In the early 2000s, you might have caught Frankie Muniz starring as Malcolm Wilkerson every week on the popular sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. Or you may have seen him playing Willie Morris in the heartwarming movie My Dog Skip. Maybe you even remember him voicing Chester McBadbat on The Fairly OddParents, fighting crime in Agent Cody Banks, or getting into trouble in Big Fat Liar. For a while, it seemed like Muniz was everywhere.
But after wrapping up Malcolm in the Middle, Muniz disappeared from the spotlight. He was so successful as a child star that it seemed like he would undoubtedly keep acting, but during his time away from the camera, he realized that he had other interests he wanted to pursue. While Muniz hasn’t completely left acting behind, he’s explored new career paths, dealt with health issues, and made some major life changes. Here’s what Muniz has been up to since saying goodbye to playing Malcolm.
He needed a break from Hollywood
After the final episode of Malcolm in the Middle aired in 2006, fans were eager to find out what Muniz would do next, but Muniz simply needed a change of pace. Even before going to Hollywood, Muniz was active in theater, which was how he eventually transitioned into appearing on commercials and landing his first film roles. Muniz had been playing Malcolm for six years, and he was ready for some time away from the camera.
Just like any other job, actors need a break. Muniz once said that by the time his run as Malcolm was over, he had "done little else but work for 12 years." That kind of schedule would be difficult enough for an adult actor to handle, and for a child actor like Muniz, it was downright grueling at times. He didn’t leave Hollywood altogether, but significantly cut back on his schedule, mostly making one-off appearances on TV shows or movies.
He struggled to find mature roles
After shooting Agent Cody Banks 2 in 2004, Muniz began to think about landing more mature roles, but he admitted that dealing with the transition was challenging. In an interview with About in which Muniz discussed playing Cody Banks, the actor commented, "I always thought, I’d turn 18, I’d be a legal adult so I’d be an adult actor and just continue to do what I was doing[,] but it’s a lot more than that…I haven’t been scared but I’ve really been thinking about it a lot, that I really have to do something at this point right now to break the mold." He continued, "I really need to do something different."
But Muniz struggled to navigate this phase in his career. He was so well known for playing characters like Malcolm Wilkerson and Cody Banks that he wasn’t taken seriously in other roles. For instance, in 2007, he switched gears with a role in the rom-com My Sexiest Year, which received middling reviews, and in 2008, he appeared in Extreme Movie (alongside Michael Cera), which was panned by critics. For Muniz, films like these didn’t pave the way for a successful career shift.
He became an open-wheel racer
Eventually, Muniz decided to take up a new passion that surprised some of his fans. In 2001, he drove the pace car in the Toyota 500, and in 2004, he won the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race. However, he knew that there was no way he’d be able to balance both acting and racing. In 2006, he decided to simply go on hiatus from acting for a while.
"I really love racing and this is what I want to do right now and for the next two years," Muniz told BBC News. He continued, "I want to want to act and, right now, I want to race…You can’t really juggle both because, if you do, you just don’t get enough time in the car."
This wasn’t an impulsive decision on Muniz’s part. He spent plenty of time training to get behind the wheel, and he impressed his instructors. He competed with Jensen MotorSport, and his solid performance in pre-season testing earned praise from team boss Eric Jensen. Muniz raced for several years, closing out his racing career with another showing at the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race in 2011.
He broke his back in a racing accident
Although Muniz truly loved racing, he made some sacrifices while participating in this sport. While racing, Muniz got into an accident and became seriously injured. "I had a crash and broke my back and injured my hands and ribs," Muniz said on Dancing With the Stars. It took him quite a while to recover, and he still feels the effects of these injuries today.
He admitted that he and his dance partner, Witney Carson, ended up talking about his injuries all the time during rehearsals because he felt like he had "the creaky, old body of a 71-year-old." To ease the pain after long rehearsals, he would ice his muscles and use the sauna. He didn’t let his past injuries hold him back from pursuing other exciting opportunities, and he still considers himself an active, athletic person. After all, he did go on Dancing With the Stars, even if dancing was a challenge at times.
He suffers from mini-strokes
At the age of seven, Muniz got his first concussion while playing soccer, and since then, he has suffered eight more. Later in life, he began dealing with frightening mini-strokes. In fact, Muniz says that he had visited the emergency room on at least 15 different occasions because of these mini-strokes. The fact that he survived his first mini-stroke was nothing if not miraculous: He realized that something was wrong while he was riding his motorcycle, and while losing his vision, he somehow made it home to his family.
To this day, Muniz has no clear answers as to why he has suffered from these mini-strokes. He’s always been very focused on living a healthy lifestyle.
"I’m 31, I’ve never sipped alcohol, I’ve never touched a drug or taken a drag of a cigarette," Muniz told Entertainment Weekly. His only theory? Perhaps his condition is connected to stress. "The only thing I’ve felt was stress. I’m a high-strung person. I just like to always be moving. I’m not good at relaxing," he noted. Thankfully, unlike strokes, these mini-strokes don’t cause permanent harm.
He lives with memory loss
For the most part, Muniz hasn’t endured long-term complications from experiencing mini-strokes. But he has dealt with one setback: memory loss. Muniz admits that today, he doesn’t remember much of his time working on Malcolm in the Middle.
But Muniz says that for the most part, his memory loss doesn’t bother him. In fact, he’s only reminded of it when someone else asks him if he remembers a particular event from the past. Although dealing with these health issues can be difficult, Muniz chooses to stay focused on the positives. His wife, Paige Price, even helps him keep track of things they’ve done together by writing them down in a journal.
"I only know what it’s like to be me and if I don’t let it bother me, I just try to live the most fulfilling, best life I can," Muniz told People. "I really try to take advantage of my time. And I’ve got a lot in my life."
He became a drummer
Muniz has a wide variety of interests, and in addition to acting and racing, he’s also passionate about music. He began playing the drums when he was 12, and he always enjoyed it as a hobby.
In 2012, Muniz decided to put his racing career on hold in order to pursue music professionally. He joined the band You Hang Up as a drummer when they were unsigned. It all started with a random message from Aaron Brown, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist. "Aaron called and asked if I’d be interested in jamming with them, since he knew I played drums," Muniz said in an interview with PennLive. "I was like, ‘I don’t want to jam with you guys, I want to be in the band!’"
Later, Muniz went on to play drums with the band Kingsfoil. This time, he actually went out and auditioned for the spot. Thankfully, he clicked with the band right away. In 2017, he switched gears and began managing the band Astro Lasso, taking them on tour with We the Kings.
He’s gotten mediocre movie reviews
Although Muniz has taken long stretches of time away from acting, he never walked away from the industry. Throughout the years since Malcolm in the Middle ended, Muniz has occasionally done guest spots on TV shows and appeared in supporting roles in movies.
Unfortunately for Muniz, most of his films have not gotten glowing reviews. In 2016, he appeared in the family flick Another Day in Paradise, which told the story of two girls helping their widowed father accept their mother’s death. The little-seen film got a lukewarm reception, insofar as it got a reception at all. In 2018, Muniz went in a new direction when he starred in the horror film The Black String. Interestingly enough, critics weren’t crazy about the film, but Muniz’s performance did earn some praise. "Elevating this script from a derivative and simple one is no easy task, but Muniz does it effortlessly," critic Brittany Witherspoon wrote in a review for Film Threat.
He moved to Arizona
Muniz moved to Arizona because he was ready to get away from Los Angeles. Once he had decided to take a hiatus from acting, he knew that he needed a change of pace from the "hustle and bustle" of Los Angeles. "I always say moving out of LA and moving to Phoenix, I feel, saved my life," Muniz told PennLive.
Later, Muniz settled down in Scottsdale with his partner, Paige Price, whom he married in 2019. The couple loved the area’s unique charm and Old West vibes. However, he says that new developments in the city have made him a bit concerned for Scottsdale’s future. "It’s becoming like a little bit of a mini LA. Not that I want to get into an LA bash-fest, but I moved here because I love what it has here," Muniz lamented in an interview with AZ Central. He continued, "I hope it doesn’t grow too big where you lose some of that charm."
He ran an olive oil business
After Muniz left racing and music behind, did he simply retire altogether? Nope! He took on a very different job. Muniz and Price bought Outrageous Olive Oils & Vinegars in Scottsdale, Arizona, and became small business owners. And Muniz didn’t simply hire people to run the store for him; he took a very hands-on approach.
"We’re not just ordering product and putting it on the shelf. We bottle everything. We label the bottles. We seal everything. We do all that ourselves here in store," Muniz explained in an interview with AZ Central. "It’s a lot of work, but it’s really rewarding when people come in and rave about the product." Muniz and Price were genuinely proud of the olive oils and other products they put on the shelves. Rather than treating the shop like a hobby, they threw themselves into creating a successful business.
The couple sold the shop in 2020, but perhaps a similar opportunity to run another store could present itself in the future.
He’s becoming a father
In September 2020, Muniz and Price excitedly announced that they were going to become parents. The couple revealed to their fans that they would be welcoming a baby boy into their family.
"In the past four-and-a-half years, Paige and I have experienced so many incredible things together. We’ve traveled the world, got to live out all these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities," Muniz said when the couple announced that they were expecting. "While we still believe it’s the little moments in between the big ones that make you feel happiest, nothing quite compares to hearing your little one’s heartbeat."
From that moment, Muniz’s focus in life completely shifted: he immediately started suggesting baby names and wondering what their child’s future would be like. For now, it looks like Muniz will be focused on spending lots of time with his family and enjoying fatherhood.
He’s branching out as an actor
Fans of Muniz will be happy to hear that despite stepping away from Hollywood, he has no intentions of retiring from acting altogether. Early in 2021, Muniz had a guest role as Corey Harris on the comedic crime drama The Rookie. Muniz is also playing Deputy Allister Jenkins in the Western film Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink 2, which follows twin brothers who set aside their pasts and team up against a vengeful murderer in the Old West. You can also catch Muniz as Daniel in Road to Capri, a comedy film about two brothers who only discover that they’re related after their father’s death.
Muniz doesn’t seem like the type to settle down in one profession. He wants to explore all of his interests and invest his time in everything that he’s truly passionate about. Clearly, he’s open to branching out when it comes to acting and experiment with different roles. While Muniz might never commit as much time to acting as he once did, he’ll likely stick around in Hollywood for years to come.