Brock Ciarlelli – The Middle
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) We have seen this amazing evolution for Brad over the series, what has it meant for you being a Brad’s character growth and ultimately coming out?
A) We’ve seen Brad, and obviously Sue, grow up. Season One they were in middle school. And now at the end of Season Eight they’re finishing up their sophomore year of college. So, there’s a natural, obvious evolution as these characters go through these different milestones. They become more mature, learn life lessons, etc. But there’s also a not so obvious evolution…and that’s how their friendship flourishes. It seems like each new episode we’re seeing a new facet to their relationship that shows just how much they mean to one another. Brad’s coming out is a perfect example. Coming out is a scary thing. Anyone in the LGBT community can tell you that. And the audience really got to see a mature side from both Brad and Sue (Eden Sher) during that scene. Above all, their love and support of one another is what shined through.
Q) Coming up we get a La La Land themed episode of “The Middle,” what was the process of preparing like for you?
A) More prep than any other episode I’ve filmed! Granted, Eden and I have done some song/dance scenes in the past, but part of the comedy of those are the imperfections we sprinkle in. This La La Land themed musical number needed to be precise and perfect — which takes a lot of work. So, a couple weeks before we filmed I was sent a sample track of the song that was written for us. And then I worked with our composer to find the right key to sing in. Then, the week of filming Eden and I recorded our vocals in a studio, were in dance rehearsals every day, filming all of our “normal” scenes leading up to the musical number and then finally at the end of the week took an entire day to film our musical number.
Q) You worked with choreographer Melanie Gage, how did she approach teaching you the moves to go along with the music?
A) Every dance-esque thing we’ve done on the series, Melanie has been brought in. And to say that she is phenomenal would be an understatement. She just gets it. As I mentioned before, there’s an added element of humor to the dance routines we’ve done in the past. But this time around, we needed to put on a performance that had no imperfections. Eden and I are dancing alongside twenty professional dancers in this number so Melanie (and her assistant Scott Hislop) really worked with us to make sure we understood what we were doing. They were very meticulous on how certain moves should feel and the emotion that should be evoked when the audience watches. They kind of approached it how a director approaches a scene full of dialogue. Because with dance, you’re essentially telling a story through your body.
Q) We are celebrating Sue this episode and there is no one better than Brad to help her. She’s embraced her difference all her life but what does it mean to her now that she’s half way through college and on her journey in adulthood?
A) As we get older, we understand that being different is a blessing. Too often when we’re young, our uniqueness is what alienates us. Our song is titled “March To Your Own Drummer” because it celebrates the idea of embracing that uniqueness. And this song is really Brad explaining this to Sue. It’s important for her to understand this at this point in her life… and what better way to learn this lesson than through song, dance, and bright colors?
Q) Brad and Sue have grown up together, what do you think really has solidified their friendship for all of these years?
A) Their loyalty. Simple as that.
Q) You recorded the song at the same studio where Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone recorded for La La Land! What kind of emotion and music magic did you feel when you were singing in that booth?
A) It gave me a boost of energy, actually! And that most definitely helped the performance when we were recording the song. And it’s an added bonus that our song actually refers to both Emma and Ryan.
Q) What does music mean to you, in what ways, emotions, or aspects do you draw from it?
A) I’m most creative when I listen to music. It taps into a certain part of your brain that can only be reached through song. Emotions are essential to acting — and personally, sometimes it’s hard to get in touch with those on my own. But putting on headphones and getting lost in a song makes me go where I need to. And a lot of the time, it’s not even something dramatic. A nice pop song does the trick, because with a comedy, you don’t really have too many overly emotional scenes where you need to go into a dark place in your mind. I’ve been dipping my toes into writing as well, and music is a great tool to help evoke a particular feeling I might need to write a scene.
Q) What was the most challenging aspect of filming this episode?
A) My unfortunate ability to turn into Niagara Falls when I start sweating. And I wish I was joking. The musical number takes place outside and the heat was UNREAL the day we were filming. The thing with my body is…once I break a sweat, it doesn’t want to stop. We’ve filmed enough things where I’ve sweated uncontrollably that the hair, makeup and wardrobe departments were well prepared for this. We had multiples of the same shirt and pants I wore, I was wearing skin tight Under Armour, they put a special spray on my face to seal up my pours — but I was still sweating like a mad man in between each take. Every time our director yelled cut, I’m not kidding, five people ran over to me to mop me up so I would look fresh for the next take. I’m talking towels, makeup powder, fans, water, ice packs, etc.. You name it. I am forever their debt!
Q) As the political climates in countries across the world begin to become unsteady, where can arts and entertainment seek to push the envelope and provide honest and real representation?
A) Take a look at Brad. I think Brad is a very honest representation of what our future needs to look like. I truly hope we are moving towards a world where people like Brad fit seamlessly into society. There are many necessary shows out there that portray the hardships the LGBT community goes through on a daily basis. But what “The Middle”is doing is taking a very flamboyant character, who happens to be gay and letting him live his life where his hurdles are something other than struggling to accepting himself. “The Middle”portrays Brad as an average person… which, when you think of it, is everyone in the LGBT community.
Q) We haven’t ever seen Brad’s family or him dating just yet on the show. Which would you like to see “The Middle” focus on that they have not for him?
A) I would love to see Brad get a boyfriend. That’s an avenue the show hasn’t gone down yet and there’s a lot of potential for some hilarious story lines. However, Brad’s boyfriend would have to be willing to run lines with him… Just part of the deal when dating a theatre major like Brad!!
Q) Was there a moment it hit you and Eden that doing this episode was surreal?
A) It was when I accidentally smashed the hell out of Eden’s head with a rake during rehearsal. Ohhhh. You mean metaphorical “hit.” GOT IT. Every step of the process kept hitting me in a new way. But the actual day of filming is what still makes me need to pinch myself. The whole day I constantly reminded myself how fortunate I am. I’m acting, singing and dancing for a living. There’s literally no better feeling in the world than living your dream.