Also Credited As:Patty Heaton, Patricia Helen Heaton
|Patricia Helen Heaton on March 4, 1958 in Bay Village, Ohio, USA|
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Born Patrician Helen Heaton in Bay Village, OH, on March 4, 1958, Heaton's father was Chuck Heaton, a sportswriter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and her brother Michael - one of her four siblings - followed in his footsteps by contributing to the paper as an adult. To make her mark among her large family, Heaton was a self-described "actress from the start," who craved attention from her siblings and others. The loss of her mother from a brain aneurysm when she was only 12 took away some of Heaton's steam. Not surprisingly, she struggled with depression for much of her teenage years. Her father encouraged her to pursue journalism while attending Ohio State University, but she soon found her way back to performing, graduating with a degree in drama in 1980. Heaton was married briefly during this period, but ended in divorce in 1987.
Following the break-up of her marriage, Heaton relocated to New York and studied with acclaimed drama coach William Esper while pursuing theater jobs. She made her Broadway debut in 1987 as one of two white performers in the gospel musical "Don't Get God Started," which folded within a year. Determined to make a go of acting, she partnered with several of her fellow students under Esper and formed an Off-Broadway troupe called Stage Three, which began attracting audiences and critics with their productions. One of them - "The Johnstown Vindication" (1989) - was such a success, that Heaton and the troupe traveled to Los Angeles to perform for West Coast audiences. Her performances caught the eye of casting agents in Hollywood, which led to her television debut as an oncologist in six episodes of "thirtysomething" (ABC, 1987-1991). More guest shots followed, as well as small roles in the Chevy Chase comedy "Memoirs of an Invisible Man" (1992) and "Beethoven" (1992). Heaton took another stab at nuptials, marrying British actor David Hunt in 1990 and settling in Los Angeles.
A regular role on a television series seemed inevitable for Heaton in the early 1990s, but her first three attempts - "Room For Two" (1992), with Heaton as a TV producer at odds with Linda Lavin as her mother and a guest commentator on her show; "Someone Like Me" (NBC, 1994), as the mother of precocious Gaby Hoffman; and "Women of the House" (CBS, 1995) - a spin-off of "Designing Women" (CBS, 1986-1992) - all perished during their first seasons. A pair of appearances on "Party of Five" (Fox, 1994-2000) as the birth mother of Jennifer Love Hewitt failed to scare up any consistent work. Heaton would later note in interviews that it was at that point in her stagnant career, when she was clipping coupons to stretch her budget, that she received word about an audition for a new comedy series based on the stand-up career of Ray Romano. Heaton arrived at the audition flustered over problems with a babysitter at home, which apparently struck the producers as the right sort of tone for Debra Barone. Romano also favored her because she was the only actress who would kiss him during her audition.
Heaton was soon cast, and after a slow start, the show - produced by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company - gradually developed into one of the network's biggest hits. Heaton was singled out by critics and fans for her portrayal. Not just her funny husband's foil, her Debra was smart and flawed, and her emotions and desires often drove episodes as much as Romano and the rest of the characters, including Brad Garrett, Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts. For her efforts, Heaton was nominated for seven Emmys during the series' network run and won twice - in 2000 and 2001. She also took home two Q Awards from the Viewers for Quality Television and a Screen Actors Guild Award (shared with the entire cast) in 2003.
Despite working on the series full time - and giving birth to four sons between 1994 and 1997 - Heaton still found time to appear top-billed in several TV movies, including "Miracle in the Woods" (1997), "A Town Without Christmas" (2001), and a likable remake of Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl" (2004) with Jeff Daniels and Alan Cumming for director Richard Benjamin. She also starred in a string of comic commercials for Albertsons supermarkets and Pantene hair products, and penned an autobiography, Hollywood and Motherhood: How to Get a Job like Mine in 2002.
After "Raymond" ended its series run in 2005, Heaton produced several projects through her FourBoys Films shingle, which she shared with her husband. Among their efforts was the documentary "The Bituminous Coal Queens of Pennsylvania" (2005), about a beauty contest in a rural mining town, and "Amazing Grace" (2006), Michael Apted's period drama about slavery opponent William Wilberforce, which featured an impressive cast of performers including Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, and Ciaran Hinds. She also spearheaded a pilot for a new series for ABC about a single mother juggling her physical therapy practice and raising her two sons, but the "Untitled Patricia Heaton Project" never came to fruition.
A lifelong Republican and Catholic, Heaton was a vocal proponent of the death penalty and the pro-life movement - but she was also on record as supporting gay rights and most birth control - and the honorary chair of Feminists for Life, a women's group that opposed abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Her appearance in a 2006 advertisement that opposed a Missouri constitutional amendment that supported stem cell research garnered much negative publicity for the well-liked performer, who later regretted that the spot aired shortly after one featuring actor Michael J. Fox in support of the research. Heaton's advocacy became particularly visible during the debate regarding the 2005 Terri Schiavo case in Florida, in which she decried the idea of taking the vegetative woman off life support to any talk show that would listen - despite the fact that she was not close to the family on either side of the argument.
In 2007, Heaton's tenure as the voice and face of Albertson's came to an end when they discontinued her ad campaign. That same year, she returned to the New York stage in the Off-Broadway play "The Scene," co-starring longtime friend Tony Shalhoub. For her efforts, she received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination. Heaton also came back to network television with Kelsey Grammer in "Back to You," a sitcom about a former newscasting team (and onetime romantic item) who find themselves working together again. The series, produced by Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan of "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004) fame and directed by James Burrows, scored huge ratings with its debut, but mediocre reviews helped send the show to 65th place by its fourth episode. Despite the dismal numbers, Fox picked up "Back to You" for a full season.