Q&A with Charlie McDermott of ‘The Middle’

Q&A with Charlie McDermott of ‘The Middle’

What’s in store on the show’s season premiere and his writing and directorial debut

By Lie Shia Ong

Charlie McDermott plays Axl, the eldest son of Mike (Neil Flynn) and Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), on the hit ABC show “The Middle.”

Axl hasn’t really been the perfect son (remember the nail clippings in the potato chips bag episode?) or the best older brother to his sister, Sue (Eden Sher), and younger brother, Brick (Atticus Shaffer), but at the end of last season he managed to pull it together and graduated from high school.

Now as Season 5 is about to premiere, his entire family sends him off as he begins college.

MSN TV spoke with the actor about what’s coming up for Axl and the Heck family this season, as well as his writing and directorial debut in the upcoming movie “ImagiGary.”

MSN TV: The Season 5 premiere of “The Middle” is a big episode for your character, Axl. What can we expect from the Heck family as you head off to college?

Charlie McDermott: He has a new roommate (laughs), which is not what he was expecting, which is nice. Basically for Axl, you’ll be seeing him out on his own for the first time ever, which is interesting. It’s different.

How is the dynamic of the show going to change now that you’re not living in the Heck household anymore?

Actually, it’s not going to change much at all. I’m still going to be in the Heck household for part of each episode. Luckily, he lives only 40 minutes away, so he goes home to do his laundry, or comes home for the free food pretty frequently. So there’s that separate maybe half of the episode, and then at the house the other half, so not so much will change, which is great because it would be a bummer not to be filming with everybody each week. [Laughs.]

Your fans sent in some great questions for you. Tiffany wants to know: Your interactions with Sue and Brick have provided for some pretty funny moments on the show. Did you draw upon your own experiences with your siblings in real life, and are you anything like Axl?

I have two sisters who are both younger. I never had a dynamic with them that Axl has. I’m really close with my sisters and we’re not mean to each other. [Laughs.] I mean, we’ll joke around and rib each other, but that’s about as far as it goes. My relationship with my siblings are not very Axl-based.

Jon wanted to know if it is difficult playing a character who’s actually younger than you in real life?

No. Axl’s not that much younger. Axl’s life is pretty basic in the sense that it’s all about him, so as long as you keep it in your head that it’s all about you, you’re pretty much at that age where he’s at.

Sharon wanted to know, do you have a favorite co-star?

Everyone is pretty great. Everyone kind of has their own thing that makes them awesome. Neil [Flynn] is fun to goof around with. Eden [Sher] is fun to kind of like rip on. Atticus [Shaffer] is great because there’s this cool video game lingo he’s always talking about, and Patty [Patricia Heaton] is just really awesome to be around. It’s just great. It’s fun on the set.

Is there a funny story from shooting this season you can share?

We all got—this isn’t necessarily about filming—but the creators were nice enough to give us all bicycles, so the entire cast and crew have had these bicycles and we’ve been riding them around a lot for the past couple of weeks, so that’s been pretty fun.

I’m trying to think to think of something acting-related—funny stories. My new roommate has been pretty fun to share the screen with. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s been a lot of fun working with him. He’s a pretty funny character.

So far everything has been very, very good. Very fun.

Sophia wanted to know: What is your all-time favorite scene you’ve filmed for the show?

Probably the sequence—it wasn’t one scene—but the sequence where Axl saves Sue from failing our project together was definitely my favorite thing. You know, it wasn’t one specific scene; it was a couple scenes together, but that was definitely my favorite.

And there’s a scene this season where I’m trying to talk to my roommate Kenny and keep it going the entire time. It was like two pages of me just speaking. So that was a pretty fun one as well. That’s like the second or third episode this season. Might be the third. So, those are probably my top two favorite moments.

You also have a movie coming out, “Imagigary,” in which you’re making your writing and directing debut. What can you tell us about that project?

Right now it’s submitted to a bunch of festivals. It’s going to be wrapped up in about a month—it’ll be completely finished post-production. They’re fixing color correction right now, so we’ve got a few more weeks left of just minor tweaks and then it’s done.

Hopefully the first festival I’ll hear back form will be in early December and the rest should follow shortly thereafter. I’ll know what festivals we’re in at, and I’ll be sure to post that out there, and tweet it. We’ll see where it goes from there.

Is writing and directing a direction you want to take in your career?

Yeah, definitely. That’s what I first started going before I started acting. I was making shorts back at home, and I was acting in them as well, but that is what I was drawn towards. I always wanted to act also, but it didn’t seem like it was reachable. It seemed kind of unrealistic, whereas writing and directing was kind of like if you can write something and get it to somebody and direct it, you’d get hired, and it seemed like a more feasible career path.

And at the time I was in middle school, M. Nigh Shyamalan was my favorite director and he filmed his movies in my hometown, or right around it in Westchester, Pennsylvania. When I was in eighth grade, there was an open casting call… for his movie “The Village.” So I went just hoping to meet him and he wasn’t there since it was just a casting call, which at the time I didn’t realize. I had thought he would’ve been there. I was fortunate enough to get cast and I got lines. I got to work with him and meet him, and that’s what kind of kept the acting going, so I just ran with that. Once I got into this place with the show, I felt comfortable and kind of put my focus back into writing and directing. The first three seasons of “The Middle” we were writing it, and between seasons 3 and 4 we filmed it. Season 4, and now Season 5, I was editing it, and now it’s almost done.

Anything else you want to add or say to fans of “The Middle”?

I hope you keep watching. This year has by far some of our best episodes yet. Hopefully everyone enjoys what’s coming up.

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