Whatever Happened To Axl From The Middle?

Actor Charlie McDermott rose to fame thanks to his role as Axl Heck on the ABC sitcom “The Middle,” which aired from 2009 until 2018. Not only did McDermott flex his comedic chops on the beloved show, but, per Entertainment Weekly, he was also given the opportunity to step into the director’s chair to helm an episode. 

After the show wrapped, McDermott was also able to parlay his acting experience from “The Middle” into a few other big and small screen projects, appearing alongside other up-and-coming stars like Elizabeth Lail (who starred on the first season of Netflix’s “You”) and established actors like Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. 

It can sometimes be tough for an actor to find work, especially after spending a considerable amount of time working on a highly successful series. So, what has McDermott been up to since his last day on “The Middle” set? Keep scrolling for a look at this current professional affairs as well his journey to “Middle” stardom.

Charlie McDermott's first on-screen role

Pennsylvania native Charlie McDermott’s first on-screen role was as “10-Year-Old Boy” in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 period thriller “The Village.” Even though it was an extra role, McDermott recited lines and snagged some quality screen time with heavyweight actors like as Bryce Dallas Howard. When asked if he thought “The Village” was his big break as an actor, he told South Jersey Magazine, “Absolutely.”  

McDermott added, “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.”

He continued, “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.”

Charlie McDermott's resume continues to grow

Charlie McDermott’s star continued to rise prior to his “The Middle” debut. The same year he appeared in “The Village,” he popped up on seven episodes of the short-lived TV series “Windy Acres.” In 2009, he blogged for Seventeen about his experience at the Independent Spirit Awards. (He nabbed a Best Supporting Actor nomination thanks to his noteworthy performance as T.J. in the 2008 movie “Frozen River.”) McDermott went on to earn small roles on highly-regarded series like “The Office,” “Private Practice,” and “Medium.” He also appeared in films like “Hot Tub Time Machine” and the TV movie “Bond of Silence.” 

McDermott pointed out that “things took off” for him after his role in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village,” per South Jersey Magazine. In order to secure more work, however, he needed professional representation. “I got an agent and a manager and moved to New York City for a couple years before eventually moving out to California,” he said. 

Still, he admitted to College Magazine in 2012 that seriously pursuing an acting career as a teenager was daunting for quite a while, explaining, “It was the worst age to take such a leap because no one hires an actual teenager to play a teenager on screen. I never made it past the third round in the audition process.”

Charlie McDermott finds himself in The Middle of things

Thankfully for Charlie McDermott, it wasn’t long before he scored a major role for his resume, landing the part of Axl Heck on the ABC sitcom “The Middle.” TV audiences were introduced to the series in 2009, and at the age of 18, McDermott made his debut on the series as the eldest Heck sibling. In 2015, he told the Sioux City Journal that he “grew up on the show,” sharing, “I really got to know these people so well, it’s like they’re my family.” 

Still, McDermott went through an arduous process to get hired for the role. In 2014, he went further into detail about it in an interview with The Daily Actor. “I first moved [to Los Angeles] in 2006 and I auditioned for the original pilot a couple months after coming out here,” he explained. “And the character was named Elvis then. And I went in and made it two auditions in and I got cut. I didn’t make it any further. And then the pilot went and they didn’t get picked up.”

However, as fate would have it, McDermott found himself in the running again a year later. “… [T]he audition came back again and it was the exact same audition sides except the character name was scratched out and said Axl instead of Elvis. And I still had the scenes memorized because I only had two or three lines in the pilot. I had nothing to work with. I auditioned, I went through five auditions over a couple months and got it.”

Charlie McDermott works on several outside projects while filming The Middle

Charlie McDermott managed to act and direct other projects while filming “The Middle.” Case in point? He starred in, helmed, and co-wrote the 2015 comedy “ImagiGARY,” which is about a college student named Henry (played by McDermott) whose childhood imaginary friend Gary re-enters into his life. McDermott worked on the passion project with his real-life friend, Nate Hartley. “Nate and I wrote the first draft around 2010, but it’s hard to remember now. We wrote the first draft in a couple months and then scrapped it and rewrote again in less time,” he told Inside Ottawa Valley in 2016.

McDermott knew that making “ImagiGARY” was a big financial risk to take, but he embraced the challenge. He further revealed, “I was expecting to go into it and lose all my money. And I did. The amazing dream would [be to show the movie] at Sundance or something but the amount of time it took to get the thing made, I wanted to release it. I funded the whole thing myself and I wanted to retain ownership.”

Charlie McDermott reflects on the 100th episode of The Middle

In 2013, Charlie McDermott and his “The Middle” family celebrated the 100th episode of the series. At the time, McDermott revealed that, at that point, the “Life Skills” episode stood out to him the most. He noted that it was his “favorite one to shoot and to watch,” especially in light of Axl and his sister Sue Heck’s (played by Eden Sher) interaction. “They’re always on opposite sides. They’re always fighting. And it’s nice to actually have them on the same team, and working together towards a common goal. And it’s a funny episode and I think it played out really well,” he added.  

The common goal McDermott was referring to was a class project his and Sher’s characters were tasked to work on during the episode. McDermott explained more of the episode’s plot to The Hollywood Reporter in 2013, saying, “Sue actually messed up, which is surprising and Axl stepped in to save the day. I wasn’t just making fun of her, which it usually is, and I don’t think that ever happened again or before. It was cool to be on the same side.”

Charlie McDermott's future on The Middle becomes a little iffy

In 2015, Charlie McDermott’s future as Axl Heck on “The Middle” was a bit uncertain. There was a real possibility that he would leave the series for a CBS comedy pilot called “Super Clyde,” on which he would have played the lead character. At the time, Deadline reported that the actor was “in the clear to take another series regular job because the contracts of ‘The Middle’ cast expire at the end of the season, and no one has been signed for next fall.” 

The outlet noted that McDermott’s “casting on the CBS pilot came as a surprise to “The Middle” producers and WBTV who [were] unhappy and had expected to have the cast available for a potential Season 7.” In the end, the show “wasn’t picked up,” per the Sioux City Journal, and McDermott re-signed his contract for continued work as Axl on “The Middle.” 

Charlie McDermott steps behind the camera

Charlie McDermott was granted the enviable opportunity to direct an episode of “The Middle” in 2017. He told Entertainment Weekly, “Directing is something I’ve wanted to do as long as the show’s been on. So I’ve been shadowing on set pretty much since the show began, even on all the projects I worked on prior to ‘The Middle.'” He continued, “It’s something I prepared for a long, long time. So when the time finally came, I felt like I had a good grasp on it.” 

McDermott added that the scene he was most looking forward to helming was the recreation of the famous “Friends” fountain scene from that show’s opening credits. “We watched the intro just to match the camera angles, which was pretty close to what was on the show. But one thing we realized was that in the first couple of seasons [the “Friends” cast are] actually not in the fountain and they’re not wet, which I’d just assumed.”

Needless to say, there was a decision to be made. “We had to decide which season of ‘Friends’ we wanted to match. But I never noticed that there were a couple of different versions of the intro until I had to watch them all. That ended up being one of the most fun parts of the week,” he said. 

Charlie McDermott anticipates the end of The Middle and what lies ahead

The two-part series finale of “The Middle” aired in May 2018, with Charlie McDermott’s character leaving his family for a job in Denver, Colo., per Country Living. Upon reflecting on the show’s inevitable end, the actor told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he “would like to keep acting.”  

“Acting is so spontaneous — like a job pops up and then you try to get it. If you get it, you’re working on it. It’s all within like a couple months. So it’s hard to plan.” He continued, “When I was younger, I really wanted to have a specific trajectory, but now it just seems impossible to ever do that, so I just want to keep working, and, hopefully, enjoy what I’m getting to do.”

“The Middle” co-creator Eileen Heisler spoke highly of the way McDermott gave Axl a particular lightness that only he could bring to the character. “I think that why that character worked was — Charlie himself is so unlike Axl. He has this sweetness, this essence of sweetness. Axl has that, as well. But I think if you didn’t necessarily have that actor playing that role, you could have written him off as a jerky kid. But he always had this softness and this caring about him, and he just makes you love him.”

Charlie McDermott's post-Middle gigs

Charlie McDermott acted in several other projects after wrapping up “The Middle” in 2018. He appeared as “Stewart” in 2018’s “Instant Family,” popped up as “Ty” in three episodes of the TV mini-series “Unbelievable” in 2019, and landed a role in the 2019 horror movie “Countdown.” As of this writing, those are the only post-“Middle” roles listed on McDermott’s IMDb page. 

That being said, he has continued to keep busy with another artistic endeavor: music. McDermott released a digital album titled, “Some Things Just Fall Out of Your Hands,” in 2020. “All these songs are about the same thing,” per the description on his Bandcamp website. The cover photograph for the album was taken by his wife, Sara Rejaie, whom he married in 2017, per The Things.

McDermott has released several music videos on YouTube, including one for his track, “Butterfingers” and another for “Wayside.” The talented actor also stars in his video for “Wayside,” showing his dramatic acting abilities.

Charlie McDermott is a jack of all trades

Charlie McDermott’s Instagram page, while very artsy, is a bit sparse. However, it appears that he’s been spending his post-“Middle” time drawing, making music, and spending valuable time with his spouse. His website shows more of his visual art, and he’s taken to his Twitter account not only to market his pictures and songs, but also to make intriguing declarations such as “talking milkshakes eating pancakes.” 

The multi-talented star’s acting resume shows a smaller list of roles beyond “The Middle.” However, McDermott’s other inclinations towards music, directing, writing, and drawing could redirect him or simply present themselves as alternative outlets of artistic expression for the star. Either way, McDermott’s future looks pretty bright and filled with multiple, exciting options. 

In the meantime, fans can use McDermott’s music as the mystical soundtrack to their lives while awaiting news of any potential future TV or movie roles. 

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