Zach Braff remembers close friend Nick Cordero's life and last days in emotional podcast
"This is how f—ing tragic it was — she would be 10 feet away from us, Florence and I, and sobbing, and we couldn't go hug her," Braff said about Cordero's wife, Amanda Kloots.
It was a somber beginning to Zach Braff and Donald Faison's usually cheery Scrubs rewatch podcast, as the two started Tuesday's episode by remembering their late friend Nick Cordero. The Broadway actor died Sunday from coronavirus complications at 41 after spending more than 90 days in the hospital.
Braff, who was close friends with Cordero, said on the Fake Doctors, Real Friends podcast that the actor "didn't have COVID anymore" in his last days. However, the illness had already inflicted severe damage on his body.
Doctors said Cordero's lungs resembled "Swiss cheese" and like "he’d been a heavy smoker his entire life," Braff added. "Even to live he would’ve needed a full double-lung transplant and you only get those if you're healthy in all other ways. So the machines were really truly keeping him alive."
Cordero had his leg amputated due to blood clots, and if he did survive, Braff said he would've needed extensive operations. The Broadway actor was on dialysis, a ventilator, and needed a pacemaker.
"His blood pressure wasn't strong enough so the tips of all his fingers and toes were blackening and they would have had to have been removed had he lived," the Scrubs star said.
Braff also championed Amanda Kloots, Cordero's wife, for her strength and positivity during the actor's battle. When she initially dropped her husband off at the hospital, she thought it would just be hours, but "she was never able to see him fully conscious again," Braff said.
Kloots wasn't able to visit her husband at the hospital due to social distancing guidelines, but nurses set up FaceTime for her to see Cordero.
"Can you imagine how tragic this is, your partner’s in the hospital, you can't even be there?" Braff said. "You can’t be by their side, you can't hug them, you can't kiss them, you can't cheer them on. You have to do it over FaceTime that a generous nurse has arranged."
While he showed sporadic signs of improvement, Braff said Cordero "never came back" fully.
"He just deteriorated, deteriorated, deteriorated, until the point where they put them on the ventilator and then he never came back," he continued. "He kind of woke up for a little bit and there was some exciting moments where they would say, 'Nick if you can hear us look up' and he would do that, but he wouldn't do it all the time. It was only occasionally."
Kloots stayed with Braff and his girlfriend Florence Pugh during the ordeal but he was unable to be with her in person due to social distancing. "This is how f—ing tragic it was — she would be 10 feet away from us, Florence and I, and sobbing, and we couldn't go hug her. We would literally stand 10 feet away from her and watch our friend sobbing."
Braff then talked about happier times, when he and Cordero first met while costarring in 2014's Bullets Over Broadway, the musical that earned the latter a Tony nod for his performance. In previous statements, Braff called the star "one of my best friends in the world" and said, "I have honestly never known a kinder person."
The actor said Cordero took over his role from Bobby Cannavale, who left due to scheduling reasons, and Cordero blew everyone away. "Nick came in and no one had heard of Nick before — I hadn't heard of Nick before — and he starts singing, and everyone dropped their jaws on the floor," Braff recalled. "This unknown guy who is like 6'5", big tough-looking guy and then he sang like Sinatra. He had the most amazing voice and everyone's jaws are on the floor, including one of the beautiful dancers in the show, Amanda Kloots."
"We just bonded, man. When you do a Broadway show, you do a play, you can't sleep," Braff continued. "After the show, your adrenaline is pumped ... so we would all go out and hang out, and we'd all party in Manhattan and end up at my place late night, and just had so many great memories together."
Later, Braff got to cast and direct Cordero in his movie Going in Style, opposite Morgan Freeman. Cordero and Kloots later had a baby and moved to Los Angeles "to kick-start the next chapter of his career" in television.
"They were just in love and so happy, and it was like the American Dream. This beautiful couple, the white picket fence house, the brand new baby," Braff said.
He revealed that in Cordero's last text, he asked Braff to take care of Kloots and their 1-year-old son, Elvis.
"We’re all going to be doing our part to give this child an extraordinary life," Braff said on behalf of himself and Faison. "I promise that I’m going to do that for the rest of my life and I want to make him proud ... you and I are going to be very involved in his life."
Braff and Faison pleaded with listeners to take coronavirus seriously and wear a mask, because "COVID doesn't give a f—."
"Nick’s the ultimate example of it's a roll of the dice," he added. "You could get a flu-like cold if you get it, you could also have a really tragic end to your life or even worse, perhaps give it to somebody else that you care about."
He continued, "Donald and I are in the unique position that we just had a front-row seat to how horrible this was, so please think twice about wearing a mask."
The duo ended the podcast by playing "Live Your Life," Cordero's original song that Kloots encouraged fans share to spread positivity and hope.