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The Transformation Of Donald Faison From Childhood To Scrubs

Since making his film debut in the 1992 crime thriller "Juice," American actor Donald Faison has become a Hollywood staple. But it wasn't until 1995 that he achieved real stardom with roles in three notable films –- "New Jersey Drive," "Waiting to Exhale," and of course, the classic comedy "Clueless." However, Faison is probably best known for playing Dr. Christopher Turk for nine seasons on the medical dramedy "Scrubs." He's also appeared in other notable projects over the years, including "Robot Chicken", "The Exes", "Ray Donovan", and "Emergence."

Since "Scrubs", the experienced actor has continued to gain fame for his versatility on the screen, which has long been a goal for Faison. "This is why we get into this game: to do things that make us uncomfortable," Faison said in an interview with Backstage. "It's very, very scary, but I love it." The star has certainly collected a wide range of credits over the course of his career, and his path in the industry hasn't always been an easy one. Here's how Donald Faison went from being a supporting player for major stars to playing Turk on "Scrubs."

Faison got the acting bug at an early age

Donald Faison grew up surrounded by thespians as a young child. According to People, his talent agent mother and building manager father were repertoire players with Harlem's National Black Theatre before Faison was even born. Clearly, they both had a major influence on his path as an actor.

In a 2019 interview on Sway In The Morning, Faison said he knew at age 5 that acting was his calling. His parents encouraged him to take part in plays as a child. Compared to other kids acting in the productions, Faison felt particularly connected to the craft. Being on the stage birthed his desire to pursue a career in Hollywood.

Unfortunately, he didn't gain any significant traction until age 15. Faison gained his first taste of national recognition after starring in a popular 1989 Folgers commercial. As he pursued  his career, his parents enrolled him in New York City's well-known Professional Children's School, where "Ray Donovan" star Dashiell Mihok was a classmate.

Early career collaborations with big stars

Once Donald Faison got his foot in the door, he started popping up in seminal 1990s films featuring a number of recognizable Hollywood stars. He scored a minor yet memorable part in the 1992 crime drama "Juice" alongside Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur, and he followed that up with another crime drama, "Sugar Hill," with Wesley Snipes and Ernie Hudson.

But 1995 proved to be a banner year for the young actor. He appeared as Tiny Dime in the indie film "New Jersey Drive," which featured "The Good Fight" star Christine Baranski. Next was "Clueless," where Faison played Murray Duvall — beau of Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash). He featured alongside then-rising stars Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, and Breckin Meyer. Later that year, he appeared as Gloria's (Loretta Devine) teenage son Tarik Matthews in the melodrama "Waiting to Exhale" with Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, and Lela Rochon.

Faison also played a major character in "Remember the Titans," the beloved sports drama starring two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington, before landing his role on "Scrubs."

Faison's life hasn't been all smooth sailing

Donald Faison experienced significant success in his teens and early 20s. Unfortunately, like many young Hollywood stars, he was a little bit careless with his earnings. In an interview with Ryan Seacrest, Faison revealed that he was "broke, broke" before landing the "Scrubs" pilot. As a working actor, he was getting paid scale and living paycheck to paycheck to sustain his everyday life. Getting the weekly series came at the perfect time for him.

But there were still difficult challenges ahead, including heartbreaking personal losses. In 2017, Faison's ex-wife Lisa Askey passed away. The two were married from 2001 to 2005 and had three children together. Faison even credited Askey with rectifying his poor financial habits in a 2002 interview with People. Though they disagreed on a number of things in the latter part of their relationship, the couple appeared to have been on much by the time Askey passed away.

Faison is a huge Star Wars fan

Like many other young moviegoers of his generation, Donald Faison grew up obsessed with the original "Star Wars" trilogy and the franchise at large. His love of "Star Wars" led him to take part in a series of "Robot Chicken" episodes spoofing the franchise, and eventually into the official universe.

Faison joined the "Star Wars" franchise as ace pilot Hype Fazon in the animated series "Star Wars Resistance." In an interview on The Star Wars Show, he discussed how his love of the original films sparked his interest in animation and science fiction. "There's something really cool about having your name in the Star Wars universe," Faison said. Clearly, being part of the beloved sci-fi franchise was more than just a job for the actor.

Faison has even passed his love for the "Star Wars" franchise on to his children. It clearly runs in the family, as one of his sons quickly became a huge fan as well and wanted to play the "Battlefront" videogames with his dad (per The Star Wars Show).

A deep love of animation

Donald Faison has long been a fan of animation, particularly of the stop-motion variety. He has multiple voice acting credits on his acting resume, but his love for the medium goes beyond just acting. back in 2010, Faison combined his love of animation with his love of "Star Wars" to create and star in the YouTube short comedy series BlackStormTrooper.

As it turns out, Faison's affection for stop-motion animation actually stemmed directly  from his love of "Star Wars." "I wanted to know how they made the AT-AT walkers maneuver," he revealed to The Star War Show in 2018. Ever curious, he chased down some behind-the-scenes content to figure out how it all worked. "They explained how everything was on the blue screen or in front of a matte painting," Faison said. "I bought a camera, and I practiced, and I practiced when I was a kid."

Faison's practice came in handy when he decided to intern at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios later in life — home to Adult Swim's "Robot Chicken." He learned the ins and outs of doing professional stop-motion while still working on "Scrubs," showing just how much he adores the medium.

Changes in appearance

Since starting his work in Hollywood as a teenager, Donald Faison has gone through some physical changes, the most famous of which concerns the actor's teeth. Even as a young adult, Faison had a lot of baby teeth, and he eventually got himself a new set after they started falling out (per Sway In The Morning). The move made a lot of sense, especially given that the actor's pearly whites had repeatedly proved to be a sore spot.

On his podcast Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach Braff, Faison revealed that the real reason Murray wore braces in "Clueless" was to cover up his baby teeth (per E! Online). Around the same time, he popped up in the indie flick "New Jersey Drive" and the melodrama "Waiting to Exhale." His original teeth worked for the time as he was playing mostly teenage roles, but as he got older, he decided to invest in a fresh set.

These days, Faison continues to work on his body. He exercises two times a day, five days a week in an effort to stay fit and healthy (per Sway In The Morning).

A music video star

In the 1990s, appearing in music videos could change an actor's career trajectory, and Donald Faison was no different. His music video cameos came as his star was on the rise in Hollywood. His first and most notable appearance came courtesy of singer and actor Brandy's pop hit "Sittin' in My Room." The song was one of multiple singles from the soundtrack for the hit film "Waiting to Exhale," in which Faison appeared.

He also featured in 1990s band Imajin's "No Doubt" and "Flava" music videos. These cameos were family-related as Faison's brother Olamide was part of the four-member R&B group. His next music video appearance didn't come until 2003 when he appeared in singer Gavin DeGraw's "Chariot." That particular cameo has a fun "Scrubs" connection, as Faison's co-star and real-life BFF Zach Braff directed the music video. Faison has also appeared in videos for Fall Out Boy's "Beat It" in 2008, DJ Whoo Kid's "More Champagne" in 2013, and Ingrid Michaelson's "Time Machine" in 2015.

Struggles with typecasting

Donald Faison shot to superstardom after landing the role of Turk on "Scrubs." However, his casting in the show came with some negatives as well, primarily in the form of typecasting. 

After playing Turk for nine seasons on "Scrubs," Faison became so closely tied to the character that it was apparently difficult for him to land other kinds of roles. In an interview on Sway In The Morning, the actor shared an example of this that happened when he auditioned for "Emergence" — a gritty crime drama. "I'm still known as Turk," Faison said. "When I went on the audition for 'Emergence,' I remember going and meeting my wife at our kids' soccer practice after and telling her, 'Babe, I don't think they're going to give me the part. I honestly believe all they saw was Turk.'" Fortunately, the folks behind the show decided to give Faison a chance and cast him in the series, helping to break his typecasting rut.

In the same interview, Faison said that he also suffered from some typecasting problems after appearing in "Clueless," but that it wasn't nearly as bad as after "Scrubs." Clearly, even actors with a ton of talent can fall into the trap of being loved too much for one role.

A family man

Though Donald Faison is definitely a family man, his romantic relationships haven't been without challenges. He had his first child, a son named Sean, with actor and singer Audrey Ince, who he dated in the mid-1990s (per ET). After the two went their separate ways, Faison started dating nursing student Lisa Askey in 1997. The couple married in 2001 after four years of dating and had three kids together — a set of twins, Dada and Kaya, born in 1999, and a son, Kobe, born in 2001. Faison and Askey ended their marriage in 2005 (per People).

The "Scrubs" star then reportedly dated "Titans" alum Minka Kelly from 2005 to 2006, before finding a long-time partner in Cacee Cobb. After six years of dating, Faison and Cobb officially tied the knot in 2012 in a ceremony at Zach Braff's house. The couple has since had two children, a son named Rocco and a daughter named Wilder, and they regularly post adorable pictures of the whole family on social media.

Now the father of six children, Faison spends a lot of his time enjoying his family life. He described himself as a "Disney Dad" in a 2019 interview with People, admitting that he's better at being fun and goofy than he is at being strict. "I'm the one that you can count on for the laughs and the fun times," the actor said. "It's rare that I discipline." Even though he fancies himself a fun dad, though, Faison said that he has gotten better at giving advice from his own life to his kids.

From onscreen friends to real-life BFFs

Donald Faison and Zach Braff's bromance has been ongoing for more than two decades. Apparently, the "Scrubs" co-stars struck up an instant bond during their first table read at creator Bill Lawrence's house. In a 2020 "Access Hollywood" interview, Braff recalled their first meeting being "like out of a movie" — a locking of eyes across a crowded room. Their chemistry translated to the screen weekly during the dramedy's nine seasons.

It might have been love at first sight, but it took time for a real friendship to form. Braff admitted to being intimidated by Faison's fame and success, as he was still an unknown actor in Hollywood. Faison didn't fully embrace the friendship either until they shared a New York apartment while shooting the first season of the NBC series. The two co-stars bonded over their love of music, introducing each other to different acts (per GQ).

Outside of being TV best friends, their friendship has worked well off-screen. "You hope in life that you meet someone, and you're able to spend the rest of your life with them," Faison said to Faction Talk in 2020. "I was thinking it would be my wife, it turned out that it's Zach Braff." Of course, Braff also introduced Faison to his second wife. He's even the godfather of the couple's two children.