The Stunning Transformation Of Charlie McDermott

Charlie McDermott is a multitalented actor, writer, director, and musician most recognizable for playing Axl Heck on "The Middle." The popular family sitcom follows an Indiana family's day-to-day struggles. McDermott became quite popular for playing the family's eldest son, with "The Middle" castmates Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn playing his parents.

"The Middle" ran for nine seasons, giving fans a chance to see the young actor grow up before their eyes in a sense. But while the sitcom may be the first thing you remember this actor from, he was part of several projects before and has been part of others since. Before becoming Axl Heck, McDermott had a strong passion for creative projects, which eventually led him to work as a child actor. You've likely seen him in small movie and TV roles without knowing it. And he's continued to pursue his passions since the series ended. You may be surprised to learn how McDermott's career started and the many turns it's taken along the way.

Charlie McDermott dreamed of being a screenwriter and director

Before landing his first acting role, Charlie McDermott envisioned himself as becoming a director and screenwriter. Although acting was another dream of his, he initially put more of his focus on writing and directing. "I always wanted to act also, but it didn't seem like it was reachable. It seemed kind of unrealistic, whereas writing and directing was kind of like if you can write something and get it to somebody and direct it, you'd get hired, and it seemed like a more feasible career path," McDermott explained during an interview with MSN Entertainment.

In an effort to make those goals a reality, he began making his own content from a young age. Growing up in Pennsylvania, he wrote and shot short films, which he subsequently acted in, but that was more to showcase the stories he was creating. To this day, writing and directing are passions of McDermott's, along with acting.

He was cast in his first professional acting role in 2003

Charlie McDermott's acting career started when he was still a teenager. He landed his first film role playing a child in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village." Speaking to MSN Entertainment, the actor explained that he never expected to get the part. As a young aspiring director, McDermott was a huge fan of Shyamalan's. "The Village" was filmed in Pennsylvania near McDermott's hometown. So, when there was an open casting call for the film, McDermott was eager to attend.

As an eighth grader going to the casting call, he was more hopeful that he'd meet his idol than get the part. "He [Shyamalan] wasn't there since it was just a casting call, which at the time I didn't realize," McDermott said. "I had thought he would've been there." While he didn't meet the director that day, he would later, and that casting call took the young actor much farther than he'd initially imagined. "I was fortunate enough to get cast and I got lines. I got to work with him and meet him, and that's what kind of kept the acting going, so I just ran with that," McDermott said.

Charlie McDermott began landing bigger roles

After getting his first role in "The Village," McDermott continued to get small parts over the next few years in films and TV shows. In 2004, he was in seven episodes of "Windy Acres." A few years later, he acted in "Disappearances" and "The Ten." Then, in 2008, he landed a part in the award-winning indie film "Frozen River."

The gritty film centers around Ray Eddy, played by Melissa Leo. In the film, Eddy is a single mother struggling to find some way to keep poverty from tearing her family apart. McDermott played the elder of Eddy's two sons, T.J., earning recognition for his acting in a heavier role.

"Frozen River" was a small indie film, but it impressed critics and gained a lot of awards recognition. It was nominated for two Oscars, both for Leo's portrayal of Eddy and its original screenplay. McDermott earned his first award nomination for best supporting male by the Independent Spirit Awards.

He didn't get cast on The Middle at first

Most fans know and love Charlie McDermott for his time playing Axl on "The Middle." He's so well known for the role that it seems almost like the part was written for him. So, it may surprise many that when he first auditioned for the series, he was not cast. The character Axl was also different in the original script. According to an interview with The Daily Actor, McDermott first auditioned for "The Middle's" pilot episode in 2006. At the time, the character who would later become Axl was named Elvis.

When he auditioned for Elvis, he only made it through two rounds of the process before getting cut. Fortunately for him, that wasn't his last chance. That initial pilot episode, which he wasn't cast in, didn't get picked up. So, a year later, they tried again. "[T]he audition came back again and it was the exact same audition sides except the character name was scratched out and it said Axl instead of Elvis," McDermott said. "And I still had the scenes memorized because I only had two or three lines in the pilot. I had nothing to work with." This time, he made it through all five rounds of auditions and was finally cast as Axl.

Playing Axl was his biggest role

Although he's played many roles since starting as a child actor, Charlie McDermott is best known for his long-running part on the family sitcom "The Middle." The series ran from 2009 to 2018, with McDermott as part of its main cast. His character, Axl, was the oldest brother in the Heck family. The role built up McDermott's fan base and led to consistent work from his teenage years into early adulthood.

Despite being the character he played the longest, McDermott admitted to The Daily Actor that he doesn't feel like he shares a lot of similarities with Axl. "I always feel like a terrible person usually when I'm playing Axl because he kind of does a lot of terrible things. He's fun in the sense that I get to just act like an imbecile I guess a lot and always get away with it."

Although "The Middle" brought McDermott so much success, he had a lot of anxiety regarding when the series would end and how the recognizable role would affect his career. "I felt like it could fall apart at any time. ... I'm honestly very terrified this show will end and everyone will like me as an actor but no one will ever hire me because I look like Axl," McDermott told the Sioux City Journal.

He got the chance to direct an episode of The Middle

After acting on "The Middle" for years, Charlie McDermott got to try his hand at directing an episode in 2017. He directed Season 8 Episode 19, "The Confirmation." Speaking about his experience of stepping behind the camera, McDermott said he felt well prepared because it's something he's wanted to do for so long. "I've been shadowing on set pretty much since the show began, even on all the projects I worked on prior to 'The Middle.' So when the time finally came, I felt like I had a good grasp on it," he told Entertainment Weekly. But that's not to say he didn't have to work for it. According to the actor, he did a lot of prep, going over the script and speaking with the showrunner to ensure his directing matched the right vision for the episode.

As part of his directing debut, McDermott got to recreate part an iconic "Friends" scene with his co-stars Eden Sher, Daniela Bobadilla, and Brock Ciarlelli playing in a fountain, which he said was one of the most fun parts of shooting. "I felt very lucky that this was my first one because it was a great environment and really hard to mess up. Everyone already knew what they were doing and had a lot of fun," McDermott said.

Charlie McDermott got married in 2017

The year 2017 was a life-changing one for Charlie McDermott. Along with making his TV directorial debut with an episode of "The Middle," the young actor also married his wife, Sara Rejaie. You may not have realized that McDermott was married. Although they've been together for years, the couple keeps their relationship fairly quiet. They don't share a lot of their personal lives on social media, and unlike many celebrities who share their wedding photos with fans, they've kept those moments to themselves.

But McDermott did share a vlog-style video on his YouTube channel entitled "My Two Thousand Seventeen," with video clips taken throughout the year, many of which featured his wife. The short snippets give an intimate view of the couple's day-to-day life, from making music together to cleaning to doting on their dog.

Like her husband, Rejaie is an actor, writer, and director. In 2018, she wrote, directed, and acted in the short film "Layla." The couple also worked together to direct his music video. So, although they've kept their relationship to themselves, it's clear McDermott and Rejaie have plenty to connect on artistically.

He's played a few roles since The Middle

"The Middle" aired its last episode in 2018. This was at the end of the long-running sitcom's ninth and final season. Following such a steady and well-known role, it was hard for Charlie McDermott to determine where his acting career would go. He'd expressed concerns that being known as Axl would make it difficult for him to be cast in other projects. Speaking to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the actor said, "I would like to keep acting. But acting is so spontaneous." He was leaving the security of "The Middle" and unsure where he would land.

McDermott did go on to play other roles, such as Stewart in the Mark Wahlberg comedy "Instant Family." He was also in the 2019 thriller "Countdown" and Netflix's miniseries "Unbelievable." However, he has not had as many TV or film roles since "The Middle's" final season. Despite slowing down on acting, McDermott has stayed busy with other creative passions.

He began to focus more on music

Although he's slowed down on acting, Charlie McDermott has kept himself busy, particularly with his music. Fans of "The Middle" may not have known how multitalented the actor is. Along with acting and directing, McDermott has an affinity for music. He released a 2020 EP, "Some Things Just Fall Out of Your Hands," with an eight-song tracklist. He also released the single "Park and Ride" in 2021, along with a music video he starred in and co-created with his wife, Sara Rejaie.

In September 2022, he came out with another EP, this one entitled "Blind Warm Weight," featuring three tracks. In an Instagram post promoting his music, the actor and musician explained his inspiration behind the music. "I read 'The Dispossessed' by Ursula K. Le Guin last spring and really liked it. I named a new sleepy ambient album I recorded this summer after a passage which describes the sensation of being lulled to sleep by someone else's touch," he wrote in the caption.

He co-directed his former co-star's show

In 2023, Charlie McDermott reunited with "The Middle" co-star Eden Sher to direct a show she'd written. She and McDermott worked together for years playing the older two Heck siblings and became close friends. So when Sher created her own project, "I Was on a Sitcom," McDermott was one of the first people she thought of to help bring it to life. McDermott and his wife came together to co-direct Sher's project.

Speaking to Fest magazine about her show, Sher said she'd been nervous to ask McDermott to direct because it felt like a big favor. "But there's literally no person in the entire world who would have a better understanding of the material and be able to execute it. I was blown away that [McDermott] and Sara [Rejaie] jumped right in and had incredible notes off the bat," she said, adding that thanks to their directing, it evolved into a show she's now very proud of.

In an Instagram post promoting the show, McDermott had equally kind words for the work of his former co-star. "Eden's written a very surreal, vulnerable and funny show," he wrote. "I co-directed this with Sara Rejaie. Really proud of it and excited for it to be out in the world!"