Actor Atticus Shaffer, who plays the quirky Brick Heck on ABC’s hit sitcom “The Middle,” recently spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner about his role in writer/director Tim Burton’s latest animated adventure “Frankenweenie.”
In “Frankenweenie,” which will be available beginning Tuesday, Jan. 8 on blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley, Charlie Tahan voices a boy who, after unexpectedly losing his beloved dog, harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life-with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when the dog gets out, the boy learns that getting a new leash on life can be monstrous.
Question: You voice Edgar “E” Gore - a hunch-backed child who is the first of the protagonist’s classmates to discover that he has brought his dog back to life. Can you describe Edgar to me as you see him?
Answer: Edgar is a semi-villain with a good heart. He is definitely a misfit and he loves everything morbid and over the top. So when he finds out what Victor has done with Sparky, it is just one of the most amazing things for him and he really wants to ride on that train. But his decisions do become a little disastrous.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the process you went through to find this character?
A: It was a year-long audition process. For the original audition, they just wanted an Igor-like impression. But later on they said, if possible, to do a Peter Lorre impression and I was like, “Challenge accepted!” I love doing impressions and I love doing accents. So my mom, being the home school mom that she is, rented “The Maltese Falcon” and “Arsenic and Old Lace” for me. We already had “Casablanca.” Then we watched the films and studied his mannerisms. Throughout the year, it became like second nature to me.
Q: Do you enjoy the voice over process?
A: I love voice over! I just think it is amazing! With theatrical, you have this huge list of stuff that you need to do whereas with voiceover you just need to focus on your voice and creating the part. So I really enjoyed this process. It took 3 years to film and we broke it up into acts. First we recorded the first act. Then we came back to redo things from the first act and record the second act and so forth and so on until it was completed. I loved doing this part because it was my opportunity to branch out from the normal regime of things. It was cool to see how I can test the boundaries of my craft.
Q: Tell me more about the voice over process. Were the other voice actors present when you recorded your lines?
A: I never really worked with any of the main cast members but I do best with a new impression or accent if I have just heard it. So they hired Tom Kenny to come in and do a Peter Lorre impression. Then I would do an impression of his impression. I was able to work with him for the majority of the filming.
Q: What was your impression of Tim Burton?
A: I absolutely loved working with Tim Burton because he is just a creative, outside of the box thinker. How he does things is fantastic. It is different - weird different - and he does things that are groundbreaking. They are courageous to do and once you do them you are like, “Wow! That really does work!” He also takes pride in his work and knows exactly what he wants as a director. He does not make you fish for the answer.
Q: “The Middle” is one of the best sitcoms on television at the moment. Do you share any quirks with your character Brick Heck?
A: I am very similar to Brick because I love to read and I do talk to myself - just not in a whisper. I guess you could call it self entertaining. I love to make little sound effects or I will just reenact scenes from movies in my head. In this business, you do not get a lot of time to sit down and relax when you are on set. It is almost as if you need to relax in your mind so that is how I like to do things.
Q: Finally, what can we expect from Brick during the second half of this season?
A: This season, Brick has definitely branched out because he has gotten a new quirk and you have seen certain sides of him that you have not seen before. He is growing up and his emotions are starting to take a bigger role but Brick will continue being Brick. He is not going to lose his demeanor but he is going to do slightly different things and get more endearing.