John Gammon plays Darrin on ABC’s award-winning prime time family sitcom, “The Middle,” airing Wednesday nights at 8/7c. He stars alongside “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Patricia Heaton and “Scrubs” star Neil Flynn, who play a couple balancing their marriage and family in Indiana. Darrin is the best friend to Axl (played by Charlie McDermott), the teenage son in the family.
Born in Arkansas and raised in Ohio, John was cast in “The Middle” in … well, the middle – midway through the first season, that is. He got the part after his third ever professional audition. I spoke with John on the phone about his experiences on the show and his career aspirations.
“I absolutely love this show. Everybody I work with is extremely talented, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “In its fifth season, I have to pinch myself when I look around and I see just how close we’ve come, how we’ve grown together. It’s really fantastic to see a dream come true like this.”
He got the role after a disappointing rejection. “They had me audition for like a little one-liner, months before,” he told me. “I went in for it, got a callback that day, left, and I actually saw the casting director that night. And I said hello to him, shook his hand. He told me that I finished second that day. So, it was kind of a bummer, but he said, ‘This is all right because you did a really good job. if something bigger comes along, we can call you in for that, and we’ll let you know.’”
“So, I frankly didn’t believe him,” John continued. Nevertheless, he was eventually called in to audition again, and he got a callback the same day. “I think one or two days later, they called me and said I had it so long as the network said I was good to sell soap.”
Darrin is not exactly an intelligent character (to put it mildly), while John, on the other hand, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies. He said it’s a bit challenging to play a character who is less intelligent, but he just remembers all of the times in his life when he has been confused. “And that’s easy because I’m confused a lot,” he joked.
Why did he choose Spanish and Latin American Studies as his major? His eyes were always on acting, so he just wanted an education more than anything else. Once he got his degree, he was off to Hollywood.
John studied acting, including comedic work, which helped him to get into the rhythms of a sitcom. He says that sitcom acting can be a bit tricky. “I didn’t know it was that difficult or that weird or there were this many nuances or subtleties to it like I did for drama.”
“I went to Lesly Kahn’s in Hollywood. It’s a great place to study if you’re interested in any kind of comedic acting, especially with a script. It’s the place to go. I think that it was so important. I don’t think that I would have been completely ready for ‘The Middle’ if I didn’t go there…. Lesly’s famous for teaching the technicals of comedic acting. I just simply didn’t even know that there were such things as technicals.”
Besides enjoying his time on a hit TV show, what else would he like to do in his career? “I would love to sink my teeth into some good independent films,” John said. He especially loved the recent indie, “The Kings of Summer,” a movie about teenagers by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. He’d also love to work with directors David O. Russell, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Spielberg.
When I asked what actors are on his “dream list,” he said, “I’d love to play the younger brother or cousin to Matt Damon.” As for actresses, the first ones to come to mind were Jennifer Lawrence and Anna Faris, both of whom he thinks are exceptionally talented.
Watch John at work as Darrin in the clip below, in which he professes his love to Sue, Axl’s nerdy sister (played by Eden Sher).