Interview with John Gammon from The Middle!

photo credit: Bobby Quillard

Glitter Magazine recently sat down with John Gammon, who plays Darrin, Axl’s best friend on the ABC hit show, The Middle. John talks to us about being on The Middle, how he got into acting, and why staying active is important. He also has a degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies. How cool is that?

GLITTER: Your show The Middle recently aired it’s 100th episode. How does it feel to of shot that many episodes?
JOHN: It’s a strange miracle. To do it for the first time in my career, I was very focused and working so hard the whole time that when I finally got the chance to step back from it I could see how wonderful it is. That millions of people agree. And that’s something miraculous, but hard hard to see for a while as you are in it and it is happens.

GLITTER: For those not familiar with the show, what can you tell us about the show and the character you play?
JOHN: The Middle is about an average semi-dysfunctional family in the middle of the country. With middle of the road tastes and ideals and friends that include my character: Darrin. I am the dim-witted friend of Axl Heck, the older son in the family. We met as kids in grad school, played football together in high school and since graduating have stayed fairly close considering I went off to Air Conditioning school and Axl rolled on to keep playing football at a local Indiana state college. Our side business though, Boss Co., a corporation we formed alongside our quarterback friend Sean Donahue with the belief we’re all bosses. Cutting the middle man, employees (and detractors would say quality) out and bringing savings to the customer.

GLITTER: How did you prepare for your audition? Were you nervous?
JOHN: I rehearsed with my brother, my roommate, my sister a bunch and always had a different goal in mind for every run through… Do it faster, do it as my Dad, do it as Johnny Drama from Entourage, do it as Arnold Schwarzenegger, have more outrage at this part and less sincerity there. All things you need to do so that your performance stays elastic, open to any new thing that may make it shine, and keep me out of a line reading. Which is what can happen when you do things too narrowly and cut out all the great possible things that may happen in the scene as they might happen in real life anyway. I was only nervous for it after the callback because I could only think, “Well if I can’t win a role after that, I simply can’t work as an actor. That was as great as I could possibly hope to be.”

GLITTER: How has your character changed from the first episode till now?
JOHN: Darrin started out as a pretty simple dumb jock friend in the sort of three stooges format they’ve had him, Axl, and Sean in for the five seasons. Our first big gag was to take a cell phone picture of ourselves shirtless and send it to girls who hadn’t texted us back about a party. Naturally we wanted to make them jealous, like we “were digging not being with them” in Axl’s words. However, once the more sensible Axl and Sean look at the picture and realize the image looks a bit homo-erotic and confusing to girls we want to like us, I immediately send it on to the girls and receive no high fives from my buddies after making the bone headed move.

Then you’ve got a whole bunch of similar storylines where Darrin and the boys are chasing girls or small jobs with futility for the next couple of seasons. And this wave basically is only broken by Darrin successfully asking Axl’s sister, Sue, to the prom. Axl hates this and matters only become tenser by the time Darrin starts to date Sue, kissing her at the Valentine’s dance over a trash can. Since then I’ve written a song, fist fought with Axl, accidentally punched Sue and subsequently broken up with her!

But this season I’m back in the game with a new girlfriend who I met in the vicinity of my air conditioning school. And since then Sue has been a bit jealous and even a bit nostalgic. So if you forced me to make a bet, I would put money on us getting back together, but you just never know. You never know. A wise man told me that once. That’s kind of why I need to repeat it.

GLITTER: What do you enjoy most about your character? Would you change anything?
JOHN: Would not change a thing. I love who Darrin is. He’s adorably earnest, positive thinking and enthusiastic about pretty much everything.

GLITTER: What was it like to have your character date Axl’s sister for awhile? Did you have to get into a different mindset for that at all?
JOHN: I have never played Darrin dumb and naïve enough to the point of not expecting grief from his best friend, Axl, for dating his younger sister. However in the heat of it all, the best thing he’s done is proclaim an undying devotion to her. And he absolutely believes it, only to really get over on the psychology of his friend, there’s always been a layer of “I don’t care if you’re mad; I must do this.” It’s a bit passive aggression if you watch closely especially when Axl first confronted Darrin in the hallway. Darrin completely floats on cloud 9 as he murmurs all the unbelievably great things Sue is famous for with the audience and completely viled for by her brother. Right in Axl’s red fuming face. As if I had never seen even one incident of sibling bullying going on, no verbal barbs shot at his younger sister… But I gotta tell you, Axl deserves way more than Darrin ever gave him. It was indeed a different mindset, but it’s a bit subtle for the most part, and I’m more aggressive for the most part, but I only directly confront him—albeit in a completely mature and peaceful way—backstage at the dollar days gig Axl booked us for the rock band we formed.

GLITTER: Are you friends with your costars off set?
JOHN: I’m very good friends with Beau Wirick. I have had a hangout with Charlie too, but the man is just busy. Everybody wants a piece of the guy so it’s hard to match our schedules up even for a night. But we have a lot in common and no matter where the professional serendipitous winds take any of us, I believe we’ll stay in strong contact with one another.

GLITTER: What is your favorite medium: TV or film?
JOHN: My favorite medium is the film. But the only stuff I’ve seen that’s surpassed the average film is the material making its way to Netflix, HBO, Showtime, and HULU. It’s the future and everyone—including myself—needs to evolve along with that reality. They don’t make movies like they used to. If I were making them with certain folks though, watch out!

GLITTER: How did you get into acting? Was this something you were always interested in?
JOHN: I got into acting because of my family. And for every known reason you could think of: I wanted to stand out, triumph over my older siblings, to make them proud as well if I could assert myself in a given situation—be a hero as you may say. To cheer my mother up after many long upsetting days. To draw my Dad out of his reserved shell and see him smile or laugh. Or freak out and make a fool of himself with a tantrum if I’m being completely honest. Lots and lots of reasons that always lead back to my family life as a young kid.

GLITTER: You’re into lacrosse and wrestling which is a great way to keep active. How important is staying active to you?
JOHN: Staying active is essential to distinguishing a threat from an irrational thought. I won’t die if I drop a line but I will go to the hospital if a grown man cranks my arm hard enough. It’s my first go-to key to understanding life in as big and broad a way as I’m capable of. I know if I’m pushing myself athletically, I’m experiencing many times over what my body and mind can’t really see as anything but a near death. And the truth is the more I do that, the more I appreciate life. I don’t see an open hand to start a meeting the same way I see it after being slammed to the ground and maybe choked unconscious.

A simple hug at dinner certainly can mean a lot but after winning a game with your brothers, your team with whom you were busting ass with for months to go to simulated war that came with no guarantees… well that means everything in a lot of ways. It’s hyper-existence and it helps with normal-existence if that makes sense.

GLITTER: You also graduated from college with a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies. What’s the best advice you can give to those about staying in school and not giving up?
JOHN: If you’re in college and you’ve gotten to the part about cost-benefit analysis, use that broad idea thoroughly and specifically to you. It’s your life and no one will be able to do that for you ever again, but you. Figure out if four years in your prime with the debt that normally comes along with it is a much bigger choice than an average eighteen, nineteen year old may be allowed to understand. There’s got to be adults telling him the truth about the world and everything in it. If you’re like me, you go for an education—how much is it worth to you? Well, 20,000.00 was worth it for me to get a double major and a minor in three important areas I was obsessed with in those days. Take your History, take your Theater, take your Women’s Studies if you demand it of yourself, but if you expect a career out of that. Do you have the pockets for it? Do you have the backup network wealthier people may take for granted? Or are you just too talented you are gonna roll the dice and gamble on your personal skills to make it happen for yourself? All these factors need to be considered and weighed heavily. I’m particularly proud to play a dumb jock, like Darrin, who is smart enough to stay close to home attend a trade school, and start making 80 bucks and hour AS HE TAKES CLASSES!!! I don’t know a single boy genius who’s ever been able to browbeat a faculty successfully as an undergrad and simultaneously allowed to represent a wrongfully accused rapist in a court of law. And all this as he’s writing his final thesis paper for some senior elective. It’s insanity.

GLITTER: What’s up next for you?
JOHN: I’m auditioning a lot still so anything and everything will come down the pipe. You just wait and see. I’ll be doing something great this summer.

GLITTER: Do you have any social media pages where fans can interact with you?
JOHN: I do indeed have a Facebook and a twitter. Find me at John_gammon@twitter. There will be more tweeting in the future. That’s for sure.