Talkin’ With … Sam Lloyd, ‘Scrubs’ Attorney Ted Buckland

Talkin’ With … Sam Lloyd, ‘Scrubs’ Attorney Ted Buckland

Will it be the season eight finale or the series finale? That’s all up in the air, but word has it that whatever tonight’s hour-long episode of Scrubs (ABC, 8PM ET) turns out to be, it will be a fan pleaser. In the meantime, I had a chance to check in with Scrubs star Sam Lloyd, Sacred Heart hospital’s legal eagle Ted Buckland, about the finale and the show’s future (and his role in it if it does continue), as well as his musical career.

Scrubs fans know Ted isn’t just an attorney or a member of The Janitor’s Brain Trust … he’s also the leader of The Worthless Peons, a quartet of fellas who roam the halls, often breaking out into perfectly in tune a cappella versions of TV theme songs and commercials. The Peons are actually The Blanks, Lloyd’s real-life band, whose Scrubs tenure led to an album and a stage show. Lloyd’s also in a Beatles cover band called The Butties – yes, that was them playing at Carla and Turk’s wedding – and he played one of this Seinfeld fan’s all-time favorite guest characters, the mannequin-designing, TV Guide-lovin’, would-be Elaine suitor, Ricky …

So, how are things going with the season, maybe series finale, so close?
It’s pretty wild. We actually just got together, the cast, last week and did the group DVD commentary for the last episode, which was really a gas, because we actually finished shooting back in September. So it was kind of a fun reunion for everybody, and we saw the last episode. We were at the House of Blues (in Los Angeles) in a back room, just hanging out and had a lot of fun watching it.

Was that the first time all of you had been together since filming wrapped?
Collectively it was. I’ve seen a bunch of the guys here and there, but that was all of us together, with (Scrubs creator) Bill Lawrence. The only person who wasn’t there was Judy Reyes, who couldn’t get out of New York. But everybody else was there, and it was so much fun.

Was that the first time you had seen the season finale?
Yeah, it was, it was the first time, and – not that I saw it this time either, because everyone was talking and laughing while it was going on, and once and a while we’d go, ‘Oh yeah, check that out!’ But it’s really good. I think it’s a really good episode. It really came out great.

So, without any spoilers, does the season wrap up well for Ted?
Well, I think it kind of wrapped up well for Ted with his girlfriend, Gooch, which, actually, when we shot the episodes, those episodes were like the third and second to last episodes, but when they aired, they changed the order. So that was kind of his wrap up, I think, and it did end up kind of nice.

And will we see Ted sing in the finale?
No, you won’t see me sing, but you will hear me sing, at the end of the episode, they do a bunch of outtakes, and in the background they have The Blanks’ version of (the Scrubs theme song) “I’m No Superman.”

Aw, cool!
Yeah, it was cool, and it sounds really cool. I was really happy they used that.

Well, so speaking of the end, where do things stand right now with the show? Are you hearing that it’s the season finale or the series finale? That’s what everyone is talking about this week.
Yeah, that’s kind of what’s going on. It’s not official, but I know that there’s a real possibility that it might come back. Bill (Lawrence) kind of touched on it when we were all together, but very, very briefly. He said, ‘That’s a very different thing, let’s just do this as it being the last of what the show, up to this point, has been.’ Because if it goes on, it will be different. I think (Scrubs star) Zach (Braff), I’ve heard, that they’re trying to figure out if he’ll do a few episodes, but he won’t be in all of them if he’s back. And then a bunch of the regulars have pilots and don’t know if those are going to be picked up or not. So we don’t know if all the actors would be back necessarily. It’s really up in the air, but amazing just to think that it might end up having nine lives.

And would you continue if the show goes on? Will Ted be a part of the action?
I would hope so. I don’t take anything for granted. You never know until there’s something concrete going on, but I sure would like to be around if the show keeps going. I mean, Scrubs has been – the people involved, from the top down – it’s just one of those exceptional shows where everyone gets along. If you see the DVD commentary, you’ll see that for sure, but everybody has as much fun as it looks like we are having. So if that was able to keep going in any way, shape or form for another season, everybody really would want to be a part of it.

What would you like to see happen with Ted if the show continues?
You know, I would be happy if they brought Ted’s love interest, Stephanie Gooch, back in there. I think that would be great. Having a ukulele singer on the show with Ted and the band … I think there would be all kinds of mileage they could get out of that. And all Ted’s stuff with The Janitor is so much fun, being a part of the Brain Trust, which is some of the most fun I’ve had, when we’re doing those scenes together. We have such a blast doing that stuff, and, you know, Kelso – it’s just great playing off that guy. So if they can keep doing more of those things, I would be very happy.

Was there ever any thought to introducing Ted’s mom, who’ve we’ve heard so much about?
Yeah, you know, that’s one of those things where you go, ‘Well, do you really want to do that?’ Because it’s kind of fun hearing him refer to her, and imagining what she’s like. There were a couple of episodes where you saw over her shoulder – and then I was kind of disappointed in that one fantasy sequence where Ted had hair, that you actually caught a quick shot of my mother, face on … it was very quick. But I was hoping they wouldn’t do that, because, selfishly, in past episodes when I’ve been in my office, there’s a picture of my mother behind me, an 8×10, and that’s actually my real mother. And so I was hoping that if they did ever show her, it would be my real mother that they showed. They got a double that kind of looked like her, but it wasn’t the real thing. So if you ever spot Ted in his office with the picture behind him, that’s my real mom. It’s a real gas. It was a real gas for my mother – she got a huge kick out of it.

How did the role of Ted come about for you? Is it true that it was written with you in mind?
Pretty much. Bill wrote the script and he basically said, ‘Hey, there’s this little part in here, do you want to do it?’ And of course I said yes. We had worked together a few times over the years, and so my guess is that he kind of wrote it with me in mind, as he basically handed the part to me. And I’m pretty sure he wrote The Janitor for Neil Flynn and probably The Todd for Rob Maschio also. It was the easiest job I ever got, you know, in that I didn’t have to audition for it, which was great.

What you’ve done with Ted, how we always know exactly how he’s feeling or what he’s thinking from his facial expressions and small movements or gestures – is it correct to assume you’re a fan of the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, those kinds of comedians who were masters of physical comedy?
Wow, you just named my favorite comedians. You might have left out Laurel and Hardy, but Buster Keaton is my hero and the Marx Brothers are my heroes, so that’s absolutely right. Pretty much everything I’ve ever done is informed by those guys.

You obviously had a lot of input into shaping Ted, then?
Yeah, you know, it’s been great, because I have been able to. And the writers are great at being able to latch on to anything you can bring to it. The stuff that I’ve brought to it over the years, the writers have just kept it all going, from Ted’s pill popping, which I added in an episode early on, to the sweating, which I’ve regretted at times. That first day I said, ‘Okay, I wanna be pale and sweaty.’ And from day one, Ted’s been pale and sweaty. And then I say to my mom, ‘Hey mom, have you seen the show?’ And she says, ‘Oh yeah, you didn’t look well, Sam.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, Mom, that’s the point, but wasn’t I good?’ ‘Well, but you just didn’t look good, Sam.’ Awwwwwww. Yeah, the Ted ‘awwww,’ I’m not sure which came first, whether it was in the script first or whether I said it and the writers jumped on that and kept it going forever.

Is that how The Blanks became a part of the show? Because the group was together before Scrubs, right?
Yeah, that came about because one of the writers, Tim Hobert, who I’d been friends with and who is best friends with Bill Lawrence, had seen me with my quartet, The Blanks. We had been together over the years, singing for fun. And the guy, Paul Perry, who’s in the group and who’s our arranger – he had written this just great version, with original words, to the John Williams Superman theme, from beginning to end, and we kept bugging him, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to arrange that for four voices, it would be a gas.’ And he finally did and we learned it, and we used to sing it at parties. Our friend Tim heard us and said, ‘Bill Lawrence has to hear this.’ So during that first season of Scrubs, there was a Christmas party coming up, and Tim talked Bill into having us perform, and at the party, we sang the Superman song with the ridiculous, funny lyrics, and the writers saw that and said, ‘Oh my God, we have to put that in the show.’ We couldn’t get the rights to do the original lyrics to the John Williams theme, so we ended up doing the Underdog theme instead, but that’s how The Blanks ended up on the show.

Have you had input into which songs the group would sing on the show, or is it usually something the writers come up with to fit into the episode?
Yeah, it’s usually something that they come up with to fit into the episode, but more often than not they’ll ask us, ‘Hey, do you have any ideas for this type of song?’ hoping that we’ll know something already, and hoping that they can get the rights to it. But otherwise, if it’s more plot specific, they’ll say, ‘Okay, it’s got to be a TV theme song, and we’re thinking of this song, this song and this song,’ and we’ll say, ‘Okay, we like The Six Million Dollar Man, let’s do that one.’ And then we have to wait to get the clearance, and we don’t always know which one it’s going to be until the last minute, so often, Paul Perry will have to arrange this stuff in one night and we have a day or two to learn it. It’s very intense, and Paul will usually be up all night the day before we shoot it. But it’s exciting, and it’s a lot of fun, and one of the great by-products of it is that it forces Paul to arrange stuff, and we’ve actually gathered up enough material to put out our first CD, and now we have a live show, too. We’re very excited about an upcoming show we have at Largo in Los Angeles, a very cool, groovy music place. We’re doing a show there Saturday, May 16.

You’re also in a Beatles cover band that performed at Carla and Turk’s wedding?
Yes, that was The Butties. Well, it was The Butties soundtrack, and Ted’s band, The Blanks, was pretending to play it. Paul Perry, The Blanks arranger, is also in The Butties, so he and I were singing, and George and Phillip were just pretending to play drums and guitar in that episode.

So you’ve really had two whole other careers going on, in addition to playing Ted, on Scrubs.
It’s really unbelievable. I’m extremely spoiled in that I’ve gotten to do The Blanks thing, Ted’s band in Scrubs, and The Butties. (Blanks members) Paul and George I grew up with, I went to Syracuse with, and Philip I’ve know (in L.A.) for many years, so I get to hang out with those guys and do that, and then I still have The Butties, which is a full Syracuse family, and I get to be a rock star every summer, when we do an annual gig in Vermont. This year we’re playing July 17 and 18 – we have a Website, TheButties.com. But make sure you put ‘theButties.com’ in there, because if you just put ‘butties.com,’ we can’t be responsible for what you’re going to find on the Web. Those few little letters can make allllll the difference between family-friendly and not.

What’s been your favorite of all of Ted’s musical endeavors on the show? The ‘Hey Ya’ performance at Janitor’s wedding was incredible …
That was so cool! Going into that, we had two songs we were deciding between, the other one being a lesser-known Paul McCartney song called ‘Calico Skies,’ which is a beautiful song, and the ‘Hey Ya’ song. I think Zach Braff had originally found that version of the song. We didn’t make up the acoustic version of it – it was done by Mat Weddle, who’s part of a band called Obadiah Parker. I wish I could say that was our original take on the song, but it was such a cool version, and Bill’s the one who decided to go with that one. I was leaning towards the McCartney song, because that’s the one I was more familiar with. I hadn’t heard that version of ‘Hey Ya’ until we were heading out to the Bahamas to film. So I had to cram and learn it pretty fast, but I’ve gotten so much great response from that song, it’s incredible. I’ve gotten hundreds of e-mails from people talking about it, and that’s just awesome.

You’ve made so many memorable TV appearances, but I have to ask you about my second favorite, after Ted, and that’s Ricky, Elaine’s mannequin-designing admirer on Seinfeld. He’s one of the best guest characters on that show. How did that role come about?
That’s pretty funny. It was a great job because I knew that character like the back of my hand. I had done this great play called The Nerd, by Larry Shue, and that guy on Seinfeld was kind of that guy in The Nerd, and I had been doing him over the years. I have a little act with that kind of character – I can do that guy doing a bunch of different thing s that can take up a lot of time and be ridiculously entertaining. And the name of the character in The Nerd is Rick Steadman, and the Seinfeld character was Ricky, so when that role came up, I thought,’Wow, this might work!’ The character is a little extreme, but I said, ‘What the hell, I’m going to give this a shot,’ and I went in and did that character. At first, they thought it was hysterical, and then as it went on, in some of the later scenes in the audition, I think they were like ‘Do we really want to do this?’ So I was amazed when they actually called up and gave me the part. It was so much fun. Often when you work on a show like that, a half-hour sitcom in front of an audience, the rehearsal is very fast paced and the shooting is very fast paced, but I was very relaxed because I knew this character so well. Things would change often, like whole scenes would change, right up to the last minute, but again, I was relaxed, because I knew the character so well. That guy was so much fun, and doing Seinfeld was a blast.

The nerd character would make a great one-man show.
Yes. I do this guy pretty often. I come from a small town in Vermont called Weston. My parents met there doing summer theater and eventually got married and decided to raise a family there. And so I grew up watching them doing shows on the stage at the theater in Weston. And this theater also has an after-show cabaret, in the cellar, with comedy and music. And I was able to take that guy, that nerdy character, and do some bits with him, some infamously long bits, at the cabaret, which people have cursed me for, but that guy can be amazingly long-winded, and very entertaining. I’ve done things like a game show with him called ‘Who Wants to Be a Person with $6.88?’ and reading original screenplays with him and the audience. And he has a great ventriloquist act with a puppet that’s just teeth and eyes and a tongue … but yes, you can get a lot of mileage out of that character.

What are your plans now, while you’re waiting to hear about the future of Scrubs?
I’m actually doing a play this summer called Fully Committed, at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont, and I’ll be doing the cabaret afterwards, and Ricky might be making a personal appearance. And later in the summer, July 17 and 18, The Butties will be playing in Vermont.

Okay, two more questions to clear up some rumors floating around on the Internet. Yes or no, you are the nephew of the great Back to the Future and Taxi star Christopher Lloyd?
Yes, that is true. Not the son, as some people think, but the nephew.

And the other one – and there’s a debate about this on the message boards at IMDB.com – did you play the guy who’s going to commit suicide in Lethal Weapon?
Ah, no, isn’t that a funny one? But no, that’s not me. I remember seeing something about that, and going, ‘Wow, where did that one come from?’ But I didn’t realize there was a debate going on about it! I have to check that out now.

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