Ray Romano on His Journey From ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ to ‘Parenthood’
The actor and comedian has had continued small-screen success since Raymond ended in 2005, including a memorable dramatic turn in Parenthood, which will also be available to stream in its entirety when Peacock launches on Wednesday, July 15. And though he’s been busy recently making his mark in such acclaimed films such as The Big Sick, Paddleton, and most recently The Irishman, his work in television continues to have a lasting impact.
On Everybody Loves Raymond, Romano played a sports journalist doing his best to get along with his family, including his judgmental parents Frank (Peter Boyle) and Marie (Doris Roberts), his wife Debra (Patricia Heaton), and competitive brother Robert (Brad Garrett). So when he joined Parenthood in Season 4, it was a departure for the star to play Sarah Braverman’s (Lauren Graham) love interest, Hank Rizzolli, a photographer on the autism spectrum.
Fans of Romano can enjoy the two vastly different performances in their entirety this Wednesday. And ahead of the launch, Romano opened up to TV Insider about his time on both series, including what a quarantine-themed episode of Everybody Loves Raymond might look like and why it was so important for him to join the already established hit Parenthood.
Peacock is making it possible for new viewers to find favorites like Everybody Loves Raymond. How does it feel to know that the show is finding new fans nearly 15 years after it ended?
Ray Romano: I can’t believe it’s that long ago. It’s really a good feeling to know that it holds up. I won’t dare put it in a category of other classic shows like The Honeymooners or I Love Lucy, but it does have those same elements. It’s really just about family and relationships and there’s a lot of human stories that seem to be universal [to everyone].
Why is now a perfect time to watch the Barones get on each other’s nerves amid the ongoing social distancing?
Well, because at least you get to laugh. As annoying as we were to each other, there was a love underneath it all. The thing about comedy is being able to identify with it. If you see yourself, if you recognize things that you do, you’re halfway there. And people are willing to laugh at what we’re doing because they also see it in themselves and see it in their relatives. It’s a good feeling, especially now when we’re all isolated, to know that we are all the same.
What do you imagine a quarantine-themed episode of Everybody Loves Ramyond would look like?
What’s funny is we had an episode like that where I think the power was out. My memory is shot now. But there was one episode where we were all stuck together and we played a Scruples kind of game where all these questions came up, then everyone was revealing a certain honesty about each other. It would make for some good episodes if we were writing the show now. But we didn’t need a quarantine to get in each other’s space, because in the show, my mother, it was like she was quarantined in my house anyways. There were certainly a lot of times we couldn’t get rid of her. But [a coronavirus storyline] would definitely fit in pretty perfectly with our family.
Speaking of favorite episodes, is there any particular installment fans bring up to you the most?
When I do stand-up [comedy] I do a Q&A. They’ll ask me what my favorite episode is, and I tend to go with the [“Bad Moon Rising” (Season 4, Episode 22)]. People seem to love that one. One of my personal favorites is the episode where our daughter wants to know about the facts of life. And another favorite of mine is [“She’s The One” (Season 7, Episode 9)] where Robert dates a girl and I see her eat a fly. But it really runs the gamut, sometimes I’m surprised.
A lot of people identify with “Baggage” (Season 7, Episode 22). That’s the one where [Ray and Debra] leave a suitcase on the staircase, which actually happened to the guy who wrote it, Tucker Cawley. And it was funny how that show came about. We were in the writers’ room and [creator] Phil Rosenthal said, “Anything happen this weekend?” And Tucker said, “I think I’m having a fight. I’m not sure. But there’s a suitcase on the staircase and nobody’s putting it back.” And that became an episode [Laughs].
There’s definitely plenty to laugh about in Everybody Loves Raymond, but you also starred in NBC’s Parenthood which is decidedly more dramatic. How did that experience differ and what did you enjoy most about bringing Hank, a character on the autism spectrum, to the screen?
The part of that where he discovers that he’s on the spectrum, I guess just evolved. That wasn’t written [as part of the] character from the beginning. We didn’t really get into the details of Hank, but I just explored this side of a guy who was shut off that way. [Creator] Jason Katims introduced that storyline after seeing my character for a year. But it was great. I was trying to explore and challenge myself. And I wanted to dip into the dramatic world. I was a big fan of Parenthood and I actually asked to be on it.
I knew Jason, and after the Season 3 finale, I emailed him and said, “Congrats.” Joking I said, “Hey, Men of a Certain Age has just gotten canceled… I’m available.” And he emailed me back and said, “We could never afford you.” I said to him, “Yes, you can. Whatever my agent tells you, you come to me. I will make sure you can afford it.” And my agent called me a week later [saying], “Did you tell Jason Katims you would work for less money?” And I go, “Yes, I did.”
I wasn’t doing it for the money at that time. I was doing it because I was a fan and [I wanted the] experience. And it was a great experience. We had very small dramatic moments on Raymond, but it’s a different genre. And [in Parenthood] you can internalize and it still comes out because you are on a single camera show and everything gets read in the eyes and the face and in the subtleties. So that was great for me to explore, and I still enjoy doing that now.
Would you agree that Parenthood was a precursor for dramas like This Is Us?
It’s very similar. People come up to me and say, “Oh, we miss Parenthood.” And I say, “But you’re watching This Is Us, right?” And they go, “Yes, we are.” If you liked Everybody Loves Raymond, but the one thing you were missing was crying, then you’re going to enjoy Parenthood and This Is Us. People like to invest and feel, and I love it. I love shows that tap into my emotions. It’s also enforcing the strength of a family and their values. Parenthood‘s the dramedy version of an Everybody Loves Raymond.
Everybody Loves Raymond and Parenthood, Streaming, Wednesday, July 15, Peacock