The Middle's Patricia Heaton Opens Up About the Series Finale—And What Comes Next

Patricia Heaton says the decision to end the series was "mutual amongst the writers and the actors"

Patricia Heaton is closing a major chapter in her life.

With The Middle coming to an end Tuesday after nine seasons, the actress, who plays Frankie Heck on the ABC comedy, is saying goodbye to her TV family.

“There was a misconception that The Middle was canceled by ABC, when in fact, they would’ve liked us to go another year, I’m sure,” Heaton tells PEOPLE. “But we got to the point as cast members and with the writers that we wanted to go out on top, and we were at a point where the journeys of these five characters were kind of feeling pretty full. And so, we all agreed that this would be a good time to stop, this year. So it was a mutual decision amongst the writers and the actors.”


She adds, “No matter how many years you work together and how close you get, when the show is over, you don’t see each other, really. You have to really make an effort. And so we know we’re not gonna be together a lot after this. And it’s kind of the beauty of our business. I think it makes you appreciate what you have and it toughens you up a little bit … You learn how to give your all and then have to say goodbye and walk away. I think it makes you appreciate everything more.”

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After playing Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond for nine seasons and then portraying Heck, Heaton effortlessly took on the role as America’s favorite TV mom — and quickly found herself in similar situations as her onscreen characters.

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“So much of what Frankie Heck went through on The Middle was paralleling exactly what I was going through with my kids, filling out college applications, your kid’s looking for work, kids leaving, going through their romances and things like that,” she says. “It was just kind of nice to have those things affirmed, that these issues are universal and that every parent goes through them.”

While Heaton, who turned 60 on March 4, says the departure is “bittersweet,” she’s looking forward to what’s next.

“I would like to play something different,” says Heaton, who is currently enrolled in a screenwriting class at UCLA. “I’ve loved Debra Barone, and I’ve loved Frankie Heck, and I feel like they are kind of iconic American moms, to a degree. So, anything but a … Listen, most everybody is a mom, but anything that doesn’t make that the focal point of the show. So it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter at all!”

She adds, “It’s hard, sitting where I am now and having been privileged to be a part of the shows that I’m on, to say I would do anything different. Because it’s almost like everything led to this.”

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