When it comes to Scrubs, we just can’t get enough. Even though the beloved comedy aired its last episode in 2010, fans still love to pass the time pretending that it’s a going concern. Alas, we’ve all become like little J.D.s ourselves, imagining a world where Scrubs still airs every week, only to be rudely awakened from our fantasy cutaways by cold, cruel, real life. But even if our imaginations are the only place where our favorite bunch of medical “professionals” are still practicing their skills on fresh cases, thankfully we can still obsess over the 9 glorious seasons that fans were blessed with.
Even if you have every show memorized and can list every girl’s name that Dr. Cox ever called J.D., there’s still more to learn. Some gems of trivia and behind-the-scenes details can be discovered only by putting in some time off the clock, and we’re here to help you get started. There’s a lot to learn, too. One thing that made Scrubs so beloved to so many is the obvious and genuine joy that radiated from the actors on screen.
They were clearly having fun, and fans never got tired of sharing that contagious spirit. Part of what sparked that camaraderie was the personal dynamics and stories happening off-screen, as well as the show creators’ willingness to incorporate those elements into episodes. We’ll touch on a few of them here, and try to give you some new material for all that daydreaming about new episodes.
Here are 20 Crazy Things Only True Fans Know About Scrubs.
20 Janitor wasn't originally going to be a regular character
Can any of us possibly imagine Scrubs without Janitor? The ubiquitous and mysterious custodian gave us as much entertainment as he gave poor J.D. heart attacks and heartburn. Janitor was the ultimate tormentor of the ultimate nice guy, and though he ultimately became a central character, his status among the cast wasn’t always guaranteed.
In an interview with NPR, Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence elaborates: “If the show ended after one year, he was just going to be a figment of J.D.’s imagination.” It’s only during season 2 that we saw Janitor actually talking to other characters, after it became apparent that the show was here to stay. J.D.’s loss was our gain.
19 Jordan is the show creator's wife in real life
Some actors and actresses specialize in portraying people totally unlike themselves; others tend to play the same type over and over because it comes so naturally to them. It may not be clear exactly whose idea it was to make Jordan Sullivan such a difficult personality, and we may never know how similar actress Christa Miller is to her character, but one person involved in Scrubs definitely knows.
That would be her husband, Bill Lawrence - the show’s creator. It seems likely that Christa is nothing like Jordan, but the writers must have had some fun painting her as such a terror. Still, who else could possibly have kept Dr. Cox in check so effectively? He definitely needed her, and we’re glad.
18 Zach Braff wrote Garden State while waiting for Scrubs to start
Some paths to Hollywood fame are more predictable and boring than others, but Zach Braff’s success story could have been lifted straight from a movie script. In an interview with Uncut, Zach gave fans a behind-the-scenes look at his personal life before his Scrubs fame.
“I’d been waiting tables when I got cast in Scrubs, and I quit as a waiter only to be told we wouldn’t actually be filming for four months.” So what did the struggling actor do after waiting tables and while waiting for the show to start? Not much - just wrote the first draft for Garden State, the 2004 film which he also went on to direct. Zach may have had to pay his dues in the restaurant world, but his fast-track to stardom sure came in a hurry.
17 John C. McGinley calls his friend John Cusack girl names
Dr. Cox gave his understudy an endless supply of feminine aliases over the years, and fans love trying to remember and predict which girl’s name will be applied to “Bambi” next. But J.D. (a.k.a. Abby, a.k.a. Angela, a.k.a. Belinda, a.k.a. Carol, a.k.a. Ginger, a.k.a. Nancy, a.k.a. Sally) wasn’t the first to have this dubious distinction bestowed on him.
Turns out that John C. McGinley is good friends with fellow actor John Cusack, and that the Dr. Cox actor also loves playing this trick on Mr. Cusack. Maybe the guys got tired of both being named “John” and decided to make things more interesting.
16 Ted's band is an actual acapella group
Of all the barbershop quartets ever to grace halls of Sacred Heart, The Worthless Peons are definitely our favorite. They’re affordable (only a $7 fee per performance), versatile (they can sing anything from “Over the Rainbow” to “Carry on Wayward Son”), and they’re almost always available when (or if) anyone ever wants them.
However, a fact known only by true fans is that The Worthless Peons are actually a real-life musical group as well. Known off-camera as The Blanks, this alter ego quartet is composed of Sam Lloyd, Paul Perry, George Miserlis, and Philip McNiven. The guys got together in college, stayed together throughout the show’s run, and made several albums after it had ended.
15 The officiant at Janitor's wedding is played by the show creator
The fingerprints of Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence’s genius are all over the show. An accomplished professional who has also worked on Spin City and Cougar Town, Lawrence took real pride in Scrubs and was involved in almost every detail of the show. He took that involvement to a whole new level in Season 8, Episode 15: My Soul on Fire, Part 2 when Janitor had his wedding in the Bahamas.
If you look closely, you’ll spot Lawrence playing the priest at the wedding, where he has a few unflattering things to say about marriage. While it might be difficult to imagine Janitor living a charmed and blissful married life, having your marriage blessed by the show’s creator is a pretty good way to start.
14 John C. McGinley has played in a lot of famous movies
We’re all aware of Janitor’s unlikely cameo in the movie The Fugitive, but actor Neil Flynn isn’t the only cast member with a high profile film on his résumé. Before John C. McGinley’s costume included a stethoscope and scrubs, he had filled the shoes of some other pretty cool characters.
McGinley has been in too many movies for us to list here, but a few of his film credits might be familiar to you. You might have also spotted Dr. Cox in Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, Seven, The Rock, and Office Space. All that elite acting experience must have helped give McGinley just the right amount of swagger to nail the role of Dr. Cox so well.
13 The name John Dorian is based on John Doris
If the characters on Scrubs ever seemed so authentic that they might have walked right out of a real-life hospital, that’s because it’s true. In a 2004 interview with NPR, show creator Bill Lawrence reminisced about his undergrad days at the College of William & Mary, where his best friend was a future med school student who went by the name J.D. as well.
Lawrence also indicated that they knew each other a little too well to want either to operate on the other, but he used their awesome friendship as a model for Turk and J.D.’s legendary bromance. The lesson here is: be nice to all of your friends, because your interactions might turn up on TV someday.
12 Sarah Chalke played one of Roseanne's daughters
To fans of Scrubs Sarah Chalke is, always was, and always will be Elliot Reid. But even Chalke has an identity and history outside the show which younger fans may or may not be aware of. She was also a child actor who had a recurring role, beginning in 1993, as Becky Conner on the hit show Roseanne.
She wasn’t the first Becky, but took over the role after the original actress left the show. But, then the first Becky returned and left the show for a second time, at which point Chalke was called to active duty again. Thankfully, she never had any serious competition for the role of Elliot Reid, and officially owned the part.
11 The picture of Ted's mother is Sam Lloyd's real mom
Sometimes, when dealing with a world full of frustrating people, it helps to remember that everyone has a mom. Poor, downtrodden Ted is no exception to this rule, and from what we can tell he cares a lot about his. A careful observer may have noticed that a picture of Ted’s mom is on display in his office, perpetually smiling at the world.
However, something that only true fans know is that the picture is of actor Sam Lloyd’s actual mom. Though Ted may be getting away with lying to his mom about being a doctor instead of a lawyer, we’re guessing that Sam Lloyd has no secrets about his profession from his mom, as it’s been broadcast on syndicated television for years now.
10 Janitor's name is actually Glen Matthews
You know someone has reached the highest level of coolness when they can go by just one name; if they can pull off going by a name that’s just a regular noun (like “The Rock” or “The Hulk”) then it makes their claim to fame even stronger. That’s the kind of rarified air that Janitor breathes, as his one-word title keeps him in company with some of the best in the business.
However, in My Finale, we found out that Janitor actually had a real human name as well: Glen Matthews. While this does add a nice personal touch to the otherwise secretive custodian, we’re glad he mostly went by “Janitor,” which helped to keep an atmosphere of mystery around him.
9 J.D.'s father was going to be a regular character
Scrubs definitely found the perfect actor to portray J.D.’s dad in the late, great John Ritter. He totally embodied the goofy, well-intentioned, slightly insecure personality which any father of J.D.’s was bound to possess.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when this stroke of casting inspiration was not meant to last long. After only a couple of appearances, Ritter passed away at a relatively young age, and J.D. was left without a dad. While we all mourn the loss of such a great actor as John Ritter, we can take comfort in the fact that J.D. still had a father figure in Dr. Cox, no matter how hard Perry tried to discourage it.
8 Janitor's father also played the drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket
Fans who wonder about the background and life story of Janitor can hardly be blamed for their curiosity. Whatever past circumstances produced an adult as unique as him must have been fascinating indeed. The writers gave us a potential clue though when they wrote the character of Janitor’s dad, and the casting choice seems to be a somewhat obvious hint about their family dynamic.
Janitor’s father was played by none other than actor R. Lee Ermey, who gained fame for his role as a brutal drill instructor in the war movie Full Metal Jacket. In real life, Ermey was a Marine corps drill instructor, which made his tough guy persona ever more real on screen. Needless to say, imagining Janitor’s father as a mean drill instructor answers a lot of questions.
7 Dr. Cox's full name is Percival Ulysses Cox
Dr. Cox’s habit of calling J.D. by any name other than his own was a nice touch, but its origin was never fully explained. But a little investigative work by true fans might give a little insight into the motivations behind the monikers of the mentor. It may have had something to do with Dr. Cox full name, which he was usually careful to avoid using.
That name was nothing less than Percival Ulysses Cox, and only a brave soul would address him to his face as such. It’s actually a pretty cool and impressive name, but for whatever reason Dr. Cox didn’t exactly go tossing it around. So it feels like he might have been projecting a little when he persistently refused to call J.D. by his proper name.
6 Colonel Doctor, Snoop Dogg intern, and Dr. Beardface were originally extras
The quintessentially self-referential characters Colonel Doctor, Snoop Dogg intern, and Dr. Beardface are by now irreplaceable to fans of the show, but their status as permanent members was not always guaranteed. As it turns out, these very meta medical men were originally intended to only be extras.
However, their personalities became so likable and recognizable that they were eventually given nicknames, which ended up sticking. Soon, the backstories, catchphrases, and trademark idiosyncrasies were fleshed out and fans started eagerly anticipating their appearances in episodes. While we’re thankful for every cameo they made, let’s also admit that we’d love to see spinoffs featuring these guys one day.
5 Many of Neil Flynn's lines were improvised
Janitor’s entire existence on Scrubs was a bit of an improvisation. Until the second season got well underway, he was never guaranteed to be anything besides a temporary figment of J.D.’s fevered imagination. However, actor Neil Flynn owned the character so completely and tackled his performance with such gusto that Janitor became an easy favorite to keep for the remainder of the show.
A huge part of the character’s success was Janitor’s fresh, energetic dialogue which was always impossible for us (let alone J.D.) to predict. That was no accident either, because Neil Flynn improvised many of his lines right on the spot as the action was happening. That technique turned out to be a perfect quality for the wacky janitor.
4 Scrubs was filmed in a real hospital
The show had a lot going for it that helped it seemed realistic and authentic. There was endless work going on behind the scenes to research actual cases, study actual doctors, and give us stories that felt organic. However, the setting of a show is always crucial to its effectiveness, and Scrubs couldn’t have found a better spot.
Sacred Heart used to be a real hospital, so the little touches that made it seem like the real deal were no accident. From 1952 to 1998, the building was known as North Hollywood Medical Center, before it gained worldwide fame. Alas, the building was torn down in 2011, so pilgrimages by fans are tragically not an option.
3 The medical situations are approved by real doctors
When it came to the medical cases that got treated at Sacred Heart, everyone involved knew that some of the ailments needed to be engaging, memorable, and occasionally funny. Not every illness was bizarre or rare, but even the zaniest ones usually had some grounding in reality.
The writers and creators were able to strike the right balance between entertainment and reality by doing plenty of research into actual cases and consulting real doctors. One of Bill Lawrence’s college friends was a medical student who gave him plenty of real-life stories which helped to spark the show creator’s imagination. The writers asked real doctors for story ideas, which were then tweaked to make for engaging comedy and drama.
2 Zach Braff and Donald Faison are good friends
J.D. and Turk had a bromance so epic that it’s become the model for all past, present, and future bromances. Though the two guys were so close that they occasionally freaked even themselves out, on the whole, it seemed like a healthy situation. They always had each others’ backs, and shared their triumphs and devastations equally.
It seemed almost too good to be true, and fans may have wondered if it was the kind of thing that could work only on paper. But, believe it or not, their awesome camaraderie might be matched or even exceeded by the off-screen friendship of Zach Braff and Donald Faison. The doctor duo actors are famously close, so who says that real life can’t be better than TV?
1 In 2018, Scrubs had their biggest reunion
When rumors started to swirl that the cast of Scrubs might be planning a reunion, the hearts of fans everywhere skipped a beat or two. The possibility of new seasons seemed too impossibly good to be true, and it turns out that for now the show will not be renewed after all.
However, at the 2018 Vulture Festival in Los Angeles, we did get to see the gang all together again, and it was definitely worth the wait. Though Zach Braff and Donald Faison have remained public friends all along, seeing the whole crew laughing and smiling with each other did all of our hearts good. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve loved Scrubs all along - the genuine fun they were having making the show was infectious, and we still enjoy sharing that.
Do you know of any other little details behind Scrubs? Let us know in the comments!