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 ...
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.
Broadcast images and text of Scene 22 from Scubs episode "My Fault" copyright 2004 by Touchtone Television.
Comments? Send me an e-mail.
This page best viewed in a maximized browser window at a resolution of 1024x768 or better.
Page last updated Saturday September 25, 2004