Happy Birthday Patricia Richardson: How She Became ‘Jill Taylor’ on Home Improvement

by Suzanne Halliburton

Happy Birthday Patricia Richardson! To celebrate, we’re highlighting her top moments from “Home Improvement.”

Patricia Richardson is 70 today. She took on the role of Jill Taylor 30 years ago, shortly after she gave birth to twins. She wasn’t supposed to play Jill Taylor. Frances Fisher, Clint Eastwood’s former partner and a star of “Titanic,” played Jill in the pilot. But there reportedly wasn’t a ton of chemistry between Fisher and star Tim Allen.

“Frances is a great actress, but in this role with Tim, she came off more as a victim to him than his equal,” said Home Improvement co-star Richard Karn.

Patricia Richardson Steps In For Frances Fisher

So in stepped Patricia Richardson. Before she became Jill Taylor, Richardson worked on Broadway. And she had roles in a couple of sit-coms that never lasted more than 13 episodes. “Home Improvement” was a significant break. She was under contract with Disney. But the project fell through, allowing her to take the part when it was offered at the last minute.

Patricia Richardson still hesitated. She wanted serious roles, not one on a comedy.

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

She said the Home Improvement show runners told her about Tim Allen, a relatively unknown comedian.

‘There is this guy, he’s a standup, he won an award, he has a special on Showtime. I had never heard of him, I had never heard of that show and I had already seen one show that had failed… that had been done with a standup and a family and everything.”

Chemistry Between Tim Allen and Richardson

On the show, Patricia Richardson played Tim Allen’s wife and mother to three boys. The show centered around their family. She had to play the sane wife to balance out all the crazy testosterone in the house.

Richardson told Entertainment Tonight that ABC said “we need to have someone that challenges (Tim Allen) and is as much a feminist as he is a masculinist. There has to be an equal struggle.”

Through the show’s run, Jill Taylor evolved from a stay-at-home mom into a college student, earning her degree in psychology. She became politically active, with the show incorporating some of the rallies she attended.

Patricia Richardson as Jill Taylor also was written as a strong woman. She said she’d often go into the writers’ room to give tips and observations on whether a strong woman really would say such things.

She received four Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a comedy. Home Improvement ended in 1999. 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”, playing a campaign manager for Alan Alda’s character, who was the Republican nominee for president.

So Happy Birthday Patricia Richardson. You’ll always be known as a favorite mom and role model.