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December 18, 2014

Patricia Heaton Talks About Life in 'The Middle'

by Gary Susman, posted Nov 4th 2009 1:30PM
Patricia Heaton'Everybody Loves Raymond' alumna Patricia Heaton relishes the legacy of having starred in one of TV's all-time most popular sitcoms, but after a long reign at the top, she's happy now to settle in 'The Middle.'

You may have thought Heaton's Debra Barone on 'Raymond' had it tough, with her childish husband and impossible-to-please mother-in-law, but Debra lived the life of a pampered princess compared to Heaton's 'Middle' mom. Every week, Heaton's supermom Frankie Heck courts comic catastrophe as she tries to juggle her many responsibilities -- marriage, a sputtering career, dismal finances and three hapless children.

Heaton spoke to AOL TV about how much fun she's having on the freshman ABC sitcom, how closely it mirrors her own life as a busy mother of four and following up one of the hardest acts to follow in TV history.

Patricia Heaton'Everybody Loves Raymond' alumna Patricia Heaton relishes the legacy of having starred in one of TV's all-time most popular sitcoms, but after a long reign at the top, she's happy now to settle in 'The Middle.'

You may have thought Heaton's Debra Barone on 'Raymond' had it tough, with her childish husband and impossible-to-please mother-in-law, but Debra lived the life of a pampered princess compared to Heaton's 'Middle' mom. Every week, Heaton's supermom Frankie Heck courts comic catastrophe as she tries to juggle her many responsibilities -- marriage, a sputtering career, dismal finances and three hapless children.

Heaton spoke to AOL TV about how much fun she's having on the freshman ABC sitcom, how closely it mirrors her own life as a busy mother of four and following up one of the hardest acts to follow in TV history.

How similar is Frankie's life to your own as a mother of four? The details -- like Frankie deciding it's OK to wear pajama pants when she drops her daughter off at the school bus --
seem drawn from real life.
That was so funny that they put that in there because I live in fear of being stopped by the police while I'm dropping my kids off at school or the bus stop because I am often in my pajamas and my robe. At least Frankie tries to hide it. I -- there's no excuse. And I also don't have my purse with me. If I get stopped, I'm going to be in my pajamas and without my driver's license. So I totally relate to it. There was another episode where Frankie's at work and the school keeps calling, and she's having to deal with her son Brick. And while I was shooting the scene, every time they said, "Cut," I was on the phone with my son's school with some issues. And I thought, "My God, I don't know which one is the show and which one is my life," because they were happening exactly the same way at the same time. It was like 'The Twilight Zone.'





Were you worried that viewers might prefer escapism to a show that may remind viewers of the current economic meltdown?

What we're doing is a comedy. We can take a look at these situations and find humor in them. All comedy comes out of pain. You don't have pain, you don't have comedy. Whether it's economic pain or emotional pain, that's where the humor is. When you see people going through the same thing as you are, getting beaten down by life and getting up again, there's something inspiring. It gives you an outlet.

The kids in this show seem unlike those on other shows ...
That's 'cause they're actually 30 years old.

Well, actually, what makes them unique among sitcom kids is that they don't seem like little adults. They're not cooler or smarter than their parents.
You're absolutely right. The way they write them is not smart-alecky in a way that's like, "We're actually adults" or "We're actually the writers making fun of our parents." The oldest son, Axl, says stuff to us, but it's exactly the way a teenager would do it. He's kind of a dumb jock, our daughter's clueless and our little one is, like, on the Asperger's spectrum. It's refreshing to see kids who are actually kids, just average kids. They're not smarter than the parents, they don't have it all figured out, they're stumbling along, just like we are.

How is it working with former 'Saturday Night Live' player Chris Kattan, as your co-worker at the car dealership?
I just met Chris on this show, but I fee like I have known him all me life. He is hilarious. Same with Pete Breitmayer, who plays our other smarmy co-worker. We have the best time on the set. I've never laughed so hard since working with Ray [Romano, on 'Raymond'] and Brad Garrett.

What sort of trouble can we expect for Frankie to get into in future episodes?
It's one of those shows where, when you say, "Frankie forgets to mail her daughter's coupons from the school fundraiser," you're like [unenthusiastic], "Oh... hilarious." But the way they do it, it's all in the flashbacks, it's all in the [execution]. Like trying to get ready for Christmas, and how Christmas is so hectic and stressful, and Frankie handing that over to [husband] Mike to do, and his being able to do it perfectly. Those kind of things, it's sounds not that interesting, but it's all in the way the writers do it.

Everybody Loves Raymond'Everybody Loves Raymond' was a typical multi-camera sitcom shot in front of an audience, while 'The Middle' is a single-camera show shot on locations. Do you have a preference for one type of filming over the other?

Well, the hours on this are much, much longer. And you don't get the feedback, and you're shooting it all out of order, and maybe you're shooting one line, and then you're moving on to something else. It's a very weird way to work for an actor who's used to having an audience and doing more theatrical, stage kind of work. So it was an adjustment for me ... I think I may prefer an audience in some ways, but there are also some other kinds of freedom. With an audience you can do only certain kinds of scripts, but with this show, you can try anything. It's not as satisfying in the moment, but later, when you watch it, you get to see all these flashbacks and movie-style things we do, and that's very satisfying.

'Raymond' was such a milestone as a family sitcom. What are your expectations for 'The Middle,' in terms of following that act?
If any show is going to come close to 'Raymond,' it's going to be this one. I think it has similar, smart, relatable writing and a cast that -- it's sort of serendipity. You put these actors together, you're not sure how it's going to work out until you actually film them working together, and it's got that similar kind of vibe and chemistry to it. So I feel like we have a long run ahead of us.

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