Born in 1975, Zach Braff grew up in New Jersey and began acting at an early age. He got his first acting job on a TV pilot at age 14, with his first film role coming a few years later. After graduating from Northwestern University's film school, Braff returned to acting, appearing in several small movies. His big break came in 2001 when he landed one of the lead roles on the TV comedy Scrubs. The show was a hit, and Braff became a household name. This success led to others, such as his writing, directing and starring in Garden State, a critically acclaimed indie film, and landing a role in 2013's big-budget movie Oz the Great and Powerful.
Born in South Orange, New Jersey, on April 6, 1975, Zach Braff began acting at an early age. When he was 11, his parents enrolled him in an upstate New York theatrical camp called Stagedoor Manor. (The camp has produced a number of well-known actors over the years, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr. and Natalie Portman.) The camp allowed Braff to hit the ground running in the acting world, as he was spotted by a talent manager and was soon regularly going on auditions.
Braff's first role came when he was 14, in a TV pilot for a show called High, where he played opposite Gwyneth Paltrow. The show never made it to the air, but three years later Braff caught a good break, landing the part of Woody Allen's son in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). The film was popular with critics and audiences, and Braff's appearance gave him wider visibility. The following year, Braff starred in the TV movie My Life as a Girl, but he soon took a break from acting to attend Northwestern University's film school in Chicago. Before graduating with a bachelor's degree, he wrote and directed a number of short films, giving him experience that would lay the groundwork for later writing and directing duties.
Full-time Acting and the Big Break
Braff returned to acting in 1999 with a lead role in the independent film Getting to Know You, and a string of roles in films such as Endsville, Blue Moon and Broken Hearts Club followed in 2000. What followed the next year, Braff likely never saw coming. He was cast as Dr. John "J.D." Dorian, the main character on the new medical comedy series Scrubs. The show was an instant hit, proving to be Braff's big break and launchpad to fame.
The show began airing in fall 2001 and left the air in spring 2010, making Braff a household name along the way. He developed his behind-the-camera skills on Scrubs as well, directing several episodes and serving as the show's executive producer in its final seasons. Scrubs also allowed him to exercise his creative impulse for filmmaking, and in 2004 Garden State, a film he wrote, directed and starred in, was released. The film debuted at Sundance and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the Drama category.
Braff soon moved on to leading roles in films such as the animated Chicken Little (2005), The Last Kiss (2006) and The Ex (2007); did voiceover work for video games in the Chicken Little and Kingdom Hearts franchises; and appeared on other TV shows, such as Arrested Development and the Web-based Scrubs spinoff, Scrubs: Interns.
As his career advanced, the movie roles became more frequent, and 2013 proved to be a big year for the actor. He landed the part(s) of Frank/Findlay in the blockbuster megabudget Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful. The film made $80 million its opening weekend and provided Braff with yet another platform for his acting chops.
Among other notable events in Braff's life, he has appeared as Romeo in Shakespeare-on-the-Sound's production of Romeo and Juliet and at New York's Public Theater in Macbeth, with the all-star cast of Alec Baldwin, Angela Bassett and Liev Schreiber.
And oddly, after a widespread rumor about his death made the rounds on the Internet in 2009, he was compelled to post a video on YouTube to prove he was, in fact, still alive and well.
Braff was also nominated for three Golden Globes and an Emmy for his work on Scrubs and won a Grammy in 2004 for the soundtrack for Garden State.
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