THE MIDDLE Comes to Syndication on the Hallmark Channel

themiddleNow in its fifth season on ABC, Emmy-nominated The Middle began its syndication run on the Hallmark Channel on March 3.

As a kickoff to this milestone, Charlie McDermott (Axl Heck) and Eden Sher (Sue Heck) participated in a conference call for the media via Hallmark.

A Relatable Feel

It was a call full of teasing and laughing, mostly between McDermott and Sher, who were obviously enjoying reaping the benefits of such a successful Top-20 series.

Syndication, for McDermott, seemed to be somewhat of a natural progression.  He said, “I think the show’s relatable.  From what people tell me that love it, they feel like they can relate to it.  And also, as far as I know, it’s the only network TV show that’s enjoyable and appropriate for the entire family.  There are a lot of shows that are “family shows,” but they get too racy for some families, or some things go over the kids’ heads.  I feel like this show is a good balance, appealing to young and old simultaneously.  And, they always seem to come together to fix a problem. ”

He admitted, however, that he doesn’t always like Axl.  “I always feel like a terrible person when I’m playing Axl because he kind of does a lot of terrible things.  He’s fun in the sense that I get to just act like an imbecile a lot and always get away with it.  I think what comes out sometimes is a lot of selfish aggression, because he’s constantly separating himself from his family, constantly talking about how awesome it is.  At least in my opinion, this comes from a place of insecurity.  I feel like he’s overcompensating in a way for what he wants.”

Repeated Callbacks

Both McDermott and Sher were somewhat surprised when they landed their respective roles.  Said Sher, “I went through months and months of auditioning and was 100% confident that they hated me.  They  kept bringing me in, and every time I’d get a callback, there would be more and different girls there. “  McDermott added, “ I first moved here in 2006 and I auditioned for the original pilot a couple months after coming out here.  The character was named Elvis then.  I went in and made it two auditions, they got cut.  I didn’t make it any further.  Then the pilot didn’t get picked up.  A year after that, the audition came back again, and the only difference was the character name had changed from Elvis to Axl.  I still had the scenes memorized, because I only had two or three lines in the pilot.  I went through five auditions over a couple of months and got the part.”

Their Own Characters

Gradually, the two made the characters their own.  Sher said, “I had a very specific sort of revelatory moment in the Season Finale of Season One when I was just sitting for 12 hours, getting grass, mud, and fake rain spilled on me for hours and hours.  That was the most true to Sue that I had ever felt. “

McDermott added, “I feel like I started to actually get how to play Axl midway through Season Three.  That’s when I started to feel kind of like I knew what I was doing.  This season, though, has been the one where I kind of really understand what’s going on in Axl’s head a little bit better.  At least, I feel like I have a more specific direction with how I’m trying to portray him.”

Fear of Pigeonholing

But do these actors worry about being pigeonholed into their roles via syndication?  McDermott doesn’t think they necessarily have to worry about that aspect of the equation.  He said, “The show is successful, but it’s not anywhere near the success that Full House, or Different Strokes, or The Brady Bunch was.  Thirty million people watched those shows every week.  Also, Eden and I are very fortunate in that we don’t necessarily look that much like our characters outside of filming.  We also started the show post-childhood, which helps too.  I was almost 20 when we started the first season, and Eden was 18.  I feel like a lot of the pigeonholing happens when you’re a little kid because you’re not really acting.  You’re not performing a character.  You’re just playing yourself.  So, then you as a person become identified with the character, and that’s how the pigeonholing happens.”

Favorite Episodes

Asked about their favorite episodes set for syndication, McDermott quipped, “I love the episode where Sue and Axl have to do the school project together (Season Four, Episode 10, “Life Skills”).  That’s always been my favorite, probably always will be my favorite.  I remember when I first read it, I just got so excited.  I actually sat down and watched it.  I thought it was awesome.  I just love that one.”

Both actors agreed that it has been an “honor” and a “privilege” to work with Patty Heaton (Frankie Heck) and Neil Flynn (Mike Heck).  Sher added, “I’m just in awe of how humble and talented Patty and Neil really are.”  The pair  also agreed that the entire cast and crew have become closer over the years, bonding like family.

The Middle airs nightly in syndication at 9/8c and airs on ABC on Wednesdays at 8/7c.

The Middle Comes to Syndication on the Hallmark Channel