"My Guest Appearance"
Arriving a few minutes early, I drove into the parking lot, chatted briefly with the guard, and glided into my reserved parking space. My publicist and her daughter had come with me and they went off to find my trailer while I entered the east side entrance and headed down the hall. I nodded to the assistant director, took my place on the set, said hello to Zach, Sarah and John C. and looked around for the hair stylist ...as usual, this was a bad hair day and I needed someone to work their magic before we shot the morning's first scene. Just a few minutes later ...
What? Something doesn't seem right to you? Shoot. I'll bet "one-day career" gave it away, didn't it? [a heavy sigh is heard in voice over] So much for the opening fantasy scene ...
My "special guest appearance" was actually a walk-on role, which had been graciously donated by the Scrubs production company and auctioned off in the fall of 2003 to benefit the Minorities in Broadcast Training Program.
My "publicist" was my loving wife and our daughter was the intended recipient of the role. However, for a long list of reasons that only lawyers could love, you must be at least eighteen to appear on any television show as a non-union walk-on. In most cases, you can't even attend a sitcom taping unless you are eighteen. Or go to comedy club. Since the Scrubs producers kindly allowed her to join me on the set, I may still have to clear a spot for that "Dad of the Year" trophy.
It was easy to memorize my lines, because I didn't have, and didn't expect, any -- a "walk-on" role is loosely defined, but is essentially an "extra" which is rarely, if ever, a speaking role. Winning a walk-on role in a contest or a charity auction isn't going to jump-start an acting career, but if you are as lucky we were, you'll have the opportunity to meet some terrific, hardworking people, learn a little about television or film production and have a lot of fun. (By the way, I did have a reserved parking spot waiting for me, though my name had been spelled "V I S I T O R").
If you haven't seen any season three episodes yet, you may want to read the original version of this story instead of continuing ahead.
I made the travel arrangements and finalized our vacation plans for what would be a whirlwind week. We'd been to Disneyland before, so we gave this trip a Hollywood focus.
We made arrangements to tour the Los Angeles area by helicopter, see a traditional sitcom being filmed ('Still Standing'), walk around Hollywood and the Walk of Fame, visit Paramount Studios and the set of 'Star Trek: Enterprise', swim with the dolphins at "Sea World", and window shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. And, though all of those things were very cool, the 'Scrubs' walk-on role and set visit was the highlight of the trip.
On the Tuesday before our flight out to L.A., associate producer Danny Rose called to confirm the arrangements. He indicated that although the script wasn't yet finished, Monday the 9th looked good. Two days later, I came home to a message on the answering machine that confirmed it.
"Hey, it's Danny at Scrubs - Monday is the most perfect day I've ever seen an interior walk-on ever do. It is all perfect scenes. Every single scene will have background, so I'm really glad this is working out great for Monday."
I called him back, we finalized the details and traded cell phone numbers in case there were any last minute changes, but it was now official - the admissions work for our once in a lifetime visit to Sacred Heart Hospital was complete.
Unlike most television shows, Scrubs isn't filmed on a studio soundstage. Instead, the production company, Touchtone Television, leases the former North Hollywood Medical Center in Century City, now transformed into the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital, to use as the Scrubs studio. Using a former hospital provides realism to the show that would have otherwise been difficult to achieve on a typical Hollywood soundstage. The four-story building and an adjacent one also house production offices, facilities and other non-hospital sets used for the show.
During filming for the first season, there were occasions where people drove in, thinking it was still a working medical facility. That seems less likely to happen today. Closed to the public since 1998, any signs on the unassuming building which may have indicated it was a hospital have long since been covered up or removed. Most viewers wouldn't recognize the building from the street - the stock exterior shots for 'Scrubs' were filmed outside another hospital elsewhere in Los Angeles. It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it, though I'm sure some are confused whenever the Sacred Heart ambulance is parked out on the street, as it was when we first arrived.
We pulled in to the security gate at about 7:45 am, checked in with the guard and parked in the aforementioned visitor's space. The parking lot is long and narrow, and wasn't nearly as large as I expected. On the south section of the lot a series of trailers were parked next to a number of tents that served as an outdoor dining area. We said hello to a couple of police officers near the canteen truck and continued fifty yards or so to the emergency entrance. When we saw the Sacred Heart signs for the first time, we paused to appreciate where we were.
Once inside, we proceeded down the hall and a guard directed us to a back elevator, which took us to the third floor production offices. Danny had told me who to look for, but not where to find them. A very friendly assistant directed us back down to the first floor and in past an area dressed as Sacred Heart Information Services. There was a large open area with a few sofas and chairs with clothes racks all around. A few dozen extras in various hospital garb were sitting, chatting, reading or watching a small TV.
I was introduced to Oorala Yamada, the production assistant in charge of the background actors and one of my contacts for the day. We went into her office to go review details of the walk-on role. She asked me if I wanted to be a doctor. I'm not sure what the other options were, but being a doctor was my first choice anyway. I didn't have my reading glasses so I don't know what the fine print said, but I signed the release and became the latest addition to the fictional medical staff of Sacred Heart hospital.
We went down the hall to the extra's wardrobe department, a small room with a surprising variety of outfits and costumes. An assistant fitted me with an official Sacred Heart lab coat and found a tie that complemented my shirt.
On the far side of the open area there was a door with a large "This is a prop yourself show" sign on poster board which provided instructions on what was required for each extra, depending on type of role.
As a doctor, I needed a red-striped ID badge and a black stethoscope. My wife and daughter helped look though a box of badges, looking for one that was a close match. They decided that the badge for "Dr. Greg Bilson, Jr, M.D." was the best bet. I found out later it didn't matter - except for the principals, you don't see the pictures on screen anyway. Most extras had badges depicting a different race, age, hair color or even gender.
We looked at a variety of "Sacred Heart" forms and paperwork on the prop cart clipboards - a small example of the detail we would see throughout the day that most viewers will never notice.
Oorala indicated there were some director's chairs set up for us in Video Village, which was then located in the hallway outside the side pharmacy window.
Video Village is the mobile nerve center of the production, with video monitors set up to provide the camera eye view and headsets to listen to the dialogue as picked up by boom operator Kevin Santy.
In the front row were silk-screened director's chairs for episode director Richard Wells and script supervisor Denise Karey, then those for Executive Producer Bill Lawrence and Director of Photography John Inwood, and then ours. Our chairs weren't personalized, but they were surprisingly comfortable and provided a great vantage point to watch the production.
We spent much of the morning in Video Village talking with Richard, John, and various crew members. I would have loved to talk with series creator Bill Lawrence, but he was not on set that day.
The view from Video Village
Director Richard Wells shows off his new megaphone,
courtesy of the prop department
Probably the only time all day that script supervisor
Denise Karey wasn't in her chair
It was the first of five shooting days for production number 320 (the 20th episode filmed for season three) for the 'Scrubs' episode entitled "My Fault", and I found the title fitting. "My Fault" is a phrase that my wife permanently associates with me, so it will always be easy to remember "my" episode.
We were delighted to see that the talented Richard Kind was the featured guest star, reprising his role as the hypochondriac Mr. Corman introduced in Season 2, Episode 12, "My New Old Friend". In this episode, his character returns for a full body scan to learn everything that's wrong with him.
Richard is probably best known to television viewers as Paul Lassiter, the clueless public relations director on 'Spin City'. His character was prominent in the three scenes set in admissions filmed before lunch. He had the best flub of the day, which caused most everyone on the set to crack up.
In Scene 14, when Dr. Cox wonders who would be gullible enough to have a full body scan, Mr. Corman comes through the door with "Hello Laverne ... Hello Shirl", a tribute to Squiggy's entrances on the classic 70's comedy "Laverne and Shirly".
It took a while to get the the shot right, since the camera and lighting guys had to make sure there were no undesirable reflections as Richard opened the door (some takes with one door and some with both) and there were numerous variations of Richard's delivery.
On about the eighth take, Richard came through the door and said in his perfect Squiggy voice, "Hello Shirl ... oh DARN IT!". It was clearly unintentional and everyone on the set just cracked up. Richard was very apologetic about the flub and it took a few minutes for things to settle down.
"John C." also had a few good gaffs in the same scene during one of his now infamous Dr. Cox monologues and repeatedly had trouble with the seemingly simple word "scan" which often became "scam". I wasn't following the script at the time, but it seemed like he delivered the dialogue differently on almost every take. When he missed the line, he'd stride back out to his starting point in the hallway just as intently as came in, even though the camera wasn't rolling, and take a copy of the sides from a nearby equipment cart to study. He struck us as the most "formal" of the cast - often in character and intensely focused, many times pacing just before takes, always working to improve the next shot. He had a couple of suggestions that Richard Wells incorporated into the morning scenes.
The other primary guest stars in the episode are Tara Reid ("Danni"), Scott Foley ("Sean"), and Bellamy Young ("Dr. Miller"). Scott and Bellamy were not on call for Monday, but semi-regular guests Aloma Wright ("Nurse Roberts") and Robert Maschio ("Todd") were.
Since most fans don't like spoilers and the production company knows where we live, I'm not going to give away specific plot details here, but major story threads involve Dr. Kelso's plans for full body scans, Carla and Turk's wedding arrangements, and J.D. and Elliot discussing pizza and TV. That last one may be a bit cryptic, but if I told you everything now, you wouldn't tune in to see me on the show, the ratings would drop through the floor and NBC would cancel the show. And, as my wife would surely point out, the end of one of the best comedies on television after only three seasons would then be "my fault", so (insert Dana Carvey doing George Bush, Sr. here) - "not gonna do it".
(Since the episode has aired and NBC renewed 'Scrubs' for fourth and fifth seasons after this was first published, all is well. And I'm sure by now you know the details of those story threads!)
For five takes, I typed on the keyboard, occasionally looking up at an imaginary computer screen to make sure I was getting my orders in correctly. It didn't dawn on me until a few takes later that I shouldn't have actually been pressing the keys, but I don't think the boom mike was close enough to pick up the sound.
I never saw how the shot was framed and apparently my wife and daughter didn't either - they were watching me intently though the side glass pharmacy window from their vantage point in Video Village around the corner and had not watched any of the takes from the lobby.
It didn't matter -- I'd successfully completed my first appearance.
(It was also my last appearance in the final episode. If you watch carefully when Dr. Cox and Mr. Corman are at the admission desk late in the story, you can see me in the background through the pharmacy door for a frame or two, just before a nurse walks behind Mr. Corman).
Scrubs is filmed as a single-camera show, which is the method used by most television dramas. Using a single camera requires that every shot or point of view in a scene be set up, blocked, lit and filmed individually - there aren't multiple cameras to record a scene simultaneously from different angles. Each shot in single-camera show usually has multiple "takes" for a variety of reasons - an actor may have missed a cue or line, the director wants to try a slightly different angle or revise the blocking , there may be a problem with lighting or sound. In addition, the scenes for a given episode are shot out of order -- all the scenes using a particular set are filmed, then all the scenes on the next set, and so on.
(Sometimes, this can be even more "movie-like". This year there was a story arc with scenes between Elliot and Sean at Sea World. Even though they were for multiple episodes, all were filmed during one long day in the fall of 2003 a few hours down the freeway in San Diego).
In contrast, sitcoms filmed before a studio audience feel more like a play. The shows are generally shot in sequence using three or four cameras capturing the shots and angles the director may want, though many scenes will usually require multiple takes.
The first three scenes filmed that morning were 34, 14, and 22, which were all set in admissions / hospital lobby. In fact, Scene 34, the first scene filmed, takes place at night, late in the story line. At the time, I didn't know if I was typing in scene 34 or 14, so I had to watch the episode to see if I was working "late" that day. (See more on the shooting schedule here).
while Richard (in back of Aloma) and Ken stand ready
On average, it takes five twelve to sixteen hour days to film an episode of 'Scrubs', which many may find surprising, given that a completed episode has only twenty-two minutes of broadcast footage (excluding supersized episodes) or so. The work certainly isn't as glamorous as it appears on TV and it can take hours to film a single scene. For most of Monday morning, it was a quarter to eight on the clock by the admissions desk.
Even though I knew how things worked, I was still fascinated by all the activity that took place between the actual filming and the incredible attention to detail required for each shot. There are over one hundred members of the staff and crew and, at times, it seemed like they were all reading or chatting or joking around. However, when something needed to be done, it was as if someone flipped a switch - folks became all business and flew into action. And when the bell rung to indicate that filming was about to start, the noise level quickly dropped to zero. This was clearly a dedicated cast and crew that enjoyed working together.
After I finished typing in the pharmacy, and we heard the "check the gate" order, Video Village relocated to the gift shop. We watched from there or from various spots around the lobby for the rest of the morning. In between shots, Richard Kind shared some wonderful stories about working with Michael J. Fox, who had been a big hit with the cast and crew a few weeks earlier.
We also spent a fair amount of time chatting with Ken Jenkins, whose personality is as nice as Dr. Kelso's is ornery, and executive story editor Debra Fordham, the primary writer for the episode. Sometime around 10 am, Zach and Donald returned from doing two and a half hours of satellite interviews promoting the show, though most questions were apparently about working with Michael J. Fox and his return to television.
(The next evening the episode featuring the first of Fox's two guest appearances premiered to season-high ratings).
Between shots in the hospital lobby
Note the camera on the left and the clapboard on the desk.
Director Richard Wells is wearing the red baseball cap.
Setting up to film Richard Kind coming in the main entrance while
AD's Scott Harris and Franklyn Gottbetter confer on the right.
Richard Kind stops over to Video Village
Learning about actor blocking and all those tape colors
from 2nd assistant camera Kirsten Laube
Scene 22 opens with Dr. Kelso reviewing some paperwork with the pharmacist at the pharmacy window. Dr. Cox approaches and gloats over the apparent loss of Mr. Corman as a potential full body scan patient, but Kelso gets the last jab as Mr. Corman reaches the front door.
Ken and I had been talking over in Video Village a few minutes before and he said something funny that put me at ease. I asked him what I was supposed to be doing and he correctly explained that the pharmacist would pretty much be ignoring Dr. Cox and Mr. Corman. Armed with my extensive few hours of experience, it seemed like something I could handle.
Noting the camera position, I took a step to my right towards Ken, pushed my hair back, and got ready for the magic words:
"QUIET PLEASE". "ROLLING". "MARKER". "ACTION!".
I didn't count, but we must have filmed at least seven or eight takes from three different angles over the next fifteen or twenty minutes. Each time I heard the clapboard, I resisted the urge to look up at the camera and smile and just made sure I looked the same place (a fleeting glance to Dr. Cox as he approaches the pharmacy) and did the same thing (scribble in triplicate on a requisition form) during each take, all while trying not to fall over (there were power boxes and huge cables at my feet, leaving clear floor space for only one foot).
Between takes, I made sure my stethoscope still covered the picture on my id badge and checked the camera position. I took a step back to my left after the first or second take when I realized that I'd be hidden from view as Ken turned to see Richard at the door.
(As it turned out, another half-step or so to the left would have been perfect).
After the primary shot at the window was finished, Ken and I stayed put while both the shot with Richard Kind leaving and the scene's final one with Richard turning back at the front door were set up, lit and filmed. When the last take was complete, I put the the requisition form in my pocket, received congratulations from Ken and rejoined my family in the gift shop.
Since I never saw the takes on the monitors in Video Village and didn't know what the editors would eventually do, I figured I'd be lucky to be on screen for a second or two as John C. approached. If not, I'd be just another of the thousands with their best work left on the cutting room floor.
This still taken from the episode (right) shows one of the two cuts in the scene featuring Ken, myself and John, so I was indeed lucky and was on screen for about half of the sixteen-second scene.
|Season 1 and Season 2 of 'Scrubs' were released on DVD in 2005 ... those sets were welcome additions to my DVD collection, but what I'd really like is Season 3 on DVD ... which looks like it will be released in May 2006!|
(My copy of the broadcast episode has a winter storm warning crawl along the bottom of the screen in multiple places, so I'll be first in line for that DVD set!)
I used the same form the entire scene.
This was one of the few forms that didn't
have the"Sacred Heart" text or logo on it
I noted that Kelso wanted "some sort of medicine"
My official Scrubs mug shot!
Between takes Lyda came over, took a couple of polaroids,
wrote the scene information on one and handed it to me.
The clips below were recorded during various takes for the scene. The two on the right were shot from the hall behind the nurse's station, though none of the actual shots were filmed from there. The angles used in the takes for the show can be seen in frames taken from the broadcast footage.
This was shot from the "Gift Shop" across the room,
so it has a different perspective than the other clips.
I'm guessing it's difficult to go hungry on the set of a Hollywood production. We had discovered the building's kitchen earlier in the morning. Once used to support the cafeteria, it is now used by craft services to provide food, snack and drinks for the cast and crew throughout the day. I didn't check it out until later in the afternoon, but my family kept me stocked with water and tempted me with goodies throughout the morning. However, it was clear that lunch was a cut above the kitchen fare.
The call sheet had indicated lunch for 143 people, so there was plenty of food. There were three serving areas filled with wonderful choices - the main steam tables had a number of main entree choices (I had chicken wrapped in puff pastry), and an array of steamed vegetables and side dishes. There was a salad, fruit and bread table with an impressive array of choices and a fabulous dessert table. It certainly far exceeded our expectations for lunch - for most, it would have been an awesome dinner. It was easy to see why many of the "starving actor" extras see company meals as a valued perk.
We got our drinks and sat down at a picnic table next to some of the lighting guys and a couple other extras. Zach, Neil Flynn and John C. were directly across from us at the next table over. For some reason, I wasn't really expecting to see them out with everyone else and I actually didn't realize who they were until after we sat down to eat.
John McGinley finished his meal and briefly stopped by. "Hi, I'm John C." and Jen's comment about his Dr. Cox speeches are about all I remember. I was impressed that he went out of his way to introduce himself. Given the number of folks that did the same thing throughout the day, there must have been a secret memo about a new guy wearing a doctor's outfit along with cane, camera and family.
A short while later, Neil cleared his place and came over to say hello. He wasn't on call that day, but had been inside doing some ADR, additional dialogue recording. I knew it as 'looping' - re-recording dialogue in post-production. I had read that many of his bits were improvised and asked if that was true. He said to some extent, yes. There is generally some leeway to experiment with different bits, but that there was always at least one take as written. We talked about his background (stand up comedy) and character (just "The Janitor" - no name) and Jen shared some of her favorite "Janitor" scenes. We also talked about one of my Janitor favorites from the season - "two coins add up to thirty cents and one of them is not a quarter".
Neil said the character was originally conceived as a figment of J.D.'s imagination; kudos to Bill Lawrence and company for allowing the character to expand. As with Ken Jenkins, we found Neil so unlike his character - sharp, soft-spoken, and very pleasant to visit with. As much as we were enjoying our conversation, we had taken enough of his time. Neil graciously posed for a picture and returned to work. We stayed outside to finish off our cheesecake.
(When was the last time you got your hair fixed before using a pay phone?)
The background for initial shot of the scene involved ten or so of the "regular" background folks dressed as orderlies, interns, and nurses walking across the corridor perpendicular to the main exit hallway. Two groups facing each other started just out of camera range on the opposite sides of the hall and would walk the ten feet or so to the other side whenever the action started, then turn around and do it again.
I was just out of camera range, watching from the elevator door Sarah entered for the scene (The elevator has doors on both sides; Sarah would exit out the other side to start the shot). Oorala had come over and told me she wasn't going to use me here; that was fine with me. The doctor in the scene walks away from a service window and I have an unusual gait. You want the background action to be noticeable only by its' absence; you don't want anything going on that would draw your attention away from the principals in the scene.
We watched much of the time from the patient chairs at the end of the hall, just past the elevator entrance. In the scene, you may see a distinguished looking gentlemen in one of the chairs. He was retired and did extra (or background or atmosphere) work from time to time for fun. A few weeks earlier, he'd been an admiral on "The West Wing", sitting next to Martin Sheen in the situation room. This afternoon, he was a patient at Sacred Heart Hospital.
This was Sarah's only scene of the day, which took most of the afternoon to shoot. She had to be over at Paramount for an audition and need to leave at 4:00 pm. At 1:30 pm or so, I didn't think this would be a problem. As it turns out, she wasn't done on the set until about 4:15 pm.
Two items took up most of the time - trying to figure out how Zach would stand and hold the phone as Sarah comes off the elevator and getting the shot of Sarah leaving though the emergency door. Zach was surprised as he first picked up the handset and said something like "Oh my gosh - this is a real phone! I always though it was just a prop" after hearing a dial tone.
Over and over they did the bit with Zach and the phone, sometimes with him facing the elevator, sometimes away and getting the pacing down to allow Zach to catch up to Sarah while leaving time for the voice over wasn't easy. (During filming, Zach's stand-in Scott Rabideau read the voice over lines which Zach would later record in post-production). With a few flubbed lines, an uncooperative dining tray cart, and some creative experimentation coupled with the normal blocking and camera and lighting setup between shots, it seemed my watch hands skipped ahead fifteen minutes every time I looked.
I was in the next shot, so I made my way down the hall, stopping behind a group around the camera. As I stood patiently waiting for a chance to get by, Richard stepped over, said a few words and a path instantly opened up. Had I paid attention to the floor plan I'd seen earlier, I would have noted an easier route than one involving a dozen cables and half the crew in a crowded hallway.
He was more fortunate than most, since he was an identifiable character. He was wearing his personalized "Dr. Mickhead" lab coat, but with a different ID badge. Frank explained he only wore the correct badge when he had lines. (At the time, five and counting for the season). He had some success as a writer, but enjoyed his work on Scrubs, as it seemed everyone involved with the show did.
The Sacred Heart ambulance appeared in a flash just after I overheard Franklyn say something like "No, that's OK. We'll just have fifty people standing around until it gets here" into his ever-present walkie-talkie.
Our job was to look like we were chatting and then leave three long beats into the shot. I think we did that four times. Originally, I was on stage left, but we switched positions after the first take, because I don't (and didn't) turn gracefully. I wasn't going to say anything, but was grateful for Frank's suggestion, especially since he originally had the better camera position. Of course, even if the shot makes it into the final cut, blink and you'll miss us.
(As it turned out, the editor must've blinked. The scene was shortened, so you don't see the two of us outside, just the interns that pass by after we leave. See more on this scene in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section).
I stayed outside to watch the next shot of Sarah exiting and then looking back at Zach. This turned out to be far more interesting than I expected. I think John Inwood had the idea to frame Sarah's face in the center of the heart in the hospital logo after the door closes. It was a nice "cinema shot", but it wasn't easy to get. Renee Hall (Sarah's stand in) seemed to stand in place forever while everyone figured out just how the shot was going to work. The daylight was changing, and the lighting guys had to get various filters up on the overhang, positioned just right. After a couple of run-throughs, they were ready. Of course, on the very first take, the door didn't close all the way, so Sarah's face didn't line up as expected. (If you're wondering how they time the door, it's simple - they take it off automatic and have a couple guys off camera opening and closing it on cue. It's not easy though - pulling and pushing the door smoothly along a somewhat stubborn track can be problematic as demonstrated by the need for multiple takes in this case).
Blue tape for Zach, pink for Sarah
Lighting and blocking the shot with Renee
Sarah turns back to deliver her line ...
... and exits down the ramp.
Guest star Tara Reid arrived during one of the takes, parking a very nice car - a Porsche I think - in a spot just across from the ramp. She entered the building with a big smile to multiple greetings from the crew. I hadn't seen my family in an hour or so, so I did the same after the next take, minus the big smile and enthusiastic greetings.
They were being filmed in sequence and were set in the cafeteria, always a great place for background activity. Turk and Carla were in scene 13, J.D. and Todd came in for scene 15 and Danni for scene 17. We decided to stay for one more.
Scene 13 was comprised of two shots - the first focused on Turk and the lunch line, the second on Carla and the window. I wasn't in the first shot (more walking), but sat off-camera behind Judy and Donald and had a great view of the action. I picked my seat for the second shot, which happened to be the one Michael J. Fox sat in during the cafeteria scenes in "My Porcelain God". When Oorala said we were ready to switch camera position, I moved to my chosen seat. Franklyn came over and said that the opposite chair would provide better exposure. I was skeptical, but moved across the table. (Of course, as it turns out, he was right!).
Originally, "Shirley", the nurse from scene 14 was assigned to join me, but was replaced by a resident after Franklyn realized the continuity problem. A few other extras were placed at the table behind us and a couple more were assigned to walk by with trays.
I don't remember my new dining partner's name - I'll call him Brad - but if you phoned central casting for a young, handsome guy about 6' 2", this guy would show up. He filled me in on the life of a starving actor and the benefits of being a "regular" extra. I couldn't help but wonder how one could be on call all day for Scrubs and still be available to go to auditions.
The prop man brought over two trays that each had a burger, fries and a soda can, removed the plastic wrap and set them down. I asked him how old the food was and he wasn't sure -- he thought it might be from last week. It didn't really matter, since we weren't going to eat it anyway. If you watch the cafeteria scenes, the folks in the background never eat. Lots of poking food with forks, but no eating.
During the scene, we pantomimed a conversation, which was harder than you might think. I couldn't remember the generic background phrase (something to do with apples I think), so I just thought up a story about Dr. Kelso and new residents and went with that. Of course, neither of us knew what the other was trying to say, but we said it with a lot of expression.
about 8 minutes into the episode.
After the first take, Lyda came over and said she never liked the fact that no one ever ate on camera. Brad and I looked at each other and then at the burgers. I wasn't about to eat a burger that wasn't fresh, but I figured the fries couldn't be all that bad. I found out a few beats into the next take just how wrong I was. I took a bite and then reached for my soda, only to realize the can wasn't open. I took a drink anyway and then picked up the saltshaker. The last few takes I decided to start with the burger near my mouth and put it down just after the shot started, giving the illusion of having taken a bite. All told, I had about five or six bland, soggy, horrid french fries and lived to tell about it.
The family consensus from Video Village, now located in the back corner of the cafeteria, was that I should have stayed in my original seat. "Except for one take, pretty much all you could see were your hands - you should've leaned across the table".
(That turned out to be wrong - although a take from shot that only showed my hands was used, so were parts of other takes where I'm clearly visible at the window table, as you can see here in the frame from the episode. In the broadcast footage, there are a total of six cuts to Carla where "Brad" and I are in the background. Alas, none show the consumption of the now infamous french fries).
They did appreciate the continued attention to detail - at one point, there was someone sent outside to walk by the window during a shot. The crew spent at least 10 or 15 minutes on that. I don't know if there was footage where you could see the person, but if so, it didn't make it into the final cut. And they got a big kick out of the fries. I heard about them for days ...
I appealed to stay for the next scene figuring that Jen would agree, since Zack was going to be in it. But, sadly, lunch was over - the last 30 minutes in the cafeteria had removed all doubt - fatigue had clearly replaced the earlier enthusiasm. We left after talking to Donald and thanking Richard, Franklyn, Lyda and some of the other crew.
Lyda called a production assistant to give us the VIP tour. While we were waiting, Lyda came out in the hall, trying to round up the extras that hadn't already left, since there were still two more scenes to film. "I need everyone except him", she said, pointing to me. "He's leaving early", she finished with a smile. I think it was a little after 6:00 pm, but she was right - I was leaving "early" after only having been there 10 hours ...
Despite not having a good cleaning crew on staff, 'Scrubs' has paid great attention to detail in the areas used for filming. Patient rooms are just as you would expect to see in a real hospital, carts with new medical supplies abound, as does surprising amount of medical gear, much of which was brought in by the production company. Sacred Heart logos are painted on most of the glass doors and panels, there are show specific signs to augment the original ones left by the medical center, all the desks all have Sacred Heart paperwork, and exposed notebook binders list Sacred Heart patient lists and procedures.
We learned some interesting background on the production while walking around the other three floors and saw all the familiar sets - the various nurses' stations, doctor's lounge, the patient rooms, the ER ward used in the title sequence, the long hospital corridors you'd never find on a sound stage and the surgical ward. The building never had a full operating room, so additional equipment had been brought in to make the set look authentic. We also saw Kelso's office, though the door with Kelso's name stenciled on it is on the first floor, across from the infamous "Kelso in memoriam" portrait. When you look at it up close, it looks like the large oil painting it seems to be, but Ken Jenkins told us earlier that it was actually a digital image that the art department worked their magic on using Photoshop and lacquer.
All of the non-hospital sets are on site too, either in the medical center or the adjacent building that had the facade of a police precinct on it that day. We had actually driven in that second lot when we first arrived, trying to figure out where the studio entrance was. I remember thinking that a police station with no police cars around was a little unusual. As it turned out, it was no more unusual for Hollywood than walking around the corner of a hospital corridor into Dr. Cox's penthouse apartment.
There wasn't the ambient lighting there was elsewhere in the building and since they weren't in use that day, there was just enough light to see the set - a living room with packages of diapers and a plasma TV, and a dining area next to some false walls that provided an illusion of more. We didn't see Elliot's apartment, but did see the winner of the "anti-Good Housekeeping seal of approval" - Turk and J.D.'s apartment with the sofa that would make a college dorm room proud, a messy kitchen and bathroom, and an unusual bedroom. Ignoring the light stands and other equipment, things looked normal until you looked to the right of the bed only to find a vast open space. This was one of the swing set areas, so presumably that open space was used for other sets as needed.
We found the pink carpet had already been installed in an area that was going to be used as the child's bedroom set for the Sacred Heart commercial featured in the episode and there were stuffed animals abound. According to the pink preliminary call sheet that Lyda had given us earlier, that scene was being filmed Tuesday after lunch, just before tour for the international press. It would have been interesting to watch, but we would have missed the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Jen wouldn't have met her second heartthrob of the week on the "Still Standing" stages at CBS. Zach Braff (Monday), Taylor Ball (Tuesday), and Conner Trineer (Wednesday) are her favs, in that order, at least for now.
We saw a set previously used as a pediatric ward and then to the third floor where the original medical center pediatric ward had been, which now housed the dialogue-recording studio. We peeked in, as they were just wrapping up. It would have been nice to see some post production activity, but it was late in the day, so there wasn't much going on. (There is an interesting article on 'Scrubs' post-production and how the show is edited on the apple.com site).
We passed some furniture marked for Elliot's apartment and a number of production offices. Mail boxes beside the doors held a copy of the week's script with specific notes for the various departments. Other former offices were now dressing rooms, wardrobe and makeup and there were offices for casting and the writing staff down on the first floor as well.
We went back downstairs to the kitchen for some dinner - fried chicken, mac and cheese and some wonderful broccoli and green beans. My wife picked up a 7-Up! for the road, which somehow never was opened and now sits in our kitchen as one of our more unusual vacation souvenirs.
Wendy went to check to see if she could give us a full script. We went out to the lobby set to take a few more pictures and chatted with a couple of the crew members who had joked around with us throughout the day. The guys said that they'd see us tomorrow, but we told them we were done. Unlike Richard's, our day was over. Wendy met us a few minutes later - alas, no script - and we thanked her for our behind the scenes visit.
We had a wonderful time and great fun behind the scenes, meet very kind and hardworking people, and seen a lot of unexpected things in the building. Perhaps the most surprising was the number of dogs in the building - 'Scrubs' is obviously a pet friendly workplace - and there were others outside during lunch, including one tiny dog wearing a wonderfully detailed outfit. I think Sarah's dog Lola had been with us earlier in wardrobe, but I'm not sure if it her or not.
(Dayna Devlin from "Extra" TV noticed the dogs as well and mentioned them in her story on her appearance the next day filming a one-line cameo as a nurse. That's her between Zach and Sarah in a frame from the broadcast episode to the right).
Dogs were just another entry on the "things you don't expect to see in a hospital" list along with a PacMan video game, a pinball machine, wardrobe racks, camera equipment blocking the hallways, scaffolding, massive lights, all kinds of cables, boom mikes and battery packs, apartments, a cafeteria full of food that nobody eats, eclectic merchandise in the gift shop, racks full of outdated newspapers, and a very interesting air conditioning system.
The east exit door closed behind us for the last time as we walked back to our parking space, which now seemed much further away than it had been that morning.
As we got to the car, we noticed one billboard illuminating the darkness with a message that we found surprisingly humorous and ironically appropriate, since it seems you can find almost anything on EBay.
Sometimes even a once in a lifetime visit to the fascinating fictional world of Sacred Heart Hospital and it's lovable, but slightly off-beat staff.
In March 2004, I put up the first version of this web site, after volunteering to write something up on the walk-on experience for the terrific Scrubs fan site, My Own Personal 'Net Thing. I was going to write up something to capture my thoughts about the set visit anyway and it's not hard to wrap some html tags around text, so it was no big deal.
I figured it would get a hundred hits or so - who would care that some guy they don't know appeared briefly on a TV show? Well, I clearly underestimated the passion of the Scrubs fan base and the interest in information on the show. The site has already generated thousands of hits, briefly appearing at the top of the Google search results for 'Scrubs'.
Since the site went up, I've received a surprising number of Emails from people connected with the show and fans from around the world with comments and questions, including many of those in the updated FAQ section below. I'm glad that so many of you have enjoyed reading about our experience.
Visiting the set was a fantastic experience though only part of the fun - there was still the question of how the final episode would turn out. We knew it would air sometime in the spring and it seemed that date would never come. Of course it did - the big day was Thursday, April 22nd - three days after we watched the 'Still Standing' episode we'd seen filmed the day after our set visit. There was no red carpet for my network broadcast premiere, just freshly-popped popcorn and a big-screen TV.
We hadn't told many of our family and friends about the set visit and were surprised by the response the night the episode aired. Our phone rang constantly, as those on the east coast saw the broadcast before we did. It took a little of our anticipation away, as we learned I was quite visible in both the cafeteria and the pharmacy scenes. I got a lot of good-natured kidding and comments, including two of my favorites: "Did you know there was a doctor on Scrubs tonight that looked just like you?" and "You weren't in the background, you WERE the background". (I'd like to apologize to my folks, who knew that I was going to be on the show, but didn't realize I was going to be on that night. My mother screamed when she saw me on TV and it took them days to find the poor cat).
We got off the phone just before the 8:29 mountain start time, with Tivo already recording the NBC feed. I think this was the first time all year that we actually watched a program live. My wife had made me promise not to pause or review any of the scenes until we'd seen the episode all the way through. That didn't last long, as she had me back up scenes almost right away.
We had a blast watching the show. It was a lot fun reconciling our on set experience with what we saw on the screen and watching scenes we had only read about in the sides or on the Tuesday call sheet. Since we knew the storyline, we knew when and where to look for me in the show. We watched to see which parts of Monday's shoot made it into the final cut and which didn't and tried to see if we could figure out which cuts were from which takes. As expected, some of the dialogue used was different than that in Debra Fordham's script, a number of the scenes were shortened, the hospital looked amazingly clean, and the pink carpet was nowhere to be found.
We thought the voice of the little boy sounded a lot like that of director Richard Wells. It was uncredited, so I don't know if it was indeed his voice, but it was pretty cool anyway. We wondered if the Kelso billboard had been superimposed on the Ebay one across the street and realized we'd totally forgotten about the bar and restaurant sets on our February tour. We hadn't seen the pastry shop either, but I'm sure that was built on a swing set later in the schedule. It didn't matter - along with millions of other viewers on that Thursday night, we saw Dr. Bilson eating lunch and working in the pharmacy and that completed our experience.
Twenty-nine minutes later, my few seconds of Sacred Heart immortality literally ended with a bang as NBC promoted its upcoming "10.5" miniseries about a massive west coast earthquake. As San Francisco sank into the Pacific ocean, I got a congratulatory hug from my daughter and kissed her good night.
"My Guest Appearance" was over. At least until summer reruns.
(Below are some frames from the broadcast footage from the four scenes I filmed, along with some comments, followed by more on-set pictures and answers to some frequently asked questions).
Episode 66 - "My Fault"
Broadcast scene shots
All of the above screen shots were taken from the April 22, 2004 NBC broadcast of the Scrubs "My Fault" episode.
From making sure we knew about the snacks and goodies in the kitchen, to answering our occasional questions, volunteering information about the production, giving us the VIP tour, or just general conversation, we were treated as honored guests. Though it's hard to single anyone out, we were especially appreciative of the time and attention Director Richard Wells shared with us, given the constant demands of the production. He was easy-going, had a great sense of humor and was clearly an asset to the show.
Ken Jenkins ("Dr. Kelso") was as nice as his character is mean.
We had a nice conversation talking about his role and family during a break just before "our" pharmacy scene and had given Bernice and Jen the background on the "Kelso memorial portrait" earlier in the morning.
The picture on his ID badge is his, with Dr. Kelso's information.
Note the position of the stethoscopes - I always made sure mine covered the picture on my badge. Some of the pictures and names used on the prop badges for the extras were those of current or former crew members, but Ken didn't recognize either the picture or the name "Greg Bilson".
The picture on his ID badge is his, with Dr. Kelso's information. Note the position of the stethoscopes - I always made sure mine covered the picture on my badge. Some of the pictures and names used on the prop badges for the extras were those of current or former crew members, but Ken didn't recognize either the picture or the name "Greg Bilson".
Zach Braff ("J.D.") made a point to say hello.
My daughter still hasn't come back down to earth.
(I was supposed to crop out the two people on the right!)
All smiles with an out-of-costume Sarah Chalke ("Elliot"),
who is even prettier in person than she is on TV.
We met Neil Flynn ("The Janitor") at lunch.
He was absolutely delightful to chat with.
Donald Faison ("Turk") and Director Richard A. Wells
bookend the group in the cafeteria. I don't recall the
names of the crew members in back, but they were
great to us all day.
Upstairs at a nurses' station
Dr. Cox's appartment
Dr. Cox's living room
The lobby. The picture under the television on the right
is the front of "Sacred Heart", actually elsewhere in L.A.
Yes, it really is an ugly couch
At the Pharmacy
In the wardrobe department
"Air conditioning" - this long tube was run from the outside into the cafeteria.
A fan blew outside air in to cool down the set. A few hours before this hallway
was packed to film the scene described earlier with Zach and the phone.
The sign over the admissions desk
The Kelso portrait in the first-floor hallway
There were a few things cut, most likely because of running length requirements. There was a great bit that Ken did with Kelso's ring as a reaction shot after Mr. Corman enters that didn't make it. Too bad, as it was VERY funny. The scene where Elliot is leaving the hopsital was shortened - you don't see shots of her leaving the elevator, Dr. Michead and me lounging outside or J.D. talking on the phone. In the scene at the pharmacy window, Mr. Corman's walk to the door after passing Dr. Cox didn't make it, nor did the shot of the nurse walking by. (The same extra also walks by, in almost the same location, in the evening scene with Mr. Corman and Dr. Cox (and, since she does, it's hard to see me in my "first" appearance). Keeping both shots may have been considered a continuity problem).
This site was updated after the episode was first broadcast. The original version (without spoilers) can be found here.
For more information on [Scrubs], visit the show's NBC web site, the production company website or this terrific Scrubs fan site.
Learn more about the Minorities in Broadcast Training Program or see TV and Hollywood items they have on their auction site.
Broadcast images and text of Scene 22 from Scubs episode "My Fault" copyright 2004 by Touchtone Television.
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Page last updated Monday March 13, 2006