Patricia Heaton nearly didn’t play Deborah in Everybody Loves Raymond

In an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, Phil Rosenthal, the showrunner and writer talked about the two occasions he nearly walked away from the show.

The first was when it came to casting Debra Barone, Ray’s wife in the show, who was superbly played by Patricia Heaton. “CBS wanted someone hotter to play Debra. I almost quit the show over it,” he said. Rosenthal says that the then CBS president Leslie Moonves suggested the part be played by a glamorous actress, a casting decision that would have fallen more in line with sitcoms’ historical trope of “the guy and hot wife”. CBS suggested a certain actress who remains nameless.

“They insisted on this actress. I thought she was wrong, but I met with her and she was a very pleasant, very nice person,” he said adding “She wasn’t going to read for the role, but during the meeting, I convinced her to read a little bit with me, and she was 10 times worse for the part than I thought she would be!”

Rosenthal said that at this point, Heaton — who won the part two weeks later — had yet to audition, but he did have three finalists: two of his preferred choices and the one the executive had suggested. “I did know that [Moonves] was going to say, ‘What about so-and-so,’ and if I don’t say, ‘Yes, let’s cast her,’ I won’t have a show. So that was the day I knew that I’d be quitting my own show,” he confessed.

Rosenthal met with Moonves, saying that he thought the actress was “terrific and beautiful” but that her performance was “just not what I wrote,” making it hard to imagine her and star Romano as a couple. After telling the former CBS president, “I think she could do it, but I also think that maybe we could do better,” he said Moonves replied, “Well, it’s just an idea,” before moving on. “In other words, he let me slide and we agreed to keep looking. Two weeks later, Patty walked in and within five minutes she had the part. When it’s right, it’s right, and you know it immediately.”

The second followed the near-decision to hand showrunner duties over to someone else or have Rosenthal split them with a more experienced showrunner, as the Everybody Loves Raymond creator had never run his own show.

Rosenthal also spoke about Ray’s older brother Robert played by Brad Garrett, who worked in the series as a cop. When asked how to make cops funny on TV in light of the larger cultural conversation around policing, Rosenthal said he was grateful he didn’t have to “deal with it.”

“I don’t think I would deal with it, because nothing’s funny about police getting out of hand,” he said. “We showed that Robert was put-upon, and not loved as much by his mother as his little brother. Those were all these funny things, and then to balance it out, we showed him being a great cop. It’d be terrible if he was a bad cop. That’s not funny: It’s not funny or great and you don’t really cheer for him.”

Everybody Loves Raymond is currently being shown on Comedy Central and C4 in the UK

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