LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After eight years of "Home Improvement," Patricia Richardson is ready for a little self-improvement.
Playing stalwart homemaker Jill Taylor has been enriching, literally, but the actress is glad the ABC sitcom (8 p.m. EST Tuesday) is hanging up its tool belt after this season. Enough is enough, she said."There are times when it's more engaging than others. But most of the time I can't stand the sight of myself in this role anymore," she said.
"I'm so tired of the Taylors and Jill Taylor. .... I have to go back to loving acting again and working for all the right reasons."
The wrong reason, apparently, was money.
"I've gotten so rich," the actress says. "That's why I could afford to say no to $30 million (to producer Disney) for next year. I really don't need a jet and a second home in Idaho. What I've got is fine."
It's not just her "Home Improvement" character who is no-nonsense. Turns out Richardson is equally so, delivering candid remarks with her distinctive whiskey-and-cigarettes throatiness.
Or, more appropriately, the huskiness of someone who cheered too much at the kids' soccer game . Richardson, after all, is a mother of three. And she has joined the ranks of angelic TV moms with her portrayal of Jill, who puts up with an adolescent husband and sons.
Jill Taylor is family anchor while her husband is family flake. The show focuses on Tim's (Tim Allen) fumbling Mr. Try to Fix It adventures at home and on his "Tool Time" show, but there have been chances for his better half to share the limelight.
That meant the stage-trained Richardson could work her acting muscles more energetically than sitcoms usually allow. Beginning Tuesday, for example, is a two-part episode in which Jill undergoes a hysterectomy and copes with the changes it brings.
She always felt more comfortable playing straight woman to stand-up comic Allen.
"Let's face it, I've been doing the drama part of this comedy for years. If they had an award for best dramatic performance by an actress in a comedy series, I might have actually won that," said Richardson, still Emmy-less after four nominations.
"I don't ever win, probably because I'm not really very funny."
Self-assessment aside, Richardson has been tapped for other TV sitcoms, although all were short-lived: "Double Trouble" in 1984, "Eisenhower & Lutz" in '88 and "FM" the following year.
Her theater resume is longer, though. It includes the Broadway productions of "Gypsy," "Loose Ends" and "The Wake of Jamey Foster" -- the latter from playwright Beth Henley, Richardson's classmate at Southern Methodist University.
The actress also appeared off-Broadway in Henley's "The Miss Firecracker Contest."
Film work has been limited by the heavy "Home Improvement" schedule, she said, although she managed to squeeze in "Ulee's Gold" with Peter Fonda. The movie earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Richardson and a 1998 Academy Award nomination for Fonda.
Richardson took on a different challenge this season, making her directing debut on an upcoming episode of "Home Improvement."
"What do they give me? A first-time script from a writer's assistant," she complained. "And a story about (always partly disguised neighbor) Wilson, so I have to hide his face in a hockey scene, hide his face in a 'Tool Time' scene and on the house set."
She toughed it out, realizing she already had many of the needed skills because of her involvement with the series' nuts-and-bolts.
"I had so much story input because they didn't have any women. There were a few women in the writing room but none in a position of power, no executive or supervising producer," she said.
Richardson routinely provided script suggestions to the producers who were "stuck because they had to have a woman's point of view. I was fortunate that these people had to be collaborative and were."
So what warm memories will she carry away from "Home Improvement"?
"This is so awful to say, but the best part of this is the financial security I've gotten in my life. I was always very insecure ... about whether I'd have enough money to get my kids through school, particularly being a single woman," said the divorced Richardson.
She acknowledges a psychological perk as well.
"It gave me confidence about what I know as an actor and as a person working in this business. Those are huge gifts I never had before."