Patricia Heaton, at Home and With 'Raymond'

ByABC News

L O S   A N G E L E S, Sept. 9, 2000 -- Patricia Heaton has more pressing things on her mind than her Emmy nomination for best actress in a comedy series.

“All that you’ve starved for and worked for, for years, comes true and then someone’s Batman backpack can undermine everything.”

Speaking from her dressing room on the set of Everybody Loves Raymond in Los Angeles in the days leading up to the Emmys, Heaton was clear about her priorities: She is a real mother first, and a TV mom second.

“Today John had his first day of kindergarten,” she said, referring to the second of her four sons with British actor David Hunt. “I’m not convinced we’re out of the woods yet.”

Heaton took the Emmy Award nomination in stride, having gone through the experience last year. “It’s really exciting once you get there, but it doesn’t really hit you until they are announcing your category. Then the adrenaline really shoots up.”

Heaton is well-respected for her edgy banter with standup comedian Ray Romano. “Ray and I are presenting this year,” she said, “so we have that extra added thing of trying to be funny in 10 seconds.”

The Cleveland-born actress got her first featured role eight years ago on the critically acclaimed, but short lived, Room for Two, in which she played the grown daughter of the show’s star, Linda Lavin. Heaton sees a similarity between the two programs. “It was really relationship-based as opposed to situation-based. They call ‘Raymond’ a relationship comedy.”

Family Building Together

All five members of Raymond’s ensemble cast were nominated this year. “Finally,” Patricia added, praising co-stars Romano, Brad Garret, who plays the hulking sad sack brother as well as Peter Boyle, and Doris Roberts, the veteran thespians who play her annoying in-laws. “I think it’s why the show works so well. Everybody really has each others rhythm down. We’ve been together for five years.”

But Heaton is not the only one juggling family and career. “I’ve had two kids since the show started. Ray’s had a kid. Brad’s had two kids. So there’s been a lot of family building together.”

Stuff People Really Deal With

Heaton is singled out this year for some hilarious work on a tension-filled subject. “It’s an episode about PMS. I watched it recently at a friends house with a couple and they were chuckling, but I could tell it was also hitting very close to home for them. They were kind of serious as they were watching it. It’s the stuff people really deal with in their marriages.”

Heaton often functions as the straight man. “It can often be a thankless role but in this case we have such good writers it’s really terrific. They’ve allowed Deborah to have more interesting qualities that you don’t often get. In the PMS thing she was allowed to be pretty bitchy and wrong in a lot of what she was saying.

“Often the straight person is sort of patronizing and long-suffering and she’s not,” she continues, “She doesn’t put up with his stuff.” That’s putting it lightly. The episode, like many in the series, dices and slices Romano’s nasal dad character to shreds.

My Mother the Straight Man

In real life, while never far from their alter-egos, Heaton and Romano are pals, sharing all the tenderness of their on-screen personas, but without the biting humor. When Ray started mugging in Heaton’s dressing room during our conversation she explained, “I have a little boudoir. He can’t believe it. I have rugs and curtains and flowers and scented candles. He has a beer can sculpture and a bag of stale popcorn.”

Soon Patricia Heaton will be back to her “normal” life as a mother and co-founder of Four Boys Films, the production company that she runs with her husband. As for the Emmy hoopla, Patricia says, “It’ll be nice when it’s over. I’ve been having to do a lot of dress shopping and interviews and all the hubbub that leads up to it.”

And the hit show she works on? “Work is sort of my little midday sanctuary where I can come and just focus on the script. But it is a lot, you know. I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed this week.”

One must conclude that there is no limit to the chaos that can be caused by a Batman backpack.

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