Patricia Richardson: A look at the ‘Home Improvement’ star’s illustrious career


Patricia Richardson became a household name in the 1990s when she starred as beloved matriarch Jill Taylor on “Home Improvement.”

A devoted mother and an actress dedicated to her craft, Richardson’s career trajectory is one of many highs and lows — but through it all she emerged a Hollywood star deserving of respect and praise.

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Humble beginnings, 1970s

Before Richardson played exasperated wife and mother Jill Taylor, she was doing theater and appearing on TV shows like "Double Trouble" and "Eisenhower & Lutz." Richardson was nominated for four Emmys and two Golden Globes for her role as Jill Taylor.

Before Richardson played exasperated wife and mother Jill Taylor, she was doing theater and appearing on TV shows like “Double Trouble” and “Eisenhower & Lutz.” Richardson was nominated for four Emmys and two Golden Globes for her role as Jill Taylor.
(ABC)

As a young actress trying to make a name for herself, Richardson landed her first gig in New York in the Broadway musical “Gypsy” in 1974.

Richardson noted in an interview with Closer Weekly that after working the musical, she did not work for a year, stating, “If you did musicals, they sort of didn’t take you seriously as an actor.”

In a role that required not just acting skills but also musical prowess, Richardson showed off her multiple talents in the musical.

“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,” Richardson stated in the interview.

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“Home Improvement,” 1991

"Home Improvement" circa 1991.

“Home Improvement” circa 1991.
(ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

Richardson rose to prominence with her role as Jill Taylor alongside Tim Allen in the hit 1990s sitcom, “Home Improvement.” In the show, Richardson’s character was portrayed as a strong mother who came from an Army family, but it took her character quite some time before she found her footing.

In an interview with the New York Times, Richardson reflected on how Taylor evolved from a simple mother to a character with much more autonomy in later seasons.

“In the beginning, Jill was mostly a source of dry, one-linner [sic] comebacks to Tim,” Richardson stated in the interview. “But she has really developed. You see her being follish [sic] and angry and messing up […] and this year I’ve gotten to do a lot of physical comedy, which I love.”

Richardson also discussed how she went about making Taylor anything but a “perfect” mom in the series — noting that being perceived as such would be “just so depressing.”

“Perfect? I’ve spent five years trying to make her anything but,” Richardson said in the interview. “I’m always going for more edge, more reality.”

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Hosting the Emmys, 1994

Comedienne Ellen DeGeneres and actress Patricia Richardson hosted the 46th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept.11, 1994 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.

Comedienne Ellen DeGeneres and actress Patricia Richardson hosted the 46th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept.11, 1994 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.
(Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images))

At the height of “Home Improvement’s” popularity, Richardson was afforded the tall task of hosting the 1994 Emmy Awards — an experience that Richardson does not look back quite fondly on.

“When I had to [co-host] the [1994] Emmys, it was the worst day of my life,” Richardson said in her Closer Weekly interview. “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,” the actress further noted.

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Taking a step back, 1999

Patricia Richardson attends the photo call for the upcoming Bucks County Playhouse production of Robert Harling's comedy 'Steel Magnolias' at their rehearsal studio on May 18, 2016 in New York City.

Patricia Richardson attends the photo call for the upcoming Bucks County Playhouse production of Robert Harling’s comedy ‘Steel Magnolias’ at their rehearsal studio on May 18, 2016 in New York City.
(Walter McBride/Getty Images)

In 1999, Richardson was offered $25 million to do one final season of “Home Improvement,” while Allen was offered $50 million. The two ultimately turned down the big money offers.

“Everybody just wants to do it for the money, and that’s not a reason to do work.” Richardson said in rejecting the offer.

Richardson also noted that family played a key role in her departing the long-running sitcom.

“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 68-year-old actress said. “I left the show, and I have put my children first since then. That’s why I’ve kept quitting the business: to be with them.”

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Career after “Home Improvement,” 2000s onwards

Patricia Richardson appears at the "It's A Wonderful Lifetime" photo experience on Nov. 9, 2019 ahead of "A Very Vintage Christmas'" release.

Patricia Richardson appears at the “It’s A Wonderful Lifetime” photo experience on Nov. 9, 2019 ahead of “A Very Vintage Christmas'” release.
(Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Following Richardson’s departure from “Home Improvement,” the actress opted to take on smaller roles in made-for-television movies such as “The Jensen Project” and “Smart Cookies” alongside other television shows.

Most notably, she starred as Dr. Andy Campbell in the Lifetime series “Strong Medicine” from 2002 to 2005. Following “Strong Medicine,” Richardson appeared as Sheila Brooks in “The West Wing” from 2005 to 2006.

In a 2019 interview with The AV Club, Richardson stated, “When I quit ‘Home Improvement,’ I stopped working. I passed by a huge show that won hundreds of Emmys. I passed by a huge role in that because it was a drama, and it was right away. I had left ‘Home Improvement,’ and a lot of money for ‘Home Improvement,’ not to be away from my kids.”

Richardson most recently starred in the 2019 Lifetime movie “A Very Vintage Christmas” as Margaret.

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