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malcolm in the middle
allpop.com 02/01/02

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behind the scenes with a malcolm star by stephanie mcgrath

on tvs show malcolm in the middle, justin berfields alter ego reese spends his time yelling at his mom, pulling pranks on his younger brothers, and brawling with almost everyone he comes into contact with.

in real life justin admits hes had a fight or two with his older brother, but mostly he dreams of writing and directing and concentrates on his other job as a youth ambassador for ronald mcdonald charities.

this sundays show, which airs on fox in the us and global in canada is a special post super bowl spectacle that will run for an hour and feature guest appearances from christina ricci, tom green, and heidi klume.

although justin says he has a lot of fun on the set being goofy with his castmates (especially bryan cranston, who plays his tv dad hal) and thinks the scripts are hilarious, the going-on-16 actor is already thinking ahead to the next phase of his career. after all, hes been acting since he was five years old when he got his big break in a folgers coffee commercial in which he said just one word "three."

"id like to maybe write a few [scripts] in the beginning and then go to college and hopefully learn to direct." justin says about his future.

what attracts him to writing and directing is the idea of being behind the camera, meeting "so many cool people", and creating something that reflects his own personal vision. besides sometimes being a tv star can be a bit of a drag.

justin started being home schooled about a year ago, and he says he doesnt really miss like in a packed schoolroom.

"every time i came back from work [to school] theyd always bug me for about four weeks to find out what id been doing." he explains. "once kids know youre an actor they wont really ever let you forget that. that ask you everything, they ask you questions who you know how can we get on the tv show with you?" you feel kinda bad because as the actors we really dont have much say on who they hire. one kid asked me if they could write him a part to be the fifth brother (on malcolm) he was serious he wanted to be a series regular on the show."

all of which makes it easy to tell who his true friends are

"if my close friend asked me to get him a part on the show i wouldnt make him my close friend anymore. " he says. "youve got to watch out who you talk to, who you know. watch your back, [you] might have a friend for a couple of months and then one day youll find out hes telling other people that he knows you and your thinking, "wow if youre really my friend, why do you have to tell everyone that you know me?"

if the gossipers really did know justin theyd realize hes more excited talking about his charity work then discussing his life as a tv celebrity. he was recently named the youth ambassador for the ronald mcdonald charities which are among other things provides cheap or sometimes free logging for families of hospitalized children who have to travel to get medical attention.

"i wanted to go nation-wide and help out." justin says. "with this ill be able to travel across the country, maybe out of the country."

although the title is new, justin has been visiting the mcdonalds houses and participating in fundraisers for five years.

"ive never been to one house and had the kids not smile, not be excited," he says. "they always cheer. theyre like, yay your back. the houses have a game room. we play air hockey, we play basketball, we watch movies with them."

but just because justin is into his charity work and his directing goals doesnt mean hes lost interest in the malcolm world. so far his favorite moment on the show has been filming an episode that found reese and his family enjoying a water park. after the shoot the cast spent the evenings riding the slides.

"they opened up a park just for us in the springtime before it was opened to the public. " he says, "and they opened every ride for us. for four days straight. thats all we did after work was go one the rides."

justin says upcoming episodes include something "happening" to older brother and head troublemaker francis (christopher masterson) and an episode where justins reese and his on screen brothers malcolm (frankie muniz) and dewey (erik per sullivan) actually settle down "probably just for one episode as a flue he says.

as justin and the rest of the young cast gets older, the actor expects future episodes to deal with more mature story lines "like girls, parties, and driving."