March 28, 2023
Ashley lets Zach Braff (Scrubs, Alex Inc.) break a TV Club rule to chat about his new movie A Good Person starring Florence Pugh & Morgan Freeman—but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of TV talk for y’all! Zach gets into his recent stints directing episodes of Shrinking & Ted Lasso, looks back on the TV shows and actors that inspired him, and astonishes Ashley by introducing her to a TV show that she’s never heard of. Plus, Ashley dives into her thoughts on the week’s big 3 season premieres of Yellowjackets, Succession, & Love Is Blind.
What We Watched:
Love Is Blind
Darcey and Stacey
90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way
Seeking Brother Husband
If you have 2 minutes, please help TV, I Say grow by filling out this survey: podsurvey.com/tvisay.
S2E36 — Salty Tears w/ Zach Braff
[00:04:27] ZACH BRAFF: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I love talking about TV and movies, so this is the perfect podcast for me to be on.
[00:04:34] ASHLEY RAY: I am so excited to have you here. I’ve been a fan since Scrubs, a show that has lasted the test of time. I just had my 21-year-old brother stay with me. And I was watching an old episode of Scrubs, and he stopped and was just like, “What is this?” He was like, “I didn’t know TV could be like this. This show is clever.”
[00:04:51] ZACH BRAFF: That’s so sweet. Yeah, it is one of those shows that just keeps on going, and going, and going. And new generations find it. You know, that’s so rare that that happens–that something can have the kind of legs that Scrubs had.
[00:05:01] ASHLEY RAY: I think that’s a testament to obviously the cast, the crew behind the show. And all of the crew and cast’s recent TV’s success point to that with the kind of slow burning Scrubs reunion that we’re getting with Shrinking and Ted Lasso. It’s like a simmering Scrubs reunion. Like, it’s kind of getting there.
[00:05:19] ZACH BRAFF: Bill Lawrence created Scrubs. We just have a great friendship and really just so many years of collaboration. I think it’s been 20–at least 23 years–or something. We just clicked. We have the same taste. And so that’s how I got Scrubs. That’s how he asked me to direct Lasso and now Shrinking. And it’s just a wonderful thing when you find people that you can collaborate with–and you know you’re going to be on the same page. You know that you’re going to dovetail perfectly because the opposite has happened to anyone who’s worked in this town long enough. And it’s horrible. So, when you find, like, your posse–your people that you can get each other–it’s so invaluable.
[00:06:02] ASHLEY RAY: And personally, I love what you both do for the medium of TV, particularly with Shrinking. You have Harrison Ford, who people would say, “What’s he doing in a TV show?” Or, you know, they were kind of shocked to see him in this show. What was it like directing him, particularly in this kind of funny episode, where he’s, like, playing with a peacock?
[00:06:20] ZACH BRAFF: Yeah, I was really nervous, obviously. I mean, he’s just an intimidating guy. He’s a bit gruff. But I know from experience because I’ve directed a couple of old legends–Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Harrison Ford. I acted with Christopher Walken. I acted with De Niro. So, I’m lucky to have experiences with some legends. And you know, one thing I know is that they don’t want you to be intimidated. If you’re shaking in a corner, then it’s all game over. They want you to know what you’re doing. And once you show that you’re confident and that you have a point of view, then they trust you if you’re good at it. And so, I knew that I just had to show him I knew what I was doing because I do know what I’m doing. I’ve been doing it a long time. And I certainly know how to interpret what Bill wants–what the showrunners are looking for. So, I won him over. And then once he liked me, it was amazing because then he started learning my name. And when he says my name, I get really giddy.
[00:07:17] ASHLEY RAY: I think, yeah, that’s the test right there. If he knows your name and learns it, I think that means you did a great job. And I love that episode–“Boop.” TV Club, if you haven’t gotten to watch it, catch up. The time this is out, the whole season will be out. So, you can go enjoy all of Shrinking. And Ted Lasso is currently airing. Did you do any work on this current season?
[00:07:36] ZACH BRAFF: No. Only thing in Lasso I directed… Well, I don’t want to say “only” to minimize it. It was a really pivotal episode, but it was the second episode of season one, which was the one about the–
[00:07:46] ASHLEY RAY: “Biscuits.” I wanted to talk about it because it is, I think, one of those episodes where Ted is at that brink of being so annoying and unlikable and you’re just like, “Which way is this character going to go?” And that’s when you feel how lovable he is and how he wins people over and he’s going to put that fight into it. What was it like working on that episode?
[00:08:03] ZACH BRAFF: Well, it was really cool because, you know, in episode two of season one, you’re really helping set up the tone of the show. Whereas the pilot of Lasso was very funny, I feel like episode two showed that the show was also going to have heart, so it was great. You know, there was a whole subplot of Higgins trying to find where the biscuits were coming from that got put on the cutting room lot, but it was a blast. I mean, you know, it’s the ultimate example of having no idea it was going to become what it became. We just thought we were making a funny TV show. We had no idea it would become this, like, global phenomenon.
[00:08:37] ASHLEY RAY: I mean, it’s an ice cream flavor now.
[00:08:39] ZACH BRAFF: Literally my episode. I don’t think I’ll ever make anything again in my life that becomes an ice cream flavor.
[00:08:44] ASHLEY RAY: And it’s also very, very good–I want to say. I got to try it.
[00:08:48] ZACH BRAFF: You tried the Biscuits ice cream?
[00:08:49] ASHLEY RAY: I tried the Biscuits ice cream. It’s really good. It’s so buttery.
[00:08:54] ZACH BRAFF: Yeah. I don’t know if there’s going to be A Good Person ice cream flavor for my new movie, but…
[00:08:59] ASHLEY RAY: You know, I can’t think of a flavor. One came to mind, and it was, like, very inappropriate–opiate. But that’s not appropriate and very depressing.
[00:09:08] ZACH BRAFF: Salty Tears.
[00:09:10] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, Salty Tears. Pretzel flavor. There we go. There we go. But I think, yes, obviously, you have this ability to just imbue so much heart and just connection to characters who may not always be understood right at the outset. And I think that is what I got from A Good Person. What was it like to write this–direct it? What was that journey like? When did you kind of know, “Okay, this is what I want to move forward with; this is the next project”?
[00:09:37] ZACH BRAFF: Well, it was during lockdown, and I actually just sat down to finally write something. You know, those of us who write were definitely out of excuses during lockdown. There was no choice. And I had experienced a lot of loss in my life. Last four years–I lost my father, my sister. And then during COVID, I lost my best friend to COVID. So, I was just surrounded by grief and the desire to figure out how to stand up again after grief. And I was dating Florence at the time, so I wanted to write something for her. And this is kind of sort of the genesis of it. I began writing a story about standing up again after grief.
[00:10:15] ASHLEY RAY: How did Morgan Freeman get involved? Obviously, their relationship is so pivotal.
[00:10:19] ZACH BRAFF: Well, I always imagined it would be Florence opposite some older legend. That’s just what I pictured in my mind. And I never thought it would be Morgan Freeman. I don’t think he hardly ever does little indies and definitely doesn’t attach himself to scripts that don’t have financing yet because that’s where we were at. It was just the script, and it was me and Florence. But I did know him, and I thought, “You know what? It can’t hurt to try.” So, I sent it to him, and I thought, “Oh gosh, I’m going to wait three weeks now. And then it’s going to be a “no” for all these reasons.” And the phone rang the next day. And Florence and I were in my living room, she held up the phone, and my iPhone said, “Morgan Freeman” across the front of it. And I picked it up, and he didn’t even say hello. I go, “Hi. Morgan?” And he goes, “I see myself on every page of this script”. And I was like, “Does that mean ‘yes?’” And he said, “Yes. That means ‘yes.’”
[00:11:15] ASHLEY RAY: Wouldn’t it be crazy if he was just calling to say, “I just want you to know I love it and see myself in it. But no.”
[00:11:20] ZACH BRAFF: Trust me, I’ve experienced that, too. Definitely in my life experience–“Oh my God, I love this so much, but I don’t want to do it.” So that was great. And then it became such a cooler movie than I’d even written because it was… Well, first of all, the man is the patriarch of one of the families. He could have been any race. I didn’t write it specifically for anyone. But when it became an African American man, it made half the cast African American, which made the story even more interesting. I thought that it was about these two families and the relationship between a couple that’s been separated by grief. And then just, of course, you know, I think he’s one of the finest actors ever but also hasn’t gone there in a while. Like, no one’s pushed him to go to this level of drama as heartbreakingly as he does in this movie. And I think he trusted me because we had this, you know, relationship working on Going in Style, a heist comedy. So, he let me really push him to be as wonderful as he is in this.
[00:12:16] ASHLEY RAY: I love the way that race interacts in the movie. I do feel like it interacts in a way that just reminds me of your past work and of sort of the Bill Lawrence style of comedy and drama, where people are diverse and the casts are diverse. And it’s not about the race, but it is–that’s an active part about the personalities of these characters. But it’s sort of these natural, intrinsic friendships that you see grow and build between people who it’s like, “Yeah, that’s a Black person and a white person, and they’re friends.”
[00:12:51] ZACH BRAFF: You know, when it became an African-American family, I said to every single one of those actors, “I obviously don’t know the African-American experience. If anything rings untrue to you, please tell me, please change it. You know, I want this to be authentic.” As Greg Berlanti once said to me–he goes, “I’m just one guy in a room writing. I want your input. I want it to be authentic.” And there were times where Morgan, you know, obviously changed stuff to be more in his voice. And everybody did a little, too. I wanted, you know, little tweaks here and there to make it more in their voice. Nichelle Hines, who has a small part in the beginning, is a wonderful, wonderful actress. And, you know, I needed her to be incredibly charming and delightful just in two scenes because the movie is really about her. And she so beautifully made that part her own and riffed. And yeah, I mean, I don’t know what to say other than something really special came out of those performances.
[00:13:43] ASHLEY RAY: I think it’s wonderful. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. I will be honest; I don’t know where people even go watch movies these days. In a theater? Is it streaming? They did not put it in my notes.
[00:13:54] ZACH BRAFF: It’s in theaters now. And I just feel very blessed and lucky that MGM is actually releasing this in theaters. So many films are more and more just going to streaming and not getting a theatrical release. But I think there’s something very magical about the theatrical experience. This is a movie that should be shared with other people in a room, you know, on a big screen. I think it’s worth it.
[00:14:17] ASHLEY RAY: I love movies. I do. You heard it here first, TV Club. I like movies. I’m admitting it. We’re going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re going to dig a little bit more into what TV shows you’re watching now, what things you like to binge, and what inspires you in your process. And we’re back with my guest, Zach Braff. Thank you so much. I’m so excited that I got to see this film. Again, I think there are so many wonderful parallels between, you know, what we’ve seen you do on Shrinking and Ted Lasso in this film and just your ability to bind that heart and that just level of grief and sadness that, again, I loved in your episode of Shrinking. I’m really curious, you know, what TV shows were you growing up watching? What kind of made you fall in love with the sitcom and with television?
[00:15:19] ZACH BRAFF: Well, the first thing I remember loving was Gilligan’s Island. That’s when I really think I discovered comedy. You know, I just remember I was so young, I couldn’t tell time. But I remember my mom gauging time for me by explaining how long it would be in terms of episodes of Gilligan’s Island. So, I’d be like, “How long is this drive?” And she’d be like, “It’s going to be three Gilligan’s Island episodes.”
[00:15:48] ASHLEY RAY: I think that’s when you really know you love TV–when you’re like, “Oh, I get it. Yeah, like, 30 minutes. Got it. Got it.”
[00:15:59] ZACH BRAFF: And, you know, I watched Cheers. And Cheers was a very important show to me. Facts of Life. I’m trying to think of the other ones. I loved Family Ties. Good Times, What’s Happening!!–these were all shows that were, like, really important. Brady Bunch, too, obviously. And then I really discovered Three’s Company; John Ritter for me was really, really important. Like, the way that John Ritter did physical comedy made me go, “I want to do that. I want to learn how to make people laugh just by falling over a couch.” I mean, he was Chaplin for me. You know, I would watch in syndication every single night Three’s company and just belly laugh. And I was lucky enough–in Scrubs, he eventually played my father in an episode. And then on the other side of things, I remember loving A-Team and Knight Rider. Those were like, you know, the sort of hour, action shows I liked a lot.
[00:16:53] ASHLEY RAY: I mean, I would say to me, that’s, like, one of those golden eras of TV to grow up in. You know, like, I got to watch a lot of those shows in syndication, and I’m just like, “Good Times, all of it.” To see so much diversity and creativity in TV and just funny people, you know?
[00:17:08] ZACH BRAFF: And when we grew up, you know, What’s Happening!! was a show about– We knew nothing about the experience of the kids that were growing up on the show What’s Happening!! But they were in our living room, and they were hysterical.
[00:17:20] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:17:20] ZACH BRAFF: And we were laughing our butts off. And it was so great for, you know, a white suburban kid to be laughing with these, you know, Black teenagers living just above the poverty line. And I’m so glad I was exposed to it because it was one of my favorite shows as a child.
[00:17:41] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. And it’s something, like, everyone was watching. You know, my older siblings watched it. It was this time when everyone kind of respected the sitcom. And I mean, really, those were the channels you had.
[00:17:52] ZACH BRAFF: Probably you didn’t get a choice. You had four channels.
[00:17:58] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. You know, there was no “Oh, actually, I prefer premium cable shows versus this. It was “This is the TV.”
[00:18:03] ZACH BRAFF: You know, we didn’t get cable. My town didn’t have it. We had something called WHT, which was really random. It would show, like, one movie a night.
[00:18:11] ASHLEY RAY: So, what TV shows are you watching now? What’s on your watchlist? You know, are you someone–you said you were on tour–when you’re, you know, out promoting, do you like to watch a lot of things on the road? Do you like to take a step back?
[00:18:22] ZACH BRAFF: No, I watch on the road sometimes. I just got current on The Boys, which I think is a masterpiece. I love it.
[00:18:30] ASHLEY RAY: Love The Boys.
[00:18:30] ZACH BRAFF: It’s just unbelievable. And when I come across people that haven’t seen it and are delayed like me, I’m like, “You don’t understand. You don’t have to even like superhero shit. Watch the show. The writing is so brilliant. And the social commentary is so brilliant. That’s one of my faves.”
[00:18:48] ASHLEY RAY: It was on my Must Watch list of last year. The past season I watched late too. I was one of those people who was like, “I’m not into superheroes. I don’t really know comic book stuff.” And I binged the, like, two seasons and was like, “When do I get more? This is incredible.”
[00:19:01] ZACH BRAFF: Yeah. Yeah. And all the acting is so good. I can’t believe none of the people are nominated for awards. The performances in that show are incredible. I love The Bear just like everybody. I thought the bear was awesome. Here’s one that totally escaped me and probably most of your audience because it was under the radar, but it was really good called ZeroZeroZero–and there’s no spaces between zeros when you’re trying to search for it. That’s on Amazon Prime. Only ten episodes–like a limited series–but I thought that was incredible.
[00:19:30] ASHLEY RAY: I haven’t even heard of this.
[00:19:31] ZACH BRAFF: I know. I hadn’t either. It came out in 2020. Who’s in it? Andrea Riseborough, who was just nominated for an Oscar–she’s one of the stars. But lots and lots and lots of unknown actors. And it follows a giant shipment of cocaine and how it makes its way from Mexico to Italy. And it’s about the cartels, the mafia, the shipping lanes, and the whole network of this. But everything, of course, goes off the rails. And it’s really, really–
[00:20:01] ASHLEY RAY: I mean, this sounds incredible. When a guest comes on and introduces a show I haven’t heard of, that’s big news. That doesn’t happen often.
[00:20:07] ZACH BRAFF: Check it out. I love The Other Two.
[00:20:10] ASHLEY RAY: Yes, The Other Two. They just announced May–the next season will be out. I’m so happy it got renewed. It’s so, so funny.
[00:20:17] ZACH BRAFF: And Molly Shannon’s in my film as well.
[00:20:19] ASHLEY RAY: Yes! I wanted to talk about that because I feel like Molly is having this wonderful renaissance. She’s in The Other Two, I Love That for You on Showtime. And I was so happy to see her in your film. What was it like working with Molly?
[00:20:31] ZACH BRAFF: I love her, and interestingly enough, the very first episode of Scrubs I ever directed, Molly was the guest star.
[00:20:36] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, wow.
[00:20:36] ZACH BRAFF: And not only was she hilarious, but her storyline called upon her to have a very dramatic scene. And so, I remember that many years ago being like, “Whoa! Molly Shannon is, like, a really good dramatic actress.” I didn’t know; I just thought she was the legend from SNL. And so, I had that in my back pocket. And when Florence and I were casting this movie, we said, “Oh my God, imagine if it’s Molly Shannon playing your mom.” Because, you know, we wanted someone for some comedic relief in the movie but also who had dramatic chops.
[00:21:09] ASHLEY RAY: And she’s incredible. Yeah, that’s so cool. Anything else you’re watching?
[00:21:13] ZACH BRAFF: I’m trying to think. I’ve been watching a lot of those Murdaugh documentaries. That was fascinating to me. I was caught up in the trial, like so many people. And then, of course, both Netflix and HBO Max both have documentaries.
[00:21:26] ASHLEY RAY: I watched both. Discovery Plus also has one. I watched all three. I did feel the Netflix one was the best.
[00:21:33] ZACH BRAFF: Yes. And you also had the young people–so pivotal to the story. I just found that, you know, along with everyone, I was just riveted to that case. Dopesick, I liked a lot.
[00:21:45] ASHLEY RAY: I loved Dopesick.
[00:21:45] ZACH BRAFF: I read the book. I’m very rarely the guy who’s like, “I read the book!” But the series was incredible. And, you know, there’s a bit of the opioid epidemic in my film, so I literally read the book kind of as research. I know everyone says this, but I thought White Lotus and White Lotus 2 was just magic. I didn’t want that to ever be over.
[00:22:05] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, that was one of those shows where I’m like, “I feel like part of this was Mike White wanted a vacation, but they deserve it. They deserve this trip.”
[00:22:13] ZACH BRAFF: He just can’t do wrong. He’s a national treasure. And I’m so sad that she’s gone because I could have watched her just do all the seasons.
[00:22:22] ASHLEY RAY: Right! I can’t believe she’s– I’m happy they’re doing another one, but I’m like, “What will it be?”
[00:22:27] ZACH BRAFF: Maybe she’ll be, like, a force ghost from Star Wars and just appear.
[00:22:30] ASHLEY RAY: I feel like she can make that work. I think she could make that work. Obviously, we’re not saying the name, listeners, because no spoilers on TV Club, but–
[00:22:37] ZACH BRAFF: Oh, sorry, sorry. I didn’t know.
[00:22:38] ASHLEY RAY: You didn’t say the name, so it works. It works. Nobody knows who we’re talking about unless you watch and then you do. And I think that actress could definitely pull out, you know, ghost spirit, traveling different worlds.
[00:22:49] ZACH BRAFF: And I really like Shrinking. I mean, I only directed one episode so I can say… Let’s say 10% bias. But I think what Bill is doing with Shrinking is amazing. I love it.
[00:22:58] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, I love, again, the intersection of grief. I feel like we haven’t had something recently that looks at sadness at this level and this level of loss, particularly with someone who’s young. I lost my dad when I was about the same age as the girl in the show loses her mom, and it just captures it like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s moving. It makes me cry. And then all of a sudden, you know, Jason Segel does something absolutely ridiculous, like vomit on a piano. And I’m like, “This is the funniest show.”
[00:23:27] ZACH BRAFF: Have you seen the finale?
[00:23:28] ASHLEY RAY: Not yet! Not yet! It comes out tonight. They gave me, like, screeners of the first three episodes, so now I’m watching in real time. I’m so excited. And as this airs, people, I’m sure, will already be just so excited about it. I’m so happy it got renewed. They’re doing really cool things at Apple TV.
[00:23:46] ZACH BRAFF: Yeah. Yeah. And it just got picked up for Season Two. I’m going to direct next season, so I’m stoked.
[00:23:51] ASHLEY RAY: Well, there you go. That’s a Scoop, TV Club. Now, we know.
[00:23:55] ZACH BRAFF: There’s a scoop.
[00:23:56] ASHLEY RAY: Little scoop. I want to thank you so much for joining me. This was so much fun. A Good Person is in select theaters now. It opens nationwide on March 31st. And also, check out Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and my good friend Donald Faison. Go watch Alabama Jackson, which I worked on with him. So…
[00:24:12] ZACH BRAFF: Awesome.
[00:24:13] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. Thank you so much for joining me.
[00:24:15] ZACH BRAFF: My pleasure. Thank you.
[00:24:20] ASHLEY RAY: I want to thank my guest again, Zach Braff. And you know, since I spoke with Zach, I have had a chance to finish Shrinking. You know, the finale aired. I loved it. I truly think this is one of my favorite ensembles of the year for a new show. It’s up there. The chemistry they found between each other even in the most random pairings of, like, “Why are these two people hanging out?” Every single pair works. It’s such a good ensemble. Once they kind of broke past Jason Segel, that’s when the show really kind of clicked for me. So, love shrinking. You know, I’ve been talking about it. Homework–I’m going to tell you to watch Yellowjackets and Succession. I’m going to tell you to watch Darcey & Stacey–the finale’s coming. We’re still going on 90 Day: The Other Way. And I’m going to ask you to watch Seeking Brother Husband. It’s finally here y’all. Seeking Brother Husband premiered this last weekend. It’s the reality show that is going to break the world. So, get ready. And that’s all I got for you for homework today. That’s it. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Do me a favor–tell your friends about TV, I Say. Tell them to listen this episode. Go rate us. Give us five stars. We’ll be back next week with another episode. TV, I Say with Ashley Ray is an Earwolf production made by me, Ashley Ray-Harris. It’s engineered by Abby Aguilar and produced by Amelia Chappelow. And our original theme song is by RaFia. It means so much to me if you go rate, review, subscribe. Follow TV, I Say. Let us know what you think and tell your friends. Share with your Golden Girls. Tell your Boys. If you love my TV recommendations, let everyone you know know. For special TV Club members, join my Patreon. And you can also find my full archive of ad free episodes of TV, I Say over on Stitcher Premium. Use Promo code “tvisay”–all one word–for a one-month free trial at stitcher.com/premium.
November 28, 2023
Guest Sona Movsesian
Gilmore Girls, Friends, The Office – what TV do you put on to drown out your family during the holidays?
November 14, 2023
Do you remember where you were the first time you heard Meredith Grey’s infamous line, “Pick me, choose me, love me”? Shaun Diston joins Ashley to discuss and act out some of their favorite TV monologues from shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Designing Women, Andor, and more.