Patricia Richardson nearly rejected the role of Jill Taylor on Home Improvement. In fact, she didn’t want any sitcom roles lest of all a sitcom mom. However, after looking over the script with her then-husband Ray Baker, she decided that she would give the show a chance.
While “Home Improvement” went on to be one of the most successful sitcoms ever, she still maintains that she really only took the show for two simple reasons. She wanted out of a contract and she wanted the pilot fee. Before meeting with anyone or making a final decision, Patricia Richardson and Ray Baker sat down with the script and put it to a test.
She discussed that test in a recent installment of Entertainment Tonight’s “Leading Ladies of the 90s.” Both Richardson and Baker had several sitcoms under their belts. So, they had developed a simple system to find out where the writers were taking a series. According to Patricia Richardson, “You just open the script anywhere, on any page. And, if they’re just going for jokes, you can tell right away, on one page. If they’re telling a story and they’re developing characters, you can tell that on one page as well.”
So, the couple sat down and put the “Home Improvement” script to their one-page test. They could immediately tell that the writers were telling a story and developing characters. So, they sat down to look over the rest of the script. It didn’t take long for Patricia Richardson and Ray Baker to realize that it was an exceptional script. Then, Richardson discovered that the writers of the show were the original writers on “Roseanne” which was her favorite show.
What Patricia Richardson Liked About Jill Taylor
The reason Patricia Richardson was so fond of “Roseanne” was the show’s titular character. She loved that Roseanne didn’t need to be a perfect housewife. Richardson adored the frankness, attitude, and realness that she brought to the landscape. The original “Home Improvement” writers brought that same energy into the character of Jill Taylor. She wasn’t just a television archetype or a Stepford wife. She felt like a real person dealing with real-life situations.
Patricia Richardson met with showrunners and they explained to her that the strength of her character was vital to the show. In the interview she recalls that she was told, “She has to be as much of a feminist as he is a masculinist and it has to be an equal struggle… If she’s not as strong as he is, he’s gonna seem abusive. So, we need that strength coming from you to fight that.”
Between the script and the outline of the character she was given, Patricia Richardson knew that she would be playing a real woman. What she didn’t know is how iconic the show or her role would be.