Tonye Patano, <EM>Weeds</EM> Tonye Patano, Weeds

Last week on Showtime's Weeds (Mondays at 10 pm/ET), Conrad's aunt Heylia wasn't having any of Nancy's white-girl whining and even sent Miss Nancy down to the floor with a swat heard 'round the world (or at least Agrestic). Can't the two former business associates just get along? TVGuide.com invited Tonye Patano to share a peek inside Heylia's world.

TVGuide.com: [After being introduced by the publicist] So your first name is pronounced "Tony"? I thought it was going to be like "Tanya."
Tonye Patano: I know — isn't that fancy silent e something? It's been that way all my life. I figure I will have "arrived" when everybody knows how to pronounce it. But I have a feeling that will never happen. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Congratulations on Weeds' many Emmy nominations.
Patano: Yeah, it's a great thing. It's good that people are watching. And the gals [lead and supporting actress nominees Mary-Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins], they are phenomenal. They deserve every last bit of it. It will be interesting to see how everybody takes this year, because all of the seasons have definitely been very different, and this season follows suit. It has a very different feeling.

TVGuide.com: In what way?
Patano:
This season we have several wonderful guest stars [including Mary-Kate Olsen and Matthew Modine] that come in, and the season is sort of divided into sections. I can't really say much more than it will be interesting how it's received. The fans are always expecting one thing, and then they get something else. The writers keep us on our toes.

TVGuide.com: Does Heylia interact with Mary-Kate Olsen's Bible-thumper or Matthew Modine's real-estate developer?
Patano:
I have interaction with at least one or both of them. It's worth waiting to see how that comes about.

TVGuide.com: Will Heylia get out of the kitchen more often this season?
Patano:
I will say that I make it out of the kitchen more. [Laughs] Yeah, the story goes into a different vein for Heylia. This is a woman who spent 20-some-odd years building a business, and she was very comfortable if not arrogant in a lot of ways about her accomplishments, and then one young lady named Nancy comes in and in less than a year's time blows it all up. How does a woman of Heylia's age and stature handle that? She's a little lost and trying to find her way. It says something about black women in general making their way and persevering. It's intriguing seeing how she copes with not being the boss for the first time in many, many years.

TVGuide.com: Have we seen the last of Heylia's pie-toting, Nation of Islam gentleman caller?
Patano:
Well, so far the writers haven't found a way for that to work. Who knows, maybe in Season 6.... [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: I couldn't figure out where they were going with that. He was from this different culture and apparently toiled as some airline-baggage clerk, but I was wondering if he would somehow dovetail into the bigger picture.
Patano:
I think that honestly, because there is such a small canvas and so many amazing bright-colored pieces of paint to put on it, not everybody can take center focus. Last year they tried to find a way to show how Heylia, who is on top of everything all the time, would allow for her nephew and this woman to go off and create a whole life without her knowing it. I think that giving her a love interest was to justify how Heylia was distracted. It was fun for me because it illustrated how Heylia has a life outside of the product.

TVGuide.com: Do you and Mary-Louise Parker ever discuss a scene ahead of time, where you're going to go with it? How "nasty" it will get?
Patano:
There's a little bit of discussion at times, but after about three years, we all think we know our characters and what direction they should take. Heylia, because of her general nature, if she's not giving you a hard time, it means she doesn't care about you. What I missed last year was the sense of humor Heylia has underneath all of that. In the very beginning, she had a lot more family around her, then toward the middle it was more of a one-on-one between Nancy and Heylia, and the issues were a lot heavier. It would be out of character for Heylia to accept this woman with open arms when she is threatening her livelihood.

TVGuide.com: What do your real-life family members think about you playing this tough-talking, ziplock-packing pot dealer?
Patano:
The tough-talking ziplock-packing woman is just a front you saw when you first met Heylia, through Nancy, in the beginning. A lot of that was put on for Nancy's benefit. When people first meet each other, they assume a certain stereotype. People latch onto stereotypes because it allows them to dismiss you immediately. But once you are around a human being for a period of time, they become more real to you. Our families become more understood, more familiar, and you start to look at the people as human beings. For the most part, Heylia is a down-to-earth, grounded human being. The cadence of her speech comes from who she is, and for most of the second season, you didn't see a lot of that. My family, they recognize who Heylia is because she comes from people in my life. Her sense of loyalty, her sense of danger, her protectiveness of family... all of those things exist in my world, always.

Use our new Online Video Guide to sneak some Weeds.

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.