‘The Middle’: Meet The Original Heck Family

Cast Members Recall First Auditions As ABC Sitcom Heads To Hallmark Channel


The cast of 'The Middle'

Eden Sher admits she sobbed like a baby at a recent celebration for the 100th episode of THE MIDDLE.

The often under appreciated family sitcom will appear in syndication on Hallmark Channel beginning March 3 — almost certainly assuring long term financial security to producers and cast members.

But Eden — who, by the way should really be shown some Emmy love for her portrayal of eternally optimistic middle teen Sue Heck — wasn’t originally supposed to be along for the ride.

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Nor were Patricia Heaton (mom, Frankie), Neil Flynn (dad, Mike) or Charlie McDermott (brother, Axl).

Back in 2006, ABC shot a pilot with entirely different actors.  It never aired.  Instead, the entire Heck family — except for youngest son Brick (Atticus Shaffer) — was recast.

Here’s how one of primetime’s favorite families nearly looked.

Ricki LakeRICKI LAKE as FRANKIE HECK

The chat show queen brought the most star-power to the cast, but blames bad timing for her replacement.

While promoting her latest stint in daytime talk last year, she revealed:

“We had done the pilot and the strike happened, they held on to my option for another six to eight months, then they revamped it a year later with [Patricia Heaton].”

 

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Michael MitchellMICHAEL MITCHELL as ELVIS HECK

“The [Alx] character was named Elvis back then,” Charlie told me last week.  “I went in and made it two auditions in before I got cut.” 

The role instead went to 23 year-old Michael Mitchell of Colleyville, Texas.  Though relatively unknown at the time, Mitchell had made several guest appearances on VERONICA MARS and the kids series PHIL OF THE FUTURE.

A year later, after the show wasn’t picked up, Charlie auditioned again.

“It was the exact same audition [script] — except the character name was scratched out,” he remembers.  “I still had the scenes memorized because I only had two or three lines in the pilot.  I went to five auditions over a couple of months and got it.

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Brenna O'BrienBRENNA O’BRIEN as SUE HECK

Casting the socially-challenged (but adorkable) middle was “more tumultuous,” Eden tells me.

“I think they had a difficult time casting Sue because it was so vague and also so specific, which is kind of the curse of having a character that you love but also having no idea how someone could execute it.” 

Producers first went with Canadian beauty Brenna O’Brien, who was best known at the time as the voice of Rin on the TV series INUYASHA.  

The following year, they found Eden — but she was convinced she’s never get the job.

“It was months and months of auditioning and just being 100 percent confident that people hated me,” she says.  “They kept bringing me in and every time I got a call back there would be more and different girls there!”

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LexLEX MEDLIN as MIKE HECK 

Lex Medlin was coming off a leading role in the short-lived Fox sitcom HAPPY HOUR, when he was cast as the Heck family patriarch.

He had previously appeared in guest roles on FRIENDS, CHARMED and BEVERLY HILLS 90210

When THE MIDDLE was reimagined, he was replaced by Neil Flynn, who towers several feet above his TV wife.

“The producers were looking forward for me to audition,” he told Zap2It.com. “That is the only time anyone has ever anticipated my arrival at an audition! That they would give me that part, that is actually flattering me.”

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Atticus ShafferATTICUS SCHAFFER as BRICK HECK
It is hard to imagine anyone BUT the now 15 year-old playing the loveable, whispering grade schooler.

The role was more than loosely based on co-creator Eileen Heisler’s own son.

But it fit Atticus like a glove from day one.

“Brick…follows the beat of his own drummer,” he told The New York Times. “He’s different, and he’s quirky, and people seem to think that’s adorable. Trust me because I know. It’s my life.”

Do you watch THE MIDDLE?  Let us know what you think of the show by leaving a comment below.


 

Sean Daly

Sean Daly

Editor-In-Chief at TheTVPage.com
Sean Daly is a veteran entertainment journalist.His work has appeared in People, Us Weekly, The Toronto Star and other top publications. He was the west coast TV reporter for The New York Post from 2008 - 2013. Sean is the author of Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America's Got Talent and Teen Mom Confidential: Secrets and Scandals From MTV's Most Controversial Shows.
Sean Daly