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It’s Brafftastic! Chit-Chat with “The Last Kiss” Star Zach Braff

The growing army of Zach Braff admirers must be wondering if there’s anything the versatile actor can’t do.

His sharp timing, warmly offbeat sense of humor and willing physicality help maintain a must-see tag on NBC’s underrated Scrubs. Braff’s debut directorial effort Garden State clicked with its Gen-X target audience, nabbing a Best First Feature trophy at the Independent Spirit Awards and a Grand Jury Prize nomination from the Sundance Film Festival. Oh, and the film’s soundtrack – filled with songs handpicked by Braff – earned him a well-deserved Grammy.

Instead of jumping back behind the camera, Braff took the lead role in Tony Goldwyn’s The Last Kiss, a remake of an Italian relationship flick that finds the New Jersey native torn between two beauties – The Real World: London veteran Jacinda Barrett and Rachel Bilson of The O.C. Braff took a few minutes recently to discuss the movie, his presence on the Internet, and future projects.

filmcritic.com: You go above and beyond with your website (www.zachbraff.com) to connect with your fans. It reminds me of the equally interactive Kevin Smith…

Zach Braff: Well, I actually learned a bit about that from Kevin. He’s so great with his fans. We both have that in common. We’re very interested in our fans, and not just as consumers of what we do. We want to know what they think, what they like, and what they don’t like. I’m genuinely interested. And especially now, the Internet has become such an amazing tool for talking to your fans… I saw Kevin’s up to 100,000 friends on MySpace. He’s definitely not reading all the messages. But you can read a couple of them, talk to them, and hear their feedback, which is cool.

FC: Would you call your character in Last Kiss a good guy?

ZB: I think he’s a good guy. He’s a human guy. He’s a protagonist that does some stupid things, and that interests me. It’s the same thing as Garden State. He’s a flawed protagonist. He’s not doing all of the right things, you know? It’s interesting to me to play a real person, not just some guy in a movie that does all the right things.

FC: But the coma he’s in is just the opposite of Garden State. In that story, things were so horrible for your character, Andrew. Here, the daze occurs because things are too good.

ZB: Right. Sometimes when life is so good, you can’t help but wonder, ‘Could it get better?’ You’re on the cusp of marrying someone, and you can’t help but wonder, ‘Is this the right one? Is this the last girl I’m ever going to kiss?’

FC: People in their 20s will turn to this film looking for a message about marriage and commitment. What is the overall lesson you guys were trying to get to them?

ZB: I think that the message is to not be afraid to question love, to not be afraid to examine it, and to not shy away from the feelings you have. Maybe, if nothing else, this movie will incite some people to have really honest conversations with their partners. [My character] doesn’t have the courage to tell his partner [played by Barrett] about his fears. And once he does, it’s almost too late.

FC: Tell me about the hunger to direct. You must be ready to get back behind the camera.

ZB: Yeah, I can’t wait. I’m going to go in a completely opposite direction next year and do a [remake of a] movie called Open Hearts, which was a Danish movie directed by Susanne Bier. It’s a really dark drama about a car accident, and how it affects everyone that kind of feels the shockwaves. I wanted to do something completely different and take on a real no-fooling-around drama.

FC: Music plays such a part of the films you’re involved in. [Braff selected the songs for the Last Kiss soundtrack, as well.] You’ve mentioned on your site that you’ve been listening to Jump Little Children…

ZB: Yeah, they’re from South Carolina, right?

FC: I believe so.

ZB: Where are you from?

FC: North Carolina.

ZB: It’s funny, but see, that’s a great example of what’s so cool about the web. I love music, and the fans will say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to check out this band.’ When enough people say it, I go, ‘You know, I do have to go check out that band.’ So now Jump Little Children is like the only thing I listen to. We have to get them back together, though. I’m working on getting Remy Zero back together, also.

(Editor’s note: Braff did reunite the defunct Remy Zero for a radio program he hosted in Los Angeles on September 3 … yet another feather in Braff’s cap.)

FC: Okay, last question. Are you going to be the next Fletch?

ZB: It looks like it’s really possible. [Scrubs creator] Bill Lawrence is directing it, so we’ll see.

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