’s own Francesca McCaffery  had the chance to sit down with  one of the most enigmatic, underrated actors in Hollywood-Zach Braff, who is promoting his intense new drama, “The High Cost of Living.”

The film, which was shot in Montreal, and features the brilliant Canadian actors Isabel Blaise, along with the handsome Patrick Labbe, follows the lives of two people as their futures collide after a tragic accident. Blaise plays Nathalie, a pregnant woman, and Braff plays a prescription drug dealer- Henry Welles, a huge leap from his comedic, long-running role as “JD” on the beloved TV series “Scrubs.”

Here, he tells us about the intricacies of making such an intense film on such a small, independent scale, his new play opening in New York this summer (which he wrote!) and his goals to work in more serious films in the future. He also admits to having to learn to smoke to play the role of Henry (although he did use herbal cigarettes.)

His performance is revelatory. Zach uses none of the fallbacks many lesser actors can employ when playing against type. Strangely, his performance called to mind for me the young Warren Beatty character  in Shampoo- someone utterly lost, a hopelessly sweet, scruffy hustler- a character who can navigate both the underground and upper-class milieus to his advantage. Zach, an actual pilot, told us how he had to charter a plane to personally fly in to do the Canadian press, due to passport issues. This guy is clearly passionate about his new role in “The High Cost of Living,” which opens in Video On Demand- April 20th. Zach, tell us about the first time you read the script for The High Cost of Living.

ZB: Usually, when you read a script and like it, you think, okay, it may need a draft or two, but this script (written by the director, Deborah Chow) wow, it was right there, right on the page. I loved it. It was totally immediate. How did such a darker sort of script come your way?

ZB: Well, my manager had been really around looking for me. I wanted to branch out from doing comedy, and do something totally different. I did that with Garden State (which he also wrote and directed), but I really wanted to find something that could show people what I was capable of playing. I’m not really getting offered these parts in mainstream Hollywood. It’s all on me to prove that I can do them. I read it, and it was amazing from the very first. What was it like, taking on such a heavy role?

ZB: After doing eight and half years of broad comedy, you do fall into certain habits, ones that I really wanted to avoid. All actors have sort of go-to habits they can’t help but fall into. Henry is a very still guy, he’s pretty depressed, and lost, and it wasn’t really for him to be quippy or silly. I told the director: “Please don’t let me do x-y- and z. I don’t want to go there.” What was Henry’s backstory?:

ZB: Deborah and I came up with a plan of the rough idea of what happened to this guy. I think he’s a decent person, he’s just all tangled up in what’s happening in his life. People looking for new chapters of their lives to begin, being lost, then rescued, especially by a woman- I can relate to that! I am drawn to characters like that. So I sort of built my own backstory in my head. What was your initial impressions and expectation of the film, vs. the finished product?

ZB: I was really blown away when I saw it finished. On set, it all looked good, of course, but Deborah is a first-time director. But she’s had phenomenal success-she has won awards at virtually all the festivals she’s been at. I was happy with it. I really wanted to do something dramatic and pared down, in terms of my performance, but also didn’t want to come across like I was trying too hard. I think the role was perfectly calibrated for the occasion. It was 180 degrees from “Scrubs.” I read that you were wrote a play that’s being produced this summer?

ZB: Yeah! It’s called  All New People, and open this summer on June 28th at the Second Stage Theatre.  It was my first 100 percent original thing since Garden State.  When my agent sent it out, The Public Theatre and Second Stage, my two favorite theatres, loved it. There’s a play within a play, these tiny filmed flashbacks, which I directed. It takes place in the dead of winter, on Long Beach Island, in a beach house. One of the characters is really depressed, and a cast of misfits try to shake him put of it. But it’s a comedy, I swear! How has indie filmmaking advanced and differed since you directed Garden State?

ZB: Great question. Well, obviously, with the advent of such great digital technology, it’s so much more accessible to do it on your own. It looks so amazing now, it’s just so much less expensive. I really love film, I love the look of it, but it’s really not that realistic to shoot on film for that much longer. We heard you optioned a children’s book?

ZB: My brother and I optioned our favorite children’s book. The problem was, it wasn’t a famous children’s book! My brother wrote the screenplay, Barry Sonnenfeld was set to direct, but now it’s in limbo. We’ll see, I’d love for it to happen soon. What’s next for you, Zach?

ZB: I wanna do it all-action, drama, I wanna go down a mountain with an uzie! The plan is to pursue things that intrigue me. I can take roles- whether they’re in tiny indies, off, off broadway theatre- that’s exciting to me. Because of the success of “Scrubs,” I’m in the very fortunate position to do things that I really believe in. We worshipped Jean Pierre Jeunet in film school, and he loved Garden State. I’d love to work with him. Christopher Nolan, Fincher, Scorsese, all those great guys. It would be such an honor to work with them. How would you describe Deborah Chow’s process, as a director?

ZB: We were so quick- my whole part was shot in 15 days. We rarely had time for multiple takes- it was like, okay, we got the close-up? Okay, let’s move on! But, working so much in television really prepares you to work like that- shooting one episode in four and a half days! It was amazing what we accomplished on that show, what we were able to pull off in such a short amount of time.

I remember the scene on the roof when we were toast marshmallows. It was actually snowing. We were worried it would stop and start, the shots wouldn’t match. But it was even snow all night. It was a really sweet scene, and sort of a surprise, and I think  there’s something really special about it. What do you think about VOD (Video on Demand) and its affect on the Industry?

ZB: I think it’s really great. Little festival films or so called art movies, they’re going play for a few weeks- then they’re just gonna go away. I have so many fans who say on Facebook …“Looks like  a great film! Too bad it will never play anywhere near me!” I think VOD is a great way to get indie and festival films into people’s homes and living rooms. Who do you really admire in Hollywood?

ZB: You’re gonna think this is a funny answer-but, Tyler Perry! I love him. He’s a person I really admire. He ‘s like, I’m not gonna make movies for everyone, I’m gonna make movies that I want to make. And he does it just so, so well! It’s a great model, as a business and for an artist. I think the man is a business genius. It really works for him, and I admire it. You’ve just got to find your own niche, man… Tyler Perry has really inspired you… You know, he did build his own studio in Atlanta.

ZB: I know. Yes! Maybe I’ll build my own studio. But in Jersey!

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