Patricia Heaton and The Middle stars preview the season finale
By Fred Topel
HollywoodNews.com: The Paley Center for Media honors the best that television has to offer. The Middle has only been on for one year but they earned a night of honor at the Paley’s Beverly Hills center on May 5. Patricia Heaton, her costars, and the show’s creators gave a panel for the center’s audience, and gave us a scoop on the season finale on the red carpet.
“Oh, the finale is so wonderful,” Heaton said. “Of course, we have Betty White. I know Betty just more socially. I’ve never actually worked with her and I didn’t even get to work with her on this episode because I was out of town the day she came to film. So I didn’t have any scenes with her but if I had been in town I definitely would have come and chatted with her. So hopefully I’ll see her again soon but she’s wonderful on the show.”
Neil Flynn, who plays husband and father Mike Heck, was as cryptic as a star of Lost about his show’s season finale. “I know in the finale someone gets a much deserved victory,” Flynn said. “I’ll put it that way.”
Eden Sher, who plays daughter Sue Heck, revealed that long awaited victory. It involves a running track. “I get to run around a track on crutches in the rain,” Sher said. “It’s pretty cool. It was the most physically painstaking episode to film so I hope it turned out well. It was very hard actually. It was definitely because when I was filming, in the script she goes around the track five times. I didn’t go around nearly five times, but I would have quit after one for sure. So it just goes to show how determined Sue really was. I think it really says a lot for the character.”
The Betty White storyline involves the Heck’s youngest son Brick, played by Atticus Shaffer. The grown-ups still made sure to meet the living legend on the set though. “Betty White’s scenes were only with Atticus so I’m jealous of him for that,” Flynn said. “But I showed up to work the day she was there just to see her. It was nice to be in the presence of a legend like that.”
The season finale proves to be a very special episode for Shaffer. “Actually in the season finale, it’s probably one of my favorite episodes so far because it really has that heartfelt ending to it, great storyline, and it’s a great episode,” Shaffer said. “It’s very special and quite a few things happen where you never think they would happen.”
Meanwhile, Shaffer teased some interesting father/son plotlines that may come up before the end of the season. “There’s a plot between me and Mike where there’s more similarities between us than you might think,” Shaffer said. “They’re socially awkward. Brick can be a little socially awkward and actually Mike can too but in his own way.”
The Middle is already picked up for a second season, and it looks like it will go on for many years. Add that to Heaton’s nine years on Everybody Loves Raymond and some 15-20 years of her life may end up being chronicled on television.
“Well, especially for women, physically it’s very daunting to imagine that,” she said. “My goodness, it’s something that I think I’ve probably always dreamed of but never thought would happen. I know I’m kind of hopefully, God willing in the midst of that long run. I’m so deeply grateful to be able to make my living A, at something that I love to do and B something that I think makes a lot of people happy.”
Flynn also comes off an eight year run on TV’s underdog Scrubs. He could also hit a decade and a half of consecutive television airings. “I guess I’d have to consider myself lucky that that’s the case,” Flynn said. “It took a long time to get there. Believe me, every day I’m working I’m grateful for it. Yeah, it is funny that it can eat up that much time. If this stays on the air for five or six years, then yeah. It’s funny that that’s a rare, at least uncommon situation to be on two successful shows. On Scrubs I was just lucky enough to sort of roll along with a succeeding show. But yeah, it’s so hard to get one show that you just have to be that much more grateful to have two.”
For the Heck kids, several years of The Middle could chronicle their very noticeable physical growth. “Actually it is kind of cool being on a series that will hopefully go on for a long time,” Shaffer said. “It’ll be cool to see Brick kind of grow up on camera in a way. And me.”
Even though she’s already 18, the prospect of being on television until she’s 25 is too much to imagine. “I can barely think about myself tomorrow so we’ll see,” Sher laughed. “Hopefully I’m still kicking. I totally have thought about that. I keep thinking I don’t know where Sue’s going to go. I wonder where she’s going to go. Just looking back at the pilot even, I feel like we’ve evolved as characters so much. So I think about it but I have no idea. I have no expectations for where the Hecks are going to do.”
As she prepared to enter the theater and greet the audience, Heaton shared her thanks to the Paley Center for hosting The Middle. “Oh, listen, I love the Paley Center,” Heaton said. “I’m a huge fan of television as you might guess. But, I find that there’s so much opportunity, especially for women to explore characters, really in an in-depth way and to stretch in a way that you wouldn’t be allowed to in features. When you do multiple camera, it’s almost like doing theater and you get the audience reaction. I just adore television. To have our show to continue to be on, such a new show too to already start getting accolades is quite thrilling.”
The Middle airs Wednesday nights on ABC.