Atticus Shaffer previews the Season 5 finale of THE MIDDLE!
Tonight on ABC, THE MIDDLE’s 5th season comes to an end with back to back brand new episodes that find my favorite family heading to Orlando (by way of North Carolina??) after last week’s “hands on a hardbody” competition ended with Sue winning a trip to Disney! While they journey south, the family has to deal with Axl’s latest wager regarding his grades, Sue’s over-planning, possibly too-much family togetherness, a miscommunication over the prize package, and the a very long decision making process with regards to fonts, colors, and thread!
I spent some time chatting with series star Atticus Shaffer looking back on his 8 year journey to the end of Season 5, plus what to expect in tonight’s finale. He also gave us the scoop on filming at Disney World and who he was surprised to hear Brick was meeting. Read on to find out what comes next!
Any time you all as a Heck family get to spend significant time together. I wondered if you could talk about the finale, and what we’ll see from this final hour of the show this season?
The season finale, it’s definitely one of the most quirky episodes that we’ve had, and we’ve been able to film, and that’s part of why I loved it so much. For the past four seasons, we’ve been able to see the Hecks go on little vacations – “Hecks on a Plane” when they went to New York, little day trips, stuff like that. You’ve been able to kind of see what they do, how they interact, but they’re able to go home right away. They leave from home, do a little road trip, and come right back. For this one, it’s a much bigger vacation. Not only is it a much bigger vacation, but you actually see what they’re doing on the vacation; you don’t just hear about it afterwards. To be able to be there, and be in the actual location, feeling the vibes of the people around you, becoming the character, doing all of that fun stuff, that was an absolute blast!
It has to add to the excitement – getting to film not only a 5th season finale, but being on set, in Disney World, getting to experience that has to be exciting!
Most definitely! That’s the thing – for 8 months of the year, we’re trapped in a sound stage. [laughs] To be able to break through from the dark abyss of a sound stage that you kind of start to feel near the end of the season, and to actually go and be outside, in the real location, not just the parody one you make in a sound stage, that was absolutely fantastic. We loved doing that, too. One of my favorite parts about being on set in Disney World is that they did not shut down the park. They would rope off specific little areas around us, and we would film there. You had all of these people walking to and from the entrance of Disney World – they’ll see and find us and say “oh my god, you guys are real, you’re here? Are you animatronic?” [laughs] And they would stand there, at the edge of the roped off area, watching us work for 5, 6, 7 hours at a time, and I thought that was awesome. I was able to go up and talk to the fans, shake their hands, take a picture, sign something, just say hi. That was fantastic! I thought that was really cool.
It’s a big episode for Brick, too, in that we find out he has a girlfriend! The Hecks go to Disney by way of North Carolina – the character is sprung in a bit on the Hecks; how long did you, as Atticus, know this relationship would be revealed, or was it sprung on you in the script that oh, I guess I have a GF in NC?
It was absolutely just sprung on me [laughs]! I don’t think the writers would have it any other way. The Disney World thing, we knew that they were trying to accomplish since the beginning of the season, but it was only about the last month and a half or so of shooting where they said, we got it, we got cleared. Be ready to go to Disney World at the end of the season! With that episode, where Brick does get his girlfriend, it was one of those things where, I kid you not, I had a prediction that Brick would get some type of girlfriend this year. I thought it was the episode for Halloween where he takes the one girl to the dance or whatever. I thought, oh that’s the extent of it! Then it came up again with the Piper girl. I thought, okay, that’s the one! But no, sure enough, whenever I’m intuitively thinking, I can’t just brush it off until the end of the season! So I get the script, and I’m reading it, and I’m like, ok, so this is what’s going to happen, and then it says he gets to meet her, and they are really more like a couple! That was absolutely shocking [laughs]. I was like, what?? They’re making me do what?
I love the scene [spoiler alert] where they’re accusing each other, the parents are, of catfishing each other, though that’s not remotely the case. So classic THE MIDDLE.
Have you talked about what comes next for Brick in Season 6?
It hasn’t officially started. Because what I want to do when I’m done with this show is that I want to move into directing and writing. The writers on our show are quite a bit receptive to what happens to us, the actors, or most of the time, the crew, in real life. They take aspects of that and incorporate that into the show. I have actually sent emails and sat down with some of the writers last year, and following up this year of some ideas that I want to see Brick encounter. Without saying too much, more like exploring his interests and what he’s able to do in life.
When you look back on it, shooting the pilot, did you think “this is going to go for over 100 episodes”? Did you have that foresight?
That’s the thing – we actually filmed two pilots. The first pilot was with a completely different cast besides myself. We shot that pilot. This was back when I was about 8 and I’m almost 16 now. We shot that and it didn’t get picked up. For some reason, I felt and the writers felt that this isn’t the end. Two years later, I get a call that we’re getting another shot at th peilot. I was like, oh this is great. They said, “We want you to come back to play Brick.” Halfway into filming tha ti realized I was the only person to come back from the original pilot and I was extremely honored, and I’m still honored that I’v ebeen blessed in that way. We shoot the pilot, and it was like, hey, see you next episode, never thinking “this is it,” shaking each other’s hands and saying we’d see each other next episode. Sure enough we get picked up for the first part of the first season, and it was like, oh hey, this is awesome. That’s when I thought, okay, this is good, at least we’re getting this, and whatever else happens beyond that, happens. Then we get told that we have a full 22 episode season. And then it was like, this is fantastic. Then we get another 2 episodes for a first season of 24. It kept going into Season 2 and Season 3. By the time Season 3 came around, and I don’t want to say this in a cocky way, but, it almost felt like, okay, we can’t just be stopped. It can’t be canceled like that. It has to end officially. Did I think it would go for 120 episodes plus? I’m the kind of person that expects the worst and hopes for the best. I couldn’t pick one side or the other; I knew what I wanted to happen, but I knew the possibility of that happening is very slim. To be able to have it continue on like that, like it has, is just phenomenal!
For more info on THE MIDDLE, head to ABC.com!