For those who've never given "The Middle" a chance because they think it's just another run of the mill family sitcom, they're missing out. The series is consistently funny and stars one of the best young actors on TV right now, and that's saying a lot. In a recent exclusive interview Atticus Shaffer discusses his character's legendary whisper and being a role model.
Atticus Shaffer Compares Himself to Brick Heck on 'The Middle'
On "The Middle" Shaffer plays Brick Heck, the youngest of three kids in a lower-middle class, suburban family. Brick is an unusual kid who doesn't make friends easily, loves librarians and fonts and frequently drops his head and whispers the words he has just spoken.
But what Brick lacks in social skills, he more than makes up for in brains and charm. Shaffer described the qualities he shares with his TV persona and in what ways he's different. "I'm like Brick in every way really. The only two things that I'm really not like Brick in is the whisper thing and also is I'm not as into fonts."
But Shaffer noted that playing Brick has allowed him to step outside his personal comfort zone. "What's really cool is because of the fact that I am home schooled I don't normally go into classrooms or be on basketball courts. I'm not an athletic person at all. Neither is my family really. But we really enjoy stuff that I know I normally wouldn't be able to do like being on a basketball court, wearing a basketball jersey and catching a ball. Or having trouble in gym class or being in the different classrooms with all the different teachers and whatnot. So in a way it's like I'm living two lives and I'm able to alternate between the two."
Atticus Shaffer Talks About Brick Heck's Famous Whisper on 'The Middle'
Brick has one quirk that Shaffer has accidentally picked up over time. Shaffer explained how his signature whisper came about. "See the character of Brick was originally created based on one of the creator's sons, Eileen Heisler's son… he did whisper. And so that came about from him and I kind of understood it. And so I just brought it in my version in the audition. Cause some kids wouldn't just always look down, it wasn't script written to look down."
He recalled how the twist on Brick's idiosyncrasy came to him. Shaffer revealed, "I thought, well he whispers it would be a little, I don't want to say weird, but it would be a little odd if you see him look straight at someone and whisper. So why doesn't he look down? Because it was originally written that he talks to his backpack. So that's how I whispered it and it stuck that way and took off from there."
Shaffer admitted that every once in a while he slips and finds himself pulling a Brick in real life. He recounted, "I do talk to myself, just not in a whisper. But I have caught myself sometimes. Like I'll just be sitting and eating dinner with my family, I'll say something, I remember that it was a whisper in an episode and I suddenly whisper it and then I quickly cover up my mouth and I'm like very shocked about it. And my parents are looking at me like, 'Did that really just happen?'"
Atticus Shaffer Is Happy to Be a Role Model
Quirks aside, Shaffer is happy about his part on "The Middle" for another key reason. He admitted, "I do have kids that write to me who are more different like Brick. And they really don't say I appreciate it, but they say, 'I look up to you for this. I look up to the fact that you are who you are and you are able to portray that in a great way and a funny way.' And that's what I really like is I like the fact that I can be a role model. It doesn't matter about money and fame and whatever. I really don't care about that. My thing is, I'm happy that I'm able to have kids have a hero and have someone that they can look up to."
Watch Shaffer on "The Middle" on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. Central on ABC.
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