In 1991, a young black actor gleefully pours his brother, who is arriving home from the army, a boiling hot cup of Folgers coffee. The corny Folgers commercial, one of Donald Faison’s first on-screen appearances, gave a first glimpse into his knack for comedy, over-the-top enthusiasm and just plain likability. Faison would go on to star as braces-wearing, too-cool-for-school Murray Duvall in the 1995 film “Clueless” and as JD’s (Zach Braff) bromantic “blerd” — black nerd — as Christopher Turk on “Scrubs.” Whether as the kid selling us Folgers or as Murray or Turk, Faison makes you want to be his friend. His charisma is no act — Faison is just as cool and funny as the characters he plays. And now, in his latest endeavor, Faison brings his charm to Phil Chase, a lady-player divorcee and sports agent on TV Land’s sitcom “The Exes,” which will premiere its third season in June.
On sitcoms today: I grew up on “The Cosby Show” … whatever came on Thursday nights on NBC, the four-camera sitcom — the traditional sitcom. It’s familiar to me. I think everyone should feel like they can watch, in some ways, a play on television with subject matter that relates to the demographic … I think there’s always room for a sitcom. I think people should always be able to watch a show like “The Exes” or a show like “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “Hot in Cleveland.”
On the Folgers commercial: I think I was 12 years old when I did that. Was it my big break? It wasn’t as big as I thought it was … I told my mom I wanted to be an actor, and she went out, as a good mom does, and helped me get an agent. My agent got me that audition, and I went out and got the part. It was a big deal for me because I felt like I was really acting. For me at the time, it was huge … I don’t think it was the one that (started my career). Maybe somebody back then subconsciously or accidently saw me … and it triggered something. I doubt it, but it’s possible. I mean, anything’s possible.
On his favorite “Scrubs” jokes: A lot of the sense of humor is myself and Zach’s and Bill’s (the creator, a producer, writer and director for “Scrubs.”) … The three of us laughed at the same stuff and thought that the jokes we were telling were funny. There’s something to be said for that, whether anyone else laughed at them or not. We had the same sense of humor, so because of that, we weren’t afraid to tell our jokes … I got to be myself on camera a lot while doing “Scrubs” because I got to work with Bill, and he would encourage me to do that, and Zach would encourage me to do that. We encouraged each other to be who we were off camera. Because we thought we were so funny off camera … I’m a “blerd.” That’s a joke that came out of “Scrubs” and me actually loving “Star Wars” and me being black … I think “brinner” came from us going out one night and me ordering pancakes when everyone else got dinner. I honestly believe that Zach and I created the word “bromance,” or at least the idea of a “bromance.” But I’m sure Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. and Starsky and Hutch will disagree.
On pranks on set: They tried to prank me on “The Exes,” but it kind of didn’t work … They tried, and I’m going to be honest with you — I’m bragging right now, and I shouldn’t, because this is how it comes back to bite you in the butt — I’m always looking out for it now. Especially after I punked Zach Braff when we were doing “Scrubs.” He had just bought a Porsche 911. I got a bunch of kids to spray paint his car. He went apeshit, and we got it all on camera.
Contact Anna Carey at [email protected].