Zach Braff may be on an acclaimed TV sitcom and critically lauded movie director, but even stars still audition if it is just for a voice. Take the new (and first) Disney all CGI animated film “Chicken Little”. The star of “Scrubs” and last year’s Sundance hit “Garden State” happily admits that he “put it out to the world that I was interested in doing an animated movie.”
So when “Chicken Little” came up, “a lot of people auditioned, but it was something I campaigned for,” Braff recalls. But don’t try and find Scrubs-like voice anywhere in Chicken Little. “It really came down to I didn’t want to do my voice, but something charactery, so they showed me a sketch of him and I just thought about doing a little boy voice. We tried ten different styles and versions and the director eventually chose this one.” While many actors want to do animation for their kids, for Braff, it meant a lot of creative freedom. “that’s why I love doing Scrubs, because it’s just playing around and being a real contributor to the show, instead of just being someone that someone writes lines for you, being able to feel like you’re playing a collaborative role in it.”
Braff says he wanted to be involved in doing an animated film, simply because “I thought it would be a fun thing to try. I grew up watching these movies, and I thought it would be really cool to be part of the 70 years of the Disney lineage, just to be one of their characters. I didn’t imagine that I’d get to be the title role of the movie; I thought I would be one of the guys who’s like ‘See you at the big game, Chicken Little.’ This was much bigger than I imagined it would be,” says Braff laughingly.
What is no laughing matter, however, is Scrubs, one of the more acclaimed TV sitcoms on network television, currently off air. “No one really knows what’s happening with it as they benched it to make room to try out their new comedies. The plan is the ones that do well will stay on and the ones that don’t do well will go away and we’ll take one of their spots.” It is clear that the actor finds that considerably frustrating. “You can’t imagine. I mean we’ve never been treated like some of the other shows. The funny thing is the biggest fans of the show have been reviewers and it’s the best reviewed comedy ever, and we’ve had a really good core group of fans, but the network has never really been behind us. I think the unfortunate thing is, for those of you who sit out to make a television show, you don’t want to make a show produced by one network and air on another network. Whenever you can, make sure you have the network own the show.”
Braff confirms they are currently shooting the new season in its entirety, and have even finished filming their 100th episode, so why is the NBC network not supporting the show? “It’s a numbers game, in fairness to them – let me play Devil’s advocate – they’ve got stockholders, it’s a corporation. The show has never done tremendous numbers, great numbers after Friends, but it never did gargantuan numbers and if a show doesn’t get gargantuan numbers, the network says ‘Ok, what can we do with this show and what can we replace it with?’ But it’s a ‘chicken or the egg’ kind of thing because they moved it around so much that they could never build a loyal fan base, as we’ve been on every night of the week,” he says, bitterly.
Not only was the actor winning plaudits for Scrubs, but his feature directorial debut, “Garden State,” also got him plenty of attention. As for his future directorial ambitions, Braff concedes that “I’ve had some offers, but I’m not in a rush to do anything right now. I want to direct movies more than anything, but I don’t want to just direct now because they’ll let me, but rather I want to wait till I have a project that I write or something that means as much to me as that script was. After all I just don’t want to do something because they’re going to let me direct a $30 million movie.”
He says that he has a few script ideas, “but I work 14 hours a day on ‘Scrubs,’ and on the weekends, I come to talk about Chicken Little,” he adds laughingly. But the actor has been kept busy with other movie projects. “I’ve got two movies next year, one’s called Fast Track and the other’s called The Last Kiss, that I did in this last hiatus. Last Kiss is an adaptation of an Italian film, L’Ultimo bacio, an ensemble film like Diner, with Casey Affleck and Rachel Bilson, Jacinta Barrett, Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson. Fast Track is a comedy I did with Charles Grodin, Jason Bateman, Amanda Peet and Mia Farrow.”