I feel a little bit like a broken record to keep saying it, but seriously – give me THE MIDDLE over so many other TV comedies any day of the week, and I’ll be happy! The show returns tonight with it’s 4th season premiere, another hour long look into how the summer ends, and the fall begins, for the Heck family! In the premiere, Mike accidentally reveals his favorite child, Sue tries to bond with him a result, and Brick just wants to grow a giant tomato. To celebrate the return, one of My Take on TV’s favorites, Atticus Shaffer, spent some time chatting with me about what’s to come, why voice-over work is all the rage these days, and why he thinks we should all be watching the show!
You know how much I love THE MIDDLE!
I’m sure you love it, too, right?
Well yeah, it keeps bread on the table [laughs].
Let’s talk about the show – what do you have coming for Brick this year so far, that you can tease?
The season premiere, like last year, everyone really liked the two parter, hour long season premiere, two episodes put together, Part 1 and Part 2, so that’s what we’re doing this year. It’s called “The Last Whiff of Summer,” and pretty much, it’s near the end of the summer for the Hecks, and Frankie and Mike want to show the Heck kids pretty much what a classic family summer is all about. Not just sitting in front of the TV and playing electronics. No! Actually going out and doign something. So Frankie and Mike goes on all these shenanigans to try to get them to bond and be a family, and through the course of events, they Heck it up, like always. And one other thing for Brick – I can’t divulge too much because I like seeing people be surprised, but Brick actually does get a new tick! That’s going to be cool. I kind of expected something like that to happen this year, but I didn’t expect what it was!
One of the main questions I wanted to ask this time around was what you’re still learning about Brick, and it’s staying “fresh,” and it sounds like every year, there’s a bit of something new you give to the character. Has that been exciting to play?
It has! A lot of stuff is repetitive, like the whispering, and I’m not saying that’s not fun!! When you drive to work an hour and a half one way, every day, to do the same thing over and over, it does get a little old. So I like it when they do bring in this new tick, and not just for me, but for any of the cast members, it’s like, okay, that’s really cool and different for Axl, or Sue, or Brick, you know, and when I do portray the character, I can say, this is really cool and different. I did not expect this this year.
Do you get to have conversations with the writers, do you have input on the character?
I do, sometimes. Obviously, I’m not able to sit in the sound stage all day, and talk with the cast and writers, because I do need to go to school on set, so I usually spend that time doing school, but every now and again, after every new episode, I do say, oh I have a question about this, and then sometimes, I’ll say, I was wondering if Brick is able to do this, or what’s up and coming for Brick, because then I know, and then when I act, I can link that into the character.
It has to be fun to be able to juggle the acting and voice work that you’re getting to do with FISH HOOKS and FRANKENWEENIE. What has that been like, going back and forth between the two mediums?
I’ll be honest with you, being in a recording booth and doing that, and I’m sorry to say, is ten times more fun than being on set [laughs]. Reason for that is simply because of time! And also, I love playing with my voice. I love to do character voices, and that’s why I love FRANKENWEENIE so much because I do a Peter Lorre impression for my character. But in voice-over, all you have to do is come in with shorts and a tshirt, go in, you don’t need to memorize lines, you don’t need to worry about makeup. All you have to worry about is your voice, is it okay? And then drink plenty of water [laughs]; keep it moist. With being on set, you have cameras, you have to wait for the camera angles and lighting to be set up, you have to change wardrobe, memorize your lines, do all the makeup, try to eat something, and that’s 9.5 hours instead of maybe 3 hours.
With THE MIDDLE, you’ve been on for years now – do you still get to the point where the cast breaks in the middle of filming certain scenes?
Oh we really have been getting used to the characters. Not necessarily the characters, but each other. When we read it in the table draft script, that’s kind of when we get our laughs out,and then when we go to shoot it, we kind of know what’s going to happen. But I do have to say that there are times when, thank god I’m off camera, because I just start cracking up, and everyone else does, I see it. We’re so used to each other so when we see each other smile and try to hold back a laugh, we don’t go and just start laughing because they’re laughing because we see that all the time.
I know we’ve talked about it before, but what are you telling people who are still asking the age old question – “Why should I watch THE MIDDLE?”
To be honest, I think because it’s real. It’s a real show, based on real life perspective. It’s not upscale New York or Chicago where a family is magically making money from nowhere, and you only see the house, and maybe sometimes the school, and that’s it. It’s not that at all. It’s real life. Talking about how mom needs to stand up when she has her coffee and toast in the morning, and that’s the only time she can read her magazine and rest, because it’s so hectic. And then also the kids, the kids have problems in school. And also, too, because at certain points there is random humor in there. There’s a time for slapstick, and then there’s time for witty humor, and that’s what I like about the show.
If you could pick one of the other Heck family members – who would you love to get some more scenes with this season?
I’ll either be working with all of the cast members in all the scenes, or only one on one storylines, that have the other cast members in them some of the time. To be honest, I really love working with Charlie. Charlie just so much fun. He is great to talk to, and the Axl and Brick storyline. Everyone seems to love them; we love them, and that would probably something that we would want to see more of.
What do you get to watch when you get time away from shooting, away from school, what’s on your DVR?
Well…what’s a DVR….no I’m kidding, I’m not that far behind the times! No, to be honest, I don’t DVR that many things. If I want to watch them, there’s this thing that everyone used to have, called Netflix, I still use that [laughs]. Pretty much I will rent any type of movies. Action, comedy. Love TV series, too, but movies are my favorite thing, especially anything made by James Cameron and the man who did THE GRAY. So pretty much anything Liam Neeson is in, or by James Cameron, and Tony Scott.
THE MIDDLE airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on ABC – for more information about the show, head here, and find videos, recaps, photos, and more!