Malcolm's mug made him famous, Cody Banks' gadgets turned him into every teenager's James Bond fantasy, and his vocal skills in movies like "Dr. Dolittle 2" and "Racing Stripes" gave him cred with the kids.
As Frankie Muniz approaches his 20th birthday later this year, however, he's looking forward to a new project with the hope that it'll keep him relevant into adulthood. On May 9 he'll start filming "Stay Alive," a heavy-duty drama, in New Orleans.
When discussing what attracted him to the role, the former child star turned dark: "It's a very scary movie. It's a very intense drama. I actually get to act in this movie.
"It's really, really hard to explain," said Muniz of the plot. "But it's going to be pretty sweet. It's definitely something totally different than I've done before, so I'm excited about that."
Although the film is still being cast, Muniz does know that he'll be starring opposite Jon Foster ("The Door in the Floor"), Samaire Armstrong ("The O.C."), and Steve Zahn, the "Sahara" funnyman who has been known to show some considerable dramatic chops.
The former "Big Fat Liar" star will play computer nerd Swink Sylvania, who reunites with some friends for a funeral. When the group realizes that their friend died while playing a spooky video game called "Stay Alive," they begin to suspect that the ghost of a local urban legend killer might have entered the game.
Although the shift in tone marks a major departure for Muniz, he assured his TV fans that more "Malcolm in the Middle" is also on the way. The show has been picked up for another season, and the current one "just finished [taping] last week. So I'm just chilling, which is nice."
As recently as this past winter, while publicizing "Racing Stripes," the baby-faced actor expressed a desire to make a jump into adulthood with edgier fare. Now, he says, he's about to begin phase one of the plan.
"Yeah, I'm 19 now," Muniz said. "I really have to look to do something different where I can really show what I can do. I found this, and it'll be good."
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