Scrubs is my all-time favorite show so to have the opportunity to sit down with Zach Braff and talk about his upcoming new show Alex, Inc. was a dream come true of mine. The series marks his big return to television, having made guest appearances in a handful of shows over the years since Scrubs ended as well as directing and starring in various films. It follows Alex Schuman, played by Braff, a radio journalist who decides to quit his job and start his own podcast company, much to the trepidation from his wife and two kids.
Braff, who also acts as Executive Producer on the show, and series creator and writer Matt Tarses came to SCAD’s TVFest to debut Alex, Inc., and Shakefire had the opportunity to sit down with the two of them to discuss the show’s inspirations and bringing something the whole family can watch together to television.
Alex, Inc. is about a guy who takes a risk to start up his own business. Do you get that same feeling whenever you yourself are starting a new show like this or a new film?
Zach Braff: Of course! It’s completely intimidating. When you first start something you’re looking up at a giant mountain and going, “How the hell am I possibly going to get to the top of that?” When you think of all the work, and the writer’s room has to write 10 episodes in a very short amount of time, and if it’s the first season they obviously have to be all particularly amazing, otherwise you won’t be putting your best foot forward. And we have an enormous crew to hire and sets to build and just so many decisions to make. So it’s daunting. And it’s not like you’re going to be hiding out somewhere. It’s our two names on it so you really want to put everything you have into it.
What was it like for you guys reuniting? You both worked together on Scrubs. How was it coming back to work on this together?
Matt Tarses: It was terrible…
Zach Braff: Every single second.
Matt Tarses: [laughs] No, it was great. Zach and I were friends on Scrubs, and we were both kinda coming up. That was sorta the beginning of both of our careers. We have very similar sensibilities when it comes to comedy. We like slightly broad stuff, physical stuff, but we also like something to have a way to connect to something emotionally. We were excited about doing it, and then once we started working together it’s been, I think, a great collaboration.
Zach Braff: It’s been an amazing collaboration.
Matt Tarses: We rarely fight, and when we do we work it out.
Zach Braff: He just ignores my text for a few hours and then he comes back online. [laughs]
Has the bromance replace Donald [Faison]?
Zach Braff: No, it could never replace Donald! But it’s a close second. I was just with Donald late last night. And he was yelling at me not to leave a bar.
Matt Tarses: But you left.
Zach Braff: I did leave, because I had to meet you.
Speaking of collaboration, did you collaborate at all with the real Alex on the process or did you just get his permission to do the show?
Matt Tarses: I talked to him a few times; he came to the set once when we were shooting the pilot. He was very helpful, but I think he was also kinda respectful of the fact that this was going to be a different thing. The show is very different than the podcast. It’s inspired by the podcast, we love the podcast, but we couldn’t make a half-hour family comedy out of it.
Zach Braff: Yeah, we had to figure out how to turn this amazing podcast into a half-hour comedy so it’s inspired by. There are touchstones that overlap.
Matt Tarses: And they were very supportive. They answered our questions and were always behind us but they didn’t make us do things a certain way, and they didn’t get mad when we did things differently.
Zach Braff: I think they wanted us to take the concept and run with it, and that’s what we did.
What’s the one thing you want fans and audiences to take away from the show?
Zach Braff: There’s so much great TV right now that we’re all loving and binging, but I do thing there’s this niche that our show helps fill, and that is something that a whole family can watch together. We think it’s super funny, and it has heart, but it’s on at 8:30 on ABC, in the spirit of those great ABC family comedies like Modern Family, The Middle, and Black-ish where you as an adult are going to hopefully crack up at it but also you can watch it with your kids and not feel awkward. That’s tricky to do in this day and age. I think we aspire to fill the demand for that because I think as much as there is a ton a great TV, there’s not a whole lot of stuff that you can watch after dinner before you put your kids to sleep that you can all watch together. That’s what we want to do.
Alex, Inc. premieres on ABC on Wednesday, March 28, at 8:30pm ET.