Bless Brendan Fraser for helping J.D. learn to fly.
In the season 1 Scrubs episode "My Hero," fans witnessed what would be the first "Eagle!" uttered by Zach Braff's J.D. while being tossed in the air like a little kid. But the reason why Braff kept saying "Eagle!" instead of something like "Bagel!" has been a mystery, and it turns out it wasn't in the script.
"One of the most emotional moments of the whole run that comes up all the time for me on my social media is when Brendan Fraser's character died," Braff recently told EW when asked about the most memorable moments of the series, which ran from 2001-2010. "John C. McGinley had an outstanding performance on one of the saddest episodes."
That's when Faison, who was also on the call with Braff and EW, jumped in to remind his costar that same episode was also when J.D. first said "Eagle!" while carried around by Fraser's character. Fraser was playing Ben Sullivan, the brother of Jordan (the on-again-off-again love interest of McGinley's Dr. Perry Cox). Ben was admitted to the hospital initially for having a wooden board nailed to his hand, but later it was revealed that Ben had tested positive for Leukemia.
The "Eagle!" scene starts after Ben learns the news for the first time. J.D. runs through the hospital hallway to talk to Jordan, telling her that her brother might be going through a tough time processing the news. They turn the corner to see Ben playing around with kids in the pediatric unit. After J.D. tells Ben to put down one of the kids that he had on his back, Ben decides to pick up J.D. as a replacement. While he's uneasy about it at first, J.D. starts to enjoy the ride atop the Ben Sullivan Express and yells out "Eagle!"
"I never thought Bill would ever put that on the show," Braff says of show creator Bill Lawrence. "I thought J.D. was so dorky that he would initially not want to get picked up, but then it would get fun for him because he would like to pretend that he was soaring like an eagle."
That's right. It was all improv, and it's due to Lawrence's shooting mantra throughout the series: get the words on the script on-camera first, and then let's see you goof around a little. It was during this second stage of shooting when Braff just blurts the fateful word, "Eagle."
The rest, as they say, is history. Turk (Faison) subbed in for Ben any time something monumental happened for the other. In the series' initial finale in season 8, Turk even got a crash pad ready for J.D. so he could "Eagle!" lift his best friend before leaving to go work at St. Vincent Hospital. In total, the Scrubs Wiki counted seven times when J.D. did an "Eagle!"-like celebration.