[24 October 2007]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
HOLLYWOOD—The security guard outside the North Hollywood Medical Center has had to deal with numerous injured or sick people who have shown up for medical attention.
All have been turned away.
This is not some nightmare version of an HMO. It’s pretend. The only doctors and nurses that roam these Southern California hospital floors are actors. Most television shows are produced on sound stages. But this abandoned hospital has been the home for the NBC comedy series “Scrubs” since the comedy launched Oct. 2, 2001.
Everything from the writer’s room to the editing bays are located throughout the structure.
And now, the show’s wacky cast of caregivers are making their comedy rounds for the last time beginning this week. NBC has announced that this, the show’s seventh season, will be the last.
For Judy Reyes, who plays Nurse Carla Espinosa, work on the final episodes has been a little tough.
“It is senior year in high school,” Reyes says during a break from filming. She is seated at the nurse’s station on the building’s third floor. The area is the show’s intensive care unit.
Rows of rooms are across from where she sits. Most have beds. Some are loaded with lights and equipment.
“Everyone is really excited to use this as a jump-off point to the next level for all of our careers. But we are all really sad to see it end. We are kind of looking back and doing that thing where you look at pictures to see how you looked when it all started,” Reyes says.
“Scrubs” has certainly made television stars out of most of the cast. Reyes had done a few roles, including playing a nurse in the Martin Scorsese film “Bringing Out the Dead” and the cable series “Oz.” For her co-star Zach Braff, “Scrubs” was his big break.
That Reyes is talking about the seventh season of the show is an accomplishment. “Scrubs” has been treated with about as much respect by NBC as a man in an emergency room with a bloody nose and no insurance.
“Scrubs” has been plopped in at various times during its seasons, sometimes even midyear. And then it was bounced from time period to time period. This final year is not starting until almost two months after other NBC shows. One reason is that there will only be 18 new episodes in the final year.
Reyes says the cast and crew has never let that affect their work. They want to make the series as good as possible—thanks to creative scripts, such as last year’s musical episode, or the bond formed by the cast.
The closeness and comfortable ties of the cast could be seen just before Reyes sat down to do this interview.
Reyes arrives at the main production office to find John C. McGinley, who plays Dr. Perry Cox, reading letters from a huge brown box. After reading each letter, he signs a photo and placed it in an envelope.
A few steps away, Neil Flynn, who plays the moniker-challenged character known only as The Janitor, eats his breakfast from a small white Styrofoam bowl. Reyes’ dog leaves its bed on the hallway floor to greet her.
The elevator doors opened to reveal Braff seated on a miniature 4-by-4. He’s covered in white dust. As he guides the small vehicle down the hall, Braff offers a “Hi, guys.”
Braff says that while it might sound cheesy, the show is like a family because they have all spent so much time together.
When you do a show like “Scrubs” you had better be a close-knit group. The odd design of the program that often features weird daydreams and flashbacks has pushed the cast to do everything from slapstick comedy to serious drama.
Reyes says the credit for the show’s unique design goes entirely to series creator Bill Lawrence, because he has been willing to take big chances with the show and the performers.
“For me it has been a dream as an actor, as a woman, to be able to sing, dance, do comedy, do drama, do stunts. What else can you ask for?” Reyes says. “We actually even got to shoot one episode in front of a studio audience.”
All of these acting demands are being put on a performer who didn’t even know until she was 18 that she even wanted to be an actor. The 39-year-old Reyes got the bug when she started singing in her church choir. Reyes says her mother, who had been a singer in the Dominican Republic, was surprised by the decision. It became obvious when Reyes started taking acting classes and going on auditions that acting was a serious career choice.
She always expected to do drama and early on almost every small role she landed on television and film was in a drama. Then along came “Scrubs” which put Reyes in the role as being the emotional anchor for the series that has drama, comedy and music—sometimes in the same episode.
Reyes’ character has been part of a believable on-screen relationship. Through the six seasons, Carla and Dr. Christopher Turk (Donald Faison) met, dated, got engaged, got married and had a child. Last season’s musical episode even dealt with what happens when a new mom wants to go back to work.
No one will say where the relationship is headed this year.
A whole new crop of viewers are getting to see that relationship as past seasons of “Scrubs” are airing on various cable and network channels at various times of the day. Reyes is a little worried about that new fan base.
“I think they are going to be so upset the show is ending,” Reyes says.