The Transformation Of Zach Braff From 26 To 46 Years Old

While actor Zach Braff has been out of the spotlight these days, he still remains a favorite of early 2000s fans. That's because the New Jersey native starred in the long-running comedy "Scrubs," which ran from 2001 to 2010. The show still resonates with fans today, so much so that during 2020's COVID-19 lockdown, Braff created a podcast about "Scrubs" with his former costar and current best friend, Donald Faison. 

Braff spoke about the podcast and the huge following the TV show has to The Hollywood Reporter, saying, "Really, the podcast is the greatest thing that's happened. We got approached about doing it months before the quarantine. Really, about doing anything 'Scrubs' because the fan base is amazing and international." He also discussed how his friendship with Faison helped inspire the podcast. "I thought, 'If Donald and I just do it the way we talk on the phone, where we're sharing anecdotes and we're laughing and we use the episodes of "Scrubs" as a rough spine to dance around and then just kind of riff, it could work.'" 

Apparently, it did work, and fans love reminiscing with the two actors. Braff even shared, "The fact that so many people are enjoying it, it's given Donald and I both a dose of serotonin. People write these comments like, 'Oh, this bit of nostalgia is the thing that's cheering me up.'" Yet Braff is more than just a podcaster. The actor, writer, and director has had a long career in Hollywood, so let's break it down.

Zach Braff got his big break at age 26 in 'Scrubs'

It's safe to say that Zach Braff is best known for his role as "J.D." in the medical comedy "Scrubs." Braff landed the role in the TV series in 2001 when he was around 26-years-old. While Braff had landed roles before, including in the movie "The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy," it was really "Scrubs" that launched Braff into stardom. 

Braff revealed he had to audition for the show twice. He told The Hollywood Reporter, "I wasn't prepared at all. They sent it out to the producers but I didn't get a call back and thought that was that. Then I came back to Los Angeles and my agent told me they still hadn't found the right guy." He continued, "I assumed hadn't even noticed me before because I'd done such a bad job. So, why not go in and try again because they won't even know. This time around, though, I actually read the script and memorized my lines."

However, "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence knew Braff was right for the role. He divulged, "He was instinctively funny and perfect for the role of a young, caring doctor in way over his head because Zach was a young, sensitive actor in way over his head when it came to being the lead of a show." Braff went on to be nominated for an Emmy award and three Golden Globes awards for his work on the show, which lasted nine seasons.

Zach Braff released 'Garden State' at age 29

Zach Braff became more than just a lovable TV doctor in 2004, when he starred in, wrote, and directed the hit movie "Garden State." Braff not only became an indie heartthrob but proved that he could be more than just a sitcom star. According to The Washington Post, the film went on to gross $26.7 million domestically, sold countless DVDs (when those were a thing), and even earned an Independent Spirit Award, as well as a Grammy for its soundtrack. Braff said to the Post in 2014, "I didn't know that 'Garden State' would be this astronomical hit." 

Braff recalled what it was like when his film premiered at Sundance, saying to Bustle in 2016, "I went to the back of the house as the movie started, and I just started crying." He added, "The word of mouth for 'Garden State' was so rampant in that it was the thing everyone was talking about."

Yet these days, "Garden State" has received some criticism for being "emo" and perpetuating the "manic pixie dream girl" trope. Braff responded to the judgment, saying to Bustle, "I think that manic pixie dream girl has obviously gotten some snark to it, and I understand the critique. But all I can say is I was a 25-year-old guy who was writing what he dreamed would happen: a woman would come along and save him from himself." He added, "It inspired a trend of certain movies, and people got sick of those types of movies."

Zach Braff broke up with Mandy Moore at age 31

Between 2004 and 2006, actor Zach Braff was in a high-profile relationship with Hollywood star Mandy Moore. The couple went public with their relationship at the 2006 Golden Globes. At the time, Moore told Cosmopolitan, "I thought people knew we were dating and just knew we were quiet about it. We'd been photographed together before." 

The "This Is Us" star also gushed about her then-boyfriend, saying, "It's just nice to be with anyone who's supportive of what you do and proud of you and respects you and respects your work. I feel lucky to be with someone who's like that." Unfortunately, the relationship didn't last through that year, and the two split in late 2006. According to InStyle, Moore called her breakup Braff "icing on a "really bad cake. The burned cake." 

As for Braff, he remained mum on his love life in 2006, but years later in 2014, he didn't hold back when discussing that time with Moore. When asked about dating other celebrities, Braff revealed to Howard Stern, "Remember, I did that once before when I dated Mandy Moore and it was not a good — I didn't like it." He added, "When you date another famous person, that's when they really hound you. That's when the paparazzi are outside your house, and that's when you can't ride your bike through Manhattan because they follow you." Braff apparently changed his mind about dating celebrities, though, as he's now with another young star, Florence Pugh.

Zach Braff wrote and directed another movie at age 39

About a decade after the success of "Garden State," Zach Braff wrote and directed another film in which he starred, "Wish I Was Here." He explained why he waited so long in between movies, telling The Aquarian, "It was just so hard. I tried my best, but I didn't want to put out a picture that I wouldn't want to put my name on." He added, "I didn't want to let my fans down."

Braff also explained to Time in 2009 that it was hard to make time for writing films while he was starring on "Scrubs." He added that it ended up being a reason why he left the show. He revealed, "I really wanted to write and make more films, and I hadn't had a chance to do that. And also meeting on certain films to direct things I haven't necessarily written." He continued, "What I'd really like to do is make another movie because I really enjoyed it."

While "Wish I Was Here" wasn't as popular as "Garden State," it did make headlines for how Braff chose to fund the movie: through a Kickstarter campaign. In fact, Braff received criticism for this method, and he told Screen Daily in 2014 that the backlash was "unfair and uninformed." He added that he was "completely taken aback" and that it "was not an attempt to make a lot of money," but "was always meant to be a really fun art experiment."

At age 45, Zach Braff cared for Nick Cordero's family

Besides being a respected actor, director and writer, Zach Braff is also an incredible friend. In 2020, he helped support Broadway star Nick Cordero and his family, as Cordero fought COVID-19 in the hospital. At the time, Braff told The Hollywood Reporter, "One of my best friends in the world, Nick Cordero, and his wife and baby have been living in my guest house for seven months as they were house-shopping in L.A. to make the move out here."

Cordero died from COVID-19 complications that same year, but Braff will always stay true to a promise he made him. He revealed to People, "He said, 'Please look out for Amanda [Kloots] and Elvis. And I promised that I'm going to do that for the rest of my life." Kloots praised Braff on her Instagram, writing in a post, "During Nicks hospital battle he even welcomed my family into that home so Elvis and I weren't alone... The love and friendship runs deep between us."

These days, Braff is making headlines for his relationship with "Little Women" star Florence Pugh, who is 21 years younger than him. In 2020, Pugh posted an Instagram video defending their relationship where she said, "I do not need you to tell me who I should and should not love." As for Braff, his fans appear to love him as well and have stayed loyal to him by continuing to watch his indie films and, of course, reruns of "Scrubs."