Los Angelenos are used to seeing just about anything on the freeway, but when Malcolm in the Middle
's Frankie Muniz
gets behind the wheel, he draws some strange looks. "People look at me like, 'He's too young to be driving,'" says the 15-year-old, who just got his learner's permit. "They think I'm that kid I play on the TV show, who's only 12."
Even if he doesn't quite look his age, Muniz heads into L.A.'s notoriously rough traffic undaunted. "I never feel scared," he insists. "Sometimes, when I get a little nervous because someone is tailgating or driving too fast, I just try to relax and act cool because I really love driving a car I bought a couple of them!"
And since his learner's permit requires that Muniz be accompanied by a licensed driver, his mother's usually in the passenger seat though she doesn't backseat-drive too much. "My mom is very cool about it," he says. "She never has to tell me which way to go or anything."
Muniz's real-life mom doesn't sound much like his half-crazed TV mom, as played by Jane Kaczmarek. "She's nothing like her character," he reassures us. "When Jane gets crazy in a scene, I'm trying to keep from laughing because she's so different in person. She did tell me that she acts like that sometimes with her own kids, though."
Though he also claims not to be as devilish as Malcolm, Muniz loves playing him. "It's a constant learning experience," he chuckles. "In the season finale, we have flashback scenes to show how all the kids in the family were born. My birth scene is on the front lawn. I had no idea that's where I came into the world! It's pretty crazy. I thought maybe I'd be born in a very nice hospital because I'm such a genius on the show. Maybe that's why I'm a genius, because I was born in the bushes."