Saturday, January 01, 2011

Patricia Heaton feels at home in The Middle


Comfort zone

Sitcom mom Patricia Heaton
feels right at home in The Middle

By Eric Kohanik

With four kids of her own, it's little surprise that Patricia Heaton is one of television's favourite moms. First, the 52-year-old actress won millions of fans - not to mention two Emmy Awards - for her performance as underappreciated mom Debra Barone on the long-running sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. And now the petite, happily married actress is bringing her parenting insight to another maternal role as down-to-earth matriarch Frankie Heck on The Middle (ABC, Wednesdays).

Despite her Hollywood success and red carpet-ready looks, Patricia reveals that she shares the Indiana-based sitcom's wholesome Midwestern sensibilities. "Our theme is 'raising a family and lowering expectations,'" she says with a laugh. Here, Patricia opens up about keeping house on- and off-screen, and explains why she shops for clothes in the boy's department...

What is so funny about living in the Midwest?

Well, when I was growing up in Ohio, Tang and Pop-Tarts was our healthy breakfast! There's just a more no-nonsense kind of thing there. I think [it offers] a more fundamental way of living. It's about finding the joy and the fulfilment in a simpler life. And it's been a while since there's been a show for the people who are actually watching TV most of the time, which is everybody in between New York and L.A. [Laughs] We have fun with it - because we love being from there, so we are allowed to poke fun at it.

You've experienced so much career success and red-carpet glamour in Hollywood. Does that make it harder to relate to "average" moms?

I really relate to every single thing. You can see me at [the supermarket in L.A.] three times a week [doing the family's grocery shopping]. I grew up in Ohio, and since I didn't really get a regular start in this industry until later in life, I feel that those Midwestern roots are still in me.

With four kids of your own aged 11, 13, 15 and17, you must know what it's like to be a harried working mom...

I get how moms feel harassed in having to do everything and always feel inadequate. Because everything you see on TV and in magazines says you are supposed to "prepare"everything. And it's supposed to be "fresh" and "organic" and "eco-friendly." But you often just don't have time for it. You are exhausted.

So is your house as cluttered as the house on The Middle?

If you have kids, you know - the constant picking up of stuff day after day, week after week, year after year just gets to you after a while! You just can't do it all the time. And kids won't pick it up unless there's a gun to their heads.

You seem destined to work with tall leading men! You're 5'2" - yet Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond is 6'2", and your co-star on The Middle, Neil Elynn, is 6'5"...

I'm used to it. People come up to me when they see me on the street and say,"Oh, you are so tiny. You are so much smaller than I thought." Everyone I've ever worked with is taller than me. I buy my sweat clothes in the boys' section of Target. It's cheaper in the boys' department - half the price! So, if you ever see somebody really short with green polyester sweatpants on and a hoodie, that's me.

(First published in Hello! Canada weekly magazine - November 15, 2010)