The star of ABC's hit family sitcom "The Middle" Atticus Shaffer talks faith and why his character is the inspiration we all need.
Posted in , Mar 24, 2015
It’s easy to love Atticus Shaffer. The actor, best known for playing the Heck family's oddball youngest son Brick on ABC’s The Middle, is admittedly a lot like the quirky nerd he plays on TV. (Given the opportunity, he could spend hours detailing his passion for Legos, reciting war history facts or his musical tastes – which range from bluegrass-heavy Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers to Christian Rock bands like Skillet and Casting Crowns.) But while some might take issue with being labeled a geek, Shaffer loves what makes him different and is proud that fans can look to him and his character for inspiration when they feel they just don’t fit in.
“One of the biggest things about playing Brick is that he follows the beat of his own drum, which I do too,” Shaffer told Guideposts.org. “Brick is a role model character. He’s showing it’s okay to be smart and it’s okay to be unique and it’s okay to be quirky.”
Many have to suffer through high school before learning this lesson, but Shaffer picked it up at a very young age. The actor booked the role on his hit family-comedy back in 2009 when he was just 11 years old. The show, now in its sixth season, saw Shaffer working alongside TV legends like Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn and being thrust into the limelight before he’d even reached his teens.
Now, at 16, Shaffer views the experience as an opportunity to be for millions of kids something he doesn’t remember having growing up: a Hollywood star worthy of looking up to.
“I remember when I was younger [thinking] ‘Why can’t there be better role models?’” Shaffer said. “You see all these reality shows that are on TV right now and it’s truly horrendous and what’s happening is people are tuning in and seeing that and they’re going ‘Oh, doing drugs and drinking before 21, yeah, that’s cool.’ That’s not what you’re supposed to do.”
When you let God take over, anything is possible.
Shaffer, who grew up in Southern California, credits his faith for keeping him so grounded. “I’m in the position that I’m in because I just let God take over,” Shaffer said of his success. “And when you let God take over, anything is possible. He just guides you to what’s specifically for you.”
One of the biggest blessings in the star’s life is something many would view as a roadblock. Shaffer has a genetic condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which is often described as brittle bone disease. The actor doesn’t like that label and explains that the condition – which usually results in growth stunts and easily fractured bones – doesn’t keep him from doing any of the things a normal teenager would do.
“It’s a genetic condition that causes your bones to form at a later time,” Shaffer said of the diagnosis. “My bones are more fragile than another person’s bones and therefore I have to be more careful in certain situations. So, can I run around? Yes. Do I have to be careful about running around? If I fall do I have a chance of [my bones] breaking? Yes. It’s really just as simple as that.”
As easy-going as Shaffer is about his condition now, the actor admits there was a time when being born with a disease that many doctors don’t understand was challenging for him and his family.
“When I was born and going to a hospital that [wasn’t] familiar with O.I., they looked at my mom, shook her and said ‘You need to get a grip on the fact that your son is going to be in a wheel chair for the rest of his life,’” Shaffer admits.
“My mom, being the strong-willed Polish woman that she is, wouldn’t accept that. My mom and dad kept looking for the correct hospital that is familiar with O.I. and that hospital gave me opportunities to do everything and be as close to a normal person as I can be. I don’t like to say normal, because I’m not normal either, I’m just me.”
His condition has afforded the young star an even bigger opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.
“That’s really a huge blessing on my life,” Shaffer said. “I’m able to be a role model in that regard as well. It’s awesome because it’s all God. It’s all God letting me know ‘Hey, I have a plan for you, this is where you’re gonna go.’ It’s amazing what I’ve been able to do and what I’ve been able to accomplish and even just the people I’ve been able to meet. I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in and I never want to take it for granted because unfortunately this is a business where you’re kind of all over the place and there’s a bunch of different stuff that can go wrong.”
Shaffer hopes that by being open about his beliefs, he can inspire others to pursue their own dreams. “I want to be able to not only praise Him for what he’s done for me specifically, I want to give hope to other people for what they want to accomplish, whatever their dreams are,” the actor said. “I have been blessed and now I want to bless others.”
The Middle airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.