Family & Companions
Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated sitcom star and indie actor-writer-director Zach Braff first gained fame from his small-screen breakout role as J.D. on NBC's "Scrubs" (NBC, 2001-08) before coming out of nowhere to win critical acclaim for his big-screen directorial debut on "Garden State" (2004). In addition to writing, directing and acting in his own film, Braff moved on to leading roles on "The Last Kiss" (2006) and "The Ex" (2007). Adept at being both in front of and behind the camera, Braff's comedy chops and everyman quality was often likened to an "Annie Hall"-era Woody Allen or a young Tom Hanks.
Born April 6, 1975 in Red Bank, NJ and raised in South Orange until he was 18, Braff enrolled in an intensive, six-week New York theatrical camp called Stagedoor Manor in the Catskills when he was 11 years old. Through the years, camp attendees had included Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bryce Dallas Howard and future co-star Natalie Portman. He went on to attend Columbia High School in Maplewood and spent time running lines with fellow classmate and then-aspiring actress Lauryn Hill. Other celebrities such as Elizabeth and Andrew Shue, Roy Scheider and producer Joel Silver also attended the same high school.
At age 18, Braff played the son of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in "Manhattan Murder Mystery" (1993). After meticulously memorizing his lines, Braff was directed by Woody Allen to disregard the script and to try and "keep up." The following year, he was cast as a boy posing as a girl to secure a summer job in the CBS Schoolbreak Special presentation, "My Summer as a Girl" (1994). While attending film school at Northwestern University in Illinois, Braff directed the 20-minute short, "Lionel on a Sunday," which went on to screen at various festival competitions. After graduation, Braff was cast in the Public Theater's production of "Macbeth" with a cast featuring Angela Basset and Alec Baldwin. In addition, he took directing gigs on TV commercials and public service announcements and scored roles in a series of independent films including "Getting to Know You" (1999), "Blue Moon" (2000), the mockumentary "Endsville" (2000) and "The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy" (2000).
During a personal downturn, Braff was convinced by his agent to audition for one more TV show in the midst of pilot season. During the audition for "Scrubs," creator Bill Lawrence saw in Braff the potential to bridge the gap between comedy and drama, so he pushed for Braff's casting, even though he was a relative unknown. The actor eventually secured the role of JD Dorian, an offbeat, fresh-faced hospital intern with a penchant for fantasy-sequence musings and pop-philosophy. A one-camera sitcom without the usual laugh-track trappings, "Scrubs" was just unique and clever enough to endear itself to loyal fans who, throughout its run, kept it a solid, if under the radar, hit. At the time of his initial hire, an ecstatic Braff quickly quit his waiting job, only to learn that production would not start for several months. Taking the time to re-evaluate his life, Braff also started writing early drafts of what would become his "Garden State" script.
Braff's leading role as "JD" on "Scrubs" brought him fame and critical acclaim, earning him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. The critical accolades continued with his first directorial debut, "Garden State" (2004) which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Most likely looked at as simply a sitcom star, Braff amazed Hollywood by the emotional depths he reached with both his script and his performance onscreen. The $2.5 million, full-length independent film was picked up for distribution for $5 million and featured Braff's first-choice cast of Natalie Portman, Ian Holm and Peter Sarsgaard. The film - about a young, troubled man who returns home to New Jersey for his grandmother's funeral, only to reconcile with his estranged family and find love with the offbeat Portman - continued to reap awards, including an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, a Best New Director Nod from the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, a Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media - in which Braff served as a compilation producer. The soundtrack, in and of itself, was a success, selling over a million copies. At the end of the day, his feature film "baby" put Braff in a whole new strata in the eyes of Hollywood dealmakers.
The following year, Braff did voiceover work for Disney's CGI-animated "Chicken Little" (2005). He also landed the lead role of Michael in "Last Kiss" - a man who faces an early midlife crisis and the dilemma of choosing to settle with his pregnant girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett) or to have a fling with an equally beautiful college girl (Rachel Bilson). During production, Braff was given a chance to tweak his dialogue and even add jokes on Paul Haggis's adaptation of the popular Italian movie "L'Ultimo Bacio" (2001).
In his third major film foray, "The Ex," Braff landed the role of Tom - a devoted husband who must take on the new role of breadwinner after his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) becomes pregnant and decides to step down from her high salary job. To complicate matters, Tom must adjust to a new job and contend with Chip (Jason Bateman) - his wife's former classmate who has held a torch for her since high school and seems intent on sabotaging their relationship - despite the fact that he is a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. The somewhat twisted comedy opened wide during the first month of the 2007 summer movie season, going up against such surefire hits as "Spiderman 3" (2007) and "28 Weeks Later" (2007).
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Made feature film debut playing Woody Allen and Diane Keaton's son in "Manhattan Murder Mystery"
Played gender-bending main character in "CBS Schoolbreak Special" presentation "My Summer As a Girl"
Made 20-minute student video short "Lionel on a Sunday"
Cast as Fleance in the Public Theater's production of "Macbeth," starring Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin
Played Heather Matarazzo's protective brother in independent feature "Getting to Know You"
Appeared in independent fantasy feature "Blue Moon"
Featured in mockumentary "Endsville"
Co-starred as party boy Benji in gay-themed ensemble feature "The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy"
Played fresh-faced intern J.D. Dorian on medical comedy "Scrubs" (NBC)
Made feature directing and writing debut with "Garden State"; also starred with Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard
Portrayed a man struggling with commitment in "The Last Kiss," directed by Tony Goldwyn and scripted by Paul Haggis
Co-starred with Amanda Peet and Jason Bateman in comedy "The Ex"
Starred in Canadian indie film "The High Cost of Living" with Isabelle Blais
Played lead in "Trust" at the Second Stage Theatre in New York
Made debut as a theater writer with "All New People," performed at the Second Stage Theatre
Voiced Finley the Flying Monkey and played circus assistant Frank in fantasy adventure "Oz the Great and Powerful" opposite James Franco in title role