Two longtime television colleagues are scrubbing in again as they launch a new series.
John C. McGinley worked with executive producer Bill Lawrence for nine seasons as the caustic Dr. Perry Cox on the hospital sitcom “Scrubs.” Now the actor plays another slightly off-center mentor as Mr. Mansfield, the self-impressed boss of young bankers in “Ground Floor,” a new comedy co-created by Lawrence that premieres with two episodes Thursday, Nov. 14, on TBS.
“When Billy called me up about this, I was just coming off ’42,’ ” the perpetually busy McGinley tells Zap2it, “and I was happily reintegrating myself into doing films. I told him that having had one of the premium experiences of my life, doing the nine years on ‘Scrubs’ and playing such a damaged and delicious character, I was pretty gun-shy about going back in that pool. And Billy just broke it down for me and told me how different he wanted to make Mansfield, and I was seduced.”
Foremost among Mansfield’s minions is Brody (Skylar Astin, “Pitch Perfect”), who’s shocked to discover his one-night stand Jennifer (Briga Heelan, who also has worked for Lawrence on the TBS-transplanted “Cougar Town” and NBC’s upcoming “Undateable”) works in the bank building’s maintenance department. After early missteps, they try for a full-fledged romance despite often discouraging words from their respective colleagues.
Lawrence created “Ground Floor” with fellow sitcom veteran Greg Malins (“Friends,” “How I Met Your Mother”). “This is the only show I’ve done where the leads are all people we brought to the network and said, ‘These are the people the parts are tailored to,’ ” Lawrence says. “Those didn’t end up being open cattle calls; those ended up being, ‘I wonder if anybody can beat the people we had in mind in the first place.’ Nobody did.”
Moving the Courteney Cox-starring “Cougar Town” from ABC to TBS — where it will get a fifth season next year — likely didn’t hurt Lawrence in placing “Ground Floor” there, too. It was developed for CBS, which ultimately “wasn’t interested in making it,” according to Lawrence, but he adds TBS “got their hands on the script and liked it, and they were really aggressive in trying to get us to let them go ahead and do the show.”
A bonus is that Lawrence is happier with the title than he’s been with “Cougar Town,” famously: “We just obsessed and obsessed until we got something where we could say, ‘No matter what happens, we doubt anybody can make a pun from how much they dislike the show from the title.’ “
Several renowned actors were specific touchstones for McGinley’s “Ground Floor” work. “I pulled a lot from what Jason Robards did in ‘All the President’s Men,’” he reports, “and from a bunch of different George C. Scott movies and from different Lee J. Cobb movies. I’m kind of a cinema geek, and I didn’t know any of those three actors, but I hero-worship them.”
McGinley has had the same sort of sustained relationship in movies with Oliver Stone — who directed him in “Platoon” and “Wall Street” — as he has in TV with Lawrence. “They have impacted my life more profoundly than anyone else but my father,” he confirms. “It’s been a big deal to me to have been included in six of Oliver’s films and 192 of Billy’s episodes of ‘Scrubs.’ To be able to even say that kind of blows my mind.”