Patricia Richardson burst onto the scene in the 1990s as the wife of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor on Home Improvement. For eight seasons, Richardson portrayed the often-irritated Jill Taylor and did so with prowess. Fans fell in love with the dynamic that Richardson and Tim Allen, who took on the role of Tim Taylor, brought to the show. Richardson was almost on a different ABC show, though. In fact, her casting in Home Improvement was a last-minute decision.
Frances Fisher was originally cast as Jill Taylor on Home Improvement
When the team behind Home Improvement sat down to cast the series, Richardson wasn’t even on their radar. Early on in the casting process, they had settled on Frances Fisher for the role of Jill. Fisher agreed to take the part, and the cast sat down together to rehearse the show. Something was a bit off, though. Fisher and Allen didn’t play off of each other well, and Fisher’s comedic chops didn’t seem to be up to the task.
Before landing the role on Home Improvement, Fisher wasn’t really known for her comedy. She had largely taken on dramatic roles, and even now, years later, she still hasn’t taken on many comedic roles. Fisher is probably best known as playing Rose’s mother in Titanic, but more recently, she appeared in Watchmen.
The production team changed their mind after rehearsing the pilot
Fisher seemed like the perfect fit initially, and her resume brought something to the table, but her characterization of Jill fell flat. Richard Karn, who portrayed Al Borland, once said that Fisher came across as too meek and didn’t have the comedic timing necessary to carry the role next to Allen. Test audiences didn’t care for her work in the original pilot, and that left executives with a big problem on their hands.
The series, overall, looked like a good prospect, but Fisher in the role of Jill would have likely spelled doom for the series. Instead of scrapping the whole idea, the team went back to the drawing board. It was too late in the game to start auditioning a slew of actors, so they pulled from the actors they had previously worked with. Richardson was one of those actors, and she was immediately tapped to take on the role of Jill. She hadn’t even seen a script when she was asked to join the cast.
Patricia Richardson never auditioned for the part
Richardson quickly replaced Fisher as Jill Taylor, but she never actually auditioned for the part. According to Looper, Richardson had given birth to twins shortly before Home Improvement was set to begin filming. Already in contract with the network, Richardson was told to report to Home Improvement to film, instead of waiting nine months to join a different cast. She was sent a script immediately, and while she knew very little about the project, she liked the resume of the production team.
After ABC executives met her demands, Richardson agreed to take on the role. Even though they had never seen Richardson with Allen, it all worked out in the end. The pair had undeniable chemistry, and their scenes together, for eight seasons, were among the best in the show. Richardson even appeared in Allen’s latest TV series, Last Man Standing as a neighbor.