Welcome once again to our second season of "On the Futon With...," a semi-weekly feature where I sit down and talk TV with some of my favorite people in the industry, all the while trying to give the impression I'm not some overgrown fanboy.
THIS WEEK'S GUEST: "Back to You" star Patricia Heaton
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview was done during FOX's Mid-Season Press Junket on Thursday, January 10.]
Brian Ford Sullivan: When did you first meet Kelsey?
Patricia Heaton: I met him a couple of years ago in an elevator in New York just in passing. And that was it [until the show]. Right now though I feel like I've known him forever.
BFS: From the outset, a Patricia Heaton/Kelsey Grammer show - regardless of the premise - seems like it would be pretty special. Did it feel that way going in?
PH: It is magical. It actually is - I was very aware that this was quite a coup. I mean "Raymond" is lightning in a bottle so I don't think anything that would approach "Raymond" could happen like that again. And two years later, to be offered this opportunity is fabulous so I was really excited about it. And just a great pedigree of writers and producers - Steve Levitan, Chris Lloyd, Jim Burrows directing - I mean if you're a TV-o-phile you know who Jim Burrows is. So we were really excited and when we all got together - it was like we had been working together for years. Kelsey, Jim - very professional, they work very quickly. And the newest cast members, the younger cast members just really kind of went with the flow. They're just so fast and so good that we just hit it off. I'm hoping the strike ends soon because we would really like to see each other again. [Laughs.]
BFS: How many do you have left that haven't aired?
PH: Three. We shot nine [after the pilot], they aired six [again, after the pilot].
BFS: As an actor during the strike - how does that feel?
PH: It's very much like you're on a vacation but you're not. And you know there's a lot of people suffering that are your crew members and things like that. Everybody really wants to get back to work. Hopefully the studios will come back to the table - they've kind of walked away from the whole thing which is confusing to everyone as it's kind of torpedoing our industry.
BFS: So in your search to find "Back to You," did you consciously choose to go in a certain direction - stay with/go away from sitcoms, stay with/go away from the family show?
PH: Yes. I mean I had no interest in playing a housewife again. There's just nothing left to explore. I can't imagine what else there would be to do, unless she's like a pot dealer on "Weeds." [Laughs.] That's different. So to be able to play a single, working mom who's an anchor, which is a very specific kind of high-profile job - I was so thrilled to be able to wear high heels and skirts and satin blouses. Debra Barone didn't get to do that very much. I'm very thrilled about Kelly Carr's wardrobe - I made it the focus of my character research. So that's all been great - so just to explore that area. I'm from a journalistic family - newspaper side - but I have worked at a TV station in Cleveland editing news film. I know that world a little bit. And there's just endless stories, not only with the personal stories with Kelly and Chuck where they have a child together, but just the newsroom stories and the things they have to cover and fighting over who gets to cover what. You know, comedy is all about exposing human foibles and there's such an opportunity for that in a newsroom.
BFS: Does the theatrics involved with being on a multi-camera show help?
PH: Definitely. Multiple cameras are very theatric because you have the audience and... you record it in sequence for an audience. It's very much like doing a play - which is my favorite thing to do.
BFS: Do you feel any pressure to live up to "Raymond's" legacy?
PH: There will always be that but I feel I was presented with this amazing script combined with the professionalism of the people involved and how different Kelly is from anything I've done - that is was kind of a no brainer. And of course you can't control what people will think. You know what to look for - good writing, good directing, good actors. If that's all in place you just do it and you hope people like it. After that it's out of your control. One thing, if I've learned anything in life, is that I can't worry about things that are out of my control.
BFS: Switching gears a little - you produced a movie for TNT a few years ago, are you actively developing still?
PH: Yeah, in fact right after here I go to my office. We're developing TV series and feature films to produce - some for me to be in but mostly just to produce. I just really like story. I'm a big reader, I love literature and I have lots of ideas for series. We meet with a lot of writers so that's kind of the other part of my professional career is producing.
BFS: And lastly, I know Kelsey's done quite a bit of directing - have you ever thought about going behind the camera?
PH: I'm not a director, not interested in directing. [Laughs.] Producing though, producing and writing.