Patricia Heaton Says Doing This in Her Audition Landed Her the Role of Debra on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’

Sitcom star Patricia Heaton became a household name when she played Debra Barone on the CBS mega hit Everybody Loves Raymond. When the series concluded, she moved on to ABC as the mom of three in The Middle. Now heading up the new show Carol’s Second Act on CBS, Heaton is back at the network that helped launch her career.

The Emmy Award-winning actress has previously talked about landing the role of Debra, beating out some considerable competition by adding this in to her audition.

Cast of "Everybody Loves Raymond"
The Cast of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (L-R) Peter Boyle, Doris Roberts, Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, Brad Garrett, and Monica Horan | Monty Brinton/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Similarities on stages in life

As a mom of four grown son in real life, Heaton seems to take on characters that are at parallel phases of life that she is in personally. “It was interesting to have done Everybody Loves Raymond first. It corresponded with where I was in my life,” she told the New York Post. “The Middle corresponded with my background growing up, and to my teenage kids at home. 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.”

Looking back to when her children were younger, Heaton is amazed she was able to juggle home life with her high-profile career. “I don’t know how I did it 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 one, 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?’”

Harried audition

Back in 2010, Heaton described part of her juggling act when she went to audition for the part of Debra in an interview with NPR. At the time, Heaton and her husband were low on funds and had two small children at home.

“I had a babysitting conflict. My babysitter was in college, and she needed to get to class… And I ran over there. And I was kind of, you know, frazzled and hassled and, you know, mad at my husband for something… And so I came in, and there were probably 20 women in the waiting room to read for this part. And I thought, oh, I’m never going to get back.”

The actress was able to cut the line and pushed to speed up her reading with Phil Rosenthal, the show’s executive producer, and the show’s star, Ray Romano. “Of course, I didn’t know Ray at the time, or know what sort of a genius he is and what a great guy he is. So I finally said, do you mind if we just – I’m kind of in a time thing; do you mind if we read?” Heaton recalled of being in a rush. “So I read it really fast. I was like, come on, let’s do this; I’ve got to go. And they were so lovely.” Heaton went on to get the part and seal her celebrity status.

Going the extra acting mile

Heaton and Romano both spoke with the New York Daily News in 2002 on what the deciding factor was in her landing the part. Romano recalled that there had been approximately 100 actresses that had interviewed to play Debra, where he had personally met about 50 of them. The actor revealed that the audition included a kiss between his character and Debra, and he was impressed at Heaton’s willingness to fully commit to the role.

“She came in and Phil and I thought this is it, this is her. Not only do I think she bought it, but the scene calls for the actress to kiss me and she was the only one who kissed me on the lips,” Romano shared. “So I said, ‘She’s in, she’s dedicated.'”

“I was the only actress who would kiss him.” Heaton joked.

Now with Carol’s Second Act a ratings hit, Heaton is enjoying being at the head of another successful sitcom. “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!