‘Everybody Loves Raymond’: CBS Wanted a Specific Actor to Play Debra – and It Wasn’t Patricia Heaton

by Jeremy Spirogis
Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton of

The fashionable sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond showcased the loving but typically risky marriage between Ray Barone (Ray Romano) and his spouse Debra (Patricia Heaton). When casting for the position of Ray’s spouse, showrunner Phil Rosenthal revealed that CBS initially pushed for a longtime actor to play the a part of Debra.  

Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton of 'Everybody Loves Raymond'
Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ | Robert Voets/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Patricia Heaton nails the a part of Debra Barone

Heaton was already a married mother when she tried out for the position on Everybody Loves Raymond, so she instantly associated to the character. Rushing by way of the audition resulting from a babysitting battle, Heaton picked up the tempo on her studying with Rosenthal and Romano.

“I finally said … I’m kind of in a time thing; do you mind if we read?” Heaton recalled to the New York Daily News in 2002. “So I read it really fast. I was like, come on, let’s do this; I’ve got to go. And they were so lovely.”

Romano famous that the audition required a kiss within the scene between Ray and Debra, and Heaton rose to the problem.

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“She came in and Phil and I thought this is it, this is her,” Romano mentioned. “Not only do I think she bought it, but the scene calls for the actress to kiss me and she was the only one who kissed me on the lips. So I said, ‘She’s in, she’s dedicated.’”

“I was the only actress who would kiss him.” Heaton joked.

CBS exec make a powerful advice

In his ebook You’re Lucky You’re Funny, Rosenthal described the casting course of for the present. Apparently, then-Chairman and CEO Les Moonves already had a frontrunner who he felt was good for the position of Debra.

“I get a call from Network Guy,” Rosenthal wrote of an affiliate of Moonves. “He says, ‘Well Les Moonves wants this one actress [we’ll call her So-and-So]. So you should cast her.’ I say, ‘Oh, but I think she’s completely wrong.’ He says, ‘You didn’t hear me. Les wants her. If you don’t cast her, you don’t have a show.’”

Never revealing the id of “So-and-So”, Rosenthal had his causes for not wanting this actor to play Debra Barone. Clearly stating it had nothing to do with the particular person’s expertise, the Everybody Loves Raymond creator sensed that she wouldn’t be an excellent match.

“I called my agent, and I say, ‘Can you believe this? They’re making me take this actress,” Rosenthal recalled. “‘This So-and-So is horrible for the part. She won’t be funny in this. They only want her because she’s a blonde. … She’s totally, completely wrong for the show … What do I do?’ And my agent says, ‘I would cast her.’”

Phil Rosenthal takes a stand with CBS

Rosenthal agreed to satisfy with “So-and-So” to point out he was preserving an open thoughts. Once he heard her tackle the a part of Debra, it confirmed his instincts.

“She’s very nice,” Rosenthal mentioned in his ebook. “During the meeting I kind of talk her into reading And she reads for me … and she’s ten times worse than I though she would be for this part.”

After the assembly, Rosenthal headed to CBS to let Moonves know his trustworthy opinion. Needless to say, the Everybody Loves Raymond creator was apprehensive of the exec’s response.

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“‘I love her – I think she’s great,’” Rosenthal recalled telling Moonves. “‘I’ve loved her in everything she’s done. And I met with her today, and she’s beautiful and charming … But then she read for me, and I have to tell you, it’s just not what I wrote … I don’t really buy them as a couple. Could she do it? Maybe. But I also think, maybe, we could do better.’”

Thankfully, Moonves went together with Rosenthal’s advice. In the next days, Heaton auditioned to play Debra.

“A week later, Patty Heaton walked into our office,” Rosenthal wrote, “was perfect, met with every quality I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter and then some, and was cast. That simple. When it’s right, it’s right.”

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