Forget the illusions of grandeur that come along with the phrase “Hollywood actor”, working in this industry can be tougher than you think. Just ask Charlie McDermott, the 21-year-old actor best known for his role as Axl Heck on ABC’s The Middle.
While most children spend their youth gallivanting around with friends, getting an education and fighting acne, McDermott was busy building a career.
“I started going to auditions in New York back in High School, and I would drive there from my hometown in Pennsylvania all the time,” McDermott said.
Since he was settled on pursuing acting by 16, McDermott knew he could not live outside a city forever. With the never-ending support of his parents, McDermott did what every aspiring actor does and left school to move to L.A.
“It was the worst age to take such a leap because no one hires an actual teenager to play a teenager on screen,” McDermott added. “I never made it past the third round in the audition process.”
Once his family’s savings account struck empty, McDermott agreed to move back to Pennsylvania if he couldn’t find work soon. Luckily for him, it turned out the only thing standing between him and a job was his age.
Before his deal expired, he turned 18 and booked three jobs in his first auditions out of the gate. Even though he was not making the big bills like some other child actors do, McDermott still got first-hand experience of what life is like as a kid in Hollywood.
“I remember my first party there were all these drunk 13 year olds,” McDermott said. “As a 16 year old who had never even stayed up late for New Years, I ran away [laughs].”
That scenario is only the tip of the iceberg for those growing up in Hollywood, but McDermott found that substance abuse was something kids who were having trouble facing rejection sought out. Yet since he ventured into acting out of his love of the craft, he never let the little things shift his priorities. He maintains that his determination to succeed and inspire has been what has kept him focused on his goals.
So far, that mentality has helped him knock some goals off his checklist. Aside from The Middle, he has since worked on shows like The Office to films like Hot Tub Time Machine. He was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Frozen River.
McDermott is clearly no stranger to working hard and his life has only gotten busier each year. Now, between trying to jump through hoops for his hectic schedule and retain some semblance of sanity, the last thing McDermott needed in his life was more responsibilities.
However, as every overly ambitious college student proves time and time again, ambition is a difficult force to quell. As such, McDermott is choosing to spend his last few years as an adolescent engrossed in what is sure to be his most impressive project yet.
ImagiGary, which is a script McDermott wrote during downtime on various sets, is a coming-of-age comedy about a freshman in college who rediscovers his imaginary friend.
Not only is McDermott the brains behind the concept, but also he will be acting and directing on this effort. McDermott, while a talented actor, is no Steven Spielberg and trying to convince film companies to take him seriously as a director was proving to be a difficult feat.
“I tried to sell the movie to a whole bunch of people and no one was interested,” McDermott said. “We finally got a bunch of investors on board, and then we ran with it.”
The movie, which begins filming in May, is personal to McDermott, who couldn’t ignore the many similarities between him and the title character Henry.
“This story has been so close to my heart for so long that I can’t believe that it is really becoming something,” McDermott said. “This whole process has taught me so much about myself and I could not be more nervous or excited to see the final result if I tried.”
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