’42’ Star John C. McGinley Talks Playing Red Barber, His Scrubs ‘Family,’ And Returning To TV

You probably know John. C. McGinley as the prickly but lovable Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs, Sergeant Red O’Neill in Oliver Stone’s Platoon, or consultant/Michael Bolton fan, Bob Slydell, in Office Space. The screen and stage veteran has also appeared in classics like Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July and The Rock, to name a few.

The versatile McGinley recently took on the role of iconic radio broadcaster, Red Barber, in the story of Jackie Robinson’s heroic road to the Brooklyn Dodgers, 42. The film, which chronicles the game-changing and epic movement in baseball’s history, also stars Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman and is available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download July 16th.

Celebuzz had the chance to chat with John about playing Red, what 42 means to today’s audiences, Scrubs memories, and more.

John told us how he came to be a part of telling Jackie Robinson story, saying, “I read the script. I’m too old to play the baseball players, that ship kind of sailed unfortunately. I got the memo and so I tried to figure out where I could fit into this movie. I thought maybe I could take a shot at Red. So, I auditioned for it and I got it.”

But how did he capture the unique cadence and descriptive language of the legendary Barber?

He explains, “After I met with the writer/director Brian Helgeland, he issued me about 8 or 9 World Series broadcast CDs. And I have a rehearsal space down here that I call the laboratory. So, I took him down to the laboratory and I just kind of obsessed out on this guy’s broadcast for almost 6 weeks, which is a little silly, but it was a really alien sound to my ear and I figured out why after I read so much about him.”


Director Brian Helgeland, Chadwick Boseman (42’s Jackie Robinson), and John C. McGinley pictured, above, at Dodger’s Stadium movie night, July 13th.

John, a baseball fan who admits he “bleeds New York Yankee Blue” also revealed that sports broadcasting very well may have been an alternate career path for him.

“I went to Syracuse for a year up in Newhouse and then I realized that seemed like a way station towards being an actor. But yeah, I very much wanted to be Howard Cosell and I very much wanted to be Mel Allen and these iconic voices that really just consumed so much media when I was a kid and all of these sports. I wanted to be those guys.”

When we asked John why it was so important for a younger generation to know about Jackie’s plight, he explained, “I think anytime we can either be reminded or introduced to pioneers of anything, whether it’s the civil rights movement or people advocating for populations with special needs then that’s an invitation that I think we should gladly accept.”

McGinley is perhaps best known for his role as Dr. Cox in the longrunning hospital sit-com, Scrubs. And while he played the role for nine seasons and looks back fondly, he explained why he doesn’t exactly miss it.

“I think if you don’t get something out of your system in 200 episodes, you didn’t get the memo. That was the greatest run ever, you don’t get to do anything for 9 years ’cause the plug always gets pulled. So, do I miss playing Dr. Cox? I don’t know, in some ways. But in other ways, I wrung that towel up pretty good.”

He still calls Cox his most challenging job ever. Why? “Keeping it fresh, and the amount of volume of text that they would fly. 3 pages single spaced, we’re going to shoot this is 25 minutes. Once a week, they would slide those massive rants underneath my door and it was beyond challenging,” he said of the acclaimed role.

He also told us he keeps up with his Scrubs cast, which included Zach Braff and Donald Faison.

“Yeah, Zachy. I see Zachy around. I talk to Donald every once in awhile. Kenny Jenkins and I remained friends. We just did a fundraiser for Sarah [Chalke]. So yeah, sure. Look, that fact of the matter is, if you work 5 to 14 hours a day, which is what Scrubs was you spend much more time with that ensemble of actors that you do your family. Just, there’s only so many hours in a day. And so, if you sleep in 8 or 6, the show for 14, there’s not much time for your family. They become your de facto family for 9 years.”

One of John’s latest projects comes from Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence, a new series picked up by TBS called Ground Floor. It also stars Pitch Perfect star Skylar Astin, who John said “crushed it.”

“I’m happy to be doing something in front of a live audience. It’s so juicy,” he told us of his return to the small screen.

McGinley has over 75 acting credits to his name and now that he’s mastered the portrayal of a sports broadcasting icon, we had to ask the celebrated actor his dream role.

He confessed, “I’d like to be the leading man who get’s the girl sometime. I’ve never been the leading man who gets the girl.”

 Own 42 on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download July 16th.