This week “The Middle” debuts its fourth season, and Atticus Shaffer, who portrays the quirky-but-lovable youngest Heck child Brick, gets down to brass tacks about the premiere, being famous, his borderline-scandalous Halloween plans, and why you don’t want to get on his “demon” side. (Hint: he gave himself nightmares after watching himself in the 2009 horror flick The Unborn.)
I heard that you’re really good at impressions and that you do a fantastic Antonio Banderas, but I want to hear you do your favorite impression.
Well, recently I’ve been going around and doing this to all the people on set. And if you could see my face, it’s really very similar. But I can do an impression of, I believe it’s from The Godfather….[doing a Marlon Brando-esque impression]: ‘So Charlie’s gonna be the boss of medium acting from West Moorbrook to East Orange, how did it come to this? Look what they did to my boy!’
That’s awesome. So wait, have you seen The Godfather? Is that how you nailed it down?
No. Actually, I’ve seen other people and other stand-up comedians doing impressions of The Godfather and then I take that and put it into my life.
So let’s talk about the premiere. Are there any curve balls we should be looking for?
Well, the whole show’s a curve ball! Now if you’ve missed that, you have a problem. No, it’s actually going to be an hour-long season premiere like it was last year. Apparently everyone liked that, the two parts coming together. It’ll be a cliffhanger to keep people enticed I guess.
Yeah people like that. It gets them hooked.
I mean, I’m a big TV nerd person. I love cliffhangers. That’s why I watch “The Walking Dead.”
Is that your favorite show?
One of them. I’m a big zombie fan, too. I love history and zombies. But in this episode, Frankie and Mike want to show the Heck kids what a good, classic family summer is all about: Not sitting in front of the TV, not doing all that. It’s actually going out into the world and seeing what the world is all about. So after a series of events of trying to bond and make the connections, well, its “The Middle” – they’re gonna “Heck it up.”
“They’re gonna Heck it up.” That’s a good one, you should make a bumper sticker.
Yeah. But one thing in particular is – and I can’t give full disclosure on this – and it’s not going to be in the season premiere, it’s going to be in an episode or two later – but Brick gets a new quirk, which I kind of saw coming, but the actual quirk itself is a big shocker.
Really? And you can’t give any hints?
No, but I’ll say this: It’s similar to “the whisper.” But that’s all I’ll say. I’ve already said too much.
So what are your favorite kind of scenes to do?
I love when there’s a montage of what Brick’s doing and there necessarily isn’t dialogue, it’s more or less just face acting and body acting. To tell you the truth, I love that stuff because it’s just like the classic actors. When films first came out, the silent movies –
Yeah, exactly. I love that stuff. It’s cool because I don’t have to memorize my lines and I just focus on my face and gestures and stuff like that.
And I also really love voice work too, because I love playing with my voice. And you don’t have to memorize [lines] or worry about wardrobe, you know?
That’s right, you could just show up to the studio in sweats, or even naked if you wanted to.
Well I probably would get fired so I’m not going to do that. But it’s like shorts, a t-shirt. Like right now, the only reason I’m in this outfit is because I’m not in wardrobe and I’m wearing just a comfy Reese’s Peanut Butter cup shirt, shorts, and camouflage hiking boots. And that’s me.
So what’s it like having everybody recognizing you now?
The only thing that’s very crazy is the fact that we’ve been on for four years so people think that they know me. So they’ll come up to me and be like, “he he he, can I have a hug?” And I’m like, “Whoa. Four-feet radius, buddy.” But in complete honesty and truth, if anyone wants to just come over to me and just say hi, like they see me in a restaurant or something, I want them to feel more than welcome to.
There are of course restrictions that must be followed. “Please note the caveats.”
“Please come up to Atticus Shaffer, but remember that rules and restrictions apply. No approaching if he is hungry or mid-dipping of his chicken McNugget at McDonald’s.”
Please read the fine print.
No, but seriously, I’m fine with people coming up to me. I want to thank them, because they help me to support my family, and I like that.
So other than your show, what other shows do you like to watch?
Well, oh wait, I’m supposed to like the show I’m on?
That was not a prerequisite, of course.
No, I’m kidding. Obviously “The Walking Dead.”
Are you a marathon viewer?
Ohhh yes, I am a fan of marathons, I must say. I love staying in. Like, it’s Halloween night and they’re playing “The Walking Dead.” I’m not going trick or treating. I will put on a kilt, a cape, and an eye patch. [I’ll] grab the candy that we’re supposed to hand out and I’ll put an “IOU” note stack in there.
You scared the crap out of me in The Unborn. Movies like that and The Exorcist, I just can’t sleep with the lights off anymore.
No, no, neither can I. Neither can I. I scared myself. I still can’t watch the movie. I was actually with one of the PA’s on the set here. He’s like one of my best friends and I was like, “Oh dude, have you seen the scary movie I’m in?” I tried to find the scenes that I was in, so I searched and I see this one scene and it’s like “Oh, this might be it.” Click. [I] watched through the whole scene and I had nightmares that night.
Oh my god, you’re kidding me. From your own movie?
When I watched that movie, I, number one, couldn’t even get all the way through, Another buddy of mine and my mom and I were sitting at home and we were watching it. [We] probably got through like the first hour and fifteen and I was like, “Oh my god, turn it off.” It was like, “I’m going to watch until my scenes are over. If I’m brave, we’ll keep watching, if I’m not, we’ll turn it off and I’ll need to have my stuffed animals out of storage.” Well, the second option happened.
Well, in this case, it’s actually quite acceptable.
And actually, that brings up a quick funny story. I was walking around in a friend’s house, and his front window was up, and I was looking out at the street and I see this boy, a girl riding a bike, and another girl, and they’re like “tweens,” like 11, 12, 13. They’re walking down the street and this boy is talking. He takes one look at me and I give a half smile. But I hear what this boy is saying and he’s kind of talking a lot of smack and I don’t like that. So I just kind of give him this look like, “Oh really, you’re really gonna do that to try and impress girls? That’s sad.” Then he turns, takes one look at me, and bolts down the street. And I just sit there, and I was like, ‘What happened?’
You scared him good. That’s when the opposite side of Cherub Atticus comes out to crack the whip.
That’s Demon Atticus. My dark side. I’ve named him Kevin.
Wow, is Kevin a history buff too?
Well, he’s a history buff, but he’s more into ancient North American history.