CEDAR FALLS --- Michael Mosley's earliest film and television roles included stints as "Informer," "Lowlife No. 1" and "Hack."
The actor's mug would flash on the screen, allowing the Cedar Falls native a second or two to offer a calculated sneer, or sometimes, recite a short line.
In Hollywood, they call it paying your dues. Looking back on those days, Mosley is thankful for each and every bit part that came his way. The roles helped him hone his craft, perfecting skills that will be on display this fall as he joins the cast of a reimagined "Scrubs" on ABC.
"It's very fulfilling to be able to go to work and feel that ownership," said Mosley, who plays Drew Suffin, a 30-year-old student getting a second chance at med school. "At the same time, it's terrifying. You try not to think too much about what 'Scrubs' has always done so that you don't stifle yourself. We have our own take on it, and I think that's good."
The look and feel of the popular sitcom will be dramatically different when it returns to the air in November for a ninth season.
The only series regulars returning full-time are Donald Faison, who plays goofball surgeon Chris Turk, and John C. McGinley, the acerbic Dr. Cox. Other stars, including narrator Zach Braff, have signed on for half of the season's episodes.
"It'll be interesting to see if there's life after Zach to see if the audience will welcome us or not," Mosley said. "It's a big gamble, but I think we've got a good thing going."
"Scrubs 2.0," as some have dubbed the show, will split its time between the classroom and the hospital. But the series' zany sense of humor remains intact.
"We just try to crack each other up all day long," Mosley said. "It's great if you get the guy holding the boom (microphone). You see it starting to quiver and you know he's about to start laughing."
The actor's "Scrubs" gig is the latest in a recent string of notable film and television appearances. Earlier this month, he starred in an episode of CBS's new medical drama "Three Rivers," and was featured last year on "The Mentalist."
The 1997 Cedar Falls High School graduate also played Eli Shepherd in three episodes of "Kings" on NBC, and landed parts on "The Wire" and the critically acclaimed "Generation Kill."
Movie buffs can catch appearances by Mosley in the romantic comedies "27 Dresses" and "The Proposal."
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"He's done well," said Mosley's mother, Rita. "And he's pretty humble for how much he's done."
Last week, she and her husband Gene traveled to Los Angeles to visit the "Scrubs" set. The Cedar Falls couple snapped photos of series' stars and caught up with Mosley and his fiance, Anna Camp, a Broadway actress who plays Sarah Newlin on HBO's "True Blood."
Despite the demands of his career, staying connected with Cedar Valley friends and family remains a priority, said Mosley, who last visited the area in May.
He credits members of the local theater community with inspiring his career, and those who worked with the actor remember he showed talent from a young age.
A teenage Mosley blew the competition away at a Peet Junior High School reading for "Tom Sawyer," said Bill Close, the production's scenic designer.
"We had a couple hundred kids come for auditions and Mike just stood out immediately," said the retired art teacher.
"He had just a sort of natural charisma and was so at ease."
Storytelling excited Mosley as a youngster, and continues to inspire his creativity as a professional actor.
Today's television shows, with their sweeping plot lines and full-fleshed characters, are ripe with opportunity, he said.
"Serialized TV with great writing is allowing people to fall in love with the characters and really grow with them," Mosley said, noting the success of HBO's "The Wire" and AMC's "Mad Men."
"There's some great stuff happening out there, and to be a part of it is really just a dream come true."