Fans of Everybody Loves Raymond know that many stories on the legendary sitcom are based on the real lives of star Ray Romano and show creator Phil Rosenthal. In the CBS comedy’s first season, one episode hit an emotional nerve for Romano. A certain sign of affection written in the script felt too out of character for Romano.
Ray Romano talks about his relationship with his father
Everybody Loves Raymond featured the dysfunctional yet close-knit Barone family, largely based on Romano and Rosenthal’s real-life relatives. Peter Boyle portrayed Ray’s insensitive, crotchety father Frank. Romano revealed that the material developed for Frank often came from his own dad.
“We would take what my father did and censor it down for the sitcom,” Romano told Fresh Air‘s TV critic David Bianculli in 2011, according to WBUR. “Our relationship was actually really good at the end. But growing up … his father left him when he was two or three … So he grew up – you know, it wasn’t the best of situations for him emotionally and he was very undemonstrative – that’s just the way he was.”
The sitcom star described his dad as stoic, which is how the character of Frank was portrayed.
“I knew he loved me but we never heard it,” Romano shared. “He had a hard time saying it. … I never heard him say my mother’s first name. Lucy is my mother’s name and I’ve never heard him say that because that was too intimate for him. And this is how we grew up.”
‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ episode in season 1 stirs emotion
In the 12th episode of season 1 entitled “The Ball,” Ray finds out his father forged Mickey Mantle’s signature on a baseball for him when he was a child. Ray doesn’t realize until the end of the episode that Frank waited outside Yankee stadium for days in the hopes of getting the baseball legend’s autograph but couldn’t get a moment with Mantle. Wanting to give his son the special gift, Frank practiced Mantle’s signature for days to make it look genuine and make Ray’s dream come true.
After Frank explains his reason for forging the signature, Ray is scripted to walk across the room to where his dad is sitting at the kitchen table and kiss him on the head.
This sign of affection didn’t sit well with Romano, who preferred to base his character’s actions on his real life. According to Rosenthal’s book You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom, Romano stopped rehearsal saying, “No way that would ever happen.”
When Rosenthal tried to have Romano visualize a son kissing his dad, the actor reiterated his stance. “He started getting upset in front of everyone at rehearsal,” Rosenthal wrote.
Ray Romano finds a comedy connection with his dad
Rosenthal realized the scene was stirring a deeper issue with the Everybody Loves Raymond star and backed off. He left the choice up to Romano and encouraged him to see how he felt when it came time to shoot the scene.
Turns out when the moment came, Romano kissed Boyle on the head. “What a guy,” Rosenthal wrote. “I’m telling you, yes, it’s just a sitcom, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And it was because it came from a guy you would never expect to do something like that.”
Despite his father being distant when he was growing up, Romano developed a closer relationship with him over the years. Their shared love of laughter brought them together.
“I started doing standup and everything and he got a big kick out of it,” Romano said. “There’s this bond we had through, just through comedy … I would kind of make him laugh and he would always make me laugh. And so we did connect. As an adult I had this connection with him that I never thought I would have as a kid.”