Atticus Shaffer, 11, plays a strange second grader named Brick in the ABC sitcom “The Middle.”Crmodify...Jordin Althaus/ABC


You are watching: Why does brick on the middle whisper to himself

THE collection of the ABC sitcom “The Middle” had actually a last-day-of-college vibe one Friday afternoon in March as the actors and also crew operated on the seachild finale. A perky Betty White, guest starring as a crotchety librarian, got a touch up from a makeup artist. Crew members scurried roughly adjusting lights and also unraveling a rat’s colony of electric cords. And 11-year-old Atticus Shaffer did something reminiscent of the quirky character he plays on the show: he sat amid the chaos and also cheertotally talked to himself.

As it turned out, he had been practicing his lines for a confrontation scene via Ms. White. He had actually no principle who she was simply a couple of days before, yet thanks to the Web Movie Database he had check out over her résumé and determined to perform an extra-excellent job. “Apparently she’s a TV legend,” he said matter-of-factly.

Ms. White laughed. “How come you don’t settle his hair and also his lipstick?” she said, pointing to Atticus. “I’m just the old wide. He’s the star of the show.”

“The Center,” a wry, single-camera comedy starring Patricia Heaton that is frequently defined as a cross in between “Roseanne” and “Malcolm in the Center,” has averaged about salso million viewers every Wednesday and also was lengthy ago renewed for a second seakid. And Atticus is among the biggest factors why. His character, a peculiar second grader called Brick, has actually already earned a spot in television’s Hall of Fame — at leastern in the remote wing devoted to oddround kids.

Brick carries ketchup packets in his pockets (they “soothe” him), has been known to break into a Scottish accent and considers his backpack a really cshed frifinish. He has a fondness for baby chickens. Perhaps his weirdest tick requires habitually repeating the last word of his sentences in a creepy whisper.

TV has always had a soft spot for geeks and oddballs, and doubters zeroed in on the actor and also role once “The Middle” made its dehowever in September. “Atticus Shaffer is the breakout,” Joanne Ostrow of The Denver Blog post created last August. “The kiddo is hilarious.” But the gushing has actually grvery own so loud — “Just Love That Little Brick on ‘The Center,’ ” check out a Miami Herald headline in March — that the show’s authors appear to have began structure episodes even more squarely approximately that character. To assist hype its seakid finale on May 19, “The Middle” landed Ms. White. Guess who every one of her scenes are with?

“People simply like Brick because he complies with the beat of his very own drummer,” Atticus said. “He’s various, and he’s quirky, and human being seem to think that’s adorable. Trust me bereason I know. It’s my life.”

Brick, appropriate down to the whisper, is based upon the child of Eileen Heisler, that produced “The Middle” via DeAnn Heline. (The 2 woguys, whose credits encompass “Murphy Brown” and “How I Met Your Mvarious other,” have actually been composing partners because meeting in college.) “The funniest points come from truth,” Ms. Heisler said.

To pitch the concept of “The Middle” to ABC, the 2 women hosted up a picture of Ms. Heisler’s son Justin. “It just perfectly expressed all the angst in the character of Brick,” Ms. Heline sassist.

Atticus, whose various other credits include “My Name Is Earl” and the movie “Hancock” (sharing a bus soptimal scene with Will Smith), is the first to admit he’s a tiny kooky in genuine life — definitely not your average 11-year-old, also one in display company. Named after the lawyer in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” he resides around an hour north of Burfinancial institution, in rural Acton, on a spcheck out that has a small herd of cats and dogs. Home schooled, he’s a military-history buff, and has actually dressed up for Halloween — finish with kilt — as Sgt. Charles Stuart MacKenzie, an obscure Scottish hero from World War I.

He’s a Lego nut yet via a twist, utilizing the numbers and also structures he provides to film stop-motion battle movies with a camcorder. He was a Cub Scout however determined the more rigorous Boy Scouts weren’t for him.

“Truth be told, I discovered it a small also high adventure for my taste,” he said over a lunch of pizza and also garlic breview on the set.

Physical activity is hard for Atticus — viewers of “The Middle” will certainly alert the cam hardly ever complies with him once he walks, and also once it does he has actually a limp bereason of a hereditary disorder well-known as brittle bone illness, although his case is less significant than many.

But the protoform is Urkel, the squeaky-voiced nerd who popped on “Family Matters” in 1989. That character, played by Jaleel White, was never before intfinished to last past a couple of episodes. But viewers responded so favorably that the show lugged him earlier, and he soon ended up being a pop culture idol.

Mr. White, who has actually added screenwriting to his résumé and also is readying a brand-new Web series titled “Fake It Til You Make It,” sassist kooky children gain noticed because they regularly have the ideal jokes. “The story has to circulation through the lead actors,” he shelp. “They are the set-up civilization, and the punch line regularly drops to others. Think around ‘Seinfeld’ and also the method Jerry Seinfeld and Kramer interact.”

(Speaking of lead actors, Mr. White had somepoint to say about Ms. Heaton, who headlines “The Middle” as Frankie Heck, the tired mother of 3. “A lot of adult actors are also insecure to let the children shine, so hooray for her,” he said. “Generally, someamong her stature — a well-respected veteran — has actually the power to go to the producers and also say, ‘Hey, compose that kid’s component dvery own.’ ”)

Brian Robbins, a producer of children’s entertainment that gained his start in Hollyhardwood playing strange children on shows favor “Head of the Class,” sassist the more bizarre the habits, the even more these personalities seem to job-related. “Kids really enjoy watching the quirky, starray points they carry out, and adults uncover them endearing,” he sassist.

An executive producer of “Sonny With a Chance,” Mr. Robbins pointed to the odd yet clever before Zora (Allisyn Ashley Arm) on that Disney Channel show. “Zora, favor many these freaky characters, has become a type of mascot,” he sassist.

Of course there is a disconnect: It is even more likely that Zora and also Brick would be ostracized and also mocked than loved in genuine life. Theories abound to define why the oppowebsite is true on TV. Maybe it’s bereason tv offers a distance that clears the awkward feeling people have actually around real-life weirdos. Maybe because viewers know the personalities aren’t actual, they don’t experience that cringing, embarrassed-for-them feeling.

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Or maybe tright here are simply many geeks watching TV who determine.

“All I know,” Atticus shelp, “is that I feel extremely blessed to be on TV. It’s a difficult task, but actual life is harder. Truth be told, playgrounds have the right to be war zones.”