Patricia Richardson Had Little Luck With Sitcoms Before ‘Home Improvement’ Fell In Her Lap

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Patricia Richardson was a new mother. She loved baby Henry so much that she decided to readjust her career goals.

This was in the early-1980s. Richardson, who earned a degree from Southern Methodist in 1972. She wanted to act on Broadway. That is until she and her husband became parents to Henry.

“I was so excited, I really kind I actually kind of changed all my values,” Richardson recalled in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “I think I was over-invested in my career.

Richardson continued: “I realized at this part of my career, I wasn’t going to be Meryl Streep. I was like well, you know, this is fine. I’ll do some commercials to keep my money going.”

Then, Richardson’s career as a future sitcom star finally got off the ground, although there were several plot twists until she landed her career-defining role on Home Improvement.

“The TV stuff started coming,” Richardson said. “The first one was a Norman Lear show called Double Trouble. It wasn’t successful.

“I started doing sitcoms,” she said. “Every sitcom, it goes to 13 and dies. It’s like can’t catch a break.”

Patricia Richardson Went Sitcom Route, but It Took Awhile to Get to ‘Home Improvement’

Richardson earned a part in the sitcom Double Trouble. There was a lot to like about the show, mainly that it was pushed by Norman Lear, who brought us All in the Family, One Day at a Time and Sanford and Son. The sitcom was about a real-life set of identical twins. In real life, Lear was their godfather. Richardson played Beth McConnell in the first, abbreviated season. She didn’t come back for the second season, another 13-episode buy.

Richardson moved back to New York and performed off-Broadway. Then, she accepted roles in two more sitcoms that failed. They were Eisenhower and Lutz and FM.

Would her career ever go anywhere? She got pregnant with twins. And three months after their birth came Home Improvement and her career-defining role as Jill Taylor.

Finally, Richardson Became Jill Taylor

“I didn’t want to do any more sitcoms, and I certainly did not want to be a thankless mom,” she said. “I didn’t audition for it — I came in and they said, ‘We want you to start tomorrow.’”

Tim Allen, then an up-and-coming comedian, starred in the show. And it was important that the actress who played his wife had chemistry with Allen. And, she needed to be a strong personality, too. On the show, Patricia Richardson played Tim Allen’s wife and mother to three boys. The show centered around the Taylor family. She had to play the sane wife to balance out all the crazy testosterone in the house.

Frances Fisher, who went on to co-star in Titanic, was the first Jill Taylor. She was in the pilot. But the husband-wife vibe wasn’t quite right.

That’s why Richardson got the call. She was offered the part almost on the spot.

She received four Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a comedy. Home Improvement ended in 1999. However, three years later, Richardson landed another role, playing a strong woman. She joined the cast of Strong Medicine, playing a retired military doctor who joins a private practice.

Patricia Richardson was cast in the final two seasons of The West Wing. She plays a campaign manager for Alan Alda’s character, who was the Republican nominee for president.

Futhermore, Richardson’s love for her first born redefined her career and sent her on a much more successful direction.