On this episode of Fake Doctors, Real Friends, Zach Braff and Donald Faison are joined by Scrubs creator and showrunner Bill Lawrence and co-star Sarah Chalke to discuss three episodes of Scrubs that featured blackface. In one episode, Zach and Sarah wore blackface in two fantasy scenes where they were playing Turk; in another, J.D. and Turk attend a party at a Black fraternity with J.D. wearing blackface and Turk wearing whiteface. Bill recently called Disney to ask them to remove those episodes, and they all want to talk about why it was important to scrub (pun intended) them from the show, what they’ve learned during this racial reckoning we’re facing as a country, and take some time to reflect on how they can use their star power to make serious changes happen in Hollywood.
Bill says he chose to have the episodes removed because he felt “stupid and bummed out” over them, and because Donald, Sarah, and Zach were bearing the brunt of the blame for the blackface even though it was Bill’s show and he was ultimately the one responsible for it being written, shot, and aired. Zach admits that he felt uncomfortable at the time when they shot the frat party episode: “I was a wimp about it. I should have spoken up.” But Bill acknowledges how hard that would have been for Zach at the time, as a young actor not wanting to rock the boat. “Even if you think that you’re the most open-minded boss, showrunner, movie director, whatever, when there’s a differentiation in power, people aren’t always going to say, ‘I don’t want to do this,’” he points out. “It was a real eye-opener for me. And it’s even more prevalent in the writers’ room.”
Donald says that he knew blackface was bad, but didn’t know much of the history behind it until the Fake Doctors producer Joelle started educating them about it: That “Jim Crow” was a minstrel character created by a white man to perpetuate a stereotype of Black people as lazy, untrustworthy, and unworthy of integration. Bill and Zach are also learning a lot lately, from why Juneteenth is a holiday to the Tulsa massacre of 1921. Sarah says this history isn’t taught in her native Canada, either, and that it should be. They all commit to continuing their education and anti-racism work, and Joelle challenges them to take action, too. “I hope, as you guys continue on your journeys and get on new shows, you’ll look around at your staff and see who’s missing and call it out when you see it,” she says. Hear the whole powerful conversation on Fake Doctors, Real Friends.
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