Storytelling school

Scrubs Star John C McGinley on the Power of Visual Storytelling

In an exclusive interview with The Drum, the Hollywood star talks about finding inspiration and what he learned about storytelling and boxing resilience.

American actor John C McGinley, perhaps best known for his role as Dr Perry Cox on the long-running sitcom Scrubs, stars in a new advertising campaign launched today for Anecdotes, an automated compliance software.

This isn’t the first time he’s worked with brands; his commercial work dates back to the 1980s, when he appeared in a series of TV spots for Subaru. In his latest work, he plays a half-crazy business manager who is so passionate about compliance that he calls in a team of special ops agents to crack down on day-to-day business functions.

In a conversation with The Drum, McGinley talks openly about aligning her values ​​and interests with commercial endeavors, the power of visual storytelling, and why it pays to be overprepared when it comes to creative endeavors. .

Tell us a bit about the new Anecdotes campaign and what appealed to you.

I had a long conversation with Aram Rappaport, [actor, director and founder of The Boathouse Agency, which created the campaign]. Aram had a nice number [vision]. I liked his vision. And as soon as I left FaceTime with him, I knew I was in good hands, because the copy was really good.

I wanted [the spot] be really subversive and funny so that the vibe of the thing really crackles. I really wanted to have a level of Michael Bay chaos. I wanted those [SWAT team] guys invading the office to be crazy and lots of quick cuts. Aram totally agreed with that. And I wanted a lot of visuals to tell the story; [for example,] the young man who enters and defends Anecdotes – his juxtaposition to chaos is entirely visual. And that’s what Aram shot. I thought that was genius.

How do you determine what types of brand partnerships are right for you?

It’s about whether or not I have connectivity with her. [When it came to Anecdotes,] it wasn’t something that I wasn’t familiar with. My brothers — who all work on Wall Street — deal with compliance software every day of their lives. And if I wasn’t an actor, I would definitely be working with my Wall Street brothers. I worked on Wall Street for a year between undergraduate and graduate [school]. And even though we didn’t have compliance software at the time, it’s something my whole family uses. And being [involved in] finances and managing my own money and working with my brother Jerry…it’s in my family’s blood – the financial component of it all, that’s where Anecdotes excels. So it seemed to me to go hand in hand. It all had a synchronicity that really appealed to me.

Do you approach different types of television, film, stage and commercial projects differently? How is the creative process different?

No, it’s no different for me, because if you’re on a soundstage and someone’s gonna call it “action” [or you’re in a different setting], at some point, the story has to be told. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 30-second spot or a three-hour movie.

The way of participating in the storytelling process, for me, is the same in everything. It’s all homework based. I teach actors a lot now, and I always want them to prepare to deliver. You don’t have to worry about over-delivery; I just want you to prepare too much. Whether that means breaking down a script and working with verbs and actions and deciding what you’re doing on every beat, or whether [it’s something else].

When I was getting ready to do this show that I did on Broadway – I just did a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway with Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale – I was standing on a blue balance ball and juggling the whole time while I was doing my lines, so that nothing in the theater could disturb me. Nothing was going to be harder than that. What might bother you are cell phones or a siren going off – we were at the Schonfeld on 45th Street [in Manhattan], so sirens and horns will sound. None of this can discourage you. So what I do and what I make my students do is over-prepare. And that’s been my mantra for as long as I can remember.

What constitutes great creativity in advertising?

I’m fascinated by advertising because it’s a meticulous storytelling process. I have a lot of publicists who are very good friends that I grew up with in New York when I was young. And the preparation for their campaigns is so meticulous – the storyboarding, the color palettes people want to work with, the attention to wardrobe.

I’ve always felt like the greatest commercials of all time — despite the copy — work like silent movies. We are constrained by a visual story. And then, if there is a copy on it, [it can take things to the next level,] like some of the Chiat Day stuff with Nike back then, and the Alka Seltzer [jingle] “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief! ” But [many of] these campaigns all worked visually – then the copy complemented them and just placed them on top. Ads work when the campaign can work visually, then a cherry on top is good copy.

What inspires and motivates you?

I don’t know if it’s part of the Irish DNA or if it’s just the McGinley component, but I’ve always been driven, fundamentally, to be part of the storytelling. It was never complicated – [the process of] getting there and performing and all of that is where you get in trouble – but participating in the storytelling was something I’ve always done. It’s not [necessarily what I] wanted to do [but what I had to do].

When I was in Syracuse sophomore in college…you must have things to do indoors in the winter; you can’t really go outside because it’s so cold up there. So I used to jog to this gym, and I started boxing, since I had fought a bit in high school. After about eight or nine weeks, it was spring. I was in incredible shape and understood the mechanics of what I was doing. The coach says, ‘Are you ready to practice?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to practice.’ So he put me with another guy who weighed about 188 pounds. And I move forward, and all of a sudden he hit me in the liver, right between the ribs. And I caved in like I’ve never caved in before – and I got hit plenty of times. In this case, I realized that unless you have to box, you’re not going to – I mean, really box in a ring with someone.

And this allegory applies to me. And that’s what I tell the actors who come here when I teach them. Unless you have to do that – unless you have to participate in the storytelling – do something else. Because it’s too personal. When you receive a response from an agent [that you’ve been rejected] … they’re still going to do the movie – they just don’t do it with you. And everybody says, ‘You can’t take this personally.’ But how not to take it personally? You’re not selling a vacuum cleaner, you’re selling yourself. So, I often ask young actors if they have a plan B. And they’re like, “Well, yeah,” and I’m like, “Do it, absolutely do it.” Because you will be spared that endless amount of ego punching and heartbreaking rejection.

If you’re a Hall of Fame baseball batter…the batting average for offensive players in baseball is .302; that means you got 302 hits per 1,000 at-bats. Actors can get three or four hits for every 1,000 auditions. And it’s grim, but that’s the way it is. So with these numbers, the catch is that your skin gets too thick and hard – and then you lose your beauty. What made you unique in the world has been battered by rejection. So there’s this incredibly delicate balance between being able to handle rejection and maintaining your beauty.

And I was always ready to take that on because I had to. I had to. It was not an option. I knew that was what I had to do. There was no plan B – there never was a plan B, which is arrogant and I guess ego driven. But it is okay. That’s what it took.

For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.