Patricia Heaton, an outspoken Christian who starred in the long-running sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, has remained busy. She hosted the standup comedy program Thou Shalt Laugh (Warner Home Video, released on DVD last month). Heaton also acted in The Path to 9/11 and The Engagement Ring. She is a producer of Amazing Grace, a feature film about British anti-slavery parliamentarian William Wilberforce, to be released in February. Stan Guthrie, CT's senior associate editor, spoke with Heaton.

How does your faith influence your choice of projects?

For the serious projects, you want to tell the truth. Sometimes people think if you're a Christian you can't do a part that has any nudity or obscenities. Those things, in and of themselves, are not problematic. It's the way they are portrayed. And then part of me just loves to entertain and make people laugh. That's one of the reasons I wanted to host this comedy DVD. There's enough hard stuff going on in people's lives, and you really need that joy that laughter can bring. I don't have to put that in a Christian compartment.

In the DVD, you are very upfront about the fact that these are Christian comics.

There's a need for Christians to stop being portrayed in our industry as crazies. Christians—whether as a priest, a nun, a minister, whatever—have just been stereotyped to death. You try to be a model of kindness and love and forgiveness to all those around you, because you have received kindness and love and forgiveness from God through Christ. That's what Christianity is. You don't see that too much. Sometimes that has been the fault of the Christian community, or the ignorance of the secular community.

Are you normally this busy?

My husband is always telling me I need to do less, do less, do less. But I feel like if I'm not being productive, I have a hard time relaxing and enjoying myself.

Do you enjoy what you do?

No, I don't always necessarily enjoy it. A lot of actors feel you always have to be working, because (a) there were so many years when you didn't work and (b) there could be many more years when you don't work. You never know if you're going to get a job.

You've certainly not shied away from taking strong, public stands as a Christian. Do people in Hollywood listen to you?

Frankly, most of my friends hold very different political beliefs. It's just a funny thing in this country that supposedly you can't sit down and have dinner and enjoy another person's company if you don't have the same beliefs. It's ridiculous. And it's not real. It's not really an issue for me here. But if some real harm is being done, as in the Terri Schiavo case, it's my duty to be a good steward of the position of privilege here that I've received. There are occasions when I have to speak up.

Years ago, a lot of Christians just shunned Hollywood.

Now we're paying the price. From the beginning of church history, music, writing, literature, and the greatest works of art all came from the church. To change the culture and make it a force for good, you have to be in it and be a part of it. And you have to be more excellent than anyone else. It's not that you have to embrace everything that comes out—there's a lot of crap out there—but you need to be able to have an intellectual discussion of why something is not portraying the truth of our human condition.

Related Elsewhere: also interviewed Patricia Heaton.

The official website of Thou Shalt Laugh has trailers and clips from the concert.

From Reel News: Amazing Grace Comes to Heartland and Wilberforce film to open in February

An unofficial Patricia Heaton website has an Amazing Grace blog.

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