Comedy Interviews TV

MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE Ray Romano Interview, Joe Tranelli

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MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE  PRESS RELEASE:  This season, all three men face a number of roadblocks on their continuing journeys through midlife, but they know they can always rely on their friends to see them through. Joe (Ray Romano) is a divorced, slightly neurotic father of two who runs a party store and recently overcame a gambling problem. After some early missteps, he is getting more into the swing of the dating scene and has now decided to rekindle his dream of becoming a professional golfer, training for a spot on the senior tour. The only married man in the group is Owen (Andre Braugher), who is devoted to his wife and family. Having spent much of his adult life working under the thumb of his domineering father, Owen is finally starting to assert himself more. He has even convinced his father he’s ready to be groomed to take over the family car dealership, but is struggling with being the boss. Terry (Scott Bakula) is a laid-back, handsome actor who seems to breeze through life (and women). But following disastrous attempts at managing an apartment complex and trying to resuscitate his acting career, Terry is searching for stability and now sells cars at Owen’s family dealership. In its first season, MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE was one of ad-supported cable’s Top 5 new series of the year. The show went on to appear on several television critics’ year-end Top 10 lists. Earlier this year, Braugher earned an Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Drama Series.

I spoke with RAY ROMANO about MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE and his character, Joe Tranelli.  The show stars Ray, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher.  “Everybody Loves Raymond” says it best because who doesn’t love Ray and his contribution to the film and television community.  He has starred in “The King of Queens”, “Becker”, “Til Death”, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” and will be in “The Office”.  Don’t miss the return of MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE on Wednesday, June 1st at 10 PM EST after the premiere of FRANKLIN & BASH only on TNT.

Lena Lamoray:  Hey, Ray. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.

Ray Romano:  Thank you. Thank you. You too.

Lena Lamoray:  My favorite episode so far has been “Let the Sunshine In.” Can you talk about filming that episode and do you have a favorite episode?

Ray Romano:  Oh, that’s your favorite episode, yes, okay. Yes, that episode – that’s one of my favorites too. That came about – for those of you that don’t know the episode, it’s where we go on a colonoscopy weekend so to speak where the three guys decide to get colonoscopies and to make it more enjoyable, I guess, they go together to Palm Springs and they rent a hotel – I mean they get a room in a hotel and they make a weekend out of it and they play golf.  And that came – that was inspired by – I heard about that on the, I think it was Leno where Martin Short I believe talked about that he, Tom Hanks and Steve Martin that’s what they did. They didn’t go away. They actually decided it was time and, you know, to make it easier they all did it at the same time. They drank the stuff they got to drink, they played poker all night, they took a limo in the morning to the doctor’s, they went, they did the thing and then after they went out for a big dinner or whatever.  So I just heard of that and I said this would be great for these guys to do. And then it was also it was a combination of two things, the fight scene in that episode, that just simply came from when I was listening to my iPod and I have that song from Hair, “Let the Sunshine…” and I just thought in my mind I thought, “This would be a great song if the guys were in a fight.”  And we wrote that on the board and just “fight/Let the Sunshine In.” And we had no idea what it would be and then when we were writing this show we thought, you know what, we could probably combine the two and it would work organically and that’s how it came out. And, yes, it was – it is – a couple people have said it’s their favorite episode.  There’s one coming up that you might like too, Number 9. I don’t know if you’ve seen the ninth episode but that tends to be a favorite too.

More Conference Call Interview Highlights:
Q:  Before this show premiered Andre said it’s Everybody Loves Raymond if everybody didn’t love Raymond. And obviously, saying that tongue and cheek since the show revolves around three men. But talk about how you went about portraying this role with a little more drama and stress to it.

Ray Romano:  Well I mean I did what I’ve always done. What we did with Raymond was we wrote what we know. I mean write what you know. That’s what worked for us. And then of course we were doing a sitcom so we had to abide by the rules so to speak, you know. We had to heighten it up and broaden up the reactions and the story a little bit. But we kept it as real as we could.  So with this, I approached it just, you know, I was going through this kind of midlife limbo emptiness I guess and so was Mike Royce who was a writer on Raymond and we got together and we talked about, you know, what – you know, “Let’s do something together.” And when we talked about it, we just thought, “Let’s do this. This is what we’re going through, let’s write about it.”  And, you know, we were doing a single camera and we were just doing it, writing what we know but doing it as real as we could and we could play up the subtleties and, yes, there’s drama and there’s also light moments in it, there’s comedy in it but it’s a different type of comedy. It’s a comedy just coming out of the realness of the situation.  And so it was an adjustment to what we had been doing but in a way it was also doing a little bit of the same just in a different genre so to speak. Does that make any sense?

Q:  I enjoyed the first episode – “The Great Escape” where you – and that was a really enjoyable episode in…using) these new episodes. I feel like your character and Sonia there’s still something there even though you’re divorced and that all the dating your character is doing is just making your character realize how much he misses his family. Is there some truth to that or can you expand?

Ray Romano:  Well if you saw that episode, there’s an attempt at rekindling that spark and I think they both realize that that’s not going to work, at least sexually, a sexual relationship between the two. But I think there is a strong connection still between the two and I think even though they’re separated they’ll never get rid of that. Whether or not they ever end up back together physically I mean it appears like they’re not going to just from that first episode.  As far as him dating, I mean I don’t think he’s enthusiastic about dating. I think he just thinks it’s, “Okay. I guess this is what I have to do now that I’m divorced.” And, yes, I think he’s missing his family. I mean the kids are each one of them they’re at points in their life that he’s missing, you know, she’s going to go off to college and the kid’s kind of coming into his own, his son.
So, yes, I mean I think he’s just – right now he’s forced into dating. He did make a connection to one woman in the first season but that kind of went sour. So he’s kind of just blindly walking through this single life now not really knowing which way to go. But I think he’s kind of accepted that he and his wife won’t get back together physically at least.

Q:  I can see a lot of people obviously relating to this series who are obviously of a certain age and I always equate it to kind of like the Wonder Years only everyone is grown up and Daniel Stern isn’t narrating. Describe being able to connect with audiences in such a way because you guys have captured a niche that wasn’t being filled before.

Ray Romano:  Well, you know, we have to same music as the Wonder Years, that’s for sure. Well I think, you know, I mean you think it’s that people just identify with it and are going through the same things and we get a lot of that. We get a lot of people saying, “I just feel like they’re writing about my life.” But luckily we also get, you know, people who aren’t – younger people who just enjoy the show, enjoy I guess the storytelling, you know.  But definitely the big part of it is connecting with people and it’s a shared experience, you know, and they all kind of see a little bit of themselves in it which is what worked for Raymond too in a more humorous way. This is just a little more real and a little more – it just hits him a little more. It could almost be too true for them but I think people like that that they realize they’re not the only ones who have these troubles and these struggles along the way.

Q:  When I first read who was starring in it when it first came out, you, Andre and Scott, I thought, “This is a strange cast. I don’t know if it’s going to work.” But it works spectacularly. You all have so much connection. There’s so much chemistry going on. Why does it work so well, three very different, different people, actors, and characters?

Ray Romano:  Don’t ask why. You can’t ask why. But it’s true though. When we were casting it, you know, when someone pitched Andre Braugher we were like, “No way.” All I remember from Andre is Homicide and this guy who…Yes, this big guy who just comes in and he owns the room and he has this presence, you know, he’s sure of himself. And this wasn’t the guy that we wanted. But then he came in and we met with him and he loved the idea of playing this guy who’s not so in charge of his life, you know, and we kind of got along and then same thing with Scott. And we went out to dinner before and, you know, it is – you can’t put your finger on chemistry but we are all from a different walk of life but I think we’re all married with kids and we’re all sharing the same stories and all. And, you know…that was the big thing. We had to make sure we believe that these guys went to school together and had a history with each other. And, yes, I mean look, sometimes you can’t put your finger on what chemistry is. You know, it’s lucky, it happened with Raymond you know with the brother and the wife and everything. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. We read a lot of people. Before Scott Bakula we read like 70 guys for that role.  And again with Andre, you know, we originally wrote the role for an actor called Wendell Pierce who was on The Wire and now he’s on…Treme he’s on.   And that’s who we kind of envisioned and then he obviously had – he was doing this show and he wasn’t available and they pitched Andre and we said, “That’s crazy,” but it’s – and especially Andre doing anything that’s comedic. And it’s ended up being this great thing. Yes. So we got lucky. We got a little lucky there.

Q:  You have a guest appearance on the season finale of The Office, isn’t that right?  Can you tell us anything more than we already know or think we know about that appearance? Are you one of those applying for the job of manager of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company?

Ray Romano:  Yes. I am a guy interviewing for the job.  I don’t think it’s giving anything away by saying I don’t get it because I don’t think anyone thinks I’m taking Steve Carell’s place because I have my own show. But it’s – it was fun. It was crazy fun to do. It’s such a unique show and a unique style and I was actually nervous that I thought I kind of knew the subtleties of it and all of that. And I – you know, did I pull it off? I guess we’ll see. They tell me it came out good but they always say that.

Q:  There was news that Warren Buffett is one of the applicants for the job as well.

Ray Romano:  I saw that.  I did not even know about that. I read that also. No, the only – all the cast members were there except for Steve Carell – and James Spader. I did a scene with James Spader also.

Q:  Everybody Loves Raymond for so many years was the Rock of Gibraltar on the CBS Monday night lineup at 9 o’clock. And as a veteran of that world of Monday night sitcoms on CBS, I can’t help but help but ask you for your reaction to what’s been going on at Two and a Half Men and Charlie Sheen. I mean you’re a guy works in the business reading the same stories and seeing Charlie the way we all are, what’s been your reaction? Is the show toast or can they keep going? Can they recast it?

Ray Romano:  Well I don’t know. I don’t know…Well my reaction is – well I’m not an expert on what’s going on because everybody’s got their own thing and Charlie’s got his thing so I’m not even going to pretend I know what’s going on there because, you know, I just hope it all works out for him.  As far as the show going on, that’s like – I can’t tell, you know. It’s such a hit and it’s such a big thing for the network that I can understand them trying to do anything they can to keep it on. I got to think it would take someone real special to fill the shoes and the audience goes along with it, you know. I mean I think in past I don’t know how well that’s worked. I don’t think it has worked. But, you know, we’ll see. I guess it all depends who do they get and, you know, can they reinvent it a little bit. I don’t know.

Q:  So if you had to replace Brad Garrett all of a sudden that would’ve been pretty difficult.

Ray Romano:  Yes. I mean they’ve got a – it’s a tough job, you know. I don’t know whether they can pull it off.

Q:  So from your character’s perspective and the other actors in this ensemble, what’s the criteria change for a man who’s 50 looking for love, a woman, a relationship versus when you were initially married and just starting out in life?

Ray Romano:  Well you’re asking the wrong guy because this is why it’s good for me to play this character because I have no idea what I’m doing because I’ve been married for 23 years and this character has been married for 20 years so I feel experienced to play this because my character has no idea and I have no idea and that’s the way it should be. He’s got to find out as he goes. I mean what he’s looking for and what he’s going to get, you know, it’s an unknown.  I know I have friends who are of this age and in the dating world and, you know, I don’t – it’s not easy when you’re of a certain age and you’re looking for someone. But now it’s like with the Internet and everything, it’s so different. It’s such a new world than when I was dating which was, you know, back in the Civil War that it’s just find it out as you go. That’s the way my character’s going to go, you know. He’s going to find out as he goes what the world is like out there. I can’t pretend like I know what it is like because I don’t, you know.

Q:  What about Terry though?

Ray Romano:  Well Terry’s finding love for the first time, you know. I mean when we left him off he’s experienced something he’s never experienced and that’s actually thinking he wants to spend a lot of time with this person. So that’s going to be new to him too. And, you know, where we left him off he was realizing that he might be in love with someone. And, you know, it’s all new and it’s going to be scary and he’s going to – it isn’t going to go well I don’t think. That would be boring.


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