Interview: ‘The Middle’s’ Patricia Heaton on ‘Christian’ Movies, Conservatism, and What She’ll Say to Peter Boyle in Heaven

The players of Mom’s Night Out

Andrew Erwin
“Our first goal is to tell a good story”
Alex Kendrick
We want to present stories that would draw people to a relationship with the Lord.
Patricia Heaton
I don’t think of movies as Christian or non-Christian. I don’t think God categorizes us like that.
Sean Astin
My Christian faith takes a lot of time to unpack.
Sarah Drew
So much beauty and truth can be found in every show.
Mom’s Night Out
A day on the set of a “Christian” movie

Patricia Heaton is fun.

Maybe that’s because she’s more relaxed than your average celebrity interview, maybe because she doesn’t take herself too seriously, or maybe because she has a wicked sense of humor.

I’ve interviewed her several times and each time I’ll reach a point in the interview where I think to myself, “Gee, Self, I’m having a good time.”

This is not always the case interviewing Hollywood’s big names. They tend to be so focused on their image they forget to enjoy themselves.

In this particular interview, Heaton has the assembled press in stitches when she riffs on a loudspeaker announcement which interrupts her. “The voice of the Lord,” she quips, “Telling me to answer this question right.”

Underneath her fun demeanor, however, Heaton is all about the kind of professionalism that has won her respect, a part on primetime in The Middle, and two Emmy wins for Best Actress in her role as Deborah in Everybody Loves Raymond.

Heaton as Frankie Heck on ‘The Middle’

“My personal experience is that we’re all professionals on our set. The most important thing just as far as working goes is that you are a professional, that you show up on time, you are pleasant to work with, you know your lines, you ‘re good at what you do,” she says. That’s the bottom line. Religious or not, conservative or liberal.

This played out in her relationship with Peter Boyle, who played her obnoxious father-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond and passed away in 2006. If she were to see him in Heaven, she says, “We’ll just probably continue our political discussions that we were having on the set of Everybody Loves Raymond where he’d call me sort of a right wing crazy wingnut and I’d call him a fascist commie pinko. But we’re both Catholics so we had a lot of fun together. He’s a great guy.”

The women of ‘Mom’s Night Out.’ Photo via Twitter

She’s proven herself both professional and hilarious. So why would she sign on to a overtly religious movie like Mom’s Night Out? What does she think of ‘Christian’ subculture movies in general? I”m going to put her entire, long reply here because it’s so well thought out. She said:

I don’t really see it as a Christian movie, I see it as a comedy.

I don’t see movies as Christian or non-Christian. I think CS Lewis …somebody asked him… how do you write books for children? And he said you never want to write a message. What you want to do is you want to let the characters come out of you and those characters will be naturally endowed with a certain spirituality.

There’s a movie out now called The Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. There’s a lot of language in it but it’s a very Christian, it’s a movie about forgiveness. So it’s not a quote unquote Christian movie.

I think part of the problem we have in our culture is that there’s a divide where we say these things are Christian and these things are not. I think that’s what’s kept me away from participating in something that’s quote or quote Christian. Because I don’t like to put it in categories.

And I don’t think that God puts people in categories like that. We have no idea where people are in their walk. And so we cannot label. We can only have compassion for people and follow the walk that we know. And hopefully impact people in a positive way in their lives by our own walk.

I find that once they are labeled as something, it puts limits on you , I you label it as a Christian movie. And then often there is less expectation for quality. So that’s the other problem. So that’s why I had not been interested in pursuing something like that because it goes against my own feeling as…artist is a bit of a lofty word which I don’t like to use, I do TV COMEDY, you know, but just as an actor.

It’s sort of like you don’t want to be restricted by somebody else’s notion of what is Christian or not Christian. It’s not that I say anything goes and there’s’ some stuff that’s exploitative, and obviously it’s very apparent to me when that’s going on.

Heaton, who never pulls a punch as to her own faith (she’s a Catholic) or her conservative political beliefs, would prefer to not label cultural products at all.

Read the entire transcript of this interview, including Heaton’s thoughts on being conservative in Hollywood, here.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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