For nearly a decade, you almost couldn’t turn on a television set without seeing Ray Romano. His self-created sitcom, Everybody Love Raymond, dominated network television from 1996-2005, garnering 69 Emmy Awards nominations, including ten wins, and making the stand-up comedian a household name. Since then, Romano has taken on a number of diverse roles, including Martin Scorsese’s Vinyl and his own Men Of A Certain Age. This year, Romano hit the big screen with a star turn in The Big Sick. Here, the actor talks hitting it big, romancing his wife, and explaining on-screen threesomes.
When did you start doing stand-up?
The first time I was ever on stage I was 23. And then I started and stopped a couple times, so I count my start at stand-up as about 25-and-a-half.
Were you always funny?
I thought I was funny in school. I was always getting in trouble for being stupid. When we were teenagers, there were about five guys in my neighborhood who were funny and we loved sketch comedy. When Saturday Night Live started, we were 17. We put on our own sketch comedy show for the neighborhood. We called ourselves No Talent Incorporated and we put on no-talent shows. The neighborhood had a church teen club where the teenagers could meet in the basement on Sunday nights and play ping-pong and this and that, and it had a little stage. We wrote and did our own sketch comedy. We did parodies of kids in the neighborhood. So I was always into comedy somewhat.
Did you have any other backup plan?
I went to school and took accounting because I was good with numbers. I went to Queens College and then Queensboro, but I would register and then not go to class. I did that for about three years. My parents thought I was going to college, and I would get a student loan, but then not go. Then the extra money from the student loan I would just use to screw around with. I would just leave the house and go hang out in the school lounge and play pinball. I did get a little serious for like a year, year-and-a-half, and then I just stopped completely. I was delivering futons for my best friend, Claude, who had a futon company. I was delivering futons when I started doing stand-up comedy.
DId you audition for Saturday Night Live?
I did not audition for Saturday Night Live. I wasn’t that kind of person. I didn’t do impressions. That would have scared the hell out of me.
Did you feel at home doing stand-up right away?
I got the bug the first time I went on because I did well. And that’s how they get you. It’s kind of like golf where you suck forever, but you hit one good shot and that’s what makes you come back. The first night I did well. It was audition night at the improv in New York, which doesn’t exist anymore, on 44th Street and Ninth Avenue. My girlfriend at the time was in the audience with my brother and his girlfriend. I went on late and the audience was very generous, because I did horrible material. I had one or two maybe slightly funny things. And I caught the bug. But then you realize it’s not easy and it’s at some points horrible. I gave it up for a year because I bombed then. And then I tried it again, and I bombed again. You need to hone it and you need to practice and work at it. And the only practice ground you have is the worst conditions. You’re the new guy so you go on at two in the morning in front of five drunks. And that’s how you have to learn how to do stand-up.
Since then, you’ve really branched out with your roles in things like Vinyl and Men Of A Certain Age.
Men of a Certain Age I created that with my writing partner, Mike Roye, so I was outside of my comfort zone, but I was also in control. Vinyl was scary. When we came back from the pilot, ten months later we got script two. And it said I go in a car and I contemplate killing myself. I was like, “What?” And then it said I had a wife and kid. I didn’t even know this in the pilot. I called up my agent, I go, “They want me to consider suicide in this first episode back. I don’t know if I can pull this off.” And my agent was, “You’d better pull it off.”
And you had a nude scene.
I had a threesome. After I did the scene she goes, “Tell me what happened.” And I go, you know, “One girl straddles the other one. But it’s over. You know?” We were in New York, and she’s flying back to Los Angeles, so I called her after and said, “How was the flight?”And she said there was an actor sitting next to her who started talking to her and gave her is card because he heard about me. So now I’m getting jealous and I’m grilling her. “Who is this guy? What guy? What did he look like? What was his name? And she stopped me and goes, “What was the name of the girl that sat on your cock?” And I said, “Okay, no further questions.”
Going back, how did Everybody Loves Raymond, which David Letterman produced, first come about?
Five months before my first Letterman spot, I was cast in News Radio. Paul Simms saw me on an HBO comedian thing, had me come in and read. I got lucky, and they signed me to $8,000 an episode. I told my wife and we were like, “We’re rich!” Day two of rehearsal, they fired me. But I was oddly relieved because I could feel I was just in over my head. Five months later, I had my first Letterman spot. At this point, I’ve been doing stand-up for eleven years, and everyone was getting development deals and I wasn’t. After my Letterman set, this guy called my house on a Saturday. I’m not kidding—on Saturday, Rob Burnett called my house and I spoke to Rob Burnett, probably in my underwear. And he said we’re interested. He said, “Don’t sign with anyone, we’re interested in a development deal.” And I said, “You don’t have to worry. There’s nobody else.”
Did you like doing a sitcom?
I mean, it was my show. I did enjoy doing it and I was very proud of it. And I still am. Having said that,I am past doing a sitcom now. I don’t want to follow my legacy in the sitcom world. Bu it was a lot of fun. And it was a lot of work. And it was talking about my whole family. After a couple of episodes, my mother was like, “Raymond, do you have to make your brother so goofy? Because the guys in the precinct are teasing Richard.” She was worried his fellow cops were teasing him. But my brother was single at the time, and he reaped the benefits.
I’m sure you were offered plenty of other shows after it ended. Was it hard to say no?
It wasn’t hard to say no to the offers that came after to do another sitcom—and this sounds horrible, but I won’t say I have all the money I need; my wife has all the money she needs. And creatively, I wanted to just do other things. Yes, I was lucky not to have to make any decision because of financial reasons. But it was also hard. When the sitcom ended, it was kind of like you come out of this submarine and all of the sudden, I live in L.A., and my kids are 12 years old now. You’re excited because all of the sudden you have time, you have money, you have a little bit of fame how. And then after three months, it wasn’t fun anymore. I had a little emotional breakdown. I remember when my show was ending, my my therapist says, “You want to start coming twice a week?” I go, “No. Why? I hardly have stuff to say to you once a week.” And then three months later I was going twice a week. He kind of knew it was going to be a big, a big change. And it was. And it was for a while until then we created Men of a Certain Age. I can’t stay idle creatively. I have to keep moving or I catch up with myself.
Royals 2017: Why Pharrell Williams, Winona Ryder, Tracee Ellis Ross and More Are the Role Models of Today
Winona Ryder wears Fendi dress; Angela Friedman bra; M&S Schmalberg brooch; Fogal tights; Gucci shoes. Beauty: Chantecaille.
Tilda Swinton wears Loewe jacket, shirt, and pants. Beauty: Chanel.
Hailee Steinfeld wears Valentino dress. Beauty: Maybelline.
Tracee Ellis Ross wears Vetements dress. Beauty: Lâncome.
Saoirse Ronan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shirt and pants. Beauty: Nars.
Chris Hemsworth wears Boss shirt and pants; his own belt and necklace. Grooming: Hugo Boss.
Pharrell Williams wears Sacai shirt; Bulgari necklace (top); his own necklace. Grooming: Giorgio Armani.
Robert Pattinson wears Dior Homme turtleneck; Haider Ackermann pants. Grooming: Dior Homme.
James Corden wears Ann Demeulemeester shirt and hat. Grooming: Neutrogena.
Jared Leto wears Gucci jacket, shirt, and pants; M&S Schmalberg brooch; Artemas Quibble belt. Grooming: Gucci.
New Royalty: Movie Star
My first kiss was on set. It was my very first film as well. My character really liked this boy, and she didn’t know if he noticed her. In the end she got to kiss him. At that time, I was only 11 years old, and not ready to kiss a boy. I asked the director, “How long do you want me to kiss him? How many seconds?” And the director said, “Three seconds.” So while kissing, I counted in my head. Every single take I was like, One, two, three. And then: “Okay, kill, cut!” I definitely suffered for art.
Ronan wears a Louis Vuitton top, cape, and shoes; Falke tights.
Classic Royalty: Movie Star
Is there anything that scares you? I’m not easily scared, and I’m wary of being bored. I think risk-taking is a subjective thing. One person’s risk is another one’s comfort zone. And, to be honest, I’m too lazy to get easily scared. Maybe I’ve got a bit of my brain missing, but I love not knowing what I’m doing next. What about when it comes to clothes? Did you always have a fashion-forward outlook? Again, what somebody might think of as unusual is, to me, supercomfortable, inspiring, and interesting. I’ve never truly been that aware of fashion; I’m interested in style.
Swinton wears a Haider Ackermann shirt; Alexander Calder necklace from Stephen Russell, New York.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
Where do you get your ideas? The shower is a frequent place. Actually, near any running water—whether it’s the faucet or the shower. And sometimes I get ideas on a plane because of the sound deprivation.
Do you record your ideas on your phone? I just hold on to them. The best way to remember something is if you home in on the excitement. That you don’t forget.
Is there a song that makes you cry? It’s been maybe 10 years since I heard something that made me cry. There is an old Donny Hathaway song called “Take a Love Song,” and it would make me emotional. But I think I was eating a lot of weed candy at the time, so that may have pushed me over the edge.
Whom do you consider Royal? Wes Anderson. I love what he does. Bill Murray running from a playground in Rushmore made me very happy. Anderson’s composition is amazing: his color, the music that he uses. I’m not an actor, but, in a heartbeat, I would just walk by or whatever he asked me to do in one of his films.
Williams wears a Chanel jacket and necklace; G-Star pants; Adidas Originals = Pharrell Williams shoes; his own shirt, belt, bracelets, ring, watch, and socks.
Classic Royalty: Renaissance Person
When did you start dancing? When I was 3. I loved it. I did recitals and I loved being onstage. I particularly loved the collective mind of the audience. Applause was nice, but I liked the silence of the audience better. The silence means, Oh, my! You have their rapt attention.
MacLaine wears an Akris turtleneck.
Classic Royalty: Activist
I came to New York in the ’70s to become president of Planned Parenthood. It was a time of great difficulty for the city—and for the country—but also one when women made tremendous progress toward being in control of their lives and their bodies. My position allowed me to be a spokesperson for women in the midst of the great changes that were taking place and the turmoil that occurred as a result of them. Today, 40 years later, the continuing opposition to Planned Parenthood comes from people who want to roll back the clock.
Wattleton wears a Row coat; Vhernier earrings; Verdura necklace.
New Royalty: Activist
When I was 11, my parents gave me an iPhone. I think it shaped who I am as a person because I had access to everything very, very early on. But now I’m 18 and I have gotten rid of it. I was worried about the mental-health effects it was having on me. The phone was taking over my life. I felt like I was floating away, and part of that had to do with being in a virtual world without any tangible substance. I felt like I was always refreshing Instagram instead of refreshing my life.
Stenberg wears a Prada top; Buccellati earrings.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
To me, Paula Abdul is royalty. I just saw her live, and the whole time I was watching her, I was hitting the person next to me and saying, “Oh. My. God. Yes!” I’m late to the game, but Paula Abdul is completely amazing.
Steinfeld wears an Yves Salomon coat; Nili Lotan dress; Mahnaz Collection ring; Lynn Ban earring.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
There were eight boys in The History Boys, and we were all at a similar point in our careers. The other seven would get incredible scripts for Spielberg movies or big HBO shows, and I would get a one-page script for the guy who drops off a TV for Hugh Grant. I remember thinking, These decisions are being made based on the way I look. I realized then and there that I needed to try and start creating stuff on my own. And I did.
Corden wears a Berluti jacket; Burberry shirt; Balenciaga scarf.
New Royalty: Society
The notion of being born into the right stratosphere no longer exists. More and more, young people want to dedicate their lives to doing something meaningful that has a positive effect on the world. That’s what is valued now—not your name or your lineage.
Bush Lauren wears a Ralph Lauren shirt; Zimmerli of Switzerland tank; Hermès scarves; Vicki Turbeville earrings; vintage bracelet from Stazia Loren, New York.
Classic Royalty: Society
You got involved with God’s Love We Deliver during the ’80s AIDS epidemic. It was a terrible time. We delivered meals to people who were sick. A lot of my friends thought I had lost my mind. There was so much fear.
How did you meet Robert Trump? At a fundraiser. We were married in 1984. But years later things changed, and, in 2007, we divorced.
Did you go to your former brother-in-law’s presidential inauguration? Yes. It was kind of an out-of-body experience. [Laughs] It’s like, Am I really here? I went to all the balls, and there was a wonderful small lunch, and Donald and Melania were there. She looked beautiful.
Is it strange to see your last name everywhere? Yes—very, very strange. I mean, forget paying with a credit card. It’s always, “Are you related?” It never ends.
Trump wears a Chloé dress; David Webb earrings.
New Royalty: Model
I always go into a zone when I’m posing for a photographer. I like to try and get into whatever character is wanted for the photos. For this shoot, I tried to be kind of vulnerable and soft because I can be quite hard with my resting bitch face. I wanted to look innocent, but mysterious. And royal. Very royal.
Aboah wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC dress; Stephen Russell earrings; Vhernier bracelets; her own rings.
Classic Royalty: Model
What is your secret skill? Fucking.
Fucking? Mm-hmmm. It’s an awfully good thing to be good at, no? And it goes on forever, guys and girls. You should remember that.
Hutton wears a Row coat.
Classic Royalty: Superhero
My first audition was for some random sort of commercial. I remember walking in and having to tell them about myself, and none of it was very interesting because I never got those jobs. My first regular acting gig was on a soap opera called Home and Away. I did that for three and a half years, and I went through every melodramatic tragedy that one can go through: plane crashes, fires, robberies, landslides. I had three different kids with three different women. And my character was 19 for three years. I never had a birthday. Never aged.
Hemsworth wears a Boss jacket, shirt, and pants; Western Spirit bolo tie; stylist’s own belt.
New Royalty: Superhero
I don’t fuck with karaoke. I tried it once, and it was the biggest disaster. The song I bombed on was “Eye of the Tiger.” It was at a wedding, in front of hundreds of people. The only line of the song that I knew was “eye of the tiger,” so I just mumbled, and it was awful. Deep shame. Now I stick to singing my own songs onstage with my band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. There are some things you just know you’re not good at.
Leto wears an Ann Demeulemeester shirt; Gucci pants; Mikimoto pearls; his own ring and necklace.
New Royalty: Television
As a boy, I was very, very sensitive. Ever the emotional young thing. In eighth grade, a drama teacher put me in a play, and I got really involved with theater. Within a year, all the kids who were making fun of me were my allies. I remember thinking, Instead of being a weird guy in the corner of the classroom, now I’m the weird guy that everyone has to pay attention to! And, like, Wow—maybe someone will kiss me!
Middleditch wears a Prada shirt; Coach 1941 pants; Artemas Quibble belt; Calvin Klein 205W39NYC boots.
Classic Royalty: Television
Since signing on to Stranger Things, I’ve become a binge-watcher of TV. My favorite show is The Americans. It’s brilliant, and Keri Russell is just mind-blowing. I watched the entire last season all at once, and I was crushed when it ended. I met Keri, and I was like, “What’s going to happen?!” I had turned into a fan-geek. But she wouldn’t tell me. Everyone in TV has to keep things a big secret—which I’m learning.
Ryder wears a Dior dress and hat.
New Royalty: Movie Star
I didn’t think I could play Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton. I was asked to audition, and I remember saying no because I didn’t want to be the one to mess it up. I was nervous because it was Dr. Dre. And now, after the film, I walk down the street and people ask, “Is that Dr. Dre?” Nobody did that before Compton. Now everybody does it.
Hawkins wears a Giorgio Armani jacket, shirt, and pants; Tom Ford shoes.
Classic Royalty: Movie Star
What was your first acting job? When I was 15 or 16, I was cast as Reese Witherspoon’s son in the film Vanity Fair. I went to the screening, and no one had informed me that I had been cut from the film. But the casting director felt so guilty that she gave me a first run at the part of Cedric in Harry Potter, which I booked. So, in the end, I was quite glad to have been cut from Vanity Fair.
How did you prepare for your role as a bank robber on the run in Good Time? I stayed in character for several days and got a job at a car wash. I wanted to change myself so that people would not be able to recognize me for the whole shoot. And it worked. We were filming in a packed subway at rush hour; I was directed by text message, and no one could tell we were making a movie. Not one person took a cell-phone picture, which would have ruined the whole thing. It was great to not be recognized.
Pattinson wears a Berluti jacket; Charvet scarf.
Classic Royalty: Television
After Everybody Loves Raymond ended, it wasn’t hard to say no to other sitcom offers. This sounds awful, but I had all the money I needed, my wife had all the money she needed, and creatively I wanted to do other things. I thought, Suddenly I have time, I have money, I have a bit of fame, and this is going to be fun. After three months, it wasn’t fun anymore. I had a kind of emotional breakdown until I started creating the next show. People ask me sometimes, “How do you keep going?” And I like to say, “I have to keep moving, or I catch up with myself.”
Romano wears a Balenciaga shirt.
New Royalty: Television
Your mom is Diana Ross. Did you ever borrow her clothes? I’m not going to lie: It was more like stealing. One time, she left the house and I saw her car go down the driveway. I marched myself into her bathroom and started taking clothes. I liked to put them in my closet and live with them as if they were mine. Just as I was loading up, my mom walked into the bathroom. She said, “What are you doing?!” I was like, “I’m organizing your closet for you!” To this day, I visit her closet and call it shopping.
Ross wears an Alexander McQueen dress; Gianvito Rossi shoes.
Moving on to some fun questions. What movies make you cry?
I cry very easy.Once you hit middle age, I don’t know, I seem to cry more. I cry at commercials. YouTube commercials that can make you cry. You know what else makes me cry? National anthems. Ours, I mean. I know the capital of every country, but I don’t know the national anthem of every country. It is me being afraid of getting older and of Alzheimer’s. My shrink told me, “Because you know the capitals it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get Alzheimer’s. It means you don’t have it now. That’s all it means.”
When was your first kiss?
It was probably a spin the bottle game. I don’t even think it gets credit for a first kiss because the bottle pointed at that girl and she had to kiss me. Otherwise she’s a party pooper. But my first kiss with my wife she remembers because we were in a car. We drove home from the movies, and she goes, “Lean over. You kiss me. We’re parked outside. You kiss me and then you stare out the windshield. You don’t look at me again for the rest of our conversation.” There was no eye contact after. You know, I’m not good with women. We worked in a bank together, and that is how we met. She was the third girl I asked out at that bank. The first two turned me down. She took a gamble. I was 25, I was riding my bike to work. And now she has a 2,200 square foot closet.
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