Sam Lloyd has died. Best known for his role as sad-sack lawyer/a capella enthusiast Ted Buckland on long-running NBC sitcom Scrubs, Lloyd was a veteran character actor with more than 60 credits to his name, across a 30-year career. Lloyd was diagnosed with cancer last year; numerous members of the Scrubs family organized a GoFundMe at the time to help pay his medical costs. Lloyd’s death was reported on social media today by co-star Robert Maschio, with his agent later confirming the news. Lloyd was 56.
Although he came up as a stage actor, Lloyd got his first break on the screen during the 1988 TV season, when he was cast in two different episodes—as two different characters—on NBC’s Night Court. He followed that with his first regular TV role, on the short-lived Valerie Harper sitcom City, but didn’t get his first real, high-profile exposure until 1993, when he had a memorable two-episode stint as TV Guide/Elaine Benes obsessive Ricky on the fifth season of Seinfeld.
Here’s Lloyd talking to us for a Random Roles interview in 2011, describing how he got the part:
That was one of the easiest auditions I ever had. I had done this [play] a few years before called The Nerd, and I had played the title character. And that guy, I got to know very well, that character. I continued to do him over the years in a cabaret setting, and kind of a stand-up thing. So when I got that audition, I thought, “I could do this guy. He might fit.” And his name was even Ricky, and the character’s name [in the play] was Rick Steadman. So that was kind of a sign to me. Originally I had made this great set of teeth that I had used for the part, and it became married to the part. I couldn’t do the part without the teeth. But the teeth were, even though they were subtle, they weren’t that subtle. So I couldn’t bring it into an audition. That was the first time I was ever able to do the character without the teeth. But anyway, I went in for that and read. There were two scenes, and I read the first scene, and Jerry Seinfeld was there, and of course Larry David was there. And the reaction was fantastic. And then I read the second scene, and I think reality set in. They were like, “Do we really want to put this guy into the show?” And so after it was over, I’m like, “Mmm… this could go either way.” Sure enough, my agent was like, “Hang in there. They’re still going to see people, but you’re one of their choices.”
Lloyd continued to work steadily throughout the ’90s, popping up on everything from 3rd Rock From The Sun, to Mad About You, to the Robin Williams Flubber movie. During this period, he also began a friendship with Bill Lawrence, the eventual creator of Scrubs. (Per Lloyd, they met at “a Quantum Leap party,” which is an utterly delightful notion.) Lawrence auditioned Lloyd for his political sitcom Spin City in the mid-’90s, but various behind-the-scenes shenanigans got in the way of him joining the series; even so, the relationship led to Lawrence offering Lloyd a small guest star part in the first episode of his next project, one that would lead to Lloyd becoming a regular part of Scrubs’ ensemble over its near-decade on TV.
As the lawyer for the show’s dysfunctional Sacred Heart hospital, Lloyd’s Ted was the ultimate fall guy, the final and accepting stop for all shit that constantly rolls downhill. Lloyd embraced the part with flop-sweating, hangdog aplomb, embodying a character who, like so many of Scrubs best recurring parts,wobbled back and forth over the line between cartoonishness and outright misery. Whether singing with his buddies—Lloyd’s real-life bandmates The Blanks—or just serving as the object of the abrasive Dr. Kelso’s ire, Ted’s misery was a constant delight for the show’s audience. The character was popular enough, with fans and the show’s writers alike, that he even got something akin to a happy ending, leaving his hated job to go play music with his girlfriend. (Although an appearance on Lawrence’s later Cougar Town suggests that said ride off into the sunset was ultimately, in true Ted-like fashion, revoked.)
After Scrubs, Lloyd’s career continued apace, showing up anywhere a TV creator needed a little bit of morose, oddball energy to perk a scene or two up. His last role ended up being on a 2019 episode of ABC’s American Housewife; he was also working on the writing of a stage musical.
Last year—shortly after the birth of his and wife Vanessa’s first child—Lloyd was diagnosed with cancer. Although there were reports of him responding to treatment—including an appearance in a play earlier this year—in March, the GoFundMe organized by Scrubs producer Tim Hobert reported that his health had worsened once again. He died earlier today.