‘Everybody Loves Raymond’s Patricia Heaton on Being in NYC on 9/11: ‘Nobody Knew What to Make of It’
While Patricia Heaton’s job on the classic comedy Everybody Loves Raymond was to keep audiences laughing, there was nothing funny about the cast’s visit to New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Heaton recalled what began as the actors’ celebratory visit to the Big Apple that ended as a day of confusion and loss.
The ‘Raymond’ cast was in NYC on 9/11
Actor Peter Boyle who portrayed Barone family patriarch Frank on the series told the Television Academy Foundation that the cast had traveled together to New York City in 2001 to celebrate the series’ syndication.
“We were on one of our hiatuses,” Boyle explained. “I came back to New York because I was coming back to New York anyway. We had this whole week of events planned to launch the syndication of Raymond. It began on Sept. 11 in the morning. So, Raymond and I went to CBS Early Show and then we went over to NBC Rockefeller to do The Rosie O’Donnell Show.
“And as we got there, we went into the green room and saw the second airplane go into the second tower. It was astonishing. We didn’t know what was happening at first. And then we had to evacuate Rockefeller Center.”
The cast’s NYC trip began joyously
The Debra Barone actor explained to Pop Goes the Culture that the show’s entire cast flew into NYC on the night of Sept. 10: “The night we flew in was the most gorgeous clear night and the city was just sparkling as we descended into the airport. It was really very exciting and a very joyful time for all of us.”
The next morning, Heaton said, after getting hair-and-makeup ready she left her husband David Hunt asleep in the hotel while she went with the Raymond cast to The Rosie O’Donnell Show. The cast, she said, had gathered in the hotel lobby when “the doorman said a plane flew into the World Trade Center. Literally a few minutes later, another doorman came and said, ‘Another plane just flew into the World Trade Center.’ And I remember saying to him, ‘Well, that’s not an accident then. One plane is an accident, two planes is a planned event.’ Nobody knew what to make of it.”
The cast climbed into their waiting limo and phoned their families on route to Rockefeller Center. “There was no Twitter then so you didn’t get that immediate of news response. We noticed people start to come out of buildings in midtown and everybody’s on cell phones. So now nobody can get cell phone reception because it’s either overloaded or it’s been cut off. If you looked downtown, you could start seeing smoke come up.” Eventually, the cast was told to return to the hotel because Rockefeller Center was being evacuated. Unable to fly home to California to their families, the actors and the show’s writers, just as the rest of the nation, sat by their televisions watching events unfold.
Heaton said the idea of doing a 9/11 ‘Raymond’ episode simply wouldn’t have worked
Although the idea was pitched to Raymond‘s cast and producers for the comedy to address the events of 9/11 in the months after, Heaton said it was ultimately decided that the show was not the forum for it.
“On a half-hour comedy, especially multi-camera, it’s very difficult to address big issues,” Heaton explained. “And especially an event like 9/11 and maintain the tone of your show. Everybody Loves Raymond was always the show that was never going to have ‘that very special episode.’ There’s no way to deal with the enormity of that event, and then be able to go back to a punchline. You just can’t do it. So, it’s better not to go there.”
In the end, the former Carol’s Second Act star said, the show realized it served viewers best as a break from the 24-hour news cycle coverage of 9/11.
“I guess our role was to give people 30 minutes of a reprieve from the tragedy,” she said.