A reunion with Ray Romano, and why she’s running away from home
By Lie Shia Ong
When “The Middle” returns to ABC tonight with its Season 3 premiere, Patricia Heaton (Frankie) says to be prepared for a lot of laughs. There’s also a special “Raymond” reunion as guest star Ray Romano joins the cast. MSN TV spoke with Heaton about what’s going to happen to the Hecks—one of America’s favorite families on TV—this season and a little bit about her real-life, family too.
MSN TV: What can fans expect from the Hecks this season?
Patricia Heaton: The season premiere has Ray Romano as a guest star, with a great flashback to Frankie and Mike’s (Neil Flynn) honeymoon that Ray crashes. It was really fun to see Ray and work with him again even though we worked 16 hours and got rained on and were chased by a bear. [Laughs] So that was really fun. Brick [Atticus Shaffer] gets a new overenthusiastic teacher played by Chord Overstreet from “Glee.” Mike has to deal with him this year because he says he knows how to deal with stuff better, he can get stuff done. So we have that, and we just shot this completely disgusting episode where Axl does something that’s really totally gross and Frankie gets so upset that she runs away from home. She decides her life is just out of control and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do. We just shot that one, which is one of the best episodes of the year, I think.
You were chased by a bear. That was part of the show, right?
[Laughs] Yes it was. There aren’t any bears running around on set!
What was it like having Ray Romano back on set with you? You worked together for so many years on “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
It was great. It’s a different way to work because we are a single-camera show. When we did “Everybody Loves Raymond,” it was multi-cameras, so we had much more time to relax and rehearse, and this was one day, 16 hours long of just really working hard. We have a pretty strict policy. You have to be word-perfect on the script. You will get corrected until you get it, which I think was a little bit of a shock to Ray’s system because I don’t think they worked that way on “Men of a Certain Age.” It was really fun, and there are some jokes that the writers put in there as sort of a wink at the fact Ray and I played husband and wife previously.
This isn’t the first time you’ve have a “Raymond” reunion of sorts. Doris Roberts was on the show, too. Any plans on having her come back, too?
That’s right. It depends. She played Brick’s third-grade teacher, and Brick’s graduated to fourth grade. Now we have Chord Overstreet from “Glee” playing his fourth-grade teacher. If she came back, she’d come back in another capacity as something else at the school. We loved having her. She did three episodes last year. It was so much fun.
Your fans have been tweeting in their questions they wanted us to ask you. Natasha wants to know what episode you’re looking forward to the most for the fans to see this season.
Definitely the season premiere, which is hilarious, and then the one we just shot, where as I said Axl grosses me out to the point where I literally run away from home.
Tiffany wants to know, since this is a Season 3 of “The Middle,” do you have an all-time favorite episode, and why?
I think the pilot was really great where Frankie did her superwoman costume. Of course all the holiday ones. Holiday shows are generally really funny. I love the one where we tell the kids we’re not going to buy all this crap and waste all this money this year and we don’t really get them anything and my parents undermine us and go ahead and get the kids everything we told them they were not going to get. Also there was [when] we decided we’re not going to cater our whole lives to what the kids want us to do. That was a really popular one. And then there was an episode where our friends are watching our house for a couple days when we go to Splash City, and they go in to collect our mail and they think our house has been robbed because it looks like it’s been ransacked, but the fact is it was just the way our house always looks. Those are some of my favorite ones so far.
You’re a mom of four boys. How are they doing, and is it easier to balance your work and family life now that they’re back in school?
We try. I have this hiatus week off, so I’ll be picking up the kids from school and from football and all their activities. I occasionally get one or a half day off a week—or sometimes my call time works out so I can drive them into school and be a part of that. It’s hard and I’m usually tired, but we manage it. And the boys are now all in high school and middle school, so they’re very busy from 8 in the morning until 8 at night, between after-school sports and activities and homework—so if they were little, I wouldn’t be able to work such long hours. I wouldn’t be able to do this show, but now that they’re older and kind of doing their own life…I’m able to fit this in better.
Do you ever sit down as a family and watch “The Middle” together?
I make them! [Laughs] “Stop doing your homework and come watch my show!” [Laughs]
Any message you want to send to your fans?
Thank you so much for watching the show. We’ve got a ton of really wonderful, great stuff coming up this season that’s hilarious that I’ll know you love. I appreciate your support.