Leading Man
Currently starring in ABC’s “The Middle,” West Chester native Charlie McDermott reaps the rewards of his work on both sides of the camera
by Lindsey Getz

While he’s best-known for his role playing Axl Heck, the eldest son on ABC’s “The Middle,” Charlie McDermott actually began his career on the big screen. As a 14-year-old with a passion for filmmaking, McDermott went to a casting call he read about in the local paper and wound up with a role in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 hit, “The Village.” Since then he’s had other big-screen roles, including one in “Hot Tub Time Machine” and another in “Frozen River,” an indie film that netted two Academy Award nominations.

But it’s been the role of Axl—the rowdy, often clueless student—upon which the 25-year-old West Chester native has truly built his fame. Most recently, McDermott was cast as the lead in a CBS pilot, anticipated to air this fall. “Super Clyde” is a story about an unassuming fast-food worker who finds his calling as a superhero when he inherits his uncle’s fortune. The show bears the mark of Greg Garcia, known for creating shows such as “My Name is Earl” and “Raising Hope.” If “Super Clyde” gets picked up, it would mean a diminished role for McDermott on “The Middle,” though the timing is appropriate, as Axl’s character is away at college.

We recently caught up with McDermott while he was at home in Los Angeles. He talked about the new pilot, his role on “The Middle” and his love for Wawa.

Do you consider “The Village” your big break into an acting career?
Absolutely. It’s actually the first thing I ever did. M. Night Shyamalan had become an idol for me and was the only person I knew that was doing big work in Philadelphia. I really looked up to him. When I saw there was an open casting call, I went, mostly just trying to see him but never actually believing I’d be cast. But I ended up being cast as an extra. Then I got asked to read lines and ended up with a speaking role. From there I feel like things took off. I got an agent and a manager and moved to New York City for a couple years before eventually moving out to California.

Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
I started making short movies with my friends when I was younger, and in seventh grade I substituted a paper with a short video project I’d made. I was surprised how receptive the teacher was to it at the time.

I know you wrote, directed and starred in the film “ImagiGARY” and did a lot of the filming in our area. Do you get back here often?
That’s right; we shot that film in West Chester, and it’s currently still in post-production. The last six years I’ve been able to get home every summer, but it’s getting to be less and less. This summer I’ll be staying in Los Angeles but will definitely be home for the holidays. I have a lot of fond memories of the area. Growing up, I loved going to Phillies games. And when I’m home I still have to stop into Wawa; it’s just one of a kind.

Tell us more about “Super Clyde.”
Right now it’s still just a pilot. But it’s a really fun show. It’s a 20-something guy that doesn’t have much going for him but wants to be a superhero. When he’s left $20 million, he is able to achieve that dream. It’s definitely a really fun concept.

You’re obviously well known for your current role, playing Axl Heck on “The Middle.” He’s kind of a crazy character. Do you relate to him at all?

Not really. He’s a fun guy, but he can also be a total jerk—and he gets away with it. That’s fun when you’re acting, but honestly he’s the kind of guy I probably would have hated in school. But it’s been a lot of fun to play him for the last six years. It’s nice when you enjoy going to work every day.

What would you say is next for you?

I would definitely love to do more film work and someday hope to do more work behind the camera. But right now the biggest thing is “Super Clyde.” We’re really hoping it will get picked up.

Photograph courtesy of ABC/Bob D’Amico