411Mania Interviews: Patricia Heaton
Posted by Al Norton on 10.23.2013
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with two time Emmy winner Patricia Heaton, star of ABC's hit comedy The Middle!
Patricia Heaton is a two time Emmy winner (7 total nominations) who is currently in her fifth season starring on ABC's The Middle, which celebrates its 100th episode tonight.
Al Norton: You were great on Craig Ferguson last week.
Patricia Heaton: Oh thanks, Al.
Al Norton: I know some people aren't crazy about doing talk shows but is it more fun with someone like Craig, where you have no idea where the conversation will go at any moment?
Patricia Heaton: Craig is wonderful. I really do love his show because he just likes to have a conversation. We all do pre-interviews but Craig is the kind of guy who just jumps off from that and I think that's what great about him. I'm just a gabby gabster – there's no end to my chatting away – so his show is fun because we can just go off and forget the audience is there, which I makes it more fun for the audience because they feel like they are actually getting to hear a real conversation.
Al Norton: Maybe you don't think about this stuff so much because you want to stay as grounded as possible but with reruns of The Middle hitting syndication this fall, and Raymond still on all the time, there are millions and millions of people who see you every day.
Patricia Heaton: You know, Al, world domination has always been my goal and now I'm achieving it (laughing). I love being wall-to-wall.
Al Norton: If I could flip your TV marriages, who would work better as a couple, Debra and Mike or Frankie and Ray?
Patricia Heaton: Frankie and Ray would be an absolute disaster (laughing). You cannot have two crazy people married to each other. You have to have one solid person so that the crazy one can be grounded. Mike and Debra would just be no fun, they wouldn't last a second.
Al Norton: Frankie had some separation anxiety this year when Axel went off to college; how was that for you in real life now that your kids have started to leave home?
Patricia Heaton: It's a big deal. I totally got that episode. You do want it to be an iconic moment when you send your first born off into the world and it never is; it's never what you'd pictured, never what you'd hoped for, never something that will become a Hallmark card. I had a similar moment when I took my eldest to college, it was a very perfunctory, "see you, Mom" and he walked away. I didn't know how I was going to response but I had a huge response that was almost bigger than crying; it wasn't crying, it was more of this sense of immense gratitude that I had the privilege of being this person's Mother. It was an overwhelming feeling, a sense of passage in your life, that this person who had come into your life and changed it irrevocably was now leaving, and you are left with all the change. Your kids are never gone but there's no going back to that old relationship where they are your kid and you get to tell them what to do. It's a big letting go process.
Love like that is very costly because if you do love them then you do have to let them go and it hurts, but you know it's the right thing to do. It's a huge deal and I love the way the writers portrayed it; really funny and a big miserable mess with everyone fighting and in the end, Frankie delivers her big goodbye speech to Axel's roommate's back. It made it even more touching that she had to just say it into the air because that's really the way it is with parents; your kids will never know what you've gone through for them until they have kids of their own.
Al Norton: Congratulations on the show hitting 100 episodes, which is a huge deal, especially in this age where show are getting cancelled after just two or three outings.
Patricia Heaton: It is a huge deal. I've been watching the new crop of comedies on TV and it's been three weeks and some of them are already gone. I am so grateful that the critics loved the show from the beginning and that ABC stood behind us because we had other shows that were getting more attention when we started. The quality has been consistent from the beginning. What makes it even more miraculous that we hit 100 episodes is that there was another pilot of The Middle that was made and rejected. It was with a different cast – Atticus was the only original cast member from the first who made it to the second. That fact that a pilot was made and rejected and brought back again, that never happens, so the fact that we then went on to get to 100 episodes is truly miraculous. I'm just so grateful.
I almost didn't get the script; my agent gave it to me but he said, "it's another multi-camera, you're not going to like it." I read it and said, "no it's not a multi-camera, it's single camera, and b, I love it. Thanks for almost costing me a job (laughing)." It's really incredible but I do think it deserves 100 episodes, and 100 more, because the writing is so authentic. You can sense when writers just try to come up with a concept and then fill that with stock comedy characters, and you can sense that it's not coming from the heart. What we have on The Middle is that authenticity where you know the writers have gone through what the characters are doing. We don't have to rely on jokes as much, we just put the characters in everyday situations that all of us go through and have this loving, wonderful, humorous spin on it. That's what makes the show so wonderful.
Al Norton: Can you tell me a little bit about the episode?
Patricia Heaton: They've done this great job of taking the 100th episode and making it about Orson's centennial and all the Hecks are involved to disastrous effect. Frankie and Mike are driving the cow float, which apparently is a great honor. Axel comes home and tries to make money on the event, Sue tries to rekindle her romance with Darren by making him jealous of her and Brad, and Brick enters the contest to choose Orson's slogan for the next 100 years. It was a big episode to shoot, lots of exteriors and big production value. It was a really great way to celebrate the 100th episode.