Atticus Shaffer is one of television's most beloved actors, best known for his role as the quirky Brick Heck on the hit ABC comedy "The Middle." In real life, the 16 year old star just as endearing, possessing an infectiously positive outlook on everything from acting to living with Osteogenesis imperfecta, a congenital condition which causes fragile bones.
In an exclusive interview with the Gospel Herald, Atticus opened up about his faith, his passion for for sharing the Gospel, and why he loves Christian rock.
GH: What's your favorite part about playing Brick? How are you similar to him, and how are you different?
Atticus: The cool thing about Brick is that he's something of a role model. He's showing that it's okay to be quirky, to be smart, and to be different, because that's all the things that I personally want to to tell people and share with people. We are all different. We were all created to be unique.
I'm like Brick in the sense in that he follows the beat to his own drum. And it's true, and I do the same thing. For example, if there were a crowd of kids at Brick's school, and they were all looking at one particular thing, Brick would be off in the background admiring the font on a street sign, or he'd be in some store in the mall, like Williams & Sonoma, and would be reading through a cookbook. He's unique in that way, he knows what he takes joy in, and he thrives in those areas. He's not just trying to fit in all the time--he fits in with himself. And that's how I am in real life, that's how I am with anything.
In ways that we're different--I'm definitely not as much into font as he is, although I could really get into fonts if I set my mind to it (laughs). I also love to read as well, but not nearly as much as Brick does.
GH: You're very open about your Christian faith in your personal life. How does this translate into your acting career?
Atticus: I try to bring up God in everyday life way--which is what we're supposed to do, because He is in our life every day. I go to my local church out here, which I absolutely love, and I was talking with one of the pastors one time, and he told me, 'You know, it's amazing that you are a Christian that wants to be a Christian inside of the business that you're in.' Because the business I am in--there are a lot of ways that someone can fall and not be able to witness and share what the Lord does. Or they might not want to do so. Me, I want to be able to share that. I want to be able to share what the Lord does in a way that's not forcing it down someone's throat, but being able to say, 'Listen, it's not just by sheer luck or coincidence that I'm here. I am very blessed by God and praise Him for the fact that I am able to do something I enjoy doing."
I get people all the time on Facebook and Twitter, or people in real life will come up to me and be like, 'My son or my daughter, myself or whoever, we look up to you because of the challenges you've faced in life, and because you are put in this position and you're actually showing good values.' So every chance I get, I try to witness. I have my cross necklace which I wear all the time, or my mom buys me interesting and cool Christian shirts. Even if it's just showing up to a set wearing that, and letting people know that I am a Christian--that alone is a little victory for me.
GH: I noticed on your Facebook page that you talk a lot about Christian rock. Who are your favorite Christian rock bands and why?
Atticus: When I listen to a song, I get enveloped into the music. And I have a story type of mindset, so musicians who make songs that have a storyline in it, or talk about a particular subject such as strength, or love, or whatever, I kind of see it in my head-- I feel it. When I need strength, I'll listen to Christian rock music because it makes me feel strong in my spirit. It also energizes me and makes me happy.
One of my favorite bands is Thousand Foot Krutch. Their songs always talk about strength, and faith, and how even if you're pushed down to the innermost of your being, you can still believe and you can still have faith and you can still carry on.
I also love Skillet, Nine Lashes and We As Humans--these groups either talk about strength, or their faith, or have stories. I put the songs in a perspective where as a Christian, I can hear it as a Christian song, but others may just hear it as interesting and fun music. It's cool to be able to have music that empowers you. It's like coffee--I don't drink coffee in the morning, but I listen to Christian hard rock on the way to work.
I'm also a fan of bands like Casting Crowns or Third Day. Those bands are a little more calm--you know, sometimes I just want to hear music that's praise music.
GH: You were born with Osteogenesis imperfecta type IV, a congenital condition which causes fragile bones. How has this affected you?
Atticus: I have not lost anything, because I never had it. I was born with this. This is the exact way God intended me to be. Having this disease is a minimal part of me-- it doesn't define me. Having a "disability" in no way disables you--in fact, I hate the word disable because even if people have a condition, it doesn't disable you at all. Actually, it's very interesting, my pastor preaching last Sunday, and suddenly he blurted out, 'Nothing is impossible when you introduce God into the equation.' And it's true. Absolutely nothing is impossible when you have God right there beside you. And He's beside you all the time. Honestly, I'm just a shorter, regular teenage boy. Yes, I do have a condition, and I need to be more careful in some situations, but besides that, I'm just Atticus.
GH: How can your Christians fans best pray for you?
Atticus: The best way for people to pray for me--and I would be honored if they were to do so, and I wish I knew everyone's prayer requests so I could pray for them, too--I want to try to stay humble. I have my family and friends, and they always want to keep me grounded. And I want them to, because it's a constant reminder that, 'Hey, you're in this situation--remember where it came from, and give glory to Him.' I want to be able to stay humble, and always have that good relationship with God so I can continue to, in this business, in whatever way I can, be a light so I can share Him with other people.