Charlie McDermott is doing double duty on The Middle. The actor, who plays oldest son Axl Heck on the long-running ABC comedy, recently juggled his acting duties with the director’s chair for the upcoming episode “The Confirmation,” and we can confirm he did one Heck of a job. (See what we did there?)
McDermott was given a pretty special episode for his TV directorial debut. In “The Confirmation,” Brick (Atticus Shaffer) finds out his bunkmate at Reverend Tim-Tom’s Wilderness Jesus Jam Camp is none other than Blake Ferguson — the kid his parents mistakenly brought home from the hospital and raised for a month when Brick and Blake’s bassinets were switched in the nursery. Brick found out about his wacky birth story way back in Season 2, but now he’ll finally get closure. (We think!)
Watch an exclusive sneak peek from the episode:
Charlie McDermott speaks with Yahoo TV about his directorial debut on “The Confirmation,” which also includes a secondary storyline about his own character’s secret romance with his sister’s bestie Lexie (Daniela Bobadilla) and a really fun spoof of the famous Friends intro by Sue (Eden Sher) and her friends.
Yahoo TV: Can you tell us a little bit about the episode “The Confirmation?”
Charlie McDermott: The episode is basically about Brick facing off with Baby Ferguson, who’s now grown up and is Teenage Ferguson. You know, from the infamous baby swap that happened when Brick was an infant. He meets the kid who was taken home instead by his parents, and ultimately the Ferguson family comes over to confront the Hecks on Brick spilling the beans to little Blake Ferguson. And then Axl is dating Sue’s roommate, but he doesn’t want Sue to find out, so they’re keeping a secret and basically sneaking around for the majority of the episode trying to avoid Sue and Brad.
You’ve been on The Middle for eight seasons. When did you first think about directing, and how did you prep for it?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do as long as I’ve been acting, so I’ve been thinking about it the whole way. I’ve been as interested in this aspect of television and film as I have been with the acting. I did a film [ImagiGARY] back in 2012, which gave me a little bit of practice, so I had some sort of sense of what was going on. But then I also had [The Middle director] Lee Shallat Chemel, who’s been in the television world for decades. She’s one of the regulars on our show, and she’s really, really great at helping the up-and-comers kind of navigate all the different layers of the set. So she really helped me out with shadowing a couple times. I shadowed her a couple years ago and then this year I did a couple times. I generally … just when she’s always been around, I’ve been kind of watching her, hanging out, just to see what I can learn. She was a really big help.
What was it like directing your TV family?
It was really fun, it was really cool. They were all really great about it, which was nice. I feel like we worked together for so long now that we have a good cadence already. So the directing, it was really … I was nervous and everything, but it actually went incredibly smooth and easy and fun. It was really nice. I think that it does help that we all kind of help each other with performances, even when one of us is not directing. We all kind of help each other out and work together, so it actually didn’t feel like much of a transition with them. It was really easy.
We first learned about how Brick and Blake Ferguson got switched as babies back in Season 2. Do you know if there was always a plan to have them all meet?
I don’t know, to be perfectly honest. I don’t think so. I think it was kind of something that … I really don’t know if they planned that out ahead of time, but I was excited to find out that that’s what this episode was about. I didn’t know what the episode was about until about a week before they released the script. So I knew I was directing it for a while, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. But it was a really, really cool one. The timing, I think, was really funny. I felt very lucky. It’s interesting how TV works, because you know you get slotted for an episode months and months ahead of knowing what the episode’s going to be about. So I knew I had the 20th episode of the season pretty much this time last year, so it was really exciting, kind of, as we were getting closer and closer to see how the stories were going through the season and trying to figure out maybe what I was gonna get. It was a really, really cool one.
Do you think we’ll see any more of the Fergusons in the future, or did Brick get his closure?
I mean, he seemed like he wanted to go off with them, so I guess I wouldn’t write if off that they wouldn’t show up anymore. [Laughs.] I think it was funny to see Brick realize that he may have been better off with the Fergusons, or at least have more he could relate to, so, yeah, I don’t know. There’s a chance, I’d say, that they could come back.
What else do you want to say about this episode?
It felt very cool to be able to do the Friends fountain intro. That was really, really fun. It was a fun episode. It was bigger than … I knew initially that they were planning to try and write me in it as little as possible, that was the initial plan, but as it got close, I was in a lot of it, a lot more than I was anticipating.
The show was already renewed for a 9th season. Any plans for directing in the future?
I would love to, if they want me to do it. If they’ll have me back, I would gladly go back as a director. So we’ll see!
The Middle airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.
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