You’ve probably heard the phrase “13 going on 30” but don’t quite know what it means until you speak with someone like Atticus Shaffer. The 13-year-old who plays Brick Heck on The Middle is probably the most self assure and wise young teens we’ve ever met. Not to mention he started acting when The Middle made-for-TV movie came out at the ripe old age of 8. We had the pleasure of chatting with the always-joking child actor about his many similarities to Brick and even getting over his fear of tunnels.
What’s it like being by far the youngest cast member (The closest is Eden Sher at 19 and Charlie McDermott at 21)?
There really is no difference. The only fact is I am the only kid, so I am the only one who does studies and that can be challenging at times. But between the takes, I am able to go into my school trailer and continue my schooling and studies.
Your character is a big reader. Do you have the same fondness for literature?
Definitely, you know what? Brick and I are so much alike in almost every way that it really is shocking. We are almost exactly the same except for two little things. I do talk to myself, except I don’t talk in a whisper. The other thing is I’m not as into fonts … But I love to read what the fonts make in a stylish form.
What are some of your favorite books?
I’m absolutely loving the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series and I’m a huge nerd, so I love any “Star Wars” book I can get my hands on. I’m also a big history buff and love to read about military history. If there is a particular book about a particular war, I love to just sit there and read it.
You seem like such a sociable person but your character spends a lot of time alone. Would you like more opportunities to interact with other kids on the show?
To be honest, I like how Brick is where he’s not that sociable (laugh). I think it’s funny when Brick is strained to be sociable. In the end he just goes back to who he was ... Brick is who he wants to be and I think that its perfect the way it is for him.
The Middle depicts a very dysfunctional family in a small Indiana town. Do you think that is how a lot of working class families are these days and in this economy?
I really think they are and that’s the thing I love about “The Middle”. Its more real in the comedy, it’s not about some family that lives in upscale New York or Chicago and magically makes money from somewhere ... They live in this real world. But they have to deal with real problems like they are tight on money and the dryer just broke down or the dishwasher flooded. They are able to take situations like that and make them funny.
You brought up that you talk to yourself but don’t whisper like Brick. Where exactly does that “whisper-to-himself” thing that Brick always does come from you think?
I actually know. See, the character Brick was based on one of the creator’s sons. He actually whispered from time to time, and therefore it went into the character ... Eileen Heisler’s son.
What do you think Brick will be like as he grows up and approaches the high school age?
You really don’t know but I know he won’t be like Axl or how Sue was. He’s just going to be him except taller (laughs).
Brick is afraid of bridges we talked about how he’s obsessed with fonts…what other quirks do you think we’ll find out about him?
I really don’t know because even I don’t know what may come up. Of course everyone has quirks growing up, so it’s just a matter of how he approaches his.
Are there any cool quirks you have that you’d like to add to the character?
You said about the bridges, I actually had a similar fear when I was younger to tunnels. There was this one day where we are going on a family vacation and we had to go through a mile-long tunnel. There was no way around it. It was a creepy looking thing too like the side of a rocky cliff, you could just see the little hole and it was almost like a gaping mouth that was going to swallow you and you’d go into abyss forever. But we went in there and I covered up my eyes and I opened my eyes and I was like “Oh!, this isn’t so bad.” I immediately got over my fear.
The Middle airs on ABC, Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.