After nine wonderful, hilarious, poignant, heartfelt seasons, The Middle says goodbye tomorrow night with the one-hour series finale entitled (appropriately) “A Heck of a Ride.”
The comedy followed the Heck family—parents Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Mike (Neil Flynn) and their children—eldest son Axl (Charlie McDermott), middle daughter Sue (Eden Sher) and youngest and quirkiest son Brick (Atticus Shaffer). The ever-optimistic Sue was the family cheerleader. She tried out for everything and was rarely discouraged when she didn’t get the part or make the team. She had the unique ability to always see the glass as half full. She was delightfully awkward and wonderfully loyal.
She’s also one of my all-time favorite characters. We all have a little bit of Sue in us. Luckily, I recently had a chance to talk to Sher about ending The Middle, the series’ legacy and what it’s like to be a role model to young viewers.
Paste: What was it like filming the series finale?
Eden Sher: It was great. Honestly, it was not as emotional as I thought it was going to be until the end. I thought, “This is just another week.” And there were all these lasts, but I was having a good time being at work and then they called “the martini,” which is the very last shot, and I completely lost it, broke down. Everything in me just left my body.
Paste: Did it seem surreal?
Sher: Yes. There’s no value judgment on it. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s kind of surreal. I don’t feel sad, in the best way possible. I feel like we went out the way we were supposed to and I feel super grateful. I’m not sad about it. It’s just bizarre.
Paste: Not all shows get to end like this—on their own terms. Even after nine seasons, you are ending with a steady and loyal viewership. There hasn’t been a decrease in quality. What do you think accounts for the show’s longevity?
Sher: We never had any extreme high. We never had any crash. It was never like, “Oh, what happened to that show? What happened to that smash hit? It kind of jumped the shark.” We had no shark to jump. We were just kind of swimming along.
Paste: I know you probably can’t tell me too much, but Sue and Sean (Beau Wirick) have been missing each other romantically for almost two seasons. Will we see a satisfying conclusion to their story arc?
Sher:Yes, you will. It will be addressed. Whatever you’re thinking in your head. I think the viewers will be very happy. I think it’s a really good ending.
Paste: Do you have a favorite Sue moment?
Sher: There was this episode where she discovers feminism. It was during the Jeremy (Will Green) phase [late Season Seven, early Season Eight]. She became this radical activist and I loved that Sue. I think that was closest to me personally. I think especially me at like 19, 20: “Oh my God, that’s what feminism is? Yes, down. I’m in it all the way. I’m going to change the world. I’m going to do everything.”
My favorite thing to film ever was in Season Five [“War of the Hecks”], the first speech I gave to Charlie McDermott, who plays Axl, [and] who is one of my best friends in real life. Axl and Sue get into a fight and I give this big, long, sobby speech. It was great.
Paste: Do you have brothers in real life?
Sher: I actually have two brothers. I’m the middle girl of two brothers of the exact same age. It was kind of crazy, actually. I have a brother who is two and half years older and then a little brother whose four years younger. I had the base of knowing what it’s like to have the emotional investment in a sibling. There’s a line that Frankie says that my mom used to say to us all the time: “When I die, you’ll only have each other, so love each other.” That’s a feeling that I’ve always understood. It became very easy because when I got so close with Charlie it was easy to imagine. Oh my God, If I didn’t have that kind of friendship—it’s so important. I love him so much. He’s really great.
Paste: What kind of legacy do you think the show will have?
Sher: We’re going to have a legacy?! I haven’t thought about it until just this very second. It’s too big. It’s like when I think about space or the ocean. The fact that something I was a part of could possibly even have a legacy is so daunting. I guess humbling is the word. Overwhelming in the “overwhelmed with gratitude” kind of way.
Paste: Reboots are all the rage these days. I know you just finished filming and this is kind of a crazy question to ask, but could you see a reunion of The Middle in the future?
Sher: If you asked me right now, I think we went out really well and I don’t think it calls for and I don’t think it needs it a reboot or revisiting.
Paste: Sue is such a unique female character. In nine seasons, she’s always been true to herself. What kind of feedback have you received from fans over the years?
Sher: I am so grateful. I think I took it for granted to be playing a girl who didn’t have to compromise anything. I got to be exactly the kind of strong teenager not always comfortable with herself, focused on herself, not in a cheesy way. They just did it really, really well. Girls have such a tough go of it in middle school and high school. When I really came into my feminism, I had this vision of going across the country and talking to middle-school girls. It’s my dream: if I could make any impact on females aged 10-14 in any way. When I was growing up, I idolized Ren Stevens (Christy Carlson Romano) from the show Even Stevens. She was a role model. She was smart and on top of her stuff. After three years on the show, when girls would come up to me, I would realize I might be some girl’s Ren Stevens. I started bawling. Oh my God! Oh my God! I’m grateful that I could possibly be that person and I didn’t have to sacrifice my integrity or anything.
Paste: What’s next for you?
Sher: I’m figuring it out. The dream would be to write and produce something I could star in or I could have a supporting role. I feel like I’ve had so much practice of playing the role I want to see on TV versus the roles I’m tired of seeing on TV. I want to find a team of people. I hope it will come to fruition soon.
Paste: What have you learned about the TV industry by being on The Middle?
Sher: Seeing how to make a well-oiled machine. In terms of creating something that other people want to see and how to make it happen. I don’t’ think I could write myself a whole series together, but it’s about finding the right people and finding what to look for professionally. That’s what I’ve taken away. Keeping characters consistent. We use the same directors. Finding a community of people who understand how to execute your vision through their medium. [It’s about] finding people in different categories who all see the same color red.
The series finale of The Middle airs Tuesday, May 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .