Tonight at 9 pm/ET, NBC's Scrubs presents its 100th episode, featuring no, not the death of someone close to Clark Kent a humorous homage to The Wizard of Oz. This week's second helping guest-stars Jason Bateman and a whole lotta angry ostriches. Is this show officially off the hook? TVGuide.com spoke with Donald Faison, aka Turk, about crafting Scrubs' weekly remedy for the prime-time blahs.
TVGuide.com: Donald Faison, pardon my French, but you are on one damn funny show.
Donald Faison: Thanks, but where did you speak French in that?
TVGuide.com: Um, when I said "Faison"? So do you get that a lot, people telling you that Scrubs is too funny for words?
Faison: Some people think it's really funny, some think it's too funny for words.... But they always say to me that it's a funny show.
TVGuide.com: I have to admit, I was a bit of a latecomer. At the time Scrubs debuted, I was all burned out on ER and....
Faison: That's the mistake everybody makes. They think it's a medical show.
TVGuide.com: When in actuality it's just a workplace comedy, and one that is very quick. It reminds me of the all-too-short-lived Police Squad!, where if you pay close attention, you're rewarded tenfold.
Faison: That's a great way to look at it. I'm going to use that in my next interview!
TVGuide.com: Was it tough having Scrubs in a "limbo state" as NBC unspooled its fall schedule?
Faison: We knew they had to put us back on the air eventually. NBC was dying for a show other than [My Name Is] Earl and The Office to do something, so we knew we'd have a shot. And then when they gave us the shot, it was like "Perfect, this is what we've been waiting for." We knew that we were doing some really cool s--- this year.
TVGuide.com: This season should almost be subtitled "Scrubs: Going for Broke."
Faison: Yes, it's like "Why not?" You know, what normally happens when you're [in production] is you check the show out every Tuesday night. This time, though, we had no reference to see what we were doing, so we just kept going and going and going until somebody was like, "Um, you guys have got to calm down!"
TVGuide.com: Did you wind up preferring that approach? Not having "suits" storm your set every Monday morning with "suggestions"?
Faison: We were the ones, though, that were so critical of ourselves, and maybe that forced us to hold ourselves back. When you can't see what you're doing, there's no limit to how far you can go.
TVGuide.com: Already this season, we've had Turk and J.D. as Siamese-twin doctors, last week's "ninja" thing, an Indiana Jones riff.... This week, how does Turk figure into the Wizard of Oz homage?
Faison: He's the guy who needs the heart. We've got Jason Bateman on this week, too, which is kind of cool. He's on what is one of my favorite shows at least, Arrested Development. They're kind of in the same fate that we're in, where no one knows how good the show is. His is one of the best on television.
TVGuide.com: Do you think the Turk-J.D. dynamic would be nearly as successful if you and Zach Braff weren't great friends in real life?
Faison: I don't think so at all. I don't think we could have produced the comedy we have if we didn't understand each other so well. Zach has the same sense of humor that I have. If he didn't, and we weren't able to hang out with each other and if we were complete opposites, I don't think anybody would see what they see now. What we do on camera is what we do off camera.
TVGuide.com: When are you going to call your Clueless cast mate Alicia Silverstone and get her to guest-star?
Faison: We tried to get Alicia to guest-star early on [before she headlined NBC's short-lived Miss Match], and she dissed us, dude. I asked her to her face and she was like, "Nooooo, I want to do movies."
TVGuide.com: Meanwhile, your Robot Chicken buddy, Seth Green, is over on NBC's Four Kings now.
Faison: Yeah, I saw that last week and it's actually all right! I didn't know it was a funny show. I'm very proud of Seth. Good for him.
TVGuide.com: In the upcoming film Something New [in theaters Feb. 3], you play brother to Sanaa Lathan. Is your character not happy that hers is dating Simon Baker?
Faison: My character honestly believes that people should stick to their race. I don't personally believe that, but my character does. But once he sees how happy this guy makes her, I don't think anybody can deny true love, you know what I'm saying? If somebody's really happy, I don't care if they're gay, straight or from another planet, none of that stuff matters. If it's real love, it's real love.
TVGuide.com: Not to make this too political, but might Something New rub some people in the African-American community the wrong way, as coming across as a sort of endorsement?
Faison: I think it will rub people in the African-American community the wrong way, I think it will rub white people the wrong way.... I think it will rub anybody who doesn't believe in interracial dating the wrong way, because it's a real situation that goes on today. Not only are people racist toward other nationalities, but people are also racist against themselves and within their own race. You have dark-skinned blacks who are racist against light-skinned blacks, light-skinned blacks who are racist against dark-skinned blacks, etcetera, etcetera. It's all there.
TVGuide.com: You have the likes of Mike Epps in this movie, as well as Baker, Blair Underwood, Desperate Housewives' Alfre Woodard.... Who did you come away from the experience with a special appreciation for?
Faison: I love Alfre Woodard. I think she's amazing. She is great in the movie, and I really got a kick out of working with her.
TVGuide.com: I love her readings; she never needs to raise her voice to put the fear of god in you.
Faison: No, she never needs to raise her voice. She can keep it the same and you still hear the tone.
TVGuide.com: After Something New, what's next for you?
Faison: There's this other film called It's Under My Skin, where I play this African-American kid who thinks he's Italian. I'm really excited about that one. I got to work with Jamie-Lynn Sigler back when she was Jamie-Lynn DiScala and Whoopi Goldberg and Paulino Nunes.... A whole bunch of people I thought were cool.
TVGuide.com: How did you prep to play Italian?
Faison: I hung out with a bunch of my friends from home [New York City], and then I worked with a dialect coach. My character, Renato, is like John Travolta in Staying Alive. I mean in Saturday Night Fever. He thinks he's just like that.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, you don't want to be the John Travolta in Staying Alive, because then you've got to do a bunch of flamboyant dancing.
Faison: Yeah, but that wasn't about flamboyant dancing, it was about [writer-director] Sylvester Stallone really thinking that's what it was about! [Laughs]