Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Interview: Eden Sher on Sue Heck's "Small Victories"

Eden Sher got her start on nighttime dramas like “Weeds,” “The O.C.” and “Veronica Mars,” but these days she’s known as the dorky and lovable sister on “The Middle,” which airs Wednesday nights on ABC. She has been nominated for and has won countless acting awards for her work on the sitcom, garnering Sue Heck a place in everyone’s hearts. When I spoke with her, she told me how it all got started, as well as how much fun they all have on “The Middle.”

Celebrity Extra: Had you always know you wanted to be an actress, or was it something you came across and said, “Hey, I can do this!”?

Eden Sher: A little bit of both. I watched a documentary about Spalding Gray, and he has this part where he is saying his one monologue where he’s like: “Some people are trained to become actors and some people are just born acting out.” Constantly attention-seeking, I guess. And I think that’s more the route I took. It always felt natural, and I was just always performing.

When I was 8 or 9 is when I finally convinced my mom to let me try it professionally. I would just see TV shows and I was like: “I can do that! I can do that better! I can do that better than that person. Please let me try. Please.” Until finally she let me, and then when I was 15, I thought, “OK, this is not just something that I love to do — I think I can actually make money doing this.”

CE: “The Middle” has been going strong for six years now. That is always such a milestone, especially for a sitcom in these fickle times of short attention spans and whatnot.

ES: Oh, yeah, definitely. Everyone hopes that their show will go more than two episodes without getting canceled, but no one really expects it. But to go six years, and to be a universally liked show, you can’t possibly predict how it’s going to be received. And it is so gratifying when it is received well. It’s a really intense feeling of gratitude.

CE: I think it helps that “The Middle” isn’t your typical sitcom. It’s smart, sometimes outlandish, and always funny.

ES: Totally. I always think of it like, OK, our show was definitely consumer before realistic. My character especially is an exaggerated version of what is presented, but I try to play it with as much authenticity as possible. I think this person might exist in every city in every state, but on a smaller scale.

CE: Sue is ridiculously optimistic, even when she fails. How do you approach playing her?

ES: It’s so funny, because I get asked a similar version of that question a lot, and I sometimes don’t understand it, because I feel like she succeeds once an episode. Sue has these small victories throughout the episode, and I never feel like Sue’s been let down.

CE: What’s it like on the set of “The Middle”?

ES: I hate every single one of those people. I do not make eye contact. They address me as Mademoiselle Sher. (Laughs) Of course, I love them. When we’re not filming, I always hang out with Charlie (McDermott), and I lunch with Neil (Flynn) on the reg. And I see Patty (Patricia Heaton). I don’t see Atticus (Shaffer) that much outside the set, but he also doesn’t live in LA. When we all have scenes together, it’s super. There aren’t words to express the immense feeling of gratitude that I feel on a daily basis. It’s so unusual to get a work environment where you truly enjoy every person you work with.

CE: What are your fan interactions like? What’s their feedback been like?

ES: They are the best. I love seeing and reading what they think on Twitter. My favorite was on Halloween — I was shocked by how many people tweeted me pictures of themselves dressed up as Sue. Oh my God. It was amazing. It was awesome.

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