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The Middle – An Interview with Patricia Heaton

Do you have a group of friends who let you laugh and relax and talk about your kids, the neighbors, the realities of life and how to keep it all together?

Chatting with Patricia Heaton felt  just like being at my favorite book club as she reaffirmed that we all need to give ourselves a break.

An Emmy-winning actress, Patricia Heaton is currently starring as Frankie Heck in the family sitcom, The Middle.  Forget the perfect husband and wife couple, the lovely kids and the manicured lawn.  The Middle lets us laugh at the real struggles that families go through every day.  Frankie is the middle-aged, working mom in Middle America, using her sense of humor and wry wit to get her quirky family through the day.  She’s not a high-powered career woman, but she’s a super-hero mom who will go to any length for her family.

Read more from our phone call together-

On Acting as a Career

So my life has always pretty much reflected the characters I play on TV, and, you know, I’ve just been fortunate enough that I get paid to act out all those scenarios for the rest of the country, so it’s a pretty great job to have.

What’s Your Typical Day Like?

Probably like you, I’ve got my laptop in front of me. I have my list of to do things. I’ve been writing while we were starting the call.  I think like all the bloggers actually, we’re working from home and trying to get kids to school.  And I was in the middle of radio interviews this morning and in between interviews, my son’s getting ready for school and vomited. So I put the phone down, run over, make sure he’s okay, pick the phone back up, make some calls to the school.

Do you think that The Middle gets it right?  If so,  how?

I had a mom stop me to chat.  Like Frankie Heck, I was at a fast food Mexican restaurant picking up dinner for my kids after work, and a mom was there doing the same thing, and she said, “Oh, I love your show, and you are me and I’m totally on board with your style of parenting. There’s only so much I can do.  I get it. You guys do it so well.”

I think the show touches a lot of people. We read a lot of magazines. We see a lot of talk shows about what our homes should look like, what we should look like, you know, fitting in the parties and doing the healthy snacks, and using recycled lunch boxes, and bringing your just, you know, your reusable bags to the grocery store. Does anybody remember to do that by the way?  I even have some in my trunk and I go to the grocery store and I forget to  bring them in with me.

The main character, Frankie Heck, loses her job this season.  What lies ahead for her?

One of my first questions to the writers when I was considering first taking on the role of Frankie was , ‘Did she go to college?’ or ‘Was her goal to be a mom or what?’

We had many discussions about where she was.  Growing up I pretty much knew I was always acting in a sense that I was doing community theaters and school plays and singing and things like that. But by the middle of my junior year in college, I made the commitment to pursue acting. And so I had to kind of get my mind around someone like Frankie who sort of didn’t have quite have a passion and then got married, start having children, and became a full-time mom until she started working at the dealership.

So this is actually kind of fun for me to kind of go on that journey with Frankie because it’s the journey I was asking about that character from the beginning of the show and now we really get to see like what  she’ll do with this forced opportunity. So I find it pretty exciting.

I think it very reflective of what people are going through either for economic reasons in their lives where they’re having to refashion themselves and find a new way to identify themselves in the workplace because of circumstances.  For some people, it’s just they feel like they need a change in their lives and so they step out and take a risk and try something new. As an actor, I was kind of excited to take Frankie into a new place.

On Parenthood and Technology

There’s too much on our plate, and part of the wonderfulness of telecommunications and having everything on your phone and having everything within reach is you can get a lot done and you can be in touch with your kids, and if plans change,  it’s right at your fingertips and you can make it all work. But the down side of that is now we feel like we are supposed to be doing all these things. Our workload has probably tripled, and I don’t think the human brain was really constructed —This is my excuse for – it’s really just menopause that I’m blaming it on technology — that I can’t keep everything in my head because there’s too much of it.  Like I said, I’m sitting here, I have to keep lists. I’m actually handwriting them like I might as well be using a quill pen for how ancient that seemingly is.

What’s your advice for moms?

Slow down and let go of some of the activities. Simplify things.  Give yourself a break, that’s what you need to do. You need to just relax and still try to enjoy life as opposed to kind of getting through it.

What do you think Frankie can teach viewers about parenting?

Well, I think there has to be a certain amount of trust, and I think she just throws it out to the universe a lot. She makes her miserable attempts but then it usually goes wrong. The end of the shows usually wrap up with the sense of, ‘We’re going to be okay even though this didn’t work out all right.”   It’s okay not to be perfect.

The show is also a celebration of the Midwest and of lives that aren’t about material things and striving to be famous or powerful or wealthy in the world; it’s an ode to simpler times in Midwestern living.

What can you tell us about the Halloween episode on Oct. 24th?

Well, Sue’s received her learner’s permit and Frankie gets the joy of teaching her how to drive.  Axl is excited about voting in his first election and then, Brick undergoes an unexpected transformation when he eats too much Halloween candy.  You’ll have to watch the rest. I don’t want to spoil it.

I loved talking with Patricia! She really is as nice and funny as she is on television.

Don’t forget to tune in on the 24th for The Middle Halloween episode.  You can also join the fun with  One2One Network’s #TheMiddle live Twitter Viewing Party on October 24th, beginning at 5:45 MT.

RSVP  Here and have a chance to win Amazon gift cards while you chat about your Halloween candy rules, or share your favorite treat to sneak from your kids’ candy stash.

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Note: The campaign and call were sponsored by One2One Network, but the opinions I shared are my own.

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