‘Home Improvement’ star Patricia Richardson explains why she left hit series

Patricia Richardson, who once starred as beloved matriarch Jill Taylor on “Home Improvement,” said she has no regrets leaving the hit series behind. “The reason I turned down the ninth year of ‘Home Improvement’ was that I was a single parent and away from my kids too much,” the 67-year-old recently told Closer Weekly. “I … Continue reading “‘Home Improvement’ star Patricia Richardson explains why she left hit series”

Patricia Richardson, who once starred as beloved matriarch Jill Taylor on “Home Improvement,” said she has no regrets leaving the hit series behind.

“The reason I turned down the ninth year of ‘Home Improvement’ was that I was a single parent and away from my kids too much,” the 67-year-old recently told Closer Weekly.

“I left the show, and I have to put my children first since then,” added Richardson, who is a real-life mom to 33-year-old son Henry Baker, as well as 27-year-old twins Roxanne and Joseph Baker. “That’s why I’ve kept quitting the business: to be with them.”

The magazine added Richardson also turned down the $30 million offer to care for her ailing parents.

Patricia Richardson today. — Getty

“I also passed up on another show that won, like, 30 Emmys,” she said. “But I don’t mean to sound like, ‘Oh, I sacrificed this huge thing for my children,’ because it’s what I wanted. Granted, it’s what they needed, but it was also what I needed because I missed them terribly. ‘Home Improvement’ had much longer days than most sitcoms. Because I was involved in all the writing, I was away from them more than I wanted and felt I missed so many things.”

“Home Improvement” told the tale of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, a television host raising three sons with the help of his loyal co-host, his loving wife and their eccentric neighbor. It starred Tim Allen, Earl Hindman and Richard Karn, among others. The sitcom aired from 1991 until 1999.

Richardson told the publication she has fond memories of the show.

“Tim and I were always cracking each other up,” she explained. “We came up with so much of what you saw on the set every day. There was the time that Tim was throwing potatoes around at the male crew members and hit a female camerawoman in the face, so that became kind of a joke.

"Home Improvement" circa 1991. — Getty

“I got hit in the head with a football more than once because it took so long for Disney to give the kids an outdoor space to play that was safe — and they weren’t that good at it! It was just a fun set, and we really were a family.”

However, Richardson admitted she wasn’t comfortable with being a celebrity during the height of the show’s popularity.

“I really hated fame,” she said. [Co-star] Jonathan Taylor Thomas and I had similar reactions — he backed off, too, and went to school. I didn’t do charity events because I was desperate for time with my kids and husband, who was always mad I was never home. Hence the divorce.

“[And] when I had to [co-host] the [1994] Emmys, it was the worst day of my life. I was terrified. I was so stupid! In theater school, nobody ever talked to us about having to sell yourself. So I really backed off to a great extent, and I essentially killed my career.”

It wasn’t just Richardson’s fame that came to a sudden halt. She and then-husband, Ray Baker, called it quits in 1995 after 13 years together.

Despite leaving behind “Home Improvement,” Richardson still found ways to act in front of cameras but became selective with her roles. It wouldn’t be until 2002 when she appeared as a recurring character on “Strong Medicine.”

“They gave me a four-day-week, three-year contract, so I knew I wouldn’t have to commit for a long time,” said Richardson. “At that point, I had my kids four days a week, [Ray] had them three days, so there was only one day when I was working and had them. I did that show for three years, but then we changed the custody agreement and it got rough, so I left.”

In 2005, Richardson was offered the role of Sheila Brooks on another TV show, “The West Wing.” What should have been a short gig of only filming a couple of episodes turned into a two-year job.

Patricia Richardson (right) alongside Nancy Travis and Tim Allen on "Last Man Standing." — Getty

“I was leaving a six in the morning and never had live-in help, so that got really hard,” she said. “After ‘West Wing,’ I decided to leave the business for four years until my kids got out of high school to be with them. Then when my last one went to college, I had been out of the business for so many years. It was very hard to get back in.”

Richardson enjoyed a brief reunion with Allen, now 65, when she guest-starred on his current sitcom, “Last Man Standing,” in 2015 and 2016. The series, which first premiered in 2011, is based on a married father of three [Allen] who tries to maintain his manliness in a world increasingly dominated by women.

It’s uncertain whether Richardson will return for future episodes.

“When I went to do the show, he would think it was so weird,” she explained. “He’d do a bedroom scene with Nancy [Travis], then I was on the set and his real wife would be out in the audience. He was so confused.”

And while the former TV couple still has love for each other, their separate lives have made it difficult for them to stay in touch.

“I travel a lot and he does, too,” she said. “He is very dedicated to Nancy Travis, who is the nicest person in the world, and he has his own real wife, so what’s he going to do hanging around with me?”

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But these days, Richardson is keeping busy. She is currently appearing in the new Lifetime film “A Christmas in Tennessee” where she gets to return to her musical roots. The film explores how a baker (Rachel Boston) unites the people of her small mountain town to stop a real estate developer. Richardson plays the 36-year-old’s mother.

“My first job in New York was [on Broadway in 1974’s] ‘Gypsy,’ and then I didn’t work for a year,” said Richardson. “If you did musicals, they sort of didn’t take you seriously as an actor. I’m not that great of a singer, but I can belt! Growing up we moved a lot, and we were always in the church choir. I was also in school choruses, so I grew up singing with people and that’s still my favorite thing to do.”

Despite the many twists and turns of her acting career, Richardson said she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Every once in a while I’ll laugh, but when I’m laying on my deathbed, will I be sorry that I wasn’t on that show that won 30 Emmys, but I have a good relationship with my three children and see them all the time? No,” she said. “Granted, I’ve been far from the perfect parent, but I didn’t have perfect modeling and kind of had to relearn parenting to a great extent.”

‘Petticoat Junction’ cast mates say show’s popularity was due to no violence: ‘You could watch with your children’

When “Petticoat Junction” premiered in 1963, it quickly became a beloved classic — and according to its cast it’s easy to see why.

The show, a spinoff of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” explored the misadventures of the family staff of The Shady Rest Hotel and their neighbors of Hooverville. “Petticoat Junction,” which ran for seven seasons, came to an end in 1970, but it’s still revered by the sitcom’s stars today.

“There wasn’t any violence, swearing and nothing risqué,” explained Lori Saunders, who starred as Bobbi Jo, to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue. “It was a healthy show you could watch with your children.”

Linda Kaye Henning, who played Betty Jo, shared the show’s cast and crew quickly bonded and became a family over the years.

“We were one of the friendliest sets around,” she said. “We all got along.”

Lori Saunders, Linda Henning and Gunilla Hutton at The Hollywood Show held at The Westin Hotel LAX in a 2015 reunion. (Getty)

Saunders recalled how there was plenty of laughter among the women.

“We were shooting a church scene,” explained the 77-year-old. “One of us would make another giggle and then we’d all break out laughing. We just couldn’t stop — I think we had to do five takes that day!”

Saunders also described how the cast didn’t hesitate to poke fun at each other even when cameras weren't rolling.

“We did a matinee and two evening shows with singing and a little dancing — basically a big blitz for ‘Petticoat,’” said Saunders about a past promotional stop in Atlantic City. “We were wearing these white, thigh-high boots and we were so tired of them. After the show, we took them off and dumped them in the ocean!”

Despite all the laughter, “Petticoat Junction” was faced with tragedy. Bea Benaderet, who played matriarch Kate Bradley, passed away in 1968 at age 62 from lung cancer. At the time of her death, the Indianapolis Star reported Benaderet had completed filming for the 1968-69 season of the series and then was hospitalized. The newspaper added Benaderet didn’t let her illness dampen her enthusiasm for her career as an actress.

Photograph from "The Beverly Hillbillies" with Bea Benaderet (left) in an 1890’s bathing suit costume, as cousin Pearl Bodine. She stands next to Donna Douglas, as Elly May Clampett, in a one-piece bathing suit. (Getty)

“She had a tough time of it, but she was always a professional,” said Saunders about Benaderet’s fatal illness. “Toward the end, we were shooting a scene and her hand was shaking. I put my hand over hers and we finished the scene that way.”

Closer Weekly shared “Petticoat Junction” lasted for two more seasons after Benaderet’s death. The writers sent her character off to live with relatives. However, a note would occasionally arrive from Kate to Betty Jo, resulting in many emotional moments while filming.

“The toughest day was when they had a letter written from Kate to Betty Jo,” said Henning, 74. “They had recorded Bea reading it, and I just tried not to burst out into tears during the scene.”

Henning added that despite the great loss everyone involved in “Petticoat Junction” endured, the adoration among the cast still lives on.

“After our show was off the air, every now and then I’d see somebody from our crew on another set, and it would be like old times,” she said. “We were all a family.”

This wasn’t the first time cast mates have spoken fondly about their time on “Petticoat Junction.” Back 2008, Henning told the Los Angeles Times the show became a sensation during the ‘60s because Americans could easily identify with the characters.

“I tell you the people who watched it really identified with it because they lived those lives,” she explained at the time. “That was that they wanted to see. It meant a lot to them. So many people would talk to me about it telling me, ‘That is so much like my town, but I wish your family was like my family.’ It was really nice.”

And while Henning’s father, Paul Henning, happened to be the creator of the show, she insisted no easy breaks were given to her for the role of Betty Jo. Henning explained to the Times that, like any other actress, she had to go through screen tests and approvals from the rest of the cast and crew before she was hired.

“He wrote the series for Bea Benaderet,” said Henning about her father. “He had worked with her for many years and Bea went with him to see me in a play I was doing at a neighborhood playhouse. She said, ‘Paul, why in the world won’t you let your daughter try out for Betty Jo?’”

After Benaderet’s death, June Lockhart of “Lost in Space” and “Lassie” fame, was brought on to Hooverville as Dr. Janet Craig.

“She was absolutely perfect for replacing Bea,” said Henning. “She wasn’t trying to be our mother — she was a doctor. We were all just very lucky.”