The Untold Truth Of Patricia Heaton

The numbers don't lie: Patricia Heaton is one of the most frequently-seen actors in American sitcom history, right up there with the likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Valerie Bertinelli. For nine years, she played the patient suburban mom Debra Barone, holding the familial chaos together on "Everybody Loves Raymond." And for another nine years, Heaton starred on the sweet sitcom "The Middle" as Frankie Heck, a working mother just barely getting by and raising three unique kids. Counting her other, shorter stints on shows like "Back to You" and "Carol's Second Act," (and her Food Network show, "Patricia Heaton Parties") and you've got one of the most recognizable performers on the planet.

While she's been a part of the TV landscape and entering millions of homes electronically for more than two decades (and winning two Emmys for her troubles), there's not much collective knowledge out there about Heaton. Here then is a rare look at the rise, personal life, and professional triumphs and missteps of Patricia Heaton.

Patricia Heaton comes from a large family, and has a large family

While growing up far away from the bright lights of Hollywood or New York, Patricia Heaton was reared by a minor celebrity. Born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, per IMDb, her father was the late Chuck Heaton, a sportswriter and author of the popular column "Plain Talk" for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, for whom he worked for more than 50 years. Around the time that Patricia Heaton turned 13 years old in 1971, her mother, Pat, died of a brain aneurysm, according to Cleveland Magazine. Chuck Heaton then raised and saw to his five children alone. Among Patricia Heaton's siblings are Michael Heaton, who, like his father, wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer for many years, and Sharon Heaton, who joined the Dominican order and became a nun and elementary school teacher at a Catholic school in Virginia.

As an adult, Heaton heads up a family that's almost as large as the one she grew up around. She married producer and character actor David Hunt in 1990, according to the Chicago Tribune, and they had four now-grown boys together.

Patricia Heaton almost quit acting

Likely the first time TV viewers took notice of Patricia Heaton was in 1989, when she scored the recurring role of oncologist Dr. Silverman on the then-red-hot ABC drama "thirtysomething." Before that, she'd been acting professionally — or trying to — for about a decade, with small roles on episodes of "Matlock" and "Alien Nation" and a New York theatrical resume that wasn't doing her career any favors.

"When I had been in New York for about nine years," she told Entertainment Tonight, "I just couldn't get arrested! I had to produce my own plays in order for me to hire myself." And so, Heaton decided to ditch theater in favor of screen work, which necessitated a move to Los Angeles and a self-issued ultimatum. "That was sort of my last ditch," said. "I was saying, 'If something doesn't happen, or start happening, in two years, I need to go back to school and get a degree that's worth something. And try to make something of my life." Fortunately, she got those "Matlock," "Alien Nation," and "thirtysomething" jobs, meaning Heaton didn't have to start filling out grad school applications.

Before the hits came many misses for Patricia Heaton

Very few American sitcoms make it to the 200-episode milestone, and Patricia Heaton can brag that she anchored two of them — "Everybody Loves Raymond" (at 210 installments) and "The Middle" (with 215). Those are both big hits, based on volume and endurance, and they came for Heaton after years of working on one flop of a comedy after another. In 1992, Heaton landed her first main cast role, playing the daughter and roommate of "Alice" star Linda Lavin on ABC's "Room for Two." A comeback vehicle for Lavin, the show lasted just 26 episodes.

A year after "Room for Two" ended, Heaton was back on TV on the blended-family sitcom "Someone Like Me," which disappeared from TV after five episodes in the spring of 1994. Within a year of the cancellation, Heaton was back on a sitcom again, with "Women of the House." On this spinoff of "Designing Women," Heaton played an adversarial administrative assistant to Suzanne Sugarbaker, revived by Delta Burke and inheriting a congressional seat. That one lasted a mere 12 episodes.

How Patricia Heaton became Debra Barone

Patricia Heaton's role as Debra Barone, the exasperated wife of a self-absorbed sports writer whose meddlesome parents and brother live across the street, launched Heaton to fame, fortune, and Emmy wins. It's quite possible that she just as easily could have not gotten the part, as her audition for "Everybody Loves Raymond" was chaotic, rushed, and strange.

"I got this audition at the last minute for 'Raymond,'" Heaton told PBS's "Backstage with..." (via NPR). "My babysitter was in college, and she needed to get to class. I said, 'I promise you I'm going to be right back; please just stay.' And I ran over there." In addition to being stressed about that, Heaton added that she was "mad at her husband for something," which only served to get her into the Debra Barone character.

After asking nicely to skip ahead of the 20 other women waiting to audition so she could relieve her babysitter, Heaton got frustrated that the director and producer wouldn't let her read her lines and "just kept chatting with me." Then they brought in star and co-creator Ray Romano, but Heaton didn't know who he was, and thought he was taking coffee orders. Finally, she read lines "really fast" and got out of there quickly. "The next thing I know, I was being called in to meet the president of CBS," Heaton said, after which she was offered the gig.

Patricia Heaton remains very fond of Ray Romano

When a small group of people work together for nine years, they can either get overwhelmingly sick of each other and never want to meet again, or they can become a warm, tight-knit community that stays friends forever. It would seem the latter is true for the cast of "Everybody Loves Raymond." "Ray [Romano] usually has a Labor Day party, every year since 'Raymond' started where we come together," Heaton told Entertainment Tonight in 2020, although that year's festivities were held virtually owing to coronavirus transmission concerns.

Heaton also holds Romano in high regard for his stage-kissing abilities. On a 2021 episode of "The Drew Barrymore Show," Heaton said that her "Everybody Loves Raymond" TV husband was a better kisser than Neil Flynn, who played her spouse on "The Middle." "Because Ray is also married for a very long time, I'll give it to Ray," Heaton said. "He's got a lot of practice."

Patricia Heaton almost lost one of her signature roles to Ricki Lake

Not counting "Everybody Loves Raymond," Patricia Heaton is best known for her role as beleaguered, cash-strapped Midwestern mother Frankie Heck on "The Middle," which ran on ABC for a nine-year span from 2009 to 2018. It was a star vehicle for "The Middle," but that was only after a false start, another try, and some recasting. According to Zap2It, a pilot for "The Middle" filmed in 2006, with Ricki Lake portraying Frankie Heck, and ABC didn't order it to series.

"Patty was always our type, but we didn't allow ourselves to dream," "The Middle" co-creator Eileen Heisler told the Chicago Tribune. At the time that the sample "Middle" went into production, Heaton was attached to another pilot, an untitled series from "Saturday Night Live" writer Christine Zander about a newly widowed woman who joins the PTA. That show didn't get picked up either, and Heaton's next series, "Back to You," didn't make it past the 2007-2008 season, meaning she was available when Heisler and writing partner DeAnn Heline decided to give "The Middle" another shot. Once Heaton was onboard, ABC ordered a pilot, according to Reuters, and "The Middle" was off and running.

Patricia Heaton proudly reveals her cosmetic procedures

Over her 25 years as a big name TV star, Patricia Heaton's appearance has changed somewhat. That's natural and to be expected, what with the passage of time and all, but Heaton also underwent a few cosmetic surgical procedures. A lot of Americans, particularly actors and performers, get plastic surgery, but Heaton is one of the few who readily admits to doing so, helping to eliminate the taboo over the subject.

In 2002, Heaton told People that she'd had a tummy tuck and breast reduction surgery after giving birth to four children. Why? "Vanity. I mean it. Vanity," she said. "I had four C-sections and my stomach looked like a map of the world. My breasts were hanging down to here from breastfeeding those babies."

More than a decade later, Heaton told People that she maintained her health and kept her body where she wanted it through exercise and healthy eating, but had a little help, too. "I love fillers and Botox, if you do it so that you still look like yourself, you look like your best self," she said.

There was a serious scandal involving Patricia Heaton's husband

In 2019, scarcely a year and a half after she completed her nine-season run on "The Middle," Patricia Heaton got back into the grind of episodic broadcast television, starring (and serving as executive producer) on "Carol's Second Act" for CBS. The show — about a retired teacher and empty-nester who goes back to school to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor — performed so-so with audiences, finishing the 2019-20 season as the 75th most-watched show on network TV. And critics gave it a 50% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

CBS cancelled "Carol's Second Act" after the sitcom's one and only season in May 2020, per TVLine, but maybe more factors beyond bad numbers and critical indifference played a part in the show's demise. Heaton's husband of many decades, David Hunt, worked as an executive producer on "Carol's Second Act," and, according to The New York Times, Hunt allegedly engaged in two acts of unwanted and inappropriate touching perpetrated on staff writer Brodi Gupta. (Hunt's lawyer says his client "denies that characterization" of the purported incidents.) The network required Hunt to undergo sexual harassment sensitivity training, and Gupta quit.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Patricia Heaton quit drinking at age 60

In 2020, Patricia Heaton wrapped production on "Carol's Second Act," which, as noted above, is all about a woman switching career paths later in life. That same year, per Parade, Heaton released "Your Second Act," a collection of essays about women for whom it was never too late to switch paths. Heaton herself gave up alcohol in 2018, shortly after she turned 60.

"There's an actual statistic that women who were moderate drinkers in their 30s and 40s often become alcoholics in their 50s and 60s," she said. "You're a little bit at sea, and so you reach for the bottle to dull the uncertainty. I sensed that a bit with myself," she added, after realizing that she was "looking forward every night to cocktails." Heaton says she feels a lot better and really quit alcohol so as to be healthy for her eventual grandchildren.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Everybody loves 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' even Patricia Heaton

Patricia Heaton isn't precious or self-conscious about her work. In fact, Heaton can enjoy "Everybody Loves Raymond" or "The Middle" just like any other avid TV viewer can, despite the fact — and actually, because of the fact — that she's in them. In 2018, Heaton told Us Weekly that she has no problem watching herself on-screen. "If I come across [past shows] as I'm channel surfing," she said, "I hate to say it. I will watch it. I think I'm fabulous." She recalled one time when she was on an airplane that offered "Everybody Loves Raymond" in its in-flight entertainment. "I was watching, had my headphones on, and I was laughing out loud," Heaton said. "And the steward came by and he said, 'I just think it's so cute you laugh at your own show.'"

Nevertheless, just because she loves her two big sitcoms doesn't mean she wants them to return to television. When the TV world was reviving and rebooting seemingly every '90s and 2000s hit, Heaton spoke out against an "Everybody Loves Raymond" revival. "I don't think it's possible now with Peter and Doris gone," she said, referring to co-stars Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts, who died in 2006 and 2016, respectively. Nor will she participate in a planned spinoff of "The Middle" focusing on the young adult adventures of relentlessly optimistic middle child Sue Heck. However, that one's not Heaton's fault — ABC passed on "Sue Sue in the City" in 2018, per Deadline.

Patricia Heaton's political views have brought her some trouble

Raised in a Catholic family, according to Cleveland Magazine, and converting to Presbyterianism as an adult, according to the Chicago Tribune, Patricia Heaton is religious, and her faith informed her conservative views. In 2020, she alleged on Twitter that the Democratic Party supported a "barbaric platform that champions abortion." Heaton used the social media platform in 2012 to criticize Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who congressional Republicans barred from testifying in support of health insurance companies paying for contraceptives, according to NPR. "Hey G-Town: stop buying toothpaste, soap, and shampoo! You'll save money, and no one will want to sleep with you!" Heaton tweeted, before later apologizing.

Per NBC News, actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, appeared in a 2006 TV ad asking Missouri voters to approve a stem cell research ballot measure. Heaton, along with other conservative celebrities, appeared in a response commercial (though she later revealed she was unaware of Fox's earlier video), arguing that opening up stem cell research would lead to women selling their eggs to fertility clinics. Heaton later regretted the ad, telling The New York Times it was a "disaster."

But while she's conservative, Heaton is not a Donald Trump supporter. "If he's the nominee then it won't be my party," she tweeted early in Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. And on January 6, 2021, after Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol building, Heaton promised to switch her party affiliation from Republican to Independent. 

Patricia Heaton is very charitable

Faith inspires not only Patricia Heaton's political leanings, but where she chooses to donate her time and money, too. According to Look to the Stars, Heaton has given to the Red Cross, Alliance for Children's Rights, Operation Gratitude, and Heifer International.

Heaton's passion for helping others organization is prominent through her work with World Vision. After the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, Heaton appeared in literature for the foundation, urging donations to help bring "life's basics" to people in the developing world. World Vision is a faith-based charity that assists people in around 100 countries which focuses on providing pumps to provide clean water in underserved areas and building schools for children, often setting up facilities for a decade or more to help ensure lasting change. 

Heaton is World Vision's first celebrity ambassador, and she's more than just a mouthpiece. She's gotten involved on the ground level, traveling to various World Vision sites, including, a Syrian refugee camp, and personally sponsoring multiple children.

What is Patricia Heaton's net worth?

Adding up all of the episodes of her shows "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Middle," "Back to You," and "Carol's Second Act," Patricia Heaton has starred in nearly 500 episodes of major network television. It's a job that pays well, too. In the final seasons of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Heaton pulled in around $450,000 per episode (according to the Washington Post) — and that doesn't even count the consistent royalty checks that come from the show's ubiquitous reruns in various media outlets. On "The Middle," a slightly lower-profile and less popular show than "Everybody Loves Raymond," Heaton still took home $250,000 per episode.

Heaton's prodigious wealth has allowed for some hefty real estate purchases. In 2001, she and her husband purchased an 8,400-square foot home in Los Angeles for $4.85 million (according to the L.A. Times) and flipped it 12 years later, selling it for $8.8 million to TV mega-producer Shonda Rhimes, per E! News. Heaton and her family subsequently moved into another huge Los Angeles mansion in 2013, paying $5.4 million, according to Yahoo! They unloaded it in 2020 for $7.5 million.

All told, those huge cash sums are a relative pittance for Patricia Heaton. Her net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth, is somewhere around $40 million.