The real reason you don't hear from Patricia Heaton anymore

Patricia Heaton has graced our television screens for more than two decades. Over the course of her impressive career, she established her place in pop culture history with her memorable portrayal of Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. During the show's run from 1996 to 2005, her hilarious, fan-favorite performance as Ray Romano's on-screen wife not only turned the actress into a household name, but also scored her seven Emmy Award nominations and two wins. The TV star later continued her sitcom mom streak as Frankie Heck on ABC's The Middle.

Alongside Heaton's other endeavors in TV and film, this multi-talent seemed set on a trajectory to become Hollywood's next leading lady. However, she's been pretty quiet lately. From her busy family life and activist work to failed projects and controversy over her politics, there's a lot you may not know about her life and career. So, what's the real reason why we don't hear from Patricia Heaton anymore? We've got your answers.

The Middle flew under the radar

Heaton began her nine-year run on The Middle as a middle-class family's matriarch in 2009. The show received high praise from the press, but unfortunately struggled to gain the same ratings, attention, and accolades as its ABC contemporary, Modern Family. In 2016, Bob Sassone of Esquire called the latter comedy series "the darling of most critics since it debuted," but claimed that The Middle was "the finest American sitcom on TV right now." While making sense of this apparent disconnect, Heaton compared her show's reception to her previous TV gig while speaking with the The Washington Times in 2014. "You know, [Everybody Loves Raymond] took a really long time to get into the zeitgeist," she said. "I think it's just more of a low-key kind of humor."

Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall for The Middle, which ended in 2018. "It's been an amazing run, a once-in-a-lifetime experience," co-creators Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline stated to Variety at the time. They went on to quip, "Plus, we wanted to go out before too many people knew we were on the air."

Have her political leanings played a role?

As a longtime Republican, Heaton is somewhat of an anomaly in Hollywood. Although she's known to publicly share (and be criticized for) her more conservative views on social media (via Politico), the actress' politics are actually difficult to place neatly in a box. As an honorary chair of the pro-life organization Feminists for Life, Heaton has spoken out against issues like abortion, stem-cell research, and the death penalty, according to The New York Times. However, she has also shown support for LGBTQ+ rights and most birth control methods.

That said, Heaton believes the backlash she's faced over the years has affected her career prospects to the point of losing out on roles. "We know for a fact," she told Popeater in 2011 (via Data Lounge), "there are some people who have said they wouldn't want to work with us because of our politics." 

It should be noted that Heaton began to distance herself from her own party amid the increasingly divisive sociopolitical climate of the 2016 presidential election and President Donald Trump's election. She even tweeted in 2017, "I've given up politics." 

She altered her appearance

While Patricia Heaton can be counted among the countless celebs who have undergone plastic surgery, she's one of the few who have spoken openly about going under the knife. "Vanity," she told People in 2002, when asked for her reasoning behind her post-pregnancy breast reduction and tummy tuck operations. The actress candidly explained, "I had four C-sections and my stomach looked like the map of the world. My breasts were hanging down to here from breastfeeding those babies, and my nipples were like platters. I wanted to fit into the gowns that I finally got to wear."

Heaton later revealed that these cosmetic procedures made her feel "more confident" while battling Hollywood's unrealistic expectations for women's looks during the "prime" of her career. "I think there's good plastic surgery and bad plastic surgery," she told the magazine in 2018. Noting that there's a fine line between looking your best and getting too much work done, the TV star said, "I also love beauty products and I love fillers and Botox, if you do it so that you still look like yourself, you just look like your best self." Hey, you do you.

Not everything's been a hit

In between Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, Heaton seemed ready to strike sitcom gold with Back to You in 2007. She teamed up with Kelsey Grammer of Cheers and Frasier fame on this short-lived Fox series, which saw the duo as co-anchors who struggle to get along at a local news station in Pittsburgh, Penn. 

With these TV vets sharing the lead, the comedy series seemed destined for high ratings and critical acclaim. However, it was unfortunately slammed by critics for its lack of originality and earned a score of just 58 on Metascore. "You have to admire Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton for holding up their end of the bargain," read Philly.com's review, "even if the material in their show, Back to You, is such a drop from Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond." Unable to overcome this mixed reception, Back to You was canceled (via TV Series Finale).

Her busy family life

In 1990, Patricia Heaton married English actor-producer David Hunt, before welcoming four now-adult sons (via People). Between playing multiple TV moms and being a real-life mom, the actress has spent the last two decades completing, as The Washington Times put it in 2014, a "motherhood marathon." As documented in her 2002 book, Motherhood and Hollywood: How to Get a Job Like Mine, Heaton has always put her family of six first while balancing her bustling home life and hands-on approach to parenting with her busy work schedule. "We really just enjoy our kids a lot," she told the Chicago Tribune at the time, noting that, despite her fame and fortune, "Basically, I'm just Mom." 

In a 2018 essay written for Today, Heaton noted, "When you're playing a mom on TV, people think you're funny and smart," and she listed the countless ways in which TV stars are fawned over on set. "When you're a mom in real life it's the exact opposite of that," she continued. "You bring everybody else food. … You drive everybody else around. And, yeah, nobody thinks you're smart or funny at home, even if you've won Emmys for your incredible humor, they don't think so." However, it's this difference that's positively impacted her life. "It's a good balance," Heaton concluded. "So it keeps everything in perspective."

Moms' Night Out was a total flop

Having previously appeared on the big screen in 1992's Beethoven and 1996's Space Jam, Heaton returned to the world of film nearly two decades later in Moms' Night Out. The actress-executive producer played Sondra, a pastor's wife who leaves the kids at home for a wild night out on the town with her girlfriends. The 2014 faith-based comedy also starred the likes of Grey's Anatomy alum Sarah Drew and Lord of the Rings actor Sean Astin.

"It's an homage to the most unsung heroes of our lives, which is mothers," Heaton said on The Wendy Williams Show, adding, "Every day should be Mother's Day." While that may be true, Moms' Night Out itself was unfortunately a critical failure and box office flop. Grossing just $10.4 million nationwide (via Box Office Mojo), the movie received a low 19 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. As the site's critical consensus read, "Cheap-looking, unfunny, and kind of sexist to boot, Moms' Night Out is a disappointment from start to finish." Ouch.

She was heard, not seen

Heaton returned to the big screen in 2017, voicing Edith in the faith-based animated film The Star. While showing off her pipes, the actress felt the project would fill a void within the holiday film canon. "For me as a Christian, it was important to have something like this out in the culture," she told BGN. "Because I hadn't realized that there actually has not been a nativity movie at Christmastime ever." Unfortunately, it wasn't a hit, despite her obvious high hopes. Earning just 44 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie failed to make a splash at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo

For her part, Heaton continued to be heard rather than seen as Mama Bear in 2018's Smallfoot, which fortunately landed on steadier ground in terms of critical and commercial success. Grossing $214.1 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo), it scored a 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's general consensus reading, "Smallfoot offers a colorful distraction that should keep younger viewers entertained — and a story whose message might even resonate with older audiences."

However, these back-to-back animated flicks ultimately did little to bolster Heaton's on-screen presence.

She's an outspoken activist

Heaton is a longtime activist devoted to fostering real change in the world. According to Look to the Stars, she's used her celebrity platform to raise awareness on a number of charitable causes related to healthcare, hunger, human rights, disaster relief, and more. When the actress isn't devoting her time and energy to the Tinseltown scene, she's most likely performing philanthropic efforts through World Vision, which provides aid to children living in poverty internationally.

"I've worked with many wonderful charities, and World Vision stands out as an organization with impeccable accountability, transparency and most importantly, effectiveness," Heaton stated in 2016, when she became the Christian organization's first-ever Celebrity Ambassador. "For over 60 years, the dedication of everyone at World Vision and their partners around the globe has resulted in millions of lives being saved and changed." According to Entertainment Weekly, Heaton has since traveled around the world, from the likes of Zambia to a Syrian refugee camp, to sponsor children in need and fulfill her charitable duties.

An Everybody Loves Raymond reboot is a no-go

Amid the recent trend of TV reboots, people have waxed '90s nostalgic with the return of shows like Will & GraceFuller House, and Roseanne/The Conners. While this has undoubtedly left fans wondering whether Everybody Loves Raymond will one day return to TV, Heaton's unfortunately said no to the possibility of a full-on reboot. "It just wouldn't be the same show," she told Us Weekly in 2018, after noting the sad passing of her former co-stars and on-screen parents-in-law, Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts. However, the actress went on to say, "It would be nice to do a special retrospective. So maybe the 25th anniversary, CBS will do something. That would be fun!" 

At the time of this writing, the possibility of an Everybody Loves Raymond silver anniversary special remains up in the air. In the meantime, fans may take solace in the fact that the sitcom's cast have at least kept in touch over the years. In 2016, Heaton told People magazine, "It's a great group of people."

Patricia Heaton Parties

Heaton branched out into a brand new on-screen role in 2015 as the host of Patricia Heaton Parties. The Food Network series, which saw the actress share countless food, drink, décor, and entertainment tips to help viewers prepare for hosting themed parties, became an unlikely hit. As reported by Broadway World, it was picked up for a second season after winning a Daytime Emmy for outstanding culinary program.

"I was never so exhausted until I finished those cooking shows, because I'm used to working with a script," Heaton, who also served as an executive producer, said on the Rachael Ray show. "To talk about food and … to cook out loud, I mean, it was hard but it was really fun." As for why the TV star took on this surprising gig, she added, "I think, as you grow, you need to keep challenging yourself, and you're never too old to learn something new."

Patricia Heaton Parties wrapped following a short-lived two-season run. However, some of Heaton's recipes can still be found either on the network's website or in her 2018 cookbook, Patricia Heaton's Food for Family and Friends.

ABC passed on The Middle's spin-off

Shortly after The Middle came to a close in May 2018, a spin-off series for ABC was put in development, with the new show eventually being called Sue Sue in the City (via The Hollywood Reporter). The sitcom would be based on the post-college life of Sue Heck, Heaton's on-screen teen daughter, who was played by Eden Sher. Sher herself told TV Line that the spin-off would follow Sue as she navigates her 20s, stating it'd be about "Sue being Sue as a young adult."

By that October, Heaton expressed interest in reprising her own role on the show. "Sue Sue in the City!!!!!" the TV mom tweeted at the time. "I'm so excited for this @TheMiddle_ABC spinoff! The pilot is being filmed as I tweet!" When a fan asked if she'd be making a guest appearance on the show, Heaton simply replied, "I hope so!" However, the network unfortunately decided not to move forward with the project by the following month, as reported by Deadline.

She's turning it around

Patricia Heaton may have spent some time out of the spotlight, but it might not be too long before she graces our TV screens once again.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS ordered a pilot called Carol's Second Act in January 2019, in which Heaton is set to star and executive produce. As the titular character, the actress will return to the sitcom canon as yet another TV mom, who balances motherhood with working toward becoming a doctor after retiring from teaching. Of course, there's a big difference between a network ordering a pilot and the network actually picking it up to series. However, it seems pretty likely that Carol's Second Act will see the latter fate, considering the fact that CBS would have to pay a hefty commitment penalty fee if it passes on the show (via THR). Meanwhile, Heaton herself seems just as anxious as her devoted fan base to see her return to television. In March 2019, a fan asked the actress if she could "please hurry back to [their] tv." The TV star tweeted in response, "Working on it!"