Frankie Muniz Is Back in the Middle

Frankie Muniz admits that he was tired when "Malcolm in the Middle’s” six-year run came to an end in 2006. Now, he is rested, newly engaged to longtime girlfriend Elycia Marie Turnbow, and the acting bug has bitten him hard.

Muniz never had an opportunity to attend Comic Con, the world’s largest comic book, science fiction and video game convention, during his heyday as the child star of Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle.” Still, despite being an 18-year veteran of Hollywood at age 25, his eyes bulged with an 8-year-old boy’s wonder as he surveyed the sea of costumed enthusiasts that flooded New York’s Jacob Javits Center recently.

New York City’s Comic Con was both a debut and a Hollywood homecoming for Muniz. A trailer for his new action-comedy, “Pizza Man,” premiered and the movie – as well as the appearance at Comic Con – marked Muniz’s return to acting.

“It’s just wild here,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to come [to Comic Con] but never had a chance because I was usually working. … I finished ‘Pizza Man’ about a year ago but I’ve realized in the last few months that I’ve really missed acting and that this is really what I want to do full-time. I’m ready to put my best me forward.”

In “Pizza Man,” Muniz is Matt Burns, a down-on-his-luck teenager who hates working in his family’s pizza shop and accidentally gains superpowers through a freakish series of life-altering events. In short, Muniz’s Burns is in the wrong place, wrong time-turned-right. He is shot during a pizza delivery by thieves trying to steal from the lab of his university professor who has developed a super serum that cures all illnesses, injuries and disease. Mortally wounded, Burns must take healing serum save his life, but that has unintended side effects – super powers. Thus, the bumbling, most unlikely crime fighter of them all, Pizza Man, is born.

I have figured out in my life and career, that as long as I’m happy and enjoying what I’m doing, everything else will fall into place. But people should plan on seeing more Frankie Muniz in movies.

— Frankie Muniz

Don’t worry, Spider-Man has nothing to fear from Pizza Man. The Web Slinger still has the market cornered on angst-ridden superheroes. But for those looking for a wholesome new hero with a goofy name that everyone can enjoy, Muniz’s Pizza Man may be your guy.

“I got the script and genuinely laughed out loud and it still had the badass superhero quality to it,” Muniz said. “I had taken a decent break from the acting world after ‘Malcolm’ ended so that I got the drive to feel like this was what I wanted to do again. The script came along at the perfect time, and I had a great time making the film and was really pleased with what we got. People will really be surprised at what they see, that ‘Pizza Man’ still has the badass qualities even though it’s a comedy.”

Unlike other child stars who have had difficulty transitioning into adult roles, Muniz doesn’t shy away from his past. He’s proud of “Malcolm in the Middle” and its legacy.

“The fact that I’m recognized for anything at this point is pretty cool,” he said. “People tell me all the time, ‘Oh you don’t want to be stereotyped. Oh, you don’t want to be stereotyped for something like that.’ If I’m known for nothing else for the rest of my life, then I’ll still be proud. I’m proud to have been part of such a great show. I appreciate it even more now than when I was on the show.”

But the New Jersey native of Puerto Rican, Irish and Italian descent admits that he was tired when “Malcolm in the Middle’s” six-year run came to an end in 2006. Muniz wanted time to rest and explore other opportunities. He took a few small roles, including making a cameo in the 2007 movie “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” and a guest appearance in CBS’s hit drama “Criminal Minds.” But for the most part, Muniz stayed off the radar in Hollywood and pursued a full-time career in race car driving and playing drums in a band, You Hang Up.

“I started acting when I was 8 and did ‘Malcolm until I was 19-20,” he said. “In that 12-year period, the total days I had off was maybe three months, 90 days off. Which, I liked – even today if I have one hour of free time doing nothing, I don’t know what to do with myself. But there came a point where I wanted to do something else. I wanted to want it [my acting career]. It’s not that I didn’t want it; it’s just that it got to a point where it became just something that I did.”

Now, Muniz is rested and the acting bug has bitten him hard. He still has the boyish good looks that won hearts in “My Dog Skip” and brought laughs in “Malcolm.” But facial stubble, tattoos of race car driving flags on his inner left forearm and introspection on his career – where he’s been and where he wants to be – give a glimpse of the man Muniz has become. He has a renewed love for his craft and is anxious to show Hollywood and fans what he can really do.

“After our first day of shooting, I went home and told my girlfriend [now, fiancee], ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I really, really enjoyed it. It was cool to have that excitement back,” Muniz said. “There was a point where we filmed 27 straight hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. It felt great to put that full effort forward.”

Right now, Muniz hopes fans will be happy with “Pizza Man.” Director Joe Eckardt said everyone had fun on the set and that hopefully that will be evident to moviegoers.

“I liked the blend of it,” Eckardt said. “It’s a superhero movie, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s a comedy – we don’t make fun of the genre and play with it. Pizza Man is a hero for kids and they’ll love it.”

Muniz hopes “Pizza Man” is just the first step of his comeback. He said he plans to be a few upcoming roles that will show his darker side.

“People will see Frankie Muniz in an entirely different light,” he said. “I want to be the guy that people are afraid of.”

Muniz draws inspiration from his former “Malcolm in the Middle” dad, Bryan Cranston, who has won three consecutive Emmys for his intense, dark portrayal of mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher turned cancer-stricken drug lord in AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Cranston, once best-known as the Malcolm’s zany father, Hal, has shattered all perceptions of him as primarily a comedic actor. But Muniz says he always knew what a talented actor his TV dad was.

“Bryan Cranston, to me, is one of the greatest actors out there. He totally made that role of Hal in ‘Malcolm in the Middle,’” Muniz said. “That role was originally supposed to be minor but Bryan made it into his own and turned it into what it became. He had no shame, and you can’t have any shame to do what he did with that role. I would love to have something like that, to do ‘Malcolm’ and then to do something like ‘Breaking Bad,’ which is so different. I would to, like Bryan, to not be recognized for either [‘Malcolm’ or ‘Breaking Bad’], but [just] as a great actor.”

Muniz admits there are at least 50 different things he’d like to do while he’s still young. But his sole message to his fans is this: Watch out and plan on seeing a more of him on the Big Screen.

“I have figured out in my life and career, that as long as I’m happy and enjoying what I’m doing, everything else will fall into place,” Muniz said. “But people should plan on seeing more Frankie Muniz in movies.”

Bryan Robinson is a Fox News Web producer and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. 

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