Patricia Helen Heaton is one of the few Hollywood conservatives who is absolutely candid about her political positions. The former Everybody Loves Raymond star is honorary chair of the national pro-life organization, Feminists for Life and in 2006, she appeared in an ad opposing embryonic stem cell research. The ad caused a public outcry when it appeared during Game 4 of the World Series (details below). Despite her otherwise socially conservative beliefs, she supports gay rights and birth control. A Republican, she supported John McCain for president in 2008 and Sarah Palin for vice president.
Heaton was born on March 4, 1958 in Bay Village, Ohio, the daughter of Pat and Chuck Heaton. She was raised Catholic and attended Mass with her parents every day. Her father was a sports writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, helping to provide her with insight in her later role as Debra Barone, wife Ray Barone, a sports writer for the Long Island newspaper, Newsday. She graduated from Bay High School in Ohio and was a singer in the choir. She also performed in the Stage Band and was a member of the Rockettes Drill Team with the Bay Rockets' Marching Band.
College and Stage Performances:
Heaton graduated with a bachelor's degree in theater from Ohio State University, where she was a sister in the Delta Gamma sorority. While studying acting in New York, Heaton modeled shoes before making her Broadway debut in the gospel musical Don't Get God Started. She and her fellow students then formed Stage Three, an acting company that produced plays Off-Broadway. As a member of the acting company, she and her fellow performers took the production, The Johnstown Vindicator, to Los Angeles, and Heaton's performance quickly caught the eyes of casting directors.
Early Television & Film Appearances:
Her first recurring role was in the 1987 show, Thirtysomething. In 1990, she auditioned for the role of Elaine on the hit comedy Seinfeld. In 1992, she was cast as the the producer/daughter in the television series "Room for Two," and in 1994, she starred in the series Someone Like Me. In 1995, she had a regular roles in CBS's Women of the House, and in 1997, she starred in the highly rated CBS TV movie Miracle in the Woods with Della Reese. Her feature film credits include Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), Beethoven (1992), The New Age (1994) and Space Jam (1996).
Everybody Loves Raymond:
When Heaton auditioned for the role of Debra Barone in 1996, she was reportedly the only actor willing to kiss Ray Ramano during the takes. Although CBS executives had another actress in mind, Heaton most closely represented Romano's vision of the character, and producers supported him. Thus, Heaton was cast as the show's female lead. On the set of the show, she and liberal actor Peter Boyle often would have political discussions. The conversations were never mean-spirited, and Heaton was devastated when Boyle died in 2006.
For her role in Everybody Loves Raymond, Heaton won two Emmys and was nominated for five more for "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Role." Her first win came in 2000 after her second nomination for the episode "Bad Moon Rising," and her second victory came a year later for the episode "The Canister." an Emmy for Leading Actress in a Comedy Series. She was nominated for a l999 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and won the l998-99 Viewers for Quality Television Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Award.
Life After Raymond:
In 2007, Heaton was cast alongside fellow conservative Kelsey Grammar in Back to You, a show about a local television news affiliate in suburban Pittsburgh. The show was canceled after 17 episodes. Heaton subsequently returned to the stage, performing in The Scene, with co-star Tony Shalhoub. In November 2008, it was revealed that producers were planning to bring Heaton back to prime time TV, casting her as a female lead in the comedy pilot The Middle, which was scheduled to begin filming in 2009 and revolves around a Midwestern family with three children.
2006 Embryonic Stem Cell Ad:
Heaton became the subject of a Hollywood backlash after appearing in a 2006 advertisement in opposition to embryonic stem cell research. The ad appeared shortly after Michael J. Fox appeared in an ad supporting a bill sponsored by then-House Rep. Claire McCaskill, which would have permitted federal funding for the research (the bill was vetoed by President Bush). When initially approached Heaton had no desire to appear in the ad and had no idea it would run so closely after Fox's, let alone in Game 4 of the World Series. She later apologized to a gracious Fox, but still suffered ridicule by Hollywood's establishment.
Besides Feminists for Life and the embryonic stem cell ad, Heaton was an outspoken opponent of euthanasia during the Terri Schiavo case. She has since done advocacy for other organizations including Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to alleviate world hunger, and World Vision, a Christian relief and development organization that seeks to prevent the underlying causes of poverty.
Heaton was married to British actor David Hunt in 1990 and they have four sons. The family splits time between homes in Los Angeles and England, where they own a country estate. In 2002, she published a book about her life, Motherhood and Hollywood: How to Get a Job Like Mine. In it, she describes moving from Roman Catholicism to the more socially acceptable Presbyterianism. Although she and her family attend an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Heaton claims she is still a Catholic.