Actor, writer, director, Phi Kappa Psi member and Bobb-McCulloch survivor Zach Braff gave one reason for going to college at Northwestern during his talk Monday night:
“Because I got in.”
His remark came during Braff’s question-and-answer session with students at Pick Staiger. During the sold-out event sponsored by the School of Communication, the Scrubs and Garden State star talked about his career, his memories of Northwestern and the demands of fame.
A common theme throughout the night was that college was a time of anonymous freedom for Braff before he became famous, even though he said his biggest regret about his NU career was not having enough fun. Braff thought he was too focused on academics and Greek life to experience all the school had to offer. Nevertheless, he said he missed certain perks of college.
“College is the easiest and the best time to date,” he said. “It’s the only time in your life you’re going to be in an environment where you’re constantly meeting new, smart people about your age. Take advantage of it.”
At NU, Braff said he used to enjoy hanging out at Norris, where he liked getting milkshakes from the “Cone Zone.” He said he was impressed by the improvements to the student center since he graduated — especially the new Starbucks.
“Now it’s like, ‘Would you like sushi or a latte?’” he said.
Braff mentioned that he might return to NU again. This time, he said wants to teach a month-long workshop in which students would write, shoot and edit short films.
He also noted that there were prospective NU students in the audience.
“It’s really clever that they show you the campus in the spring,” he said, “because this is the coldest fucking place on earth.”
Braff prefaced the question-and-answer session by requesting that students refrain from flash photography and other recording until the end of the session. He said he didn’t want people to “put [him] on YouTube.”
“I’ll probably say something I won’t want on the Internet,” he said.
That aversion to media scrutiny came up later in Braff’s discussion. He said the rumors spread by the press about stars make it “hard to be in a relationship.” Though he used to read and enjoy celebrity gossip, Braff said he now sees it as “very hurtful.” When asked if he and his ex Mandy Moore would ever get back together, Zach declined comment.
“I wouldn’t discuss my private life in front of a thousand people,” he said.
But Braff said there were perks of fame too — including the money. Also, Braff said it was great to be acknowledged for his work. He said he appreciated when fans let him know that he had made them laugh.
Even when asked about the positive aspects of celebrity though, Braff pointed out fame’s downside. He said that being on television and “coming into [the audience's] homes every week” can make fans feel like they know him, when they really only know his character. Braff said this mindset can make people act inappropriately when they see him in public, sometimes coming up and touching or grabbing him.
“And you can’t say what you want to say, which is, ‘Get the fuck off,’” Braff said, “because then you’re an asshole celebrity.”