As she returns to television in CBS' Carol’s Second Act, Patricia Heaton is getting candid about aging in Hollywood and how she found herself a little lost after her last series, The Middle, ended in 2018.
Heaton stars as Carol Kenney, a 50-year-old woman who starts her life over by pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor, after raising her children, going through a divorce and retiring from teaching.
“What was perfect about it was my kids are pretty much out of the house and my second run in a long-running show was done and I was feeling a bit at sea not knowing what I was doing, not having a job and [wondering], who am I without these things?” the mom of four said about the role during a panel at the 2019 Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California, on Thursday.
“This idea was so perfect. It was a while after The Middle had finished, maybe a year, so I had time to field those feelings that Carol was feeling,” added Heaton, who starred on Everybody Loves Raymond for almost a decade before The Middle. “And, it's been interesting to go on this journey with everyone and with Carol and explore that.”
Heaton’s character is 11 years her junior, but the actress said she felt the age gap was justifiable given the show’s medical storyline -- and the fact that she secretly thinks she looks like 44-year-old Angelia Jolie!
“Realistically, to be able to get into medical school, I would think they would take your age into consideration,” she said. “So, If you start at 60 and don’t get into your internship until 65…”
“I am 61 and I don’t have a problem with that,” she continued. “I kept saying I don’t think people will really believe I’m in my 50s -- do I need gray in my hair? I really [think] I look like Angelina Jolie until I look into the mirror and realize I don’t. So, I thought it was realistic she’s in her 50s because I look like I’m in my 50s!”
While Heaton may still feel and look young, she joked throughout the panel that death is “looming.” In fact, when asked if she was prepared for another potentially long-running series, she laughed that she aims to die on the show’s soundstage.
“My perfect scenario is … I see death getting nearer and nearer to me and I could die on the soundstage. That’s how I want to go!” she chuckled, adding that she hopes to be in full hair and makeup when the time comes, so that it makes for “good photos.”
“We'll make sure it happens!” piped in the show's executive producer, Emily Halpern.
After explaining how she has been working since she was 16 years old, Heaton reiterated that she has no desire to slow down.
“It’s interesting because I think it’s important at any time of your life to keep challenging yourself and just in those last two days, I’ve started having those actors’ nightmares -- even at this stage of the game,” she said. “I'm driving on Vine and I stop my car in the intersection and I can't get my hands out of my pocket and I have to abandon my car because I have to be at a table read I actually missed. That was last night! So, I think it's a good sign that I'm excited about this. It's a challenge. It's very exciting to go back to multi-cam and to do it live in front of an audience.”
Meanwhile, Ashley Tisdale, who plays Carol’s daughter on the series, noted how she was excited to work with Heaton and shared her strong work ethic.
“She’s such a legend and I’ve loved her for so long,” said Tisdale, who was looking pretty in pink for the panel. “We actually have so much in common. I’ve been working since I was 16, too. I love to work [and] I can’t take time off. I have that same drive.”
See more on Heaton and Tisdale below.