Patricia Heaton, a two-time Emmy-Award winning actress, is well-known for her portrayal of Debra Barone in the hit series Everybody Loves Raymond and was named by TV Guide as one of the Funniest Women on TV. She currently stars as mother Frankie Heck in ABC’s comedy series, The Middle.
Heaton, a mother of four boys, recently took on the part of a pastor’s wife in Moms’ Night Out, a family film expected to be released in spring 2014. Moms’ Night Out is the story of moms looking for a grown-up night to relax—but discovering this is easier said than done.
Heaton acts alongside Grey’s Anatomy star Sarah Drew, The Lord of the Rings actor Sean Astin, and country singer Trace Adkins in a celebration of all that comes with kids and parenting. Directed by Christian brothers Jon and Andy Erwin, known for their work on film October Baby, Moms’ Night Out explores faith and family with a sense of humor. We talked with Heaton about being a mom and how to balance everything from mac and cheese to marriage.
Tell us about your role in Moms’ Night Out. What drew you to the part?
I play Sondra, who is a pastor’s wife, and I think one of the things that attracted me to that character is the research I did on pastor’s wives. I learned that the number one word pastors’ wives use to describe their life is “lonely.” Which is interesting, given that they’re constantly surrounded by people. But I understand that they have a hard time being able to have a confidante. As a pastor’s wife, a woman has to try to be neutral and be everything to all people. That was interesting to me.
I also liked that this is a comedy that, first and foremost, is very entertaining. I love Sondra’s character. I came on-board as a producer also, so I was able to really have input and add some things that I felt gave her character depth.
What can viewers of Moms’ Night Out expect to learn about family and motherhood?
I think it’s more just a reflection on the struggles of couples who are in the throes of raising kids and how to maintain one’s marriage and one’s sanity. It is about how to be a mom and a good wife and still know who you are. Sometimes it’s easy to lose your sense of self in being a mom, especially with young kids. When you’re in that toddler stage, it can be really difficult and you can feel like a total dud, because all you’re doing is wiping bottoms and cooking mac and cheese. You’re just cleaning up and doing laundry and trying to entertain them. I think this movie is a reflection on that and an opportunity to say, “It’s all good”—relax and enjoy being in the middle of it.
What do you think about the role of female friendships?
Oh, it’s so important. My dear friends—even if we don’t get together all the time—really rely on each other and email a lot. It’s super important to be able to have friends. You need to be able to go to other women and say, “Help me figure out how to do this.” Likewise, the husbands have to have their buddies, where they can just say, “Oh, my gosh, it’s so rough.”
Men and women are very different. I know they’re supposed to complement each other, but there are so many times when a woman thinks about her marriage, looks up to heaven, and says, “What were you thinking when you designed this?”
Do you have any advice for moms?
I think you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself. We live in a society that is very child-centric, which can be both positive and negative. It’s positive in the fact that we might have a deeper relationship with our children than perhaps our parents did. I’m in my fifties, and my parents have both passed away. They were from the World War II generation, when there wasn’t as much focus on relationships. It was more about providing for your children. So I think on the plus side, we now have that relationship with our kids.
On the downside, our society can make you feel like if you aren’t attending to your kids every single second and meeting every one of their needs every single second, you’re not a good parent. And in fact, I think that if you are meeting all of their needs every single second, you’re not really being a good parent. I think we have to kind of take it easy and let them be who they are. It is okay to let them make some mistakes or let them feel disappointment. That’s what builds character. That’s what helps drive people. It’s finding that balance, which can be tricky, too.
Do you have any stories that you want to share from filming?
Well, it was really fun. Working in my business, you get to meet new people all the time. I was happy to be able to work with Sarah Drew again, from Grey’s Anatomy. She and I worked on a Hallmark movie together a long time ago, and I recommended her for the part of Allyson, one of the moms, so I was so glad when she was cast because she’s a superb actor. It was nice to spend time with her and reconnect with her. She’s had a baby since we worked together last, so that’s exciting.
And I got to meet new people—Abbie Cobb, who plays Bridgette, Andrea Logan White, who plays Izzy, and Sean Astin, who plays Allyson’s husband in the film. Our family is such Lord of the Rings fans, so we enjoyed being able to chat with him.
My husband was in the movie, too, as well as being one of the producers, and it was fun to just be two actors in a movie together. We worked very hard—there wasn’t a lot of time to goof around. Since we worked nights, we were tired. I have to say that the enthusiasm of the younger actors used to really get on my nerves. It would be 5:00 a.m. and Abbie would say: “This is the perfect spot for a photo-op!” and get everybody out of their chairs. I would feel so cranky, but I love her for her enthusiasm. I’m just old!
Is there anything you would like to add about Moms’ Night Out?
I think it’s going to be a really welcome addition to family comedies. It’s funny, it’s life-affirming, it’s family-affirming, and I think it will be an encouragement to a lot of people.