ABC’s offering up some of the greatest comedy on TV these days, and I have to say that I’m falling more in love with Patricia Heaton’s show THE MIDDLE with every episode I watch (it’s got to be because I relate so much with the harried mom and dad who love each other and their strange and wonderful children). In celebration of tonight’s all new episode, “The Block Party”, I had the chance to chat with Patricia about why she loves Frankie, why everyone should be watching, and the mortifying conversation she had with her TV hubby between scenes!
I’m loving the show. I think that the family unit in this show is more like my family than any on TV.
I think that’s it. I think that’s right. I think it’s like most people’s family, actually!
What drew to this character?
The script was so well-written that I kind of couldn’t say no. I initially thought, gee, why would I want to play a mom, I did it for 9 years, I really need to branch out to something, but the show felt so different when i read the script, and Frankie was not the long suffering perfect wife. in fact, she’s the opposite, she’s the cause of a lot of problems [laughs]. She’s trying to juggle work and her kids and she sets up all these expectations for herself and her family, you know with the kind of schedules that we have these days, it’s impossible to achieve. She’s constantly being disappointed, and you know, kind of causing her own problems, along with all of her kids and her husband. I think it was appealing in that she was a real human being and not just the standard voice of reason in a crazy household.
That’s exactly it for me – she’s very relate-able. She causes problems. You know, my mom’s forgotten to mail something important plenty of times.
Yes, you know, trying to cut corners, and throwing a bag of fast food on the table for the kids, sometimes you just don’t have time. You’re trying to do too much and there’s too much expected of you! You have to kind of cut corners.
The chemistry of the family – you and Neil, and the kids, it’s so believable. Had you known him before?
I did not know Neil, and it was really funny, I had the most embarrassing conversation with him. I had only seen the pilot of SCRUBS and I remember him distinctly, he was one of the funniest things in the pilot, but I don’t remember him saying anything in the pilot. He was like this tall guy who just stared at Zach Braff. So I don’t know how I got this idea, but I got this idea that his character never spoke. So I said to him just like a week ago, I said, “how is it having all these lines because you never spoke in like the 9 years you did SCRUBS, right?” and he says, “I had lines!” [we both laugh]. I said, “I don’t know where I got that idea, but I just remember you staring in the pilot.” He said, “no, my character didn’t have a name, but I definitely had lines.” [laughs]. Oh I was mortified! I thought, my god, how did they know this guy was a good actor because he didn’t have any lines in his past role. How did he get this role? Because he’s so good in this role. That was my point, he was so good at Mike, playing my husband, I thought, wow, they took a chance on this guy because he hasn’t spoken on camera yet! [laughs]
What are you saying to people about why you think they should tune in?
I think, you know, there’s two kinds of shows. You’ve got escapist fantasies like FLASHFORWARD which is really fun to watch and then you have shows like THE MIDDLE which is sort of about the family struggles and economic struggles that everybody’s going through but it’s got a really great, warm, funny take on what you go through every day. It takes your own daily struggles and elevates them to the point of comedy! Which I think is always a relief. I think people need that relief.
Is there a sense of almost relief or relaxation on the set knowing you have a full season to play for sure?
Yeah, I don’t think we ever really worried about that. We’re not in control of what time we’re put on the schedule, we’re not in control of how we’re promoted, we’re only in control of showing up at work and trying to produce the best stuff we can. We’ve known it’s a good show and the critics have supported us, we’ve known that it’s great. When you’re in this business long enough, you know that the only thing you control is your own work, and so you do that well, and you kind of leave it there at the end of the day. And of course, it is wonderful to get that acknowledgment from the network that they love the show and they’re standing behind us, to get that pick up for the full season after only airing 2 episodes, everyone was hugely excited about it, we were all cheering on the set, it was wonderful news to get!