John C. McGinley’s Acting Tips On ‘Fake Doctors, Real Friends’

On this episode of Fake Doctors, Real Friends, Zach Braff and Donald Faison welcome John C. McGinley, who played Dr. Cox on Scrubs, to rewatch season one, episode 16, “My Heavy Meddle.” He’s a perfect guest for this episode because J.D. is having a hard time watching Dr. Cox give in to the pressures of being a doctor. “This is the first time we see how much pain this man has and how dedicated he is to his profession,” Zach says, and not only because he has to deal with a lot of death and pain in his job, but also because the hospital has a lot of broken equipment and ceiling tiles. “He’s just so frustrated trying to save lives with no support, no gear!” Zach points out. “Which must be how doctors and nurses are feeling right now.” John adds that showing Dr. Cox as such a “fierce patient advocate...it grounds him, in a way, and gives him license to do what he’s going to do, which is destroy a lab!”

Decimating a set isn’t new to John; he tells Zach and Donald that he filmed a movie in Alaska where he had to destroy a house and ended up finding “a petrified walrus penis,” he laughs. But he learned a lot. “My takeaway from destroying a house was go slow. If you destroy a house or a lab too fast, the camera doesn’t get it….same with taking or throwing a punch. If you go too fast, the camera doesn’t see it.” Later in the episode, he raves at J.D. about not letting his grief and pain build up too much. “Cox is saying, look what happens if you let it build for 364 days, you f**king destroy Franklyn’s lab,” Zach says. 

John likes to make notes in his scripts, often jotting down phrases or poems that serve as motivation for his lines. Since everything on camera isn’t real, it’s up to the actor to “reduce the frequency of the lie.” Going to boot camp for two weeks to play a soldier or putting a Dylan Thomas poem under a particular emotional moment helps your words play more truthfully. Zach says that’s true; one of the biggest lessons he’s learned as an actor is that “if the camera is on me and….I can genuinely listen, then I can’t help but react naturally.” He remembers doing a scene with Tom Wilkinson in a movie and being so in the moment that he forgot it wasn’t real. Donald interjects, “I know what you mean, because when I did Trippin’….I was so stoned I d**n forgot we were filming a movie!” 

Listen to this episode to hear more behind-the-scenes moments, their loving memories of Sam Lloyd, who played lawyer Ted Buckland on the show and passed away earlier this year, why John hasn’t worn underwear since 1986, and how the “Hungry Chicken” is helping actual kids in hospitals right now, on Fake Doctors, Real Friends.

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