Eden Sher plays Sue Heck on the ABC sitcom “The Middle.” | Matt Sayles~AP
Updated: December 17, 2011 8:00AM
BURBANK, Calif. — Patricia Heaton of ABC’s “The Middle” (7 p.m. Wednesdays, WLS-Channel 7) is convinced the sitcom’s first Emmy will go to 19-year-old Eden Sher, a standout as bumbling, stumbling middle child Sue.
“I think she’s so brave,” said Heaton, who plays Sue’s mom. “You know, she gets out there. She lets them mess her up and look goofy and has to fall flat on her face, week in and week out — wearing those braces and straight hair.”
And yet Sue remains a cockeyed optimist.
“I do get slightly embarrassed, with, specifically, Patty’s praise,” Sher said about Heaton’s comments. “I don’t know why. Maybe just because I respect her so much.”
Sher first came to the attention of Jay Leno, who was so impressed with her responses in his man-on-the-street segments that he invited her to do one solo. Then came commercial work, a failed series and, finally, “The Middle,” in which perhaps the only thing funnier than Sue Heck is one heck of a wardrobe — unflattering explosions of pastels and ill-fitting ensembles that make the character come off even more awkward than she is.
“My favorite thing that Sue Heck has ever worn was probably the crayon costume,” Sher said. “I was expecting like a box, like a tubelike thing that says, ‘Crayola’ on the top, across the front, with like a big pointy hat. And it wasn’t. They allowed me to be so cute. And I got to wear this little pencil dress and it was pink. And [feigns sobbing] my shoes were little hearts, and they were so cute! And so I got to keep the shoes.”
The young actress recently spent six weeks teaching in a mountain village in India. “I mean, she’s not your typical Hollywood kid,” Heaton said.
“The Middle” has been a promotional challenge in today’s bleak economy: It’s tough squeezing laughs out of the financially strapped Hecks.
“I think what the show is trying to say is, at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, all you can do is laugh at yourself,” Sher said. “Laugh at everything.”