THE MIDDLE’s Patricia Heaton gives some scoop on what’s coming next for the show!

PATRICIA HEATONTHE MIDDLE is finally back, everyone!  I know it’s only been a few weeks since we’ve had an all new episode, but in my mind, it’s too long!  Sue and Axl end up working together on a school project with what could be disastrous results in tonight’s return, while Mike and Frankie deal with some sketchy insurance coverage.  To celebrate the return of the show, I chatted with Patricia Heaton about what’s coming tonight, what we can expect for the rest of the season, and what she’s hearing from fans of the show!

 I’m excited to get some new episodes back – I miss the show when it’s not on the air!
Thank you, I am too!

The first episode back has Axl and Sue working together at school – what can you tease for us about what we’ll see when that comes back?
Well, it’s hilarious! I love anything where Axl is put in what he considers embarrassing social situations, and of course, Sue is his biggest nightmare.  Not only does he find himself in the same class, but they have to work on a project together.  What’s really great – I love what the kids kind of go through together, and sort of end up appreciating something about each other.  We had it a few weeks ago when Axl spoils Brick’s book, that he’s been waiting for, the final installment of this book series, and Brick kind of goes into a catatonic state, and Axl realizes how much he actually loves having his little brother around and hanging out with him; the kind of thing where the kids going through the trials together and end up sort of appreciating each other.  I think it’s one of the things that I love about our show, as it goes from season to season. 

The development of the kids’ characters, and their relationships with each other, and seeing their world more. Usually, you start out with the mom and dad, which is what we have on THE MIDDLE, but the kids, which are such great actors, Charlie and Eden, and Atticus, they just have blossomed and then the more that they do with their roles, the more the writers find to expand on.  And of course, Mike and Frankie – Neal is just sort of a steady, solid character, and we as usually, and I love this, it’s sort of like how much can the fates punish Frankie and Mike. [laughs] This week, a tree falls on their windshield and smashes it, and the insurance company refuses to reimburse it!  Only on our show can they keep pouring on the misery on a family, and make it just hilarious, and make them sort of come out on top anyway.  It’s a great trick of the show that the writers do.

EDEN SHER, NEIL FLYNN, PATRICIA HEATON, CHARLIE MCDERMOTTAnd it’s so easy to relate to – sure, not everything that has happened to this family has happened to my family, but I’m able to watch knowing that I’ve been through it.
Right!  There is an episode coming up where Brick asks Frankie, she lies and says she saved all of his old art projects from school, and he wants to see them, and in fact, she’s thrown most of them out [laughs].  You know, the third kid always gets the short shrift, and when I read that, I know that’s exactly what I’ve done myself [laughs].

When you have scenes around the dinner table – it’s a normal family, everyone can relate to the Hecks.  How much fun is it when you’re all together doing a scene like that?
Yeah, the scenes around the table are fun.  They take a really long time to shoot, because you have to go around the table and shoot each individual person, so you do the scene over, many, many, many, many times, but it’s also a time, because a lot of times, we’re not together during the week.  If Axl and Sue have a whole storyline together, a lot of times, they shoot all of their stuff, and I don’t see them.  I look forward to table scenes and car scenes, when we’re in the car together, because we get to sit in close quarters, and we’re forced together, and catch up on stuff and talk, and have a great time!

I love that the family has been expanded, Big Mike, Norm MacDonald’s character coming around; Frankie’s family – will we get to see more of the family coming together this season?
I am sure we will!  We have like 8 more episodes, something like that.  I’m not exactly sure what’s in store.   I know that there might be a new love interest for Sue.  As far as other family members coming back, I’m not exactly sure that will happen for the rest of the season, but we’ll see!

ATTICUS SHAFFER, GALADRIEL STINEMAN, CHARLIE MCDERMOTT, PATRICIA HEATONAnd Frankie going back to school has been such a great thing for the show – great new storylines to explore! How interesting has that been to play the change?
I really love that!  I think that it was a feeling that we’d done everything we could at the car dealership, as much as we love Brian Doyle-Murray, and Pete Breitmayer, and Chris Kattan, you can only take that so far, and I actually, just personally love Frankie trying to be a dental assistant.  I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but they do have her still studying.  [laughs] It’s so weird – I love reading the textbooks.  They give you the textbooks, you’re sitting at the scene, and you’re studying the actual textbooks.  I’ve learned all about the kidney [laughs] by sitting at this one scene, having to do it over and over, reading how the kidney works.  Not sure why that was in a dental book.  I just kind of love it.  I think it’s kind of exciting for Frankie and I think it’s a love of what people are being forced to do.  Rethink their lives and figure out how to move forward in this economy.

Do you have people come up to you and talk about the show – this far into the show, are you finding new fans of THE MIDDLE?  What has been the fan interaction?
Yes!! I think there are new fans, I think there’s people who are just finding the show, and a lot of people are saying, hey, your show is becoming really funny.  Not that they didn’t think it was funny at first, but it’s really sort of hitting its stride.  I think that’s kind of classic – it was sort of similar with RAYMOND.  It was about the 4th season where it really, really hit.  I think the same is happening with THE MIDDLE.

Everywhere I turn, I do hear people suddenly popping up with, “oh I started watching THE MIDDLE.” It’s like, I’ve been watching since the beginning, where have you been?
[laughs] I know!! I say the same thing!  We’ve been around for a long time!  It was kind of frustrating for the first two seasons – I had been working on the show for two years, and people would say “so what have you been up to lately?” [laughs] I’ve been working my tail off, that’s what I’ve been up to!  Please turn on your TV at 8 o’clock on Wednesdays!

THE MIDDLE airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on ABC – and you heard the lady!  Turn on your TV!  For more information about THE MIDDLE, head to the show site on!

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