Famous TV mom Patricia Heaton tells AARP about her new TV character, her own personal second act and how to find yours.
Art imitates life. Every show has mirrored where my life is. Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle and now, Carol’s Second Act. Carol’s kids are out of the house; my kids are out of the house. Fortunately, my marriage is still intact, but Carol’s has ended.
Getting older rocks. I have more opportunities now than I ever had in my life for my career. I hope the show encourages everyone in this stage of life to take their experience and wisdom and do something with it, because the world needs us.
Her own empty nest. When you’ve spent a huge chunk of time pouring yourself into your children and then they’re gone, your foundation is rocked. You feel at sea — your anchor has been pulled, and you’re kind of floating around.
How to find your second act. Look inward and ask: “What is my passion that I have not had time to pursue?” Look outward and say, “What does my community need that I can provide? Is it volunteering, a business you wanted to start, mentoring, helping kids in an after-school program?” Getting older is so freeing because you don’t really care about what people think you’re supposed to do.
Fight social media isolation and partisanship. We can use our experience and age and wisdom to combat this isolation we’re seeing in the country — go out and be a part of making the community a better place.
Heaton's Hot Sheet
Latest Role: Carol Kennedy on Carol’s Second Act (CBS, Sept. 26, 9:30 p.m. ET)
Hometown: Bay Village, Ohio
Breakout Role: Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond
Greatest Hits: The Middle, Everybody Loves Raymond
Parenting advice from a mom of 4 sons: “Go to therapy when you need it.”
Favorite workout: Pure Barre
Open your ears. One thing I love about working with young people is discovering new music. It’s really easy to only listen to Steely Dan all the time, but there’s a lot of great new stuff out there. I cherish friends my age because we have so much in common, but I also just love having younger friends.
Cherish mentors — and be one. My first big job was with Linda Lavin [Alice] on the sitcom Room for Two. I cherish our relationship. She was a mentor, but she didn’t treat me differently than any other friend, even though I was younger. I want to be that for my castmates.
Like mother, like daughter? I only had my mom until I was 12. She was a serious person, very education oriented, a devout Catholic. I was a bossy girly-girl in the neighborhood. My mom was not a girly-girl at all. She wasn’t interested in clothes or makeup. She was always sending me to the library for esoteric theological books. [Some] things in me have come out as I’ve gotten older. She was a no-nonsense person, and I’ve found that about myself.
Heaton’s own second act. I’ve always loved table settings and dinnerware. It might have come from working in hotels and restaurants while growing up. After my Food Network Show and my cookbook, I put together a line for Walmart. I had to build something to contribute to charities like World Vision — I’m one of their celebrity ambassadors, funding clean water and health for refugees.
Keep your brain engaged. Challenge your brain — science backs this up — learn a new language or an instrument or something that requires focus. It’s important to keep your brain nice and juicy. To keep you from being depressed.
Have a goal but enjoy the journey. Striving really gives you a reason to get up in the morning. But you also see people who finally achieve what they set out to achieve, and then they’re, like, “What am I supposed to do now?” Achievement is great, but it’s the getting there that keeps you interested in life.
Take care of yourself. When you’re trying to raise the kids and work, you’re not always paying much attention to diet and exercise. So now it’s great because you have the time. I go to [ballet] barre class in the morning.
Therapy is healing. When my mom died in 1970, there was no therapy, no grief counseling, no nothing. I carried a lot of baggage in my 20s. Once I started going to therapy, I realized how important it was for a healthy life to have somebody to talk to outside of your family.
Being a grandma in waiting. All the clichés are really true. You really, really want grandchildren once your kids are out of the house. You need that little baby fix.
How to Watch It: Carol’s Second Act premieres on CBS on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 9:30 p.m. ET. Each episode is available behind the CBS All Access subscriber wall immediately after the West Coast broadcast. In addition, the five most recent episodes will be available for free on CBS.com.