Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence decided to kill off Aloma Wright’s Laverne in season 6 even though the show would live on for several more seasons.
When Scrubs killed off fan-favorite nurse Laverne in season 6 of the medical comedy-drama, audiences were left wondering what reason was behind the character’s sudden passing. Airing first on NBC and later ABC, Scrubs ran from October 2001 to March 2010, following the lives of the employees at fictional teaching hospital Sacred Heart. However, the show was originally set to end after six seasons, with God-fearing Laverne killed off late into the perceived final season.
Portrayed by Aloma Wright, Laverne Roberts was one of Sacred Heart’s longest-serving employees, having been a nurse for many years when Scrubs’ main cast of characters, JD, Turk, and Elliot, started as interns in season 1. While religious, Laverne was largely a supporting player in the show, she won the hearts of fans by never taking anybody’s sass and being hilariously prone to spreading workplace gossip. However, in the season 6 episode “My Long Goodbye,” she tragically died due to injuries sustained in a car accident.
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It has since been suggested that Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence took the decision to kill off Laverne in season 6 due to uncertainty surrounding the show’s future. Under the impression that the show would be canceled after season 6 (although it would run to season 9, which was effectively a Scrubs spinoff), there was a belief Lawrence felt the death of Laverne would make for an interesting arc. This certainly stands to reason. Not only would the death of a beloved character force everyone at the hospital to come to terms with their loss and reflect upon Laverne’s influence on their lives, but this would be an apt ending for a show that, being set in a hospital, commonly explored themes of life and death. Indeed, Laverne’s death had a major impact on many characters and storylines.
The character most significantly impacted by Laverne’s death was her close friend and colleague, Carla. In “My Long Goodbye,” the comatose Laverne’s prognosis was so bad the staff said their farewells to her. However, an upset Carla, played by Judy Reyes, perceived this as everyone giving up on Laverne and refused to say goodbye herself. Though she came around when her friends helped her to understand that death happens to everyone, she later caused a scene in the episode of Laverne’s funeral, “My Words Of Wisdom,” upset when the staff slipped back into their old routines without being glum about Laverne’s absence. However, she realized people were focusing on work, so they didn’t have to think about Laverne and get sad as a consequence.
Another factor that added gravitas to Laverne’s passing was her portrayal as a religious woman. Laverne’s first loyalty was her faith. This was demonstrated in the episode before her passing, “My No Good Reason,” in which she debated religion with Scrubs’ patriarch, Dr. Cox. Laverne argued God has a plan for everything, shortly before being involved in the car accident that would kill her. The debate was still on Dr. Cox’s mind in “My Long Goodbye” as Jordan gave birth to his daughter, and he hesitated to tell anyone, not wanting her birth to be associated with Laverne’s death. While he later recognized the catharsis of a life beginning and a life-ending at the same time, it was likely Laverne’s religious beliefs, and how they resonated with those around her, were in Lawrence’s thinking when he killed her off in Scrubs’ perceived final season.
Fans would be treated to Wright returning when the show was renewed, appearing as Nurse Shirley. However, with the exception of Scrubs’ main character J.D., no one realized she looked exactly like Laverne. Still, if the show had ended with season 6, Wright’s final appearance would have been far more effective. Her tragic passing, enveloped in religious meaning and major emotional impact on other characters, would have been highly appropriate for the final series of Scrubs, a show that regularly dealt with life and death.
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