Known mostly for his role as medical intern John "J.D." Dorian on NBC's sitcom Scrubs, Zach Braff has an enthusiasm for acting that can be traced back to his childhood in South Orange, NJ, where, at eight years old, he recalls watching his attorney father participate in a local theater group. Three years later, Braff could be found cultivating his own show-business skills at Stagedoor Manor, a renowned children's acting camp. After attracting the attention of a well-connected talent scout, Braff made his would-have-been television debut opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in an unsold pilot produced by Bruce Paltrow. His contribution to CBS's after-school special My Summer as a Girl in 1994 made it to the television screen, but, by that time, he had a significantly more notable role under his belt: the teenaged son of two neurotic New Yorkers (Woody Allen and Diane Keaton) in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993).
Though moderately successful in his childhood and late teens, Braff opted to attend college at Northwestern University rather than making an immediate transition to a full-time career of pursuing roles in the wilds of Los Angeles. While at Northwestern, Braff wrote and directed several short films, among them Lionel on a Sunday, which fared successfully in the 1998 festival season. The young actor went on to co-star in Getting to Know You, an adaptation of various short stories penned by author Joyce Carol Oates, which won praise at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. After a role as a gay party-boy drug addict in The Broken Hearts Club (2000), which won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film, Braff auditioned for Scrubs; despite his prior experience, the sitcom undoubtedly became his breakout role.
Indeed, the Scrubs success helped Braff write, direct, and star in Garden State (2003) opposite Natalie Portman and Ian Holm. The "little Sundance film that could" of its particular year, Garden State became a major indie hit, as its look and sound resonated with the creeping-toward-maturity Gen-Y demographic to whom Braff was obviously appealing. His next role as the lead character in Disney's animated Chicken Little appealed to a younger crowd, but still banked some serious cash at the box office. Braff next appeared in the flesh in 2006's Tony Goldwyn romantic comedy The Last Kiss. The film, scripted by Crash's Paul Haggis, co-starred Casey Affleck, Tom Wilkinson, and Blythe Danner, and mined much of the same simultaneously sad and funny emotional ground explored in Garden State. It died a quick death at theaters as fans heeded the advice of critics who deemed it a more morose gloss on well-trod twentysomething angst. The actor's next film was the lighter romantic-triangle comedy The Ex.
Scrubs finally ended its run in 2011, and Braff made another big screen appearance, this time in the drama The High Cost of Living. He had a supporting role in 2013's Oz the Great and Powerful before returning to the indie scene in 2014 with the Kickstarter-funded Wish I Was Here, which he directed, co-wrote (with his brother Adam) and starred in.