This was before Patricia Heaton ever auditioned — and creator Phil Rosenthal “almost quit the show over it.”
It’s hard to even think of anyone else but Patricia Heaton playing Debra Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” however before she was even on the network’s radar, CBS hoped to go in another direction when it came to casting the part.
In a recent interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, “Everybody Loves Raymond’ creator Phil Rosenthal said CBS had initially wanted a “hotter” actress for the role of Debra, the wife of Ray Romano’s character Ray Barone.
“CBS wanted someone hotter to play Debra,” Rosenthal, 61, claimed. “I almost quit the show over it.”
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Rosenthal recalled meeting with the actress who was the network’s first choice for the role. Not only did he feel that the unnamed star was not a good fit to play Debra, but he also admitted that “she was 10 times worse for the part” than he had expected.
“They insisted on this actress,” Rosenthal told Yahoo. “I thought she was wrong, but I met with her and she was a very pleasant, very nice person. 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!”
He then had a meeting with CBS executives regarding the casting. During the meeting — which was attended by then-CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves — Rosenthal named the three actresses he had in mind for the part, with the network’s first choice being one of them. He admitted that he thought he was going to be fired, believing that if he didn’t recommend the network’s pick that would be out of a job.
“Again, I didn’t have Patty yet; I didn’t even know she existed,” Rosenthall recalled. “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.”
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However, when Moonves asked about the preferred actress, Rosenthal offered his honest opinion — and it ultimately worked out in his favor, with the network allowing him to find a “better” person for the job.
“I said, ‘I love her and I’ve loved everything she’s been in. I think she’s terrific and beautiful, but then she read for me and I have to tell you it’s just not what I wrote. I just don’t see them as a couple. I think she could do it, but I also think that maybe we could do better,'” Rosenthal shared. “[Moonves] said, ‘Well, it’s just an idea.’ 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,” he said. “When it’s right, it’s right, and you know it immediately.”
TooFab has reached out to CBS for comment but has yet to hear back.
“Everybody Loves Raymond” premiered in 1996 and ran for nine seasons and aired 210 episodes, before sounding off in 2005. Heaton went on to receive seven Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for playing Debra Barone, winning the award in 2000.
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