“Like every mom, what I wouldn’t give to go back for an hour and just cuddle them!”
–Patricia Heaton, talking about motherhood,
her own family, and a new family-friendly film
In November it was my privilege to talk with Patricia Heaton, star of the upcoming film Moms’ Night Out, an ambitious and entertaining family-friendly comedy that will hit theatres in Summer 2014. Our conversation centered on motherhood, and Patricia’s own struggles with meshing work and family life.
I actually met Patricia last August, while she was filming on the set of Moms’ Night Out in Birmingham, Alabama. I joined a group of bloggers and reporters invited by Sony Pictures to a “set visit” and got to watch all the behind-the-scenes activity: stars in character, extras shooting B-roll footage, light crews and stage hands working to get everything just right. We met the directors and the stars, and heard firsthand their vision for the film. It was an exciting couple of days—but that’s another story. Today, a report of my interview with Patricia Heaton, who plays the role of Sondra in the wacky new film.
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QUESTION: You are perhaps best known for your role as Debra Barone on the popular sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. This role—in Moms’ Night Out—might be described as “Debra Barone on Steroids.” Do you relate to the “frustrated mommy” character on a personal level? Did you bring your own parenting experiences as a mother of four into your role in Moms’ Night Out?
PATRICIA: Yes, and I definitely think Sarah Drew did an amazing job as Allie. I remember those days of having all my boys as wee ones. At one point while I was working on Raymond, I had four children aged five and under. Sarah’s incredible performance brought that all back to me in a very real way. It definitely made me happy that I’m out of that phase—but like every mom, what I wouldn’t give to go back for an hour and just cuddle them!
But sometimes when they are small, you are so tired and overwhelmed that you don’t have time to appreciate it. And the times go really fast; but when you’re in the middle of it, each day seems like a millennium.
It [this movie] represents moms in various phases and various situations.
QUESTION: You are a busy mother with a fulltime career. Your work requires travel—I recall meeting you while the film was in production in Birmingham, Alabama. How do you find time to meet all your obligations, yet still find time for personal things (keeping fit, getting enough sleep, reading a good book…)?
PATRICIA: Keeping fit and reading a good book is about ninth and tenth on my list to get done. I am actually talking to you from jury duty right now. (Really? What other thing could be added to my schedule?!)
I think what takes up my time is family and work. My husband and I are producers, and we are developing things: I produced Moms’ Night Out along with the rest of the team. I’m very busy all the time.
To me, that is a personal struggle: creating projects. I love working, but I also feel that I sometimes err on the side of busyness. I would like to take a little bit more time to do things that don’t have some “purpose”. Just take a bike ride. It’s hard to do because I can’t see the point, other than exercise.
My boys are growing up: One is in college, one on a gap year adventure, two are in high school. One drives, the other is about to drive. So they are very independent. And they know I can’t cook! As long as I bring home some food after work and feed them, we’re good. But it’s still a busy life.
It’s a constant struggle to maintain balance. And for your marriage, especially. Because after the kids are grown, there you are, the two of you. Hopefully, you’ve grown together.
QUESTION: Who among the cast and crew of Moms’ Night Out most inspired you? How has the role impacted you personally, if at all?
PATRICIA: They [the cast] are all wonderful, in various ways. The beauty of the industry that I work in is you constantly get to meet new people and learn from them. All the actors are terrific.
We were shooting nights, so we’d show up for work at 6:00 p.m. and get off at eight in the morning. That’s tough! You really bond with each other. Sarah Drew, Andrea Logan White, Abbie Cobb—all playing the moms. We all had a blast together! I am an older mom. Sarah is a new mom. Andrea had just had her third child on the set. Abbie doesn’t have any kids yet. So we really had an interesting mix of women. It was wonderful—we really bonded.
The tough thing about shooting a movie is you are away from home and family. But on the other hand, the good thing is that you are solely focused on this one thing. You have time together to talk about it, to really bond, and you turn to each other.
QUESTION: Is this an important role for you in terms of your career?
PATRICIA: I think I was challenged personally during the movie—trying to be both a producer and an actor on the project. It’s kind of difficult being away from family, but it was interesting to meet people at different places in their spiritual walk. From different Christian disciplines. We had a lot of different faiths around the set; Christianity took a lot of different forms.
I grew up in a family that loved talking about religion and politics—all the things you are not supposed to talk about. So being on the set with all of these people, to be able to talk about their views, where people really were in their spiritual walks, was fantastic.
QUESTION: You were raised Catholic, and you worship with your family in the Presbyterian Church. How does your Christian faith impact your career (i.e., your selection of roles)? Have you ever had to turn down film offers which were incompatible with your personal beliefs?
PATRICIA: You turn stuff down all the time. Normally, I turn films down because I don’t think they’re very good. Once in a while there was a moral issue—but that really doesn’t happen that often.
You also need to balance your work and your family. And I’m concerned about what I am putting into the culture, not just for my family, but for other people’s families.
Moms’ Night Out is the first comedy from a faith-friendly perspective. Comedy is really such a great ice-breaker and a great way for people to have a great time and be entertained; if they also come away feeling positively impacted, that’s great. There are a lot of comedies that come out—but most of them are R-rated, so you can’t really take your kids to them. It’s nice to be able to see a movie having your parents there and your kids there with you.
In Everybody Loves Raymond, we were making fun of ourselves, but it was very light-hearted. There’s a great quote by G.K. Chesterton that says, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” I think that is what we are trying to do in this movie: just sort of take ourselves lightly, give ourselves a break.
It is a great date movie. It is a great family movie. I am very proud of it, and I am very excited to put it out there….
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And with that, our interview ended abruptly. Remember, Patricia was on jury duty— and she was being called back into the courtroom.
Moms’ Night Out also stars Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Alex Kendrick, Robert Amaya, Andrea Logan White, Kevin Downes, Abbie Cobb, Harry Shum Jr., David Hunt, Trace Adkins, Michael Leone, and Shiloh Nelson.
Watch for Moms’ Night Out to hit theatres in July 2014.