First, NBC canceled Scrubs after seven seasons, then ABC picked it up before scrapping it again after season 9. By the time the ax finally fell on the hospital sitcom in 2010, creator Bill Lawrence had to agree that the show had come to a fair end. “We filmed so many episodes that I feel like it had played its full course,” says Lawrence, who tells EW that he currently has no plans to pursue a movie continuation of the series, despite the wishes of some fans. “You could argue Veronica Mars got cut short in its lifespan, but for us, I never really saw any life moving past nine years. It’s not really the type of show for a movie.”
Enter another idea for Lawrence: Rather than let the series (which still boasts around 13 million Facebook fans) completely fizzle out, Lawrence has set his sights on a different type of future for Scrubs. He announced back in September 2012 that he was developing a musical for Broadway, and just in time for EW’s cover story on the rebirth of Veronica Mars, we caught up with Lawrence to find out where his musical resurrection project stands. As it turns out, the sitcom might be scrubbing in to a Broadway theater near you by, oh, 2017 or so.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea come from?
BILL LAWRENCE: One of the things we really cared about on the show was that we always incorporated not only pop music, but a lot of singing and songwriting, ranging from an a cappella group to a full-blown musical episode. We always had a big love for it. Randall Winston, who’s part of my company here and produced Scrubs, was talking to a British theater group, and it turns out Scrubs is very, very big in the U.K. When Zach [Braff] went over there and did his play All New People, he’d come out at the end and there would be thousands of Scrubs fans. So then we really started taking seriously the idea of Scrubs as a musical. And the only reason I felt like we could entertain this idea is that it’s not going on — it’s going back.
Where does it stand now?
We’re negotiating with different theater groups who will hopefully put up the money for a year to pay the composers to develop [spec songs]. Disney has nicely become a silent partner in giving the rights for us to go shop it. And the most fun thing for a theater junkie is we’ve already reached the stage that various composers have been submitting songs based on an outline that we put together for the type of stuff we would do.
What’s in that outline? Do you know what story you want to tell?
We have an outline basically showing where we’re looking for songs, how we would intend to do fantasies, how we would use that a cappella band as a Greek chorus that would be on stage singing the theme when people come in. When that outline goes out to composers, they’ll know the tone because they’ve seen the show and some of the musical stuff we’ve done. If I did Scrubs, I would do it as the Legally Blonde or Wicked model. It’s all the same characters. The outline is kind of a mishmash of the pilot episode mushed together with the episode where Mrs. Landingham from The West Wing dies. We’re combining two of our best stories with what we’re allowed to cull and choose from our best comedic moments and fantasies from nine years of the show.
What kind of music are you hoping for?
Right now what’s cool for us as musical geeks is trying to figure out what the sound is. We’re looking at everything from the singer-songwriter hip version that you can say they did with Spring Awakening to the type of sardonic Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson-type stuff.
Would this show be only for die-hard fans, or a greater audience?
You need to be able to get somebody who’s never seen Scrubs and have them get it and enjoy it, and also have someone that’s a psychotic fan. We need to find a way to please both sides. The burden is doing something that you’re hoping will turn out the fanbase, but also something that’s fun and understandable for people that never saw the show.
Now that Zach’s going to Broadway, has he expressed interest in being involved?
Zach will be involved creatively because he’s a theater lover like me, but part of the fun for us is that we would go with Broadway musical stars. [Laughs] The reason that I cast [Broadway vet] Skylar Astin in Ground Floor was to have him close to me.
Would anyone from the show reprise their roles?
The only people I could see reprising their roles are Ted’s a cappella band. The reason that we put them on Scrubs in the first place, besides the fact that they’re funny, is that they are all musical theater guys. The first time I saw two of them was in Forever Plaid.
BONUS BILL LAWRENCE QUESTION: Would you ever reboot Clone High?
I’ve been trying to reboot that show with the other two creators for years. The two guys I created that with are the two biggest young guys in Hollywood right now, Chris Miller and Phil Lord. They wrote and directed Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and they did 21 and 22 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. They’re big hot shots now. The three of us always talk about trying to get Clone High back. We’d have to find a way to purchase and excise it from MTV. It still kills me when I see those episodes. They’re subversive and ridiculous.