Patricia Heaton almost ended her acting career years before it even got started. The Everybody Loves Raymond star told Entertainment Tonight that although she's one of the most celebrated sitcom stars today, she came very close to giving up on her dream many years ago.
In Heaton's upcoming CBS comedy, Carol's Second Act, she stars as Carol Kenney, a 50-year-old woman who starts her life anew after raising her children, going through a divorce and retiring from teaching by pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor. Heaton, 61, said her own life-changing moment came much earlier in her life, when she had been trying to work as an actress in New York for "about nine years" and "just couldn't" get her big break.
"I had to produce my own plays in order for me to hire myself," she said, "And I almost didn't hire myself!"
At that point, she decided to uproot her life and move across the country to Los Angeles. "So I went to L.A. and that was sort of my last ditch [effort]," she said. "I was saying, 'If something doesn't happen, or start happening, in two years, I need to go back to school and get a degree that's worth something. And try to make something of my life.'"
Soon, she landed her first real TV job on the ABC drama Thirtysomething, where she had a recurring role as an oncologist. Thirty years later, she's back in scrubs playing a doctor once again in Carol's Second Act.
"It's always darkest before the dawn, and that's kind of where I was," Heaton reflected. "Thankfully, I hung in till the dawn."
Heaton's co-star, Kyle MacLachlan, told ET that he had a similar realization that he may have to give up on his acting dreams after his debut film role, starring as the lead in David Lynch's sci-fi epic Dune in 1984.
"There was a long period of time where it was difficult to get a job," MacLachlan remembered, recalling that he didn't work again "until David Lynch hired me for Blue Velvet," two years later.
"Sometimes, what I have found, is that it's one encouraging word from someone that can make the difference as to whether you go forward or to give it all up," Heaton said. "It's super important to have encouragement, from people who you trust."
"Yeah," MacLachlan agreed. "Because they can see something that maybe you don't see, or don't believe yet."
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