‘Scrubs’ creator addresses his decision to pull episodes containing blackface from streaming

‘Scrubs’ creator addresses his decision to pull episodes containing blackface from streaming

Words by Kate Streader

Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke have apologised for appearing in blackface on the show.

Scrubs has joined the growing list of TV shows to remove episodes containing blackface from streaming services, along with 30 RockIt’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The Office, Community and more.

Bill Lawrence, who created the series, and Sarah Chalke who played Dr Elliot Reid joined Zach Braff (J.D) and Donald Faison (Turk) on their Scrubs re-watch podcast, Fake Doctors, Real Friends for a special episode addressing the use of blackface in past episodes.

Three episodes have been removed from streaming services, My Friend The Doctor (season three, episode eight) in which Braff appears dressed as Faison’s character, Turk; My Jiggly Ball (season five, episode four) which portrays Chalke as half-Elliot, half-Turk; and My Chopped Liver (season five, episode 17) which depicts Braff and Faison dressed as each other for a frat party.

Lawrence explained that his decision to remove the episodes was unprompted and apologised for his ignorance, explaining that, at the time, he felt like Scrubs almost had a “free pass … because we were so fucking proud of ourselves for doing a very diverse show, in front of and behind the camera.”

He also pointed out the ignorance that still exists around blackface, detailing the backlash he has faced from fans since pulling the episodes. Lawrence said several people have taken to social media to ask why instances in which Faison’s character appeared in light makeup to portray a white man haven’t been removed.

“As a white guy, that is not based in any systemic racism, for me, or history or any negativity,” he said. “I find that kind of argument to be so counterproductive and ridiculous.”

“I think that it’s important to differentiate that there was not this horrible history of people who were persecuted and mocked and made fun of [with ‘whiteface’]. It’s a completely different thing,” added Braff.

Lawrence said the episodes will likely be edited to remove the offensive scenes and re-added to streaming platforms at a later date.

“It’s a pandemic, I don’t really have an editing facility up right now,” he said. “But the first thing I wanted to do was get them off TV because it bummed me out personally.”

“It’s my show, I’m really proud of it and those moments – nobody pressured me – and those moments make me feel like shit and make me feel stupid,” said Lawrence

Braff and Chalke also apologised for appearing in blackface on the series.

Listen to the full podcast episode here

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