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Sitcom star Patricia Heaton rose to celebrity status with her roles on CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond and ABC’s The Middle, both running for nine seasons. Now heading up the new series Carol’s Second Act on CBS, Heaton shares how she’s serving as both executive producer and star on the show, as well as contemplating her Emmy-winning portrayal of Debra Barone.

“Everybody Loves Raymond” Patricia Heaton and Ray Romano | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Art reflecting life

In her new sitcom, Heaton plays Carol Kenney, a 50-year-old divorced mom who finally pursues her dream of becoming a doctor, working as an intern surrounded by colleagues half her age.

As a mom of four grown son in real life, the role coincides with the phase Heaton is in personally. She spoke to the New York Post on how her past roles have run parallel to what life situation she was in at the time. “It was interesting to have done Everybody Loves Raymond first. It corresponded with where I was in my life. The Middle corresponded with my background growing up, and to my teenage kids at home,” Heaton said. “That finished and I thought, ‘What can I do that’s different but still in my wheelhouse?’ And then this idea [Carol’s Second Act] came along from [co-creators] Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins. It was a great idea for a show regardless of whether I was involved with it.”

Part of the new CBS sitcom highlights the age difference between the title character and her much younger colleagues. “I’m older and it’s an experience that has its particular moments. I do find we have a cultural gap,” Heaton told the Associated Press. “We don’t want it to be, ‘Oh, I don’t know how to use the computer’ or ‘I wear adult diapers.’ We don’t want to go into that kind of cliché. We’re also working on finding those places where they come together, and what Carol can learn from her co-workers who are not her peers generationally.”

Double duty

Now that Heaton is also executive producing Carol’s Second Act in addition to playing the lead, the dual responsibilities brought her former co-star from Everybody Loves Raymond to mind. “I don’t know how Ray Romano did it,” Heaton said. “He was producing, and he would leave rehearsal and go into the writers’ room and then editing, so his day was really long.”

The actress also recalled pulling her own double duty, at work and at home. “I don’t know how I did it either on Raymond,” Heaton reflected. “I have four kids, and the first and third seasons I was giving birth to two of them, so I was going through surgery and then right back to the show. With the fourth onle, I think I was back two weeks later. So it’s pretty crazy, and there have been moments I’m like, ‘Why did I think I’d do this?’”

Now, Heaton focuses on raising the bar for herself so she can continue to thrive professionally and personally. “What’s really important in keeping vital in life is to challenge yourself, and to step out into the unknown and be OK with that. Get going and keep learning,” she said.

Looking back

Since Heaton portrayed very distinctive moms on two different sitcoms, the actress has definitely perfected playing a maternal role. When asked how she would rank herself as a ‘TV mom,’ Heaton considered tweaking one character a bit. “I was recently watching an episode of Raymond and I could tell how angry and mean Debra was,” the actress recalled. “If I went back and did it today, I think I would temper it a little bit.”

Reflecting on her previous role, Heaton empathized with the stage of life her character was in. “Debra was a mom who had toddlers, and I think for all of us women, that stage of life is difficult. I had four of them, and you’re just going and going and going and you get upset when your husband doesn’t step up to the plate,” she shared. “I look back on it and think, ‘Wow, Debra.’ It was a bit harsh, but it was written that way. She wasn’t Florence Henderson, that’s for sure.”

Now with her own third act in the sitcom arena, Heaton sees the launch of Carol’s Second Act as coming at the perfect time. “I feel like at age 61, I have more opportunities now than I’ve ever had,” she said.

Watch CBS’ Carol’s Second Act on Thursday nights!