In Carol’s Second Act (September 26 on CBS), Patricia Heaton, 61, the Emmy-winning star of Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, plays Carol, who pursues her dream of becoming a doctor after raising her children, getting divorced and retiring from teaching.
I want to die on a soundstage, let me put it that way. I love working. I got a very late start in my career. I didn’t actually start making my living as an actor until my early 30s. I love making people laugh.
We want to talk about the value of life experience. So it’s not really about someone being old, it’s about having wisdom and experience. There’s a calming that happens as you get older and you see how life is playing out. You realize that a lot of things you worried about are not as big of a deal as you used to think.
As an executive producer of Carol’s Second Act, as well as the star, what were your contributions to Carol’s story?
It’s an ongoing discussion. The first season is probably the most difficult, as you are finding ways to establish all your characters, and so we talk about that a lot. But it was perfect timing. When they came to me with this idea, of course, I had thought a lot about what I might do next if I had a choice. During the last season of The Middle, I’d already started thinking about it.
I’ve been really privileged to play two moms for the last 18 years in different stages of mom-hood. So, a mom with toddlers, and then on The Middle with teenagers going into college. So I thought I needed to branch out a little bit, and although Carol is a mom and that probably has been the most important part of her life, this is a great way to have it be about someone who’s finished her mothering duties and now has this life ahead of her.
When The Middle ended, it coincided with my kids all being out of the house, more or less. I definitely feel unmoored when I’m not working and I don’t have the kids to look after. So I understand Carol and many of my friends are in the same boat. I think it was a great idea to have a female character step out into the unknown, challenge herself and allow herself to be nervous, unsure and a little bit afraid and take that leap anyway and see if she could make this lifelong dream happen.
So we talked about that and we talked about what I’m doing in my life trying to branch out. Part of it is I’m an exec producer on this show, so I’m learning a lot. It’s the first time I’ve exec produced, and there’s a lot that goes along with that. One of the things that helps me feel alive and keeps your brain sharp is challenging yourself and continuously learning, and I’m definitely learning about being an exec producer as Carol is learning about being a doctor.
Then, I’ve also been doing work with World Vision for the last few years, which is kind of a second act for me as I travel the world with them and bring awareness to all the incredible work they’re doing. So I feel like we’ve talked about a lot of that stuff and what Carol is facing in her life, which is what a lot of women are facing and what I’ve been facing myself.
Without giving too much away, we’ll see Carol handle some situations in a much calmer way than the other interns because she just has that life experience. But also, Carol will be challenged. We’re dealing with some of the issues in her marriage that she used to ignore. When she’s faced with certain confrontations at the hospital, she finds herself reverting to some of those behaviors, and she realizes she has to change. She has to face her fears. She has to stand up for herself. She didn’t do it much in her marriage. So we have a lot of personal things happening also. And then trying to be both a mother to the other interns but then not wanting to make that mistake. She’s one of their peers, and so she’s always trying to balance that.
If you came to my house, you would see lots of different kinds of dinnerware I’ve collected: antique plates and Italian ceramics from my travels. I’ve always been about having the setting be really beautiful. I think part of that came from working in restaurants and hotels in New York City.
I had this really fun time doing a cooking show [Patricia Heaton Parties] on Food Network for two seasons. I’ve always loved not just creating a beautiful meal, but creating a beautiful setting for the meal. So I’ve always loved design for tableware and so has my stylist, Ricci DeMartino. When I had my Food Network show, just for the show, we started making aprons and oven mitts from fabric that we had designed. That led into doing homewares even after the Food Network show ended.
We have such a love of it, and Ricci does not only great wardrobe styling, but also interior design. He knows how to do interior design on a budget, which I really appreciate. I still have those Midwestern roots of looking for that bargain. So we got together with Walmart and created this line, which I’m so in love with. It’s so pretty, really good quality and really affordable. It’s been another fun and exciting second act opportunity for me to pursue.
We’re going to have some indoor china that has some of the elements of the outdoors, but in a cleaner, more elegant way.
We have a lovely deal with CBS Studios to develop shows, and so we have a lot of pitch meetings. We did recently sell one to Disney+, staring Marlee Matlin, called Life and Deaf. It is about her interpreter of 30 years, Jack Jason, and his life growing up as a CODA, which is child of deaf adults, in Oakland in the ’70s. So, it’s a really wonderful story about deaf people before there were cell phones, before there was closed captioning. There was nothing available to deaf people. Plus it’s a wonderful comedy. It’s a family comedy about coping with being deaf during that period and being a child who has to be the interpreter for his parents since he was about 5.
I think so. I sort of have two seats. Couch potato and workaholic are the two seats. It’s very hard for me to not be doing something. I feel like I need to constantly be productive. I do take a look at that and wonder what that’s about, and I have come to the conclusion that it’s two things. My mother dying when I was 12 made me very aware very early on that not a single day is guaranteed to you, and so you need to make the most of every day.
And secondly, my career, as I said, started late. Even though I’d been pursuing it for a long time, I didn’t actually get my success until my late 20s, early 30s, and so it still feels new to me. I feel like I’m catching up and that I’m behind. I think those two things have contributed to me wanting to constantly be working on some project or on multiple projects.
We live in a country where there are huge opportunities for anybody, and it’s a great time for women to be striking out on their own and finding different things. I also feel that I’d rather fail at what I’m passionate about than be successful in something I’m not that interested in.
Two things. A lot of freedom. Once you’ve been working for a while, you can start trusting that the work will be coming. I have to work on that a little bit, but there’s something very freeing about having that feeling of everything is going to be fine. I think you put a lot of things on hold when you’re raising children, and I was happy to do that. I was happy to spend every hiatus with the kids, turning down projects, and not wanting to go away because that was my time with them. But now I have the opportunity to sort of pursue things like traveling with World Vision and doing Patricia Heaton Home.
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I have the freedom now to really pursue those things that I might have put on the backburner for a while. So I think that’s what’s really wonderful about life right now, and just being able to enjoy my sons as young men is really wonderful. I do miss them. Two of them are still in town. One was back home for the summer, and the other one lives in L.A. and pops by once a week or so. So those are like the highlights of my week when I can be with my kids.
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