LOS ANGELES | Patricia Heaton arrives at a network party looking like a glamorous star, not the middle-aged, middle-class mom on ABC’s “The Middle.”
“I got into show business for the glamour,” she says with a smile. “And I’ve ended up playing two moms for almost 18 years. So when I go out, I like to be just the opposite.”
High heels? Check. Sleek dress? Check. Long hair? Check.
The bob she has sported for eight years as Frankie Heck is actually a wig.
“It’s only the second wig I’ve had on the show. People say, ‘You should have one wig every season,’ but they cost like $7,000. As bad as it looks on me, every one of those hairs is hand-tied. They put a lot of money into making me look bad.”
Then, too, the show’s set is filled with so many middle-class things, “we can’t get a reporter to come and visit,” Heaton says with a laugh.
In truth, “The Middle” has been an oasis for viewers tired of issue-dominated comedy series. Instead of addressing politics or social issues, it has focused on the struggle of folks just getting by. Heaton plays the dental assistant mom, Neil Flynn is her quarry manager husband and Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher and Atticus Shaffer are their three children.
Although other comedies have struggled once the children have graduated from high school, “The Middle” has actually thrived – it’s renewed for a ninth season. Other shows, Heaton says, bring in new children or adopt. With “The Middle,” “the Hecks don’t actually have money to send their kids away so they go to East Indiana, which is 45 minutes away. They’re still in the show – and it makes sense.”
Most recently, oldest son Axl (played by McDermott) got married on a whim, sending the family into a four-episode tizzy.
“I was reading the script in bed and I went, ‘Whoooooooo,’” Heaton recalls. “You can be on a show for eight season and the writers just knock your socks off. Thankfully, it got annulled.”
Now, Axl is facing life after college, Sue is coming into her own – at the same school – and Brick is enjoying the spoils of high school.
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While winning the lottery is probably not in the cards, the Hecks will most likely muddle through until the end.
“The writers have never said what the final episode will be, but I think their house finally burns down,” Heaton says. “That has to be the final episode, with all of us there watching it go up in flames because Axl forgot to put something away.”
When the day comes – and the 59-year-old Emmy winner says it’s probably sooner rather than later – she’ll take a break and move to Great Britain.
“It was always my dream to work in England,” she says. “When Twiggy became the big thing, me and my girlfriends got Twiggy haircuts and we used to walk around with really bad British accents and talk to people. I’m not surprised that I’m married to a Brit (actor David Hunt).”
Because her four sons will all be out of the nest by the time “The Middle” ends, she figures it’s the perfect occasion to move and “see what it’s like.”
Working in Great Britain is a short-term goal, particularly since she’d like to experience its film, stage and television industries.
Still, Heaton isn’t ready – yet—to say goodbye to her “Middle” family.
The actors who play her children, all own houses now, she says.
“When I look back, I don’t remember Atticus as being as small and little as he was. And I treated him like one of the guys: ‘We’re all going out for cocktails. Are you coming? Oh, your mom says no.’ But I’m learning a lot from them about technique.
“I’m a tightly wrapped person when it comes to preparation. I really have to know my lines and they swan in a little bit and deliver these monologues. I’m always shocked. I want to be like that. I would like to relax a little and let it flow.”
Best of all, a character as high-strung as Frankie keeps her brain active, the “Everybody Loves Raymond” alum says. “It’s what keeps you from getting dementia,” she says, before adding with a smile: “Not that I care – I’m just concerned for a friend.”