While attention this week will be focused on whether Blair Underwood will successfully resurrect the wheelchair-using cop Ironside on NBC, let’s instead turn our attention to another actor on another network, who also appears on Wednesday night.
Atticus Shaffer (born with osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bone disease) plays the quirky Brick on the popular ABC comedy “The Middle,” which just started its fifth season.
Isn’t it a tad strange that amid all this talk about Ironside not being played by an “authentic” wheelchair-using actor, hardly any attention has been paid to Atticus Shaffer, who is the real deal” — talented, funny, professional, who “just happens” to have a disability (society’s descriptive expression, not mine).
In professional bios, any mention of Shaffer’s disability is either absent or buried at the end. He has been quoted as saying, “It just adds to my colorful personality.”
I’ve seen most of the sitcom’s episodes, but I don’t remember his disability being mentioned in any of them. Rather, he’s just the youngest sibling of
three, who would rather read than do anything else. My favorite Brick quote: “They’re denying me books. No one’s taken me to the library in two days.” (Ahh, such torture.)
Brick is a clever, manipulative teen — he rats on his older brother and sister for money, and repeats the last word of spoken sentences in a creepy whisper.
The 15-year-old Shaffer told the New York Times in a piece titled “Everybody Loves the Weird Kid” that “people just like Brick because he follows the beat of his own drummer. He’s different, and he’s quirky, and people seem to think that’s adorable. Trust me because I know. It’s my life.”
I love that this character’s odd behavior trumps his disability. He’s no Artie or Ironside because he’s for real on and off the screen.
Atticus Shaffer (named after the lawyer in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”) has acted in films, such as “The Unborn” and “Hancock” with Will Smith, and on the small screen in “My Name is Earl.” He also voiced the character Edgar “E” Gore in the animated film “Frankenweenie.”
So Wednesday night, rather than getting all hot under the collar when you see a non-crip play the crip character named Ironside, turn the station to “The Middle.”
There’s nothing better than rooting for the real deal (especially when he makes you laugh week after week).