There’s a common misconception that acting in a comedy, and especially in a television sitcom, is somehow easier than starring in an emotion-packed drama.
Due to this, many of us evince surprise when a star primarily known for the former excels in the latter. The truth, of course, is that no one should be shocked that an actor as skilled as Ray Romano, an Emmy winner for starring in "Everybody Loves Raymond," one of the most beloved TV shows in the history of the medium, also possesses strong dramatic chops.
The 61-year-old Queens native has demonstrated them multiple times throughout his career, most recently in a performance that deserved Oscar attention in "The Big Sick" (2017) and now alongside Mark Duplass in the bittersweet Netflix movie "Paddleton."
amNewYork spoke with Romano about the film, in which he and Duplass play neighbors and best friends who find their bond tested when the latter is diagnosed with terminal cancel. It is streaming now.
Are you becoming more drawn to dramatic stuff these days?
I don’t know that I’m drawn to more dramatic stuff. I just want to do good work. If a great comedy came and it was just purely comedy, I would consider it. I would consider it. I think the dramedy, I guess, if I have to pick what’s the vehicle I like now. If a straight drama came, I wouldn’t shy away from it, as long as it was good and it was with good people.
Why is getting outside your comfort zone appealing?
I want to challenge myself. It scares me if I think I can’t do it. If it’s good enough, I might force myself. But, I guess after "Raymond" I definitely didn’t want to do a live sitcom again, a four-camera sitcom. I didn’t want to not do comedy, but I was interested in the single camera. That’s when we created "Men of a Certain Age," which was a small step away from just a sitcom. It was comedy but it had a lot of dramatic elements. I knew that it was going to be awhile before people would accept me and try to be able to see me as something other than the character for nine years that they saw.
What makes Mark Duplass a quality collaborator when it comes to this sort of territory?
I met him at "The Big Sick" premiere and he said he had a project he thought I’d be good with. I was thrilled, because I enjoy the way he works and the kind of stuff he does. He was on a show "Togetherness." It was everything that I like. It’s the little stuff, the minutiae, the real stuff, the relatable stuff. And then when he told me about this project and the fact that it was just outlined, it wasn’t a full script. The fact that he works that way. It scared me a little, but boy it was exciting to try it.
Netflix subscribers can also catch your new stand-up special ("Ray Romano: Right Here Around the Corner"). Why was the time right to do your first special in 23 years?
I just felt it was time. Obviously, there are so many places to do a special now and opportunities. And I had been offered it and I kept putting it off. And I just felt, "You know what? When I go into the city and I pop into my club at the [Comedy] Cellar unannounced, there’s this great energy." And listen, I’m a realist. I don’t know how long that’s gonna last. I’m getting older, I’m at this point. Why not do this and have it? Just have it as a legacy or whatever. I’ll always continue to do stand-up but this moment in time will never be the same and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.
Streaming: ‘Paddleton’ is now streaming on Netflix