Although Patricia Heaton has been married to fellow actor Dave Hunt for 23 years, she says that working together can be tricky.
"It’s a little bit of a land-mine situation," the Everybody Loves Raymond alum admits. "You’ve got to step carefully."
After all, she says, both want their time in the spotlight. Despite the potential ego pitfalls, the couple produced and star in the family comedy Moms' Night Out, which hits theaters May 9. The film takes on the frustrating and funny sides of motherhood. It also shows how faith plays a role in the characters' lives—a topic that can be tricky to address in Hollywood.
As a mom of four sons and a Christian, Heaton talked with mom.me about date nights with her husband, her favorite TV shows (Mad Men is one), and her own struggles with not living up to the Martha Stewart ideal.
played moms on TV, you’re a mom in real life. Is that what prompted you to
produce and star in Moms’ Night Out?
My husband and I, Dave Hunt, were approached as actors, and we really wanted to come on board as
producers also because we saw some things we thought we could add to the film,
and we wanted to be able to have a voice. And we also thought that it’s great
to have a family comedy that’s live-action. Most comedies now are more R-rated, and they’re kind of a different type of movie that you won’t be taking your
kids to. The only thing that parents can really take their kids to are animated
movies. So I just thought it would be fun to have a movie where you go back to
those ‘90s movies like Parenthood—any movie that Steve Martin was in.
What sorts of things did you want to add to the film?
When I first read it, my character, Sondra—a
pastor’s wife—there was no internal struggle for her. I don’t want to give it
away, but there wasn’t the struggle of keeping up
appearances, and as an actor
you need to have those things.
When I did my research on pastors’ wives, the No. 1 word
that they used to describe themselves is “lonely.” But it makes total sense
when you think about it, because people come to them thinking
they’re all wise because they’re married to the pastor, but they can’t go to
people in the congregation and say, “Oh, my husband’s driving me crazy,” because it’s their pastor.
You have four boys—do you ever struggle to make time for your friends and your husband?
You just get tired, and so going out feels like another
effortful thing. Sometimes you just want to veg in front of the TV with a big
thing of Häagen-Dazs rum raisin ice cream. And because there is so much good
stuff on TV every night—if you’re not watching Mad Men, True Detective or Walking Dead or Shark Tank, International House Hunters ... (laughs) you are watching The Middle or
reruns of Raymond, so it’s hard. It’s hard to go out. I found, too, that we’re
always happy once we do. It’s getting from the couch to the car is the biggest
struggle, and usually it’s fine after that.
Was the movie like one big date
night with your husband?
We spend our whole lives together. We’re both actors. We’re
always home, and so the movie, for us as actors, it’s taken us years to learn
how to operate with each other, because we’re both pushing each other out from
in front of the mirror, going, “Let me look at myself. You’ve looked at
yourself long enough. I have to look at myself now. How do I look?” When
working together, too, we work together on auditions. If he’s got an audition
or if I’ve got an audition, we work with each other. And we’ve learned how to
do that, but then you get on set, and I would say, “Honey, maybe you want to
try that line this way,” and there would be silence. “Or not. Or not. I’ll
shut up now, and I’ll go back to my trailer and you finish your scene.”
incorporates faith? Do you feel like that topic gets a mixed or negative reaction in
Yeah, I’m going to be very interested to see how this one is
received. The setting is these people all go to church together, so it’s a
natural fit for them. I’m a pastor’s wife, and the two gals that take me out
are in the congregation. So I think it remains to be seen how it’s received. There’s been this big divide between faith-based movies and secular
movies, and I’m not happy about that. I don’t like that faith-based movies are
really sermons, because if I wanted to give sermons I would have been a pastor,
but I’m an actor and I like to do movies, and that’s a different ballgame. And
it’s tricky. But because it’s
enveloped in a comedy, it makes sense for the characters, and they are really
well-acted and well-developed, so I feel like the whole thing is earned. We’re trying
to do a hybrid, where it’s a family comedy that everybody can relate to and
enjoy, and for the characters in the movie, their faith is what sustains them.
I’m not the parent that’s always at the school, bringing the cupcakes or doing the bake sale or doing the PTA and stuff.
The movie offers new moms an interesting perspective.
I think that was important, to have the single mom. It’s really about encouraging moms generally and appreciating the importance
of what moms do. You can never say it enough, because there’s always a generation of moms coming up who are new to the whole thing, and it’s really
hard. I think there’s a line that my character has, when Ally [played by Sarah Drew] comes into church,
and she’s having a rough morning, and I say, “Don’t worry. Just give it five
years.” And she says, “Years?” And I think that’s really important that people
get this long view that the first six years are going to be utterly exhausting,
and then you’re going to start getting more sleep and you’re going to start
getting something back from your kids. It’s like this take, take, take for the
first five or six years. Then there starts being a little give and take.
The main character
criticizes herself for not living up to expectations. Have you struggled with
I absolutely agree with that, especially because I work all
the time. But when I was working on Raymond and the kids were little, that
schedule is really flexible, so I could bring the kids to work with me. I had
every fourth week off. I had four or five months off in the summer. Actually,
the actor’s life is very conducive to being a parent because you’re able to be
with your kids a lot. Now on The Middle, it’s a single-camera show, so the
hours are quite long, but my kids are in
college or high school now. The high schoolers go to school at 8 o’clock and
then they come home at maybe 6 if they do after-school stuff. So they’re gone
for a long time, too, so I’m not missing out on much. But I’m not the parent that’s
always at the school, bringing the cupcakes or doing the bake sale or doing the
PTA and stuff. That’s just not me, because I don’t have the time. So in that
sense I feel I’m very grateful to the parents who do do that. Very grateful,
and I do feel a little bad about it, like I do want to be the mom that shows up
for their kids. And I’m often at this point, I’m able to say to my producers, I
need this time off because my kid’s in the band concert or the play. I’m able
to do that, which is great.
I became a mom in the rise of Martha Stewart, and
she single-handedly changed the game about homemaking and perfecting homemaking
and having homemaking be a beautiful art, which is wonderful but it’s very difficult
to do that when you’ve got kids, so I grew as a mom through that era. In some
ways it was very inspiring, and some ways it can be intimidating. We read so
much, and you see celebrities with their kids, and they’re beautifully dressed.
There’s a lot that can make a mom feel inadequate, so we really wanted to have a
movie that, as Ally says in the end, “I’m a beautiful mess.”