For nearly a decade, he was America's funniest TV husband on Everybody Loves Raymond . Now, Ray Romano's returning to television in a new TNT dramedy, Men of a Certain Age . Ray plays Joe, a recently separated father of two struggling with middle age.
Ray says many of the scenes in the show have been inspired by his real life, including one where he's telling his college friends that even his butt is looking older! "That's when I knew middle age was hitting," he says. "I caught my ass in the mirror … and I'm like, 'That's not my ass.'"
Fans will be thrilled to spend Monday nights with Ray again, but he says his father had a different reaction to the new show. "My father's kind of like the Peter Boyle character [on Everybody Loves Raymond ]," he says. "So when I told my father we were going to be on TNT, my mother was crazy excited and my father was like, 'Well, I guess we've got to get cable now.'"
When Everybody Loves Raymond ended in 2005, 32 million people watched the final curtain call. Ray says he was surprised to find he went through a sort of depression. "When the show was ending, [my therapist] said, 'You want to start coming twice a week?'" he says. "About three or four months after Raymond ended, I said, 'Yeah, let's start going twice a week.' He knew this was a big change."
Ray says the cast and crew became like family and he thrived on the creativity of the show. "I was doing that for nine years, and I was doing stand-up 11 years before that. So it was 20 years of working and creating stuff," he says. "All my energy was focused on this and my passion, and overnight it was over. So all of a sudden there was this big void and what do I do next?"
Though he enjoyed his time at home, Ray says he needed another creative outlet. "I don't want to say work is who I am, but some people feel more centered and more whole when they're producing and creating," he says. "That's kind of where I felt I was."
Once the show ended, Ray took time off to be with his wife of 22 years, Anna. They have four children—including twin 16-year-old boys. "They're good, but they're like me. They kind of do the minimal possible to get by. That's how I was in school," he says. "I lived at home till I was 29."
Anna says Ray had no problem finding something other than work to keep him busy. "He took an office at Warner Brothers and said: 'I'm going to the office. Every day, I'm going to work,'" she says. "He'd come home at night. He's checking his e-mails for hours. I go, 'Don't you do that at work?' [He says], 'Oh, no, I went to the golf course.'"
Ray's 19-year-old daughter, Ally, says her dad also spent a lot of time on his secret obsession—watching National Anthem performances on YouTube. "That's another way of [knowing] you're reaching a certain age," he says. "Smokey Robinson has one from 1986. Look it up."