We had the pleasure of interviewing the talented actress Casey Burke for a second time this week (find our first interview with her here!). As most of you know, Casey plays Cindy, Brick’s girlfriend on the ABC comedy The Middle. The show entered its ninth and final season this fall and the 200th episode just aired last month. It’s rare for a show to get 9 seasons and pass 200 episodes, so Casey is grateful. “It’s all been so exciting! I think there are a few reasons [that The Middle made it to 200 episodes], but mainly the people. Everyone on the set as well as everyone at the network is so supportive of the work we all do together. I think the show resonates really well with families all throughout America because they can see themselves in at least one character on the show, whether it is the kids in school or the stressed mom or laid-back dad. The writers have done an incredible job in keeping the show fresh and funny and we’re all just very fortunate to have made it this far with the help of our viewers.”
The relatability of The Middle is one of the best things of the show and the fact that after 9 seasons, the writers still find plenty of ways to be original will make it hard to say goodbye to the show after this season, as Casey says: “It’s all very bittersweet”. As was announced in August, the decision was mutual between the cast and crew of the show and the network executives. “It’s sad to see it come to end, because we all love being on the show, but there is something to say for knowing when it’s time to say goodbye. We want to go out while our show is still funny and relatable. For me, it was sad to hear the news, but I think also kind of perfect. As I finish up my time in high school and prepare for new things, I also get to wrap up my time with Cindy and with the show. So the timing was incredible.”
Even though the decision was made before the final season started, it doesn’t feel different to the cast and crew right now. “Maybe closer to the end it will begin to hit us, but I think for right now everyone just wants to put in their absolute best and make this season a great one.”
Casey has been on the show since 2014, first appearing in the season 6 Halloween episode. She’s has now been on 19 episodes, and it’s difficult for her to choose her favorite episode so far. “I enjoy every moment with the cast. I think one that stands out is the episode where we got to meet Cindy’s parents. I absolutely loved The Suite Life of Zack and Cody when I was younger, so learning that Brian Stepanek [who was a recurring character on that show] was playing my dad was SO exciting! And together with Lauren they had everyone cracking up all day. It was so much fun.”
This episode where the viewers got introduced to Cindy’s parents cleared up a lot of things. We thought Cindy was weird, but after meeting her parents, we could see that she got that from her parents who may have been even weirder. Casey, however admires the character she plays: “I love her resilience and self-confidence. She may be a little quirky, but she always knows what she wants. Her first introduction into the show was her just walking up to Brick’s door and asking him out, which would take a lot of guts for me in real life haha. And when he wanted to get back together with her, she wasn’t just going to let him back in to her life, he had to work for it. I admire that aspect of self-respect she has.”
Cindy broke up with Brick in the season 9 premiere, and didn’t get back together with him until over 2 months later. Some fans were anxious that she wouldn’t be back and that ‘Brindy’ was done forever. “I wasn’t worried”, Casey recalls. “As I was leaving the table read for the episode where they broke up, one of the producers Eileen [Heisler] came up and she said ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be back.’” The most difficult part about this was keeping it a secret until the episode where they got back together aired. “This turned out to be harder than I expected. I had to lie about where I was going when we went back to film.”
The breakup scene a few weeks before involved a tense moment where Cindy was so mad at Brick for breaking up with her, that she wanted to destroy something he loves. This lead to a hilarious moment of her kicking Brick’s mom Frankie (played by Patricia Heaton).
“Omg I was so scared! They put a shin guard on Patty but I still didn’t want to actually kick her. She kept saying ‘No seriously you can do it harder’ but I was so nervous I was actually going to bruise Patricia Heaton haha”
Besides her quirkiness and her aggressive behavior at times (she also kicked Mike’s car in season 7) Cindy is also known for her safari hat. “I, personally, would never wear a hat like hers, but it’s not annoying to wear”, she laughs. “I would love for Cindy’s whole head to be shown at some point or another. I always joke that at the end of series Cindy could have a major glow up hahaha. I don’t know, Cindy’s hat is kind of a staple, but I definitely would not be against a hatless episode, but hey, if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. That hat has lead to me getting sent some cute Halloween costume pictures from fans!”
Not only would it be nice to see a makeover on the outside, Cindy could also change a little on the inside if it were up to Casey. “There was one episode a while back where Cindy let a little bit of a smile show, but I think it would be really sweet if we saw some emotion from Cindy, but again her monotone expression is what makes her funny, so we’ll have to leave it up to the writers.”
For over 3 years most of Casey’s scenes were with her onscreen boyfriend Atticus Shaffer, who’s much smaller than she is. “I know when I started I was a foot taller than him, or at least that’s what I was told in the casting room. I’m about 5’8″ but I’m not sure if Atticus has grown anymore. I think one of the things that makes our relationship funny is that we oppositely reflect Mike and Frankie on height differences [Neil Flynn, who plays Mike is 6’5″ and Patricia Heaton is 5’2″].”
But the height difference has never lead to any problems, as a matter of fact Casey has nothing bad to say about her castmate. “He totally is amazing, and hilarious too!”, and she describes working with the cast and crew of The Middle as “Amazing”. Casey mentioned in our previous interview with her that when she first arrived on set, the cast was very welcoming and nice and her opinion about her coworkers hasn’t changed in the last years. “I’m so so fortunate to have gotten to be on a show for this long with such genuine people. Not every set is like the one I get to go to, and I’m so grateful for that. I’ve learned so much, and as the years have gone I’ve met more and more amazing people. They’re really all like a second family and I’m so glad to have had this experience.”
Fans of The Middle would always be able to recognize Cindy, but without the safari hat, Casey does not get recognized a lot. “I’ve actually been on a few red carpets where people asked who I play on the show and they’ll literally say ‘Wow I did not recognize you without that safari hat.’ I’ve had a few people recognize me, but not many considering the differences between how I look on the show and in real life. In some ways, I guess it’s kind of a good thing haha.” Casey loves meeting fans of her and the show though. “It’s so exciting! When you’re on set it’s kind of like you’re in this little bubble where we are all doing our jobs and just having fun, and then you go out into the world, or even on social media, and you realize that what you do impacts people’s lives. The fact that so many people get to escape the hardships of their daily routines in the comedy of our little show makes it so special. It’s really the reason I’m doing what I’m doing. To see people be inspired to start acting because of you, or make a Halloween costume of your character, it makes everything worthwhile.”
The first half of the final season of The Middle is over right now, with 14 episodes still to go in the second half. Unfortunately, Casey can’t give us a lot of information about the upcoming episodes, but there is one episode with her that has already been shot: “I just filmed an episode where I got to have a scene with Beau Wirick [who plays Sean Donahue], which was so much fun! I can’t wait for you guys to see that one.”
This will be the first episode where Casey and Beau have a scene together, and she has some more actors on her wish list for the last couple of episodes. “There’s so many people I would love to work with. It’d be pretty cool to have a scene with Brooke Shields [who plays Rita Glossner] before the end. It’s probably unlikely, but anything’s possible!”
Even though the writers have known how to end the show for a while, the series finale is still a surprise to the whole cast. Casey has no idea how the show will end, but she does have some hopes. “I just hope that everyone is happy. I hope Brick and Cindy are still going strong, as well was Sean and Sue and Axl and Lexie. It would be nice if the Heck’s could win the lottery or something, but I also think that a big point of the show is that family and friends are all you need to be happy. I’m excited to see how it all turns out.” Like me, and a lot of other fans with me, Casey hopes that Cindy will be in the finale, especially now that she and Brick are back together. We will have to wait until the end of the season to find out.
A bigger question is, what will happen with Cindy’s safari hat after the show? “That is a question I’m always asked!”, Casey laughs. “I’m not sure, I would love to keep the hat, but I feel like it should end up in a museum somewhere hahaha.”
“Wow. Is everything an acceptable answer?”, Casey says when asked what she will miss the most after The Middle ends. “I think this one goes back to the people. I’m going to miss laughing and doing silly dances with Atticus, and getting big hugs from Eden and learning something new from everyone every day. I’ll miss the food too, our craft service is amazing haha. But seriously, I hope I’ll continue to work with even just a few of these people throughout my career, because they make work fun. I would absolutely love to stay in touch or even work with anyone from the show again.”
Casey, who is now in her senior year in high school, wants to continue acting. “Right now, I would love to study and get a degree in Musical Theater, but I’m looking at places where I will still be able to work along with studying. Musical theater is something I am very passionate about and I would love to learn more, but I do think in the long run film and television acting is what I want to have a career in.”
Besides school and The Middle she has been busy with some other projects. “I have a short I recently wrapped that is due to screen at USC any day now, which was super fun. You even hear me sing in it! I’m also currently playing Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls at Hamilton High School, which opens in February, so I’m very excited for that as well. And hopefully I’ll have some more to announce in the New Year!”
She already knows what shows she wants to be on in the future. “I watch way too much television, but I’d like to be on anything on the CW. I’m a big fan of Riverdale, as well as any of the superhero shows like The Flash, Supergirl, or the ones on Netflix. I also love the show Lucifer on Fox, it’s one of my new favorites. Honestly though, there is so much good TV out there right now, I would love to take on a role in any of them!”
But first she will continue her work on The Middle for the last few episodes, before it wraps up its run in a couple of months. Casey has one more thing she’d like to say to all fans of The Middle: “Just thank you. From the bottom of my heart and the hearts of everyone on the show. Thank you for the continued support as we head into the final stretch. I promise it’ll be a good one!❤️”
The second half of the final season will start on January 2nd 2018! Casey will not be in this episode, but she will be back on the show soon!