This was just before the episode 'Reese Drives' aired (Feb. 10, 2002), which he already alludes to. Nice remarks on filming 'Water Park' too! As if Michael Jackson was visiting, it opened just for them! What 'happened to Francis' was marrying Piama, in episode 'Hal's Birthday' (Mar. 3, 2002) without telling anyone!

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Behind the scenes with a 'Malcolm' star

On TV's hit show "Malcolm In The Middle", Justin Berfield's 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 he's 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 Sunday's show, which airs on Fox in the U.S. and Global in Canada, is a special post-Superbowl spectacle that will run for an hour and feature guest appearances from Christina Ricci, Tom Green, and Heidi Klum.

Although Justin says he has a lot of fun on the set being goofy with his castmates (especially with 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, he's 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".

"I'd 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 doesn't really miss life in a packed classroom.

"... every time I came back from work [to school] they'd always bug me for about four weeks to find out what I'd been doing," he explains. "Once kids know you're an actor, they won't really ever let you forget that. They ask you everything, they ask you questions -- who you know, 'how can we get on the TV show with you?' -- and you kind of feel bad because, as the actors, we really don't 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 wouldn't make him my close friend anymore," he says. "[You've] got to watch out who you talk to, who you know. Watch your back, [you] might have a friend for a couple months and then one day you'll find out he's telling other people that he knows you and you're thinking, 'Wow if you're really my friend, why do you have to tell everyone that you know me'?"

If the gossipers really did know Justin, they'd realize he's more excited talking about his charity work than discussing his life as a TV celebrity. He was recently named the youth ambassador for the Ronald McDonald charities which, among other things, provides cheap or sometimes free lodging 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 I'll be able to travel across the country, maybe out of the country."

Although his title is new, Justin has been visiting the McDonald houses and participating in fundraisers for five years.

"I've never been to one [house] and had the kid not smile, not be excited," he says. "They always cheer. They're like, 'Yay, you're 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 doesn't mean he's lost interest in the "Malcolm" world. So far his favourite 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, that's all we did after work was go on the rides."

Justin says upcoming episodes include something "happening" to older brother and head troublemaker Francis (Christopher Masterson) and an episode where Justin's Reese and his on-screen brothers Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) and Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) actually settle down -- "probably just for one episode, as a fluke," 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".