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Let John C. McGinley convince you to watch 'Ground Floor'

If your only reference point for John C. McGinley is Dr. Perry Cox from Scrubs, you don’t even know half the story. A student of New York University’s graduate acting program, McGinley’s career started in theater, and began its meteoric rise when he was discovered and cast in Oliver Stone’s Platoon. He worked consistently in film throughout the 1980s and 1990s, capping off the decade as fan favorite Bob Slydell in the cult classic Office Space.

Much of the 2000s found him stealing the show as the aforementioned Perry Cox. 2013 saw his return to the theater as Dave Moss in Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway, and his return to the small screen as Remington Mansfield on the hidden gem Ground Floor. If you’re not already a fan, he’s about to change your mind.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY COMMUNITY: You famously had to audition for Dr. Cox on Scrubs five times, even though the role was basically written for you. Did you turn the tables on [showrunner] Bill Lawrence for Ground Floor? Was he the one jumping through hoops this time around?

JOHN C. MCGINLEY: Billy offered me Ground Floor right after he came to see Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway, which I was lucky enough to do with Al Pacino, and Bobby Cannavale, and Richard Schiff, these amazing actors, and we had an incredible run … Billy came one night, and he said, “When you’re done with this, would you want to do a live TV show?” He told me, “You can have complete creative autonomy in creating this character.”

Billy never lies, so when he says you can have complete creative autonomy to create the character, he means it. And so I was seduced. I came up with something called the “Mansfield Manifesto,” which I took about three months to write, and it was a document about all things Mansfield. I wanted to provide the writers with a tool that defined who and what this guy was, so we could come out swinging the first season instead of casually slow dancing with this character.

And you gave him notes on Dr. Cox, too, right? You felt that the original version of him was too similar to Dr. Kelso?

I did. Kelso could be the bad guy, but I told him that Cox had to teach with a spoonful of dirt, a spoonful of dirt, and a teaspoon of sugar. There’s got to be something good about this guy; otherwise, he’s just a jackass, and you can get somebody else to play a jackass. I said there has to be something redemptive about him. I have to care about him a little. He can’t just be a bully, because I hate bullies. I feast on bullies. I didn’t want to perpetuate that stereotype. I have no interest in elevating those jackasses. And so Billy, again, took me at face value.

I don’t know how widely known it is that Ground Floor is shot before a live audience.

I always loved when [Norman Lear] was producing All in the Family—they had this disclaimer at the beginning of it, that it was shot before a live studio audience. I’ve asked Billy to do that, but he doesn’t want to do it. You get all these people writing about canned laughter, and I’m like, “Dude, stop with the canned! I’m there! There’s 450 people laughing their asses off! I’ll give you canned!”

A lot of comparisons have been made between the Dr. Cox and Mansfield characters. Let’s talk about their differences.

They’re two authority figures, that’s it. That’s where the similarities stop … The primary difference is that Mansfield’s not afraid to love and be loved. That’s a huge difference!

Last month on Conan, we learned that you can juggle.

That’s how I memorize my lines. After I memorize my lines, I go down to my rehearsal space and I do all the lines while juggling. If I drop a ball, that means I don’t know the line.

Did someone teach you that trick?

Yeah, my first year at NYU grad, there’s a circus class. Which sounds so insane, to be going to a grad school and having circus skills, but … it exposes where you hold your tension, so hopefully once that’s exposed you can do something about it. You can breathe, you can learn what to do. Well, I took that and just applied it to lines … Nothing’s going to be more disconcerting than juggling while you’re saying your lines. Especially if it’s a two-page, single-spaced rant, which, for some reason, I seem to get a lot. Which is fine.

Well, you can pull them off!

I’m so competitive; I don’t want anybody else to get them.

I wanted to talk about your charity work. I understand you’re involved with both the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and the Special Olympics?

I hitched my wagon with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and they’ve just been great. They’re aggressive, and they just are not putting up with any bullsh–, so I love them. And the Special Olympics, we have the World Summer Games coming to Los Angeles this summer. It’ll be about 6,000 athletes. It’s going to be an astonishing event.

And you’re also involved in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.

When we were at the World Winter Games in Boise, almost six years ago now, a component of every World Games is a youth leadership conference. About 200 athletes participate, and they hit ideas around. I was in the auditorium with these athletes, and a lot of them were self-advocates, and some of them were just like, “We’re fed up with the words ‘retard’ and ‘retarded.’ We’re just fed up.” And I was like, “Oh, my God, go with that!”

And so, with the help of Tim Shriver and Soeren Palumbo and a bunch of other phenomenal people at Special Olympics, the athletes and Tim and a couple of us crafted this campaign, Spread the Word to End the Word, that can be accessed on the Special Olympics website, and it just advocates for people to maybe sprinkle 3 milligrams of compassion into their speech.

And for those readers who might not watch Ground Floor yet, let’s try and sell them on it. What’s so great about Ground Floor? Why should people watch?

It’s the funniest comedy on TV that you should be watching, by far. It’s the best written; it has the most vibrant ensemble; it’s laugh out loud funny. If you liked the sensibilities of Scrubs, you’ll love Ground Floor; the same guy invented both. It has the most attractive cast on television.

It feels a little old-fashioned comfort food to me. It’s maybe not as subversive and glib and sardonic as some things that I like, but I’ll take that any day of the week. It’s like Cheers, like Raymond, like Lucy.

When I’m not on stage on Tuesday nights, I’m back in my dressing room getting ready to do the next scene … so when I watch the show on TV with you guys, a lot of times it’s the first time I’ve seen what these guys are doing. Obviously, I’ve seen them in rehearsal, but anybody can rehearse; it’s what you’re going to do in front of the 450 people and four cameras that counts. And so when I watch the show, I’m laughing out loud here. And that feels fantastic, because I’m [a] hard laugh.

If people read that and they’re still not watching, I don’t know what they’re thinking.

I don’t either. I mean, I know it’s on too late on a school night, but just put it on the DVR, who cares? … Plus, I believe in it, and there’s so few things you get to do that you believe in, as far as movies and TV shows go.

We went to Vegas to shoot the finale, which is just a hell of a vote of confidence, to be able to take a show on the road like that, and it was astonishing … Obviously, it isn’t shot live, and it was a single camera. It was a lot like Scrubs. They shot it with a lot of long lenses. It looks beautiful. And all those actors have all done films, so it looks like Ground Floor: The Movie. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. All it made me think was that Turner’s going to want to turn this thing into a single-cam show.

Would you be opposed to that?

I couldn’t care less. But I love, love, love the energy of doing this live on Tuesday nights. It’s an absolute circus … The writers hammer drafts of this thing all week, and then by the time we get to Tuesday night, its pretty good. It’s pretty solid. Some of these things take 10 hours, and they rotate audiences. Ours is about three and a half, and you’re gone. And the energy of the room never seeps out, and it never abates. And the actors are in it, and the audience is in it, and you’re doing this thing on a Tuesday night, and it’s just great.

Recently, Zach Braff shared a selfie with you and Donald Faison on Instagram, which got the Internet hoping for a Scrubs reunion. Can we expect to see any of your Scrubs costars on Ground Floor anytime soon?

My god, I hope so. The answer is yes, but that would have to be season three. And since the die is not yet cast on that, I don’t know.

Ground Floor airs Tuesdays at 10/9C on TBS. Catch up on season two with EW Community’s recaps.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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