Exclusive Interview: 'Scrubs' Star Ken Jenkins
Exclusive Interview: 'Scrubs' Star Ken Jenkins
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
It's unclear when Scrubs will return to TV. NBC originally planned to bring the series back to run out its pre-strike episodes on Thursdays, but for the foreseeable future, the 8pm block is filled with various specials. While many shows have been affected by the strike, Scrubs is an overlooked tragedy. This was to be the final season, but now, it's unclear whether that will still be the case, as the writers' strike has stalled the ability of creator Bil Lawrence to wrap the series up the way it deserves.

BuddyTV spoke with one of the show's stars, Ken Jenkins, to find out what's going on. When last viewers saw Jenkins' curmudgeonly Bob Kelso, he was on his way out, being forced into retirement because he reached the age of 65. Jenkins clued us in on how Kelso will stick around Sacred Heart, even after he's retired. He also spoke about the strike and the state of uncertainty regarding Scrubs' fate, and he also looked back on some of his favorite moments throughout the years.

Below you will find a full transcript of the interview, as well as the mp3 audio file.


Hi, this is John from BuddyTV, and I'm talking to Ken Jenkins, one of the stars of NBC's Scrubs. Hi Ken, how are you doing?

I'm just fine, how are you doing John?


I am doing great. Now how is everything going? This writers' strike is still continuing, so how are you and the cast of Scrubs dealing with that?

Well there's really not much we can do. You have to separate out the business from the creative part, as you always do in TV. What it's done to us on a creative thing is leave us in a very strange circus ride. It's like you've been shot up in the air and you haven't come down. It's a very lost kind of feeling. There is a righteousness on both sides of the issues in terms of the strike I'm sure, and I'm not knowledgeable enough about that to have an opinion. But the part of me that plays Dr. Kelso has a great desire to see it come to a resolution.


Because this is the final season of Scrubs, or at least it was supposed to be, now with everything up in the air do you have any word that if the strike ends at this point you'll go back and finish up the final episodes? Or is it going to be extended into a new season?

Well we really don't know the hard answers to that. I think we all remain very hopeful that we'll be able to go back and at least bring the long cycle of relationships to a sensible kind of, well, or at least a Scrubs-ian resolution. What happens to these characters? I think it's an aim that we've had in mind for years, because they can't stay young people forever and they have to go on and do other things. It's very discomfiting to tell a story, and to be telling a story for seven years, and then not be able to do the ending to it. It's like the longest joke in the world with no punch line.


I think in one of the last episodes that actually aired, we got a glimpse of probably what is Dr. Kelso's final story, where he turns 65 and the hospital was kind of forcing him into retirement. Does that continue in any of the upcoming episodes?

Well it has some wonderful odd turns to it of course. We have shot an episode where Kelso says farewell and drives off into the sunset, but it is Scrubs after all. We have to remember that he is a winner of muffins for life at the coffee shop, so that's for life, not for terms of being Chief of Medicine. He'll probably show up back in the coffee shop, eating muffins and giving everybody a hard time.


So Dr. Kelso's retirement isn't the end of Dr. Kelso at Sacred Heart?

Probably not. It'll just give an opportunity to help wrap up all the other stories I think. There's a lot of loose ends to wrap up here. What happens to Elliot and J.D., and what happens to all these people? It's fascinating to know we have a fan base that actually cares about that. But it's like anything, if you read a great, huge novel and you read it through and then you rip out the last two chapters and don't read them, it leaves you sort of vertiginous. Wait a minute, you're at the top of the ferris wheel swinging forever, wait a minute, let's get the story resolved.


I think a lot of fans will be disappointed if, at least in some way, I think Bill Lawrence has talked about, in a worst case scenario, making a direct to DVD final episode of Scrubs just to sort of wrap up all the storylines.

Yeah, or I think we may be reduced to doing a cartoon drawing of it and mailing it to the millions who really care.


There are certainly a lot of people who would enjoy seeing that. My understanding is there are four episodes that were filmed that haven't aired yet. I think the latest news is that NBC is only going to air two of them, because the last two were after the writers' strike and were a little confusing. Specifically, we found out in the beginning of the season that there was going to be a big fairy tale episode. Is that filmed? Is that one of the episodes that's going to air?

I don't know where they are in terms of doing the editing on that one. We did shoot it, and Zach [Braff] directed it, and I think it's just absolutely wonderful. The dailies that I saw at any rate have some of the funniest, most touching, delightful stuff in it of anything we've shot. I think every season we've managed to get a few shows that have gone beyond where we have been in the season before. Sometimes it doesn't get every one of them right, but every season we've had a few shows that really stick out that I think are just creatively wonderful. I think that episode is one of them, and it really, really deserves to be seen, whether NBC airs it or it goes on a DVD. Wherever it goes, I think this is one that people really want to see. I want to see a cut version of it, I was just totally taken with it.


I agree with what you're saying, where in every season you do one or two episode, like the musical episode, or the sitcom in four cameras episode, "My Way Home," the Wizard of Oz episode also directed by Zach Braff. All of those episodes, for fans like myself, those ones are very, very special. I'm hoping the fairy tale one gets aired.

Me too. I think from the very beginning Bill started out pushing the envelope of what you can do in 21 minutes of comedy. He showed the way to taking 21 minutes and not only doing comedy, but making something heartwarming, something touching, something that provokes contemplation and examination of culture. We call it "plotville on speed," but of course it's a lot more than that. Each year something has been added to it, like those episodes you mentioned, that once again just pushed the envelope, pushed the challenge out there farther. Nothing like that musical had ever been done. There'd been shows that did musical versions of their show, but not 21 minutes and not in the amount of time we do it in.


I think that was most impressive, just about "My Musical," that in 21 minutes there were 9 or 10 songs.

Yeah, and a story. A story that is touching when you get right down to it.


That is just an impressive accomplishment just on a structural level to do that. Let alone to make it good.

Yeah, and that's a real tribute to Bill and the writers. Of course we were all astonished with each other that we could sing. You knew that Donald [Faison] could sing and do anything, but who knew Johnny C [McGinley] could sing and dance? I didn't know it, and it was just wonderful to do it with him and be with him in the process.


Moving forward, since this is the final season, or could be, do you have any sort of plans now? You've been with Bob Kelso for seven years, what are you going to do without Bob Kelso?

I'm with Bob Kelso at work, but I don't think he lives with me at home. I have very different interests from Bob Kelso, but there is a part of your psyche that you use to go play a character, and you develop that part for each different character. I don't know what I'll do with the part of me that's been playing Bob Kelso. I don't know where I can use it. I share it with people in the street, young people mainly, who come up and say, "Oh, you're Dr. Kelso," and they introduce themselves. I love it. I think it's just absolutely endearing when they do that. They care about the show and they care about the character, and you share a laugh and you go on. That's a wonderful gift to have in your day. But who will I become next, what sort of thing will I develop next? You just never know. That's the wonderful part of this game.


Do you have any sort of desires? You've done television, you've done film, you've done stage. Are any of those three something you want to focus on next?

You know, I love them all, it is hard. My son Danny is playing one of the leads in Mary Poppins on Broadway, and he's been doing it since the beginning. He does a lot of musicals. I see how hard Danny works and of course he's much younger than me, but boy, that's just hard work doing a musical eight times a week. I did a musical on Broadway like that and I found it exhausting. I don't know whether I have the stamina to do something like that. Of course every time I see Ian McKellan I think, well, he's older than me, I ought to be able to do that.


-Interview conducted by John Kubicek
(Image courtesy of NBC)

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