Each week, John C. McGinley faces the beast: the monstrous, words-popping-out-of-his-ears-nose-and-throat monologue that he must wrestle into submission as Dr. Perry Cox on NBC’s hit comedy “Scrubs.”
“Seventy movies, everything I’ve done, added up to me doing these rants,” McGinley says. “Nothing ever was more challenging than these rants they give me. That being said, nothing’s more fun than when you nail them.”
Of course, each time McGinley pins one down, “Scrubs” executive producer Bill Lawrence unleashes a greater terror. But McGinley hasn’t backed down. “I feel like Rocky Balboa,” hey says. “I feel like going, ‘Is that all you got?'”
The monologues are actually precious cargo that have helped make Cox McGinley’s first role as a primetime series regular after 20 years in theater and film. His bigscreen credits range from Oscar winner “Platoon” to low-budget laffer and cult favorite “Office Space.”
McGinley so owns Cox that the part seems written for him, but the New York-born actor says his movie resume offered him no shortcuts bypassing auditions and callbacks. However, once McGinley won the role he describes as “a collection of damaged goods,” Lawrence welcomed his input.
“I thought (Cox) had to depart from a place of love so that he could teach these kids, so that he could be a pragmatic taskmaster,” McGinley says. “The only way I thought he could do that was a la Lou Grant in ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ with a spoonful of dirt and a cup of sugar.
“Every once in a blue moon, they give (Cox) a peek into redemption, and then he slams it shut and goes back to being the boss from hell.”
McGinley also lauds Christa Miller’s portrayal of Cox’s ex-wife, Jordan, for ratcheting up the lovable torture that engulfs Cox and makes his part even meatier.
However, ask McGinley what his greatest role is and he’ll give you a very un-Cox like answer: father to his 6-year-old son, Max, who has Down syndrome. The actor also assists the community as national spokesman for the National Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walks.
McGinley has found a second calling in fatherhood. Indeed, the biggest piece of advice John C. McGinley has for Perry Cox is this: Get involved with your kid’s life. Go home.
“Because he’s never home,” McGinley says. “He’s had more time working with (the doctors) at work than he does with his child at home. He hasn’t been able to distinguish what’s gonna yield the most dividends. It’s gonna be his son, not those jackasses.”
Best part about working in TV: “Being able to have a boss like Billy Lawrence. I just can’t imagine someone in my peer group working harder and leading by example.”
Hardest part about working in TV: “Saying no to movies. It’s sometimes a real ego bender, the what-ifs of that. But I don’t have any regrets.”
Favorite scene this season: The second act of the episode in which his brother-in-law, played by Brendan Fraser, dies. “Cox was seeing a ghost for the whole second act. I thought on the page it was good, but I didn’t know we could elevate the text. The best thing we’ve done in three years.”
Favorite TV shows: “The West Wing” — “I think John Spencer is the best actor on television. If baseball’s on, I’m watching it, and I don’t care who.”