A Greetin’ from Heaton!
Two-time Emmy Award winner Patricia Heaton is best known for her roles as Debra Barone in the hit series Everybody Loves Raymond and as Frankie Heck in the current ABC comedy The Middle. Patricia, who also starred with Kelsey Grammar in Back to You, was named one of the Funniest Women on TV by TV Guide.
Her movie credits include Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Beethoven and Space Jam while, on stage, she starred off-Broadway in the Theresa Rebeck play The Scene. Inspired by their four sons, Patricia and her husband, David Hunt, co-founded FourBoys Films where she has served as a producer of Amazing Grace, as well as an executive producer of her new film, Moms’ Night Out.
Patricia Heaton: My pleasure, Kam.
KW: What interested you in Moms’ Night Out?
PH: I thought it was a fun, family movie that really tried to portray people of faith as real people, not cartoon caricatures. Yet it was funny in the way that good comedy tends to exaggerate real situations. I just appreciated how it offered a nice, refreshingly-different take on people of faith. So many of the faith-based films have been more like sermons than movies. We wanted to bridge that gap a little, and bring it a little more mainstream.
KW: I understand, because a lot of people have low expectations of a film once it’s been pigeonholed as faith-based.
PH: I definitely think that, because of the movies that have come before, there’s a prejudice against Moms’ Night Out. This is a tough business to begin with, and that’s just one more of those things that you have to deal with. I believe we did a really great job. It’s not meant to be a how-to guide on how you’re supposed to live your life or raise your family. It’s really just a fun comedy that’s intended to be a great night out for the family and an inspiration to moms everywhere, and to honor moms and the hard work they do, whatever kind of mom they are.
KW: Why did you decide to executive produce the film?
PH: It’s a little hard to do a PG film these days where both the kids and the grandparents will feel comfortable and have a good time. This was an opportunity to do just that.
KW: How did you prepare to play Sondra, a mother, friend and counselor married to a mega-church pastor?
PH: I did some research, and I found it interesting to learn that the #1 word that pastors’ wives use to describe themselves by is “lonely.” At first, I was a little taken aback by that, but of course it made sense. Everyone comes to pastors’ wives for advice. But you really can’t confide in another member of the congregation in that way when your husband is the pastor of the church because you’re expected to maintain a certain decorum. So, I thought that was a fascinating dilemma my character faced, being a confidant to all, but not having somebody she could turn to herself. Every actor wants to have something that their character’s struggling with, even in a comedy, so that made me want to play Sondra.
KW: Did you worry about audiences recognizing you, and then perhaps expecting Sondra to behave more like Debra Barone or Frankie Heck, two iconic characters you’ve played on TV?
PH: No, I think this was far enough away. First of all, being on the big screen gives you a different field to play in that people aren’t expecting. And I worked hard to make her as different as possible. I gave her a slight Southern accent which helped define the character as different from Debra and Frankie.
KW: I know that you like to tweet. How would you describe Moms’ Night Out in 140 characters or less?
PH: I would just say that everyone should visit #MNO because it’s a very entertaining movie full of laughs that’s fun for the whole family. That might be longer than 140 characters.
KW: What message do you want people to take away from the film?
PH: I think that being a mom is the hardest job in the world and often, if you’re not running a business or working outside the home, you feel, as a mother, like you’re forgotten or not appreciated. So, we wanted to make sure we made a Mother’s Day movie that would let women know that the work they’re doing in raising their kids is really important.
KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
PH: Omigosh! The best classics I would never want to touch. On the Waterfront is one of my favorite old movies. When a film is made as well as that, you just don’t want to touch it. So, I’d have to think about that question. I’m not sure.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
PH: I’m the fourth of five kids. My mom used to put my playpen out in the front yard with me in it, so she could get work done in the house. [Laughs] I remember being a little bored, very early on, being cooped up in that playpen.
KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: Thank you for all of your great work over the years and for being an artistic inspiration. As a well-known conservative, do you think that there is an industry “black list” for conservatives and Republicans who “come out of the closet,” so to speak? Would you recommend that a filmmaker or actor who is conservative keep their political views hidden so as to not hurt their chances for success? I didn’t do that and am always wondering whether it was a mistake.
PH: I think that what is respected the most in this industry is good work, talent and professionalism. That’s how I’ve always tried to conduct myself. And I’ve worked very hard at my craft. That’s the most important thing. Those standards were established long before I ever uttered a political opinion. Doing so can be polarizing, but it doesn’t seem to have affected me, because I always have a good job. You have to gauge what purpose there would be in expressing any belief. Will it accomplish anything good? What I find right now is that the country in general and Hollywood in particular have become very polarized the last few years. It’s not that you have to hide your true feelings, but it’s best to behave very professionally when you come to the workplace. I think that what people respect more than anything else is when you’re a professional and the best at what you do.
KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: You have managed to balance your career, marriage and having four sons. What is the secret of that successful balance? What has given you the most satisfaction in life?
PH: I’ve been very fortunate that the jobs that I’ve had have basically allowed me to be a full-time mother to my kids. The working hours on Everybody Loves Raymond were such that I could either bring my kids with me to work or be home with them. That’s kind of happened to me all the way along. So, I feel very blessed that I was able to enjoy being a mom while fulfilling my acting goals. In terms of satisfaction, the most important thing to me is my family, for sure. As an actor, you’re very aware that all these jobs come and go and that even a very successful, hit show is going to end after seven or eight seasons. There’s no security. The only security is in your family. That’s why it’s very important to keep your family close and make them the priority.
KW: Harriet also asks: How has your deep Christian faith informed your choices of roles and your approach to the characters you portray?
PH: Well, I’m very fortunate in that I’ve never had to turn something down on television because of content. Most everything I’ve been offered has been very high quality and not anything I would feel uncomfortable being a part of. I’m sensitive about what projects I pick because I feel responsible to my kids and to impressionable young minds for whatever I’m putting out into the world. So, I take a look at things from that perspective. I feel that if you’ve been given the gift of being an actor, that gift is from God and needs to be put to a good use.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What interested you and your husband in producing Amazing Grace, the movie about British abolitionist William Wilberforce? I loved that film, by the way.
PH: My husband is British, and he’s always thought that William Wilberforce would be a great person to do a movie about. Very few Americans know who he is. He’s really wanted to bring that story to the screen for years.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
PH: No, there are more questions that I wish they wouldn’t ask me. [LOL]
KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?
KB: Oh, my goodness! I feel very much content at home when I have all my family around me, and also when I’m onstage.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Patricia, and best of luck with the film.
PH: I really appreciate your getting the word out about it and taking the time to talk to me, Kam, because it’s a movie that people really enjoy when they go see it.
See this trailer for Moms’ Night Out: