another reason to part from Scrubs is that I really wanted to write and make more films and I hadn't had a chance to do that. And also meeting on certain films to direct things I haven't necessarily written. What I'd really like to do is make another movie because I really enjoyed it.
You've referred to people like Woody Allen and Ricky Gervais as comic influences. What is it about them? How would you characterize your particular comedy?
I really like just super dry comedy. Obviously Ricky Gervais is the master of that, that's why I use that reference. Right now, that show Eastbound & Down by Jody Hill on HBO I think is genius. I like comedy that makes you cringe because it's uncomfortable, but at the same time you're laughing your ass off. (Read a Q&A with Eastbound & Down's Danny McBride).
You were heavily involved with choosing the tracks for the Garden State soundtrack and you use your MySpace page to promote music you like. Clothing lines and fragrance lines are big with celebrities, but record labels are starting to become the new thing. Ever thought about starting your own label?
I have no desire to make money off musicians. I just want to promote them because I want to share music. I love music and I love musicians and when I hear something that's great, I always say it's like you go to a movie and you can't wait to tell your friends about it. Well that's how I feel about musicians and bands. We've all had that experience where we go and see [a concert] and we go, Oh my God, how does no one know about this person, they're incredible. And I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I can sometimes help those people out.
Would you be more likely to start a production company?
Yeah, except when you start a production company, sometimes they make you film movies you don't want to do. I think I'd rather just make good movies that I respond to with great producers and act in other people's movies. But I don't know, that could change because the cool thing about production companies is you can have lots of things going at once and I do like to have lots of different projects on my burners.