6 Tips for Being an Unforgettable Teen Actor from a Star of "The Middle"

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Photo Source: Kate Romero

Sue Heck’s upbeat personality on “The Middle” clearly bleeds through from talented young actor who plays her. Since the age of eight, Eden Sher knew her home was in the acting world. “I was able to be crazy in a really safe environment, and I was like ‘Oh my god, I don’t have to hold back here. I can be crazy.' Not only is crazy accepted, it is encouraged,” she says.

And now Sher has found a home on “The Middle,” where she makes a character who was written as the middle child who’s always forgotten unforgettable. The boundless enthusiasm and persistence Sher has in common with Sue have served her well in her acting career. Soaking up every experience, Sher is also interested in writing and directing, both of which she tried her hand at with her short “The Suitcase.” “It’s such a power trip! I love it!” Sher says, confiding that she would one day like to write and direct her own show. Sher offers insight on what she’s learned through five years on ABC’s “The Middle.”

Learn as you go.
Sher didn’t do a lot of formal training. She attended a drama academy in high school, took acting classes, and she did a lot of theater, gaining plenty of on-the-job experience. “As cheesy as it sounds, being on the show for so many years has been like boot camp – like acting boot camp. I learned more about acting through that than any sort of class I took,” she says. The lessons she’s learned may not be tangible, but she says she’s learned “to bring the spontaneity and freshness every single time…and to get out of your head and be in the moment every single time.”

Never give up.
Sue Heck may not make most of the things she tries out for, but her eternal optimism worked out for Sher, who auditioned for Sue more times than she can count. “It was pretty intense actually, pretty rigorous,” says Sher of the casting process. Sher began by auditioning for the original pilot, and then when the new version came around over a year later, she was called in again. When she got a callback, she was excited. "I went to the callbacks and there were more girls there than at the audition…different girls and more of them than before,” she remembers. When her manager called with the news that they wanted to see her again, Sher said “Really? Because I don’t think they do. I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty shitty job and they just want to like see everyone.” But she says, “This time it was finally an actual callback with fewer girls there and they actually gave me notes.” But Sher hung in there throughout the long process because she really loved Sue.

It’s usually not about you.
When Sher finally went in to screen test for the role, there were two other girls, one eleven year old and one twelve year old. “I was like, ‘alright, this isn’t about me," she says. "If I don’t get this then clearly they wanted something totally different.’” Sher recalls a moment at her second screen test when the other actor asked her where her mom was, putting the age difference in perspective. “I was like ‘Ohh haha, I drove myself.’”

Leave your mark.
The breakdown gave only a simple description of Sue, which Sher says she loved because it gave her a blank slate, and she was able to get really silly with the role. Since she auditioned so many times, she figured out the character along the way. Sher says in the beginning “the girl I was playing was so hard to pinpoint and she became more and more of this ‘Sue’ that is on TV now.” Sue’s enthusiastic quality wasn’t really in the pilot, but developed along the way. Initially, Sher says Sue was just an overlooked girl who doesn’t really do anything, but through five seasons and collaboration Sue has changed and developed. Within the first few episodes, Sher started developing Sue into the character audiences love. She got a script with the line “Really?” in it. “I asked ‘Really??’ in the way I most imagined it - the most excited - but in a very specific comedic way unintentionally and a few episodes later they were doing it as my thing. They wrote ‘Sue: (in classic Sue way) asks really?’”

Don’t judge your character.
For Sher, playing someone younger is easier than playing older. “It’s actually easier now than when I was 17…it’s hard to not judge the person you’re playing when you’re 17 and you’re so inclined to judge 13–14 year olds.”

Don’t be afraid to stick with what you love.
Although Sher says she’s always looking to diversify and face new acting challenges, she really loves working in television comedy. “It’s a totally different skill set," she says. "Spending a lot of time on one character in one scene on a movie is a very serious experience; this is a much more fun and intense experience."

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Melinda Loewenstein
Prior to joining the Backstage team, Melinda worked for Baseline StudioSystem tracking TV development. When she's not working, she enjoys cuddling with her cats while obsessively watching every television show to ever air.
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