The success of "Everybody Loves Raymond" put Patricia Heaton's Debra Barone character on the list of iconic TV moms, along with Donna Reed from "The Donna Reed Show," Florence Henderson from "The Brady Bunch," Phylicia Rashad from "The Cosby Show" and Lauren Graham from "The Gilmore Girls." This fall, Heaton returns to the tube, again playing a mom, but this time out, instead of being the straight woman to Raymond's funny guy, she gets to be the comedienne.
In the new series, "The Middle," Heaton plays Frankie, a middle-class, Midwestern, married mother of three, who works as a used car salesperson, and who will go to any lengths for her kids. She says this character is more like her than any other she has played on TV.
The 51-year-old actress and mother of four with husband David Hunt has always been funnily outspoken about the craziness of trying to raise a family and have a career. Now, she talks to justmommies.com about her new show -- and how she is coping with her pre-teen and teenage bunch.
Justmommies: You have four kids in real life. What are their ages and do you have help?
Patricia Heaton: Ten, 12, 14, and 16. I do not have any help right now. I haven't had help for a while. You can see me at Ralphs or Pavilions three times a week over on Vine and Melrose -- not looking [glammed up] like this.
Justmommies: You said you don't really have help with your kids at home. How do you manage?
Patricia Heaton: I am going to have to get some help, but for the last year or so, I haven't had any help at all, so I get up at 5:30 and try to workout and get the groceries done and make breakfast.
Justmommies: You go grocery shopping at 5:30 in the morning?
Patricia Heaton: No. That is when I work out. Sometimes I do try to get groceries done by 7, before everybody gets up, and then take the guys to camp or activities. My husband and I are also producing, so we have that kind of work to do, so it is quite a bit.
Justmommies: Being a busy working mom yourself, what parts do you relate to your character and what parts don't you relate to her?
Patricia Heaton: I really relate to every single thing. I grew up in Ohio, and since I didn't really get a regular start in this industry until much later in life, I feel that the Ohio roots, that the Midwestern roots, are still really within me, and I feel that's where I'm most comfortable. So this is a very comfortable character for me to be in.
We have a scene where Frankie throws some frozen pancakes in the microwave and then calls everybody down for breakfast. I don't do it so much anymore but, when the kids were little and I was working a lot, that was totally me, although we did toaster waffles more. I get moms feeling harassed in having to do everything and do everything really quickly and always feeling inadequate because everything you see on TV or in the magazines is how you are supposed to prepare everything, and it's supposed to be fresh and organic, and eco-friendly and all of that kind of stuff. You just don't have time for it, and you are exhausted. I think there's nothing on TV right now that really deals with people -- Midwestern people -- and the struggle, the economy, but in a funny way and in a celebratory way. So I'm so excited to be a part of it.
And something else I have in common with Frankie. I buy my sweat clothes in the boys' section of Target, and that's what I wear, and I often wear it three days in a row. So if you see somebody really short with green polyester sweatpants on and a hoodie, that's me. It's cheaper in the boys' department at Target. Target is cheap anyway, and then if you shop in the boys' department, it's half the price.
Also, calling after people: If the kids are going out, asking, "Where is your homework?" Pulling homework out of a backpack. Having a kid come up the night before and say, "You have got to be here. I need this." It happens constantly. That is why I think people are going to relate to this show.