Stuck in ‘The Middle’ with you: An interview with Atticus Shaffer

I’m still a little behind on my NYC posts. I was honoured to conduct an interview with Vince Giordano (which is taking a little longer than expected to transcribe), and I have yet to write a review of ‘Holiday Inn’ on Broadway. Life has been pretty busy on this end!

Recently, however, I was able to conduct an electronic interview with actor Atticus Shaffer, who may be most well known for his role as ‘Brick Heck’ on ABC’s ‘The Middle’. It has been such a pleasure to correspond with Atticus. He is not only talented, but professional, mature, and most importantly polite. I hope we can correspond further. Here’s what he had to say:

1. How old were you when you started acting? What was it that fuelled your interest in becoming a performer? 

I was 8 years old when I became an actor. Growing up, my mom and I would always read story books out loud together and do character voices, all simply for the joy of reading and having fun while doing so. Well, when I was about 7 years old, I was given the privilege of being my hospital’s “poster child” for one year. During that time, I would have to go to banquets, make speeches, and talk to a lot of different people of various ages. I never got stage fright, and I actually greatly enjoyed being able to talk to all these different people. The final event I went to, as the poster child, was a charity football game. At halftime I went down to the field and gave a speech in front of all the stadium and my mom was up in the bleachers and said, “There has got to be something more to this.” As the next year progressed, we by happenchance found out the information for a talent manager and my mom and I had a meeting with her. My mom always thought I had a cute voice, and thought, “Maybe he could be a little cartoon character or a book-on-tape reader.” So, we met with her, and she really liked me, but didn’t quite know what to do with me, so she suggested that I sign up for both voice over and theatrical (on camera work) and see what happens. After giving it a great deal of thought, I signed up, and a month into it, I got my first audition for a guest star role on a CBS show called The Class…and I booked it. Then everything snowballed from there.

2. Most people would say that you are most well known for portraying the character ‘Brick Heck’ on ‘The Middle’. Do you think that there are any similarities between the two of you?

While I’m not as fascinated by fonts as much as Brick is, I would say the two of us are very similar. I do enjoy reading, and I take pride in my nerdy tendencies, however, I feel we are most similar in the fact that we both follow the beat to our own drummer. You see, I believe that we are all created to be unique. I mean, how boring would the world be if we were all exactly alike? That’s what I love about Brick. He has an innocence about him and he shows that it is okay to be unique. It’s okay to just be yourself and enjoy what you enjoy doing, in his case, his love for books.

 3. Who has been your favourite guest star on ‘The Middle’, and why?

Hmmm, that is hard to say, as we have been honored with having so many talented actors and actresses on the show. I think for the rest of my days, I will remember how I was able to work with Betty White when she played the librarian in the season 1 finale. She was an incredible person as well as an amazing actress, and she brought with her an amazing energy onto the show that cannot be duplicated. I must say though, as I am a big history nerd, I did have a fan boy moment when we had Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars on the show. He was very cool to work with and had a lot of history themed stories to tell.

 4. It’s always a joy to see Jerry Van Dyke (who, for those that don’t know, was the in-house comedian for 10 episodes of ‘The Judy Garland Show’) make an appearance on ‘The Middle’ as ‘Tag Heck’. Jerry’s brother, the legendary Dick Van Dyke, made an appearance on the show last year. How did it feel to get the chance to work with such an icon?

 It was a huge deal to have Dick Van Dyke on our show. It was so cool, because all of the writers brought their parents, who grew up watching The Dick Van Dyke Show, to the set so they could see Mr. Van Dyke perform, which was an incredible feat to see. Off camera the Van Dyke brothers would often sing together old songs from their past, which was such a treat for the cast and crew to hear. Both Van Dykes are still going strong in the work that they do and we are all so happy that they were a part of our show.

5. Some people may not be aware that you have a genetic disorder known as Osteogenesis imperfecta. I’m sure life with the disorder has its ups and downs. Do you have any advice for those of your fans that may also suffer from a genetic disorder/condition/disability? How do you deal with the hard days?

For those who may not know, Osteogenisis Imperfecta is a genetic condition that affects the collagen in the body, and is most known for causing brittle bones. My mom has always been not only my advocate, but also my champion when it comes to having my condition. She has always taught me two very important things, that I will carry with me forever. She has taught me to, “Never give up” and “Always be myself.” You are correct it is a struggle at times. Sometimes it can be inconvenient. Other times it can be quite painful. But, as I stated previously, I believe we have all been created to be unique. Sometimes that does include challenges. But I believe, that if I didn’t have my condition, I would not be the person I am today. For my condition has taught me so much, about so many different things. It’s helped me to be more compassionate, it’s taught me perseverance, and it gives you such a perspective on how you live your life and what is truly important. My advice for others would be just that. Never give up and always be yourself. If you have a dream that you feel may not come to pass, find a way to achieve it, your way. For example if you absolutely love football, but cannot physically play it, you could become a sports commentator or a sports magazine writer. If you work within your means, you can achieve far more than you think. Do not focus on your disabilities, focus on your abilities. In regards to your question about how to handle the hard days, I am a Christian. Having a condition like OI leads you to searching for a greater purpose in life and a greater comfort which leads you to grow closer to God to depend on Him. I could write a book on the number of situations that had absolutely no resolution, but then suddenly the exact resolution I needed became available and occurred. My faith is very important, but I have also been blessed with a mom and friends who are very understanding, loving, and caring for me, and I could talk to about anything, and have help when necessary, as well. For them, I am forever grateful.

Atticus Shaffer. Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

6. If you could follow another career path, which one would it be, and why? 

Well, I adore this industry, and I would love to continue to grow in this career, however, if there was some cosmic level event that caused me to change career paths, politics has somewhat caught my eye. During our recent election, here in the United States, I learned a lot about government, our nation’s history, and what it’s like to study policies, propositions and the people themselves. So I would take the path to be, as former president Ronald Reagan said, “a concerned citizen who gets involved.”

 7. What is your favourite book, and why?

Well, in terms of frequency of reading, I read my Bible everyday. However, in terms of a novel, I enjoyed reading my namesake book, To Kill a Mockingbird.

8. If you could make a cameo on any other ABC sitcom, which one would it be?

I don’t get asked this question very often, but it’s always fun when it comes up. This last year, The Middle moved to Tuesday night here in the USA and when that happened we made some promo commercials to publicize it. In one of them, Brick is in the Goldberg’s house because he got, “left behind on Wednesday night.” Well, we went to the actual set of The Goldbergs to film that promo and I got to meet a few of the cast and they were some of the nicest people I have ever met. Very humble, very thankful for their show and the success it has been given. If I could choose any show, I would definitely choose to work on The Goldbergs.

9. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

My hope is, once The Middle is finished filming, to move behind the camera more, and be a director/ writer/ producer. I have quite a few story ideas floating around in my head, and I think they could make great films. Hopefully in 10 years time, I’ll have a couple notches in my belt with them. Otherwise, I’d like to see myself getting stronger physically, growing in my faith, and studying anything of interest.

 10. Describe yourself in three words.

Christian. Son. Artist.

Thank you for a great interview Atticus! Be sure to watch ‘The Middle’ to see him (and the rest of the amazing cast) in action!


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