Sunday, April 23, 2006

Zach attack

Some unfinished business in today's paper: I finally got a chance to write up the interview I did with Zach Braff and Bill Lawrence when I was at press tour in January.

It was the best week of Zach Braff's life. Then came the clown suit.

It was January 2004, and the South Orange native had just spent a dizzying few days in Park City, Utah, where his feature directorial debut, "Garden State," was the talk of the Sundance festival. So when he returned to his day job playing bumbling Dr. John "J.D." Dorian on NBC's "Scrubs," his producer Bill Lawrence decided to remind his star who was in charge.

'I was at Sundance feeling very proud of myself," Braff recalls on a warm January evening at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena. "And I come back, and the first thing up for me to do at 'Scrubs' is to be in a full clown suit having children hit me with balloons."

"And Neil Flynn do what to your face?" Lawrence reminds him, reveling in the memory.

"Spray seltzer water in my face," says Braff. "And that was my welcome back. There wasn't any time for me to come back and say, 'Oh, sorry, this is my Sundance jacket. Let me just take it off'."

"And the great thing about Zach," says former Moorestown resident Lawrence, "is, not only did he do the scene, he got the joke and went with it and it endeared him to everybody."

It wasn't as if the clown suit was the first public humiliation Lawrence subjected Braff to -- nor would it be the last. Since the series began in 2001, Lawrence has taken enormous pleasure in putting his leading man into every embarrassing costume, location and situation he can think of, whether he's parading around in a speedo despite a physique that Braff says "looks a little like a melted pear" or professing his love for best friend Chris Turk in increasingly disturbing ways (sample dialogue: "Don't listen to her, Brown Bear! Your body is fierce! Like Taye Diggs!").

"I'll say, 'You know, filming what you're asking me to be in will be extremely awkward and embarrassing,'" says Braff, "and he'll look at me and applaud."

You can read the full profile here.

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