In my library: Patricia Heaton

Patricia Heaton
June Cleaver had pearls, but Debra Barone had something better: a quick wit, to go with all that steady love. Patricia Heaton won two Emmys playing Debra in the hit series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and she’s since moved on to play other mothers — on TV’s “The Middle” and the new film “Moms’ Night Out.” Seems playing a mom comes naturally to Heaton: She has four children of her own, boys ages 15 to 20. And yet, she says, “They don’t watch anything I do. I’m not kidding — I have to force them! I think if I’ve done one thing right, it’s that they’re not interested in my life. They’re their own people. One of them wants to be an actor, and even he didn’t go to the
premiere!”

Here, on Mother’s Day, are Heaton’s favorite mom-related reads.

Operating Instructions
by Anne Lamott
After I read Anne’s “Traveling Mercies,” on faith I wanted to read everything she’d written. She’s struggled with addiction and with being a single mom, and this book made me feel better about my own mothering. She gives people hope — people who don’t have a Gwyneth Paltrow or Martha Stewart lifestyle.

The Runaway Bunny
by Margaret Wise Brown
It’s one of those classic books that, even when I think about it, I get teary — my makeup artist is coming at me with tissues right now! It’s just that my mom died when I was 12, and this idea that your mom will always be there for you — there’s a yearning in me, and that’s part of my faith. God is always there, and mothers are representations of God on Earth.

Little House on the Prairie

by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I read these books as a kid. I’ll never forget when Laura’s mother, Caroline, baked a birthday cake and it burned in the middle, so she picked a bunch of flowers from their garden and put it over the burnt part. She wasn’t overly huggy, but she was steady and stable and there.

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute To His White Mother
by James McBride
James and I both worked at People magazine when I was in my 20s: He was a writer and I used to run the Xerox machine! So I picked up this book, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s about his mother, who married a black man and raised James in a black community. She was incredible, and this is beautifully written.

As featured on NYPost.com.

Patricia Heaton’s Five Favorite Films

It’s fitting that Patricia Heaton’s new movie is called Moms’ Night Out — not just because it opens on Mother’s Day weekend, but also because, between The Middle and Everybody Loves Raymond, Heaton has become one of the most iconic moms on TV today.

Having just produced and acted in a movie of her own, we thought we’d ask Heaton what her favorite films are. Getting the list down to just five was a task she described as “harder than having a c-section,” so seven will have to do.

Read the complete list on RottenTomatoes.com.

Patricia Heaton Reflects on 100 Episodes of The Middle

ABC’s under-the-radar family comedy The Middle has reached the 100-episode milestone.

For the creative team behind the half-hour series, still going strong in its fifth season, it has been a learning experience since debuting in 2009.

“The first year seems like a year because you’re trying to figure out the show and the network has more concerns, but after that, it really has flown by,” co-creator DeAnn Heline tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We have a big board in our writers’ room and you have all the stories and you go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it went that fast.’ ”

But co-creator Eileen Heisler says their biggest accomplishment may be the show’s “consistency.”

“We’ve managed for five years to keep our characters growing and I think we’ve churned out great episodes and I hope we haven’t had great dips in quality,” she tells THR. “The show’s been able to grow, and we haven’t run out of stories yet.”

Heline adds: “When we came on the air, there was no other show like this. It was dealing with people who weren’t making a lot of money and who were struggling. Television has forgotten about those people, and it was a love letter to those people.”

Star Patricia Heaton seconds Heline’s sentiments, telling THR that it’s the show’s “relatability” that ultimately connects with audiences.

“I don’t get to wear nice clothes; that seems to be key,” Heaton says jokingly. “Some of the craziest episodes are verbatim from the writers’ lives. They’re able to take those small moments and really explore them. I believe that audiences like to see their own lives reflected back to them in a funny way that confirms their lives are meaningful and whatever you’re going through will be OK in the end.”

The Middle’s 100th episode celebrates the town of Orson, Ind.’s 100th anniversary (the “Orsontennial,” if you will), with Frankie (Heaton) and Mike Heck (Neil Flynn) finding themselves driving a giant cow in the town parade.

To mark the occasion, THR caught up with the cast to take a trip down memory lane.

On memorable on-set moments

Atticus Shaffer (Brick Heck): “There was a scene in Red Lobster when a U.S. soldier comes home and shouts ‘USA!’ He’s surprising his family because he just came home. The ‘USA!’ thing was so energetic for the crew that the waitress spilled some water on the table. Instead of turning it into a negative thing, the prop designer started shouting ‘USA! USA!’ and so we all shouted ‘USA!’ ”

Charlie McDermott (Axl Heck): “I never got to graduate so it was cool to actually do that. My mom got to see me in a graduation cap and gown. That was more for a selfish reason. I got to graduate from imaginary high school on TV.”

On favorite episodes

Patricia Heaton: “Recently — this was something I related to — Frankie and the family dropped Axl off at college for freshman year and Frankie really wanted to make it an iconic moment and it fell apart for her. The greatest part was she wanted to make this great farewell speech to Axl, and he just gets to school and takes off. He doesn’t want to be with her; he wants to be with his friends. I recently experienced that with my kids. Frankie ended up giving that speech to the back of his roommate, who was at his computer, gaming. It was touching.”

Shaffer: “The scene in the block party back in episode one where Brick was disappointed because Mike said he would take him to the library and Mike changed his mind and said no. Brick is sitting on the curb, sad, and Mike, wanting to make Brick happy, comes back and picks Brick up on the lawnmower and they head to the library. That was my favorite moment.”

Eden Sher (Sue Heck): “The episode where we danced to the Fame song; that’s probably my favorite moment. It’s like trying to pick your favorite meal!”

Neil Flynn: “I like the family group scenes and the master bedroom scenes with Patty — the one-on-one moments.”

DeAnn Heline: “The episode of the map, which is where Aunt Ginny dies. It’s a sad one, but it was such a great celebration of life.”

Eileen Heisler: “I loved ‘Hecks on a Plane,’ when they went on a trip together. I loved the episode from season one, ‘Siblings,’ when the family was out playing football in the snow.”

McDermott: “I loved the life skills episode, which was last year. Axl and Sue had to do a class project together and Sue actually messed up, which is surprising and Axl stepped in to save the day. I wasn’t just making fun of her, which it usually is, and I don’t think that ever happened again or before. It was cool to be on the same side.”

On reaching 100 episodes

Heaton: “It’s hard to believe it happened again [after Everybody Loves Raymond]. It’s a tough business we’re in, and to be able to find another show that feels very different from Raymond that America responds to is pretty miraculous.”

Sher: “I almost feel like when I look back on this, I’m going to think, ‘This is the glory days.’ I can’t take this for granted. I feel like I’m being the high school jock in the moment, but I’m so aware that I’m in this amazing heaven place that I’m in a constant state of trying to absorb it all. It is a unicorn of television [reaching 100]. It’s very surreal.”

Flynn: “I’m just grateful, as I was last time [Scrubs], to be part of a successful effort. This time I had a little bit more to do with it. I’ve spent a lot more time working than I did last time.”

The Middle airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

As featured in The Hollywood Reporter.

Patricia Heaton takes her act online with new web series, ‘Versailles’

Colin Tickler and his sister, Summer Tickler-Hoogerhyde, are what you might call damaged people. Played by David Hunt and Eve Gordon, they are the struggling siblings at the quirky heart of “Versailles,” an Internet comedy series premiering Monday at mydamnchannel.com.

Who did all the damage? Suspect No. 1 is their deceased mother, television star and B movie actress Evelyn Anders. And who plays the chain-smoking, whiskey-swilling Evelyn? Behind that cigarette and under all that teased hair is Bay Village native Patricia Heaton, star of ABC’s “The Middle.”

“She’s a complete blast to play,” Heaton said during a phone interview. “The hardest part is the two hours I spend getting my hair teased that high to play Evelyn.”

“Versailles” is a partnership between the website and FourBoys Films, the production company started in 2001 by Heaton and her husband, Hunt. They have four sons, hence the name.

Created and directed by Hunt and writing partner Rodney Vaccaro, the eight-part web series charts Colin and Susan’s attempt to become local celebrities as hosts of “You’re In Sports,” a public-access talk show. Broadcast from the basement of a small-town Ohio library, their program is financed by Summer’s devoted husband, Hoyt Hoogerhyde (Shaker Heights native Fred Willard).

While desperately trying to live out this modest fantasy, Colin and Summer also are trying to escape the legacy of their late mother (seen only in clips and outtakes from a 1979 documentary).

“It started with one comedy character and it just grew and grew,” said Hunt, a British-born actor, director and writer. “Rodney and I kept developing this world, and it became an ongoing experiment.”

They got their title when Hunt realized there was a western Ohio town named Versailles pronounced ver-SALES.

“I saw it on a map, and it just tickled me that there was this small Ohio town sharing the name of a famous French palace,” Hunt said.

Eve Gordon and David Hunt play the damaged children of B-movie actress Evelyn Anders, played by Patricia Heaton.

Still, it’s not the spirit of France but the long shadow of Evelyn that hangs over “Versailles” and the lives of Colin and Summer.

“But as David developed this with Rodney, Evelyn was talked about but not seen,” said Heaton, a two-time Emmy winner for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” “Then they thought it would be funny if they discovered this old footage of her, so we were tossing names around. Who can we get to do it? It really was going down to the wire.”

They finally realized they could get Heaton to do it. And they got William H. Macy to appear as an actor recounting his early experiences as Evelyn’s student.

“Rodney can write some truly creepy, dark stuff, but it still has a lot of heart,” Heaton said. “You’ve got to love the whole Wild West feeling of the Web right now. It’s sort of like guerilla filmmaking, and we’re just having fun, trying things that, really, mainstream media wouldn’t let you do. I think that’s why you’re seeing so many people who have high-profile careers experimenting with webshows. You get to be creative and have fun.”

Hunt agrees: “The two key words are creative freedom. At least for now, there’s no bureaucracy overseeing what you’re trying to do. It gives you the freedom to discover. It must be a lot like the early days of television, before people knew what the rules were.”

Having fun is the easy part. The challenge is to get noticed in the noisy Internet world.

“How do you rise above this sea of content out there?” Hunt said. “I think you give yourself a better chance by pursuing the same level of quality and talent you would for a movie, television series or play. You do that and then you hope somebody will find it and watch.”

As featured on Cleveland.com.