Scrubs Creator And Stars Discuss The Show's History With Blackface
The show creator took full responsibility for the scenes, and has suggested the episodes will be re-released once edited.
A number of shows have started to re-examine old episodes in light of recent discussions about racism, with both The Office and Community among those that have removed or edited episodes where blackface was used for comedy. Three episodes of Scrubs that feature blackface have been removed from rotation on streaming services, at the request of creator Bill Lawrence.
In a new episode of Fake Doctors, Real Friends, a Scrubs rewatch podcast featuring stars Donald Faison and Zach Braff, the two actors invited Lawrence and fellow actor Sarah Chalke (who also appeared in blackface) to discuss the episodes and the decision to remove them.
Series creator Bill Lawrence started the show by taking full responsibility for the episodes. "I did see some things directed at Donald and Zach and Sarah," he explained. "And everybody should know that the reason the word showrunner exists in television is that you're the gatekeeper, and anything that get allowed on a show you have to ultimately take responsibility for."
The group discussed how changing values over the years impacted how the scenes were read. "At the time I delineated in my mind between the traditional 'blackface,'" Braff explained. "When we were doing this I never equated it. I was like, 'oh it's a fantasy where I'm trying to be my best friend.'"
"Any joke was passable as a joke as long as it was meant to make people laugh." Faison added, as they mused on instances of blackface in comedy unrelated to Scrubs.
"We almost thought that we had, in a bad way, a 'free pass' to not have those thoughts," Lawrence confesses. "Because we were so proud of ourselves for doing a very diverse show, in front and behind the camera."
The full episode is worth a listen, as it deconstructs the mistakes the team made on Scrubs back when it was being produced.
Lawrence has also said that the offending episodes are likely to return at some point with the blackface scenes edited out. "It's a pandemic, I don't really have an editing facility up right now," he explained, saying that the first priority was to pull the episodes out of rotation.
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