Thursday, 15 May 2008


Sam Lloyd is probably the most important revelation in the comedy genre in the US since the golden years of the Comedy Store club and the first seasons of Saturday Night Live. His humor, poetic with a dose of causticity, and his fabulous voice make wonders in the Scrubs tv series - where he is Ted Buckland, the singing lawyer.

With your mother, your father and your uncle being respected actors was acting a natural choice of life or did you ever consider to choose another career ?

Sam Lloyd : It was a natural choice. I was born into a theatrical environment. I don't remember the specific moment I made the choice, I just figured all along that that was what I would do. If I ever did think of another career, it would have been in music.

What was your course at the Syracuse University?

Sam Lloyd : I majored in musical-theatre.

According to you, what was the most important thing you learned there that you still use today in your professional or personal life?

Sam Lloyd : To use my imagination.

What was your first acting experience?

Sam Lloyd : My mother created and directed a children's theatre group called « The Green Mountain Trolls » in my hometown. My first role was a baby rat in The Pied Piper when I was 3 years old. I had just stopped wearing diapers, but because I was the « baby » rat I had to wear diapers as part of the costume.

I was very upset with my mother for making me wear them. After all, I was a big boy who no longer needed to wear diapers. I still haven't forgiven her for the humiliation (I'm only partly kidding).

Could you explain to our readers what is the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company?

Sam Lloyd : It's a summer theatre company in the very small and beautiful New England town of Weston, Vermont. And without it I wouldn't be here. My parents met there doing summer theatre in the 50's when the road leading into town was still a dirt road. They eventually moved to Weston full time and raised the family.

Over the years the Playhouse has grown into a fantastic and respected theatre with onstage and behind the scenes talent coming from Broadway, and professional theatres in Chicago, Los Angeles, and places in between. And the road leading into town is now paved.

Your work for television is well-known. Before getting the role of Ted the lawyer in Scrubs you did appear in numerous notable situation comedies (Night Court, Seinfeld, Mad about you...) Are sitcoms a very natural transition from live comedy theatre, as these shows are rehearsed before an audience? Do you prepare your work the same way?

Sam Lloyd : Yes, sitcoms really are a natural transition. You don't need to project as much vocally or be as « big » as in live theatre but delivering a joke in front of a live audience is just the same.

In your filmography we can find Rising Sun (1993). What was your part in this movie and can you talk to us about the shooting of your scenes in this adaptation from a Michael Crichton's best-seller?

Sam Lloyd : The part I played wasn't specifically in the book. In the film I was one of the two computer-nerd owners of the company that the Japanese business group wanted to buy. We were kind of the « Rosencrantz and Guildenstern » of the movie because we were in the center of the action, but we didn't really know what the heck was going on around us. Peter Crombie was the Guildenstern to my Rosencrantz and we had a great time shooting. We were very excited to be working with Sean Connery, who was everything I had hoped he would be: funny, kind, professional, and pretty darn cool.

The shooting of the scene where Peter and I enter the high-rise building for the big party was amazing. They shut down a whole block of downtown Los Angeles and had spotlights and rain machines set up - very Hollywood.

Rising Sun was really a great project to be part of, working with Philip Kaufman, Peter Kaufman, Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes, and it was the biggest movie I had done to date.

Your character of Ted Buckland in Scrubs is the perfect demonstration of the vast scope of your talents. He can be funny, sensible and poetic sometimes at the same time and he's expressive even when he's mute. He also sings (we'll talk of that point later).

How were you chosen by Bill Lawrence (the series'creator and executive producer) to play Ted and how did you made him this wonderful, nice and almost lunar character we are familiar with?

Sam Lloyd : I had worked with Bill over the years. He basically wrote the part with me in mind and offered it to me (if only this happened more often!) I've worked hard to give Ted a point of view and a soul, so people understand him, but also learn something new about him. I didn't want him to be just a one-dimensional character, which is a danger when a character's function is to deliver a couple quick gags in a show.

You seem to share with your uncle, Christopher Lloyd, a poetic humor which doesn't excludes causticity. Who are your references, your models, in the Pantheon of comedians? Beyond comedy who are your favorite actors?

Sam Lloyd : My father took us to revivals of Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and Charlie Chaplin films when I was very young. I also grew up watching Peter Sellers, Monty Python, and Gene Wilder. They were all my models.

Later I discovered Buster Keaton and he quickly became an obsession. There are bits of all of them in everything I do. Sometimes I'm not even aware of it until someone points it out to me. Jimmy Stuart is also a major influence. Other favourite actors not necessarily associated with comedy are Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, and Jack Nicholson.

French corollary, when we observe and admire your work we think immediately of Jacques Tati, the french comedian and director (creator of the immortal Monsieur Hulot). Do you know his work?

Sam Lloyd : I am a big fan of Jacques Tati. My mother had seen Monsieur Hulot's Holiday when it was first released in the US and as soon as it was available on video she showed it to me.

He made a huge impression. He does so much with very little words, but in a real and understated manner. I try to do the same thing.

In 2003 you were aspirant actor Sam Peliczowski in Fully Committed, for the Weston Playhouse Theatre...

Sam Lloyd : Fully Committed is a one-man show. The character of Sam is a reservationist at a fancy New York restaurant (he answers the phone and takes reservations for the eatery). The trick and challenge of the play is that the actor playing Sam also plays the cook, the maitre-d, the hostess, and every person on the phone! Over 35 parts in all. It was extremely challenging.

Beside Fully Committed, what have you done on stage?

Sam Lloyd : I've done a bunch over the years, but my two favourites were The Nerd by Larry Shue and The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam. The Nerd is an extremely funny (if light) play. The character I developed for the nerd is what I used for the part I played on Seinfeld.

The Mystery of Irma Vep is a two-person show where the actors play about three roles a piece. It's the most purely theatrical show I've ever done. It involves progressively faster and more elaborate quick changes (some in under 10 seconds), as well as other stage tricks. The audience would actually gasp at times.

It was also very, very funny. I played a cockney stable-hand with a wooden leg that eventually turns into a werewolf in front of the audience, as well as the leading lady! I looked better as the werewolf.

You are the member of an extraordinary a capella group called The Blanks. We can hear you in the Scrubs tv-series with Philip McNiven, George Miserlis and Paul Perry as... the a capella group of Ted Buckland. Your versions of the Charles in Charge and The Six Million dollar Man themes are considered cult-classics and are available (with other titles) on a CD.

How was born The Blanks? How did the group integrate the series?

Sam Lloyd : George, Paul and I became great friends at the Syracuse University theatre department. A few years after I came out to LA they followed. George was involved with the musical Forever Plaid that was about a singing quartet and he had a connection with an agent that was looking to book a similar act. We quickly put an act together with Philip who George had met while taking classes at The Second City improv group in LA.

It didn't work out with the agent, but we kept singing over the years just for fun. At the Scrubs first season Christmas party I asked if the group could provide some entertainment and sing a song. The best song we performed at the time was - and probably still is - the John Williams Superman Movie Theme. Paul transcribed it for four voices and wrote some wonderful original lyrics.

We sang it for the party, the producers loved it and they immediately decided to put the group in the show. In the first episode with The Blanks we were supposed to sing the Superman Movie Theme but they couldn't get the rights. The Underdog Theme was the backup plan and that's what we ended up doing on the show.

You are a regular contributor of an original artistic and creative approach with your participation to the Instant Films Group » in Los Angeles. What is exactly Instant Films? Can you talk to us about the short films on which you work for them.

Sam Lloyd : What happens is about eight writers get together on a Friday night. They each randomly pick an adjective and a noun written on slips of paper out of a paper bag. They then go off and have until 8:00AM on Saturday to bring a completed script of about 8-10 pages based on those two words to a group of directors and actors. The directors pull one of the writers'names out of a paper bag - their script is the one the director will direct. Then they pull the actors names out of a paper bag -they will be the cast.

The directors and actors have until Sunday night at 8:00 to have a completed film and it is screened immediately. It's very exhausting, but very exciting. I've done about seven or eight films over the past couple years.

Amazingly the casting is almost always perfect. Some of the roles I've played have been a stalker, an actor in a zombie movie mockumentary, an actor in a porn film mockumentary, and a man in rehab because he multi-tasks too much.

You have worked with Christopher Atkins, Matt Walsh and David Holcomb on a short called He's a man for Instant Films. What are the origins of this project? What is the story?

Sam Lloyd : I don't remember the adjective, but I know the noun the writer picked was « hug ». It was about a group of guys who get together to watch a football game, and end up competing to see who gives the best hug. It was great fun.

After the films are screened there is actually an instant awards ceremony. Everyone in the audience votes and the winners are announced at the reception. We won the best cast award for He's a Man

As an actor what do you enjoy in making short films? Comic shorts are now very appreciated in France, especially on TV. Is it the ideal format for comedy?

Sam Lloyd : I love making short films. The characters need to be very well defined because the audience has to understand them right away. I actually produced and acted in a short film a few years ago called Waiting for Go. It won the Canal+ Award at the Clermont Ferrand Film Festival in France, and was shown on TV in France and other countries in Europe.

It was about two men in a car trying to get through an intersection, but the light doesn't cooperate. I was also lucky enough to act in two short films that made it into the Sundance Film Festival last year (Cry For Help and Spelling B). I made short films as a boy with a Super 8 movie camera, so I would have a hard time arguing that they aren't the ideal format for comedy. Brevity and comedy go well together.

You are now a recurring on Desperate Housewives, one of the latest succesful entries of network television. How did you join this series? What is your role in it?

Sam Lloyd : I don't know if I was called in to audition by the casting director/producers or if my agent got me in the door. But the head producer Marc Cherry was familiar with my work on the West Wing, and one of the other producers had written on a sitcom I had done years earlier with Valerie Harper called City. I think they thought I would be a good fit for the show because I've played both comedy and drama, which fits for Desperate Housewives. My character is Dr. Albert Goldfine - a marriage therapist.

What is your definition of an effective comic situation?

Sam Lloyd : One that makes you laugh!

On what are you working currently and what are your projects?

Sam Lloyd : Scrubs just wrapped for the season. Currently I'm working with The Blanks on our live stage show. We've performed it a couple times, but we're still fine-tuning. We do everything from our CD (available at!) with some extra songs and a lot of comedy. In late June I'll head home to Weston, Vermont to see family and work at the Playhouse. Because of my schedule I won't be able to perform in a play, but I'll perform part time in the after-hours cabaret.

Then my Beatles cover band, The Butties, will perform the 23rd of July in Vermont. We're not a Beatles « tribute » band - we don't dress up, wear wigs, or talk in Liverpool accents - we just play their music very faithfully. I can't wait for that, we've been together since Syracuse. Two of us live in New York and two live in LA but we get together at least a couple times a year. The Vermont gig has turned into a big event in the area.

One other member of the Blanks, Paul Perry, is also in the Butties with me. In fact, in last year's finale of Scrubs, when Ted's band plays Eight Days a Week by the Beatles, it's actually a recording by the Butties. The Butties also had a song (Joy to the World) on the soundtrack of the movie Christmas with the Kranks.

After the Vermont gig I'll head back here to LA and start another season on Scrubs, and hopefully the Desperate Housewives will still need therapy.

(Interview done in 2005)

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