In a fresh light

Martin Scors­ese had never heard of Ray Ro­mano be­fore Vinyl.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By LUAINE LEE

NOT ev­ery­body loves Ray­mond. In fact, not ev­ery­body has even heard of Ray Ro­mano, though his pop­u­lar sit­com, Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond, ran for nine years and turned Ro­mano into a comic star.

One per­son that had never heard of him was Martin Scors­ese. The film di­rec­tor was cast­ing HBO’s ex­plo­sive saga about the sex, drugs, and rock and roll era of the mu­sic in­dus­try of the 1970s. And when Ro­mano’s agent read Vinyl, he urged his client to sub­mit an au­di­tion tape.

“So I went to my closet and said, ‘ Do I have any­thing that looks 70sish? And sure enough, there was a shirt that looked a lit­tle bit Mi­ami Vice. And luck­ily my hair was a lit­tle bit long. I came out of the shower and just let the bangs fall down. And did this scene with my buddy, we video­taped,” re­calls Ro­mano in a ho­tel room in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia.

They sent Scors­ese’s cast­ing part­ner the tape. She re­ported back that the di­rec­tor was fa­mil­iar with the char­ac­ter in Vinyl, but had never heard of Ro­mano.

“He’s not a sit­com fan,” shrugs Ro­mano, “he’s a movie film ge­nius and had never met, heard of me, or seen me – which ended up be­ing a bless­ing be­cause he didn’t have a pre­con­ceived idea of me. There was no bag­gage. They said I’m in the run­ning, and about three or four weeks later they said, ‘ He’s in the run­ning.’

“And one day my agent and busi- ness man­ager both called on a con­fer­ence call. I thought they weren’t both go­ing to call me for bad news. They just told me, ‘ Con­grat­u­la­tions, you got the part.’

“I said, ‘ Now the fear be­gins. Now I have to meet Martin Scors­ese and ac­tu­ally act for him.’ Then I got ex­cited, ner­vous. My agent told me to call him and have a con­ver­sa­tion with him, and all day I was anx­i­ety rid­den. But he was great. He was easy, he was laugh­ing, he was funny.”

The trep­i­da­tion was gen­uine for Ro­mano, who still suf­fers doubts about be­ing an ac­tor. He started as a standup comic and still per­forms when he can. “I re­ally think if you were to ask me what are you a pro­fes­sional at? I’m a pro­fes­sional standup. Am I a pro­fes­sional ac­tor? I act. I don’t know what a ‘ pro­fes­sional ac­tor’ means. But I think in my core I am a pro­fes­sional standup co­me­dian,” he nods.

“As neg­a­tive as I am, as self­dep­re­cat­ing as I am about my­self, I’m re­ally good at do­ing that. Act­ing is still a learn­ing process. It’s slow. You come from a sit­com, no­body wants to see you do any­thing dra­matic. So you make your own show. You make Men Of A Cer­tain Age, and do a lit­tle com­edy and a lit­tle drama, and some peo­ple see it. Then you do Par­ent­hood, and some peo­ple see that. Then you get lucky to be cast in this thing.”

Ro­mano thinks that most standup co­me­di­ans share a com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, “They need what they get on­stage; some­thing that was miss­ing from them,” he says.

“I don’t want to crit­i­cise or blame any­one, but my father hap­pened to be a guy who grew up with­out a father of his own. He had a hard time ex­press­ing him­self. He was very un­demon­stra­tive. My one joke is if my father hugged me once I’d be an ac­coun­tant right now. I wouldn’t have needed what I did.”

Act­ing com­forts him in a dif­fer­ent way, he says. “It’s hard for me to ex­press my­self in my real life, that my father passed down to me, un­for­tu­nately. So it’s nice to put on a mask and a cos­tume and be able to do it as some­body else. You don’t mind the at­ten­tion. It’s ex­cit­ing. It’s ex­cit­ing to get into some­one else’s skin and trans­form your­self.”

It was a heady ride for Ro­mano when he helmed the sit­com. But when Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond ended, Ro­mano tum­bled into a tail­spin.

“It was sad at first, then ex­cit­ing be­cause it was nine years of be­ing in this bub­ble and work­ing with all my en­ergy. And then it was like an emo­tional crash.”

The first year of the show, he didn’t move from his na­tive New York. The se­cond year the fam­ily re­lo­cated to Los An­ge­les Ro­mano had three small chil­dren at the time.

“The kids grew up, we had an­other baby, but the whole time I’m 24/ 7 con­sumed by the show. And then it ends overnight, and it’s like you come out of a sub­ma­rine. And it’s lit­er­ally al­most like, ‘ I live HERE now?’ ‘ My kids are grown?’ ‘ I’m not in New York any­more?’ It took a few months un­til the void over­took me. And I had trou­ble, a lot of emo­tional strug­gles un­til the next thing comes along.”

Ro­mano had been in ther­apy most of his life and was run­ning out of things to say.

“But when the show was end­ing my ther­a­pist said, ‘ Do you want to start com­ing twice a week?’ I was like, ‘ I don’t even want to come once a week.’ And sure enough, af­ter three months I was go­ing twice a week. He knew this was a big change for me.”

Mar­ried for 28 years, the father of four ( three still at home), Ro­mano says, “I would get sad dur­ing hia­tus, I wasn’t get­ting de­pressed, I was aim­less. OK, you’re this middle- aged man now with no di­rec­tion. Fi­nan­cially I didn’t have to work again, but spir­i­tu­ally and emo­tion­ally I did. My fam­ily’s most im­por­tant, but when I’m happy I’m a bet­ter par­ent and bet­ter hus­band, and work makes me happy.” – Tribune News Ser­vice

Vinyl airs ev­ery Mon­day at 10am/ 10pm on HBO ( Astro Ch 411/ HD Ch 431).

ro­mano with his wife Anna and their chil­dren Gre­gory, Matthew and Alexandra at the pre­miere of drama se­ries Vinyl in new york.

— hBO

ro­mano plays pro­mo­tion man­ager and part­ner in a strug­gling record com­pany in hBO’s tale of the mu­sic in­dus­try of the 1970s.

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