Phil Rosenthal Was Ready to Quit ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Over Casting

For nine seasons, fans enjoyed the antics of the Barone family on Everybody Loves RaymondThe show’s success can be attributed to a lot of different factors. What has kept the series fresh and inviting, years after the cameras went dark for the last time, is likely just how relatable the depiction of the family dynamic is. The Barones are not perfect, and there is plenty to pick on with every character. The series almost looked very different, though. The show’s creator, writer, and executive producer, Phil Rosenthal, almost walked away before filming the pilot episode. Rosenthal recently revealed that he was ready to quit over a casting dispute. 

Phil Rosenthal was ready to quit ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ over a casting disagreement with network executives 

Everybody Loves Raymond seemed to come together seamlessly. At least, that’s the way viewers saw it. The cast’s chemistry from the pilot episode was obvious. While Debra Barone, played by Patricia Heaton, and Ray Barone, played by Ray Romano, might have seemed mismatched as a couple, their on-screen chemistry was undeniable. The characters’ battles and their subtly hostile dynamic made fans fall in love with them, too. However, Rosenthal was ready to walk away from the series he created if network executives pushed too hard for another actor to play Debra. 

Phil Rosenthal accepts the Writers Guild Valentines Davies Award onstage during the 2013 WGAw Writers Guild Awards at JW Marriott Los Angeles. Rosenthal is best known as the creator and writer for 'Everybody Loves Raymond'
Phil Rosenthal | Maury Phillips/Getty Images for WGAw

Rosenthal revealed that he was ready to quit the show over the casting of Debra during an interview with Yahoo!. In the September 2021 interview, Rosenthal said that CBS executives initially wanted someone “hotter” to play Debra. He claimed that they had hand-picked an actor. Rosenthal didn’t think she was right for the role, and he was ready to quit over it. According to Rosenthal, he had yet to meet Heaton, who he affectionately calls Patty in his book, at that point, but when he did, he knew she was right for the role. 

Years later, Patricia Heaton revealed that she would have played the role differently today 

It has been more than 15 years since the screen went dark on Everybody Loves Raymond, but the jokes still endure. Many fans have found that they connect with the long-suffering Debra. Still, Heaton isn’t entirely sure she’d play the role the same today. In a reflective moment, Heaton told ABC News that she’d play Debra a bit softer if she had the chance to do it all over again. 

During a 2019 interview, Heaton revealed that she caught a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond and found herself judging Debra for her harshness. She said, “If I went back and did it today, I think I would temper it a little bit.” Still, the edge that Heaton brought to Debra is what many fans found refreshing. It is likely what made Phil Rosenthal fight so hard to cast her in the role, too.  

What actors were considered for the role of Debra Barone? 

Heaton ultimately won the role of Debra, but other actors were heavily considered for the part. Rosenthal has talked at length about the casting process and what CBS had wanted out of the role. He has been careful not to name any names, though. At the very least, he refuses to reveal what actor CBS was hoping to place on the show. 

Peter Boyle, Doris Roberts, Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, Monica Horan, and Brad Garrett pose for a promotional photo for ' Everybody Loves Raymond '
The cast of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ | Monty Brinton/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

While we don’t know for sure who executives wanted, we do know a couple of actors who auditioned. Maggie Wheeler and Jane Sibbett both auditioned for the part of Debra on Everybody Loves Raymond. Sibbett and Wheeler are both famous for the time they spent on Friends. Wheeler famously played Chandler Bing’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, Janice. Sibbett took on the recurring role of Carol Willick. Carol was Ross Geller’s ex-wife and the mother of his first child, Ben Geller. Rumors suggest that Sibbett might have been the network’s first choice, but neither the network nor Phil Rosenthal has confirmed that.