Like most late-20s people reading this, I grew up faithfully watching "Malcolm in the Middle" every week and looking up to the title character. He was such a perfect character; smart, awkward, stressed the hell out, and, in many ways, as hopeless as we all felt during our formative years.
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to Frankie Muniz, the man who brought this character to life week after week. Muniz has also starred in such blockbusters as Big Fat Liar, Agent Cody Banks, and the 2006 gaming horror film Stay Alive (which I think about every time I play Resident Evil 2).
Muniz’s latest project is The Black String, a psychological horror film directed by Brian Hanson. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I sat down to check this one out, but let me tell you…it’s a total mindfuck that took me all the way back to 2004’s The Butterfly Effect, themes aside.
Read what Muniz had to say about the film, as well as his growth as an actor, below:
Crypt Teaze: For a movie like The Black String, which follows a man who may or may not be imagining everything he’s going through, how do you slip into that character’s shoes?
Frankie Muniz: I think the toughest part…well, obviously you don’t film a movie in order, so you really have to know, before you go into it, the level of Jonathan’s craziness or Jonathan’s passion for getting to the bottom of what he believes is happening to him, that way you know how ramped up he is at that specific point in the movie. Knowing what level he’s at in each point in the script is the most important thing Brian and I focused on the week before we started filming. But other than that, I don’t know…I wanted to play it real, you know? I wasn’t trying to play it finicky, I wasn’t trying to play it like I didn’t know what was happening to me, I was trying to play it like I really believe this cult was after me the whole time. The rest of the characters in the movie really do the rest as far as making the audience unsure of what’s happening and what’s just imagined. I think It turned out really good, and I’m really happy with the film, for sure!
CT: Over the years, how have you developed your acting technique as far as preparation?
FM: It’s weird, because obviously I’ve been acting since I was eight years old. I’m 33, so 25 years have gone by, which is pretty scary to say. I’ve never really looked at acting as ‘acting,’ as weird as that sounds. I was always someone who was an actor, I obviously did it, but…I’d say I’m the least actor-ish actor. I’ve never taken an acting class or anything like that, and maybe some people would say that’s why I’m not a very good actor. But this role…drama movies, I haven’t had much experience doing, but for some reason it was so much easier for me. I don’t know why, I don’t know what that was, but I was really focused every day on where my character wanted to be, what he wanted to do, it’s like I could picture it so easily. I very rarely say this about my acting, and I’m usually pretty hard on myself, like ‘oh, I should’ve done that better,’ but when I watch this film, I’m really, really thrilled with it. I’m thrilled with how it turned out. Knowing what our budget was and how quickly we had to make the movie, I’m more than thrilled with the finished product, and I hope that people watching enjoy it.
CT: I was watching AMC’s "Preacher" last year, and I jumped out of my seat when I saw you on screen as yourself! How did that come to be? Are you a fan of the show?
FM: It’s funny, my fiancé and I were huge fans of that show, and they just happened to call and tell me they had this really funny little bit they wanted me to do that would just take an hour. So I flew to New Orleans and I did it, and I was so thrilled, because, y’know, especially the character Cassidy…I’m in love with that character, and he says my name! I just thought that was so cool! We love that show, so it was awesome they thought of me.
CT: With all your experience in front of the camera, have you ever thought about directing or taking part in anything else behind the scenes?
FM: When I was younger….no. Like, when I was acting on "Malcolm in the Middle", I always said, “I don’t want to direct, I like just being an actor.” But as I get older, every time I get on a set, I have that bug, you know? I would love to direct. I mean, I’ve directed small things, like music videos and stuff like that, but there’s something about being behind the camera that excites me more than being in front of the camera. But I haven’t yet ventured down that route. I’ve talked about directing a few things, but it just hasn’t ever fully come to fruition. I definitely have an interest there, for sure!
CT: What advice would you give to up-and-coming actors, given all you’ve learned over the years?
FM: The entertainment industry in general is a tough business. It’s one of those things that a lot in the beginning, I would say, really had to do with luck. I had to do with being in the right place at the right time, maybe having the right relationship with the right person who knows someone in casting. For me, I might’ve been casted in "Malcolm" because I look like I could be Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek’s son, you know what I mean? But I always say, if you want to be an actor, do as much as you can even if it’s just on a local level, because experience is extremely valuable. You never know who you may work with, even on a small stage regional theatre or whatever who may go on to do something else, and they might say, ‘I worked with this person a while ago, and I’d love to have them for this film.’ So, a lot of it’s just continuing to push and work hard and never give up, but always keeping in mind how tough it is. It’s tough for everybody. You’ve just always gotta keep pushing.
CT: What do you have coming up next?
FM: To be honest, I don’t know! I own an olive oil brand with my fiancé, and that keeps us really busy. I’m just taking it day by day and enjoying life while I can!
I’m really, really happy with The Black String, and I hope that everyone who’s reading this goes and checks it out, because it’ll definitely be a surprise!
The Black String is available September 24th from Lionsgate Films!