CBS allegedly wanted 'hotter' star to play Ray Romano's wife on 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' creator says

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CBS initially wanted to cast a “hotter” actress to play Ray Romano’s wife on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” so says the show’s creator.

While Patricia Heaton ultimately starred as Ray Barone’s (Ray Romano) wife Debra in the series, creator Phil Rosenthal claims the network initially “wanted someone hotter to play Debra.” 

Episodes of the popular sitcom that premiered in 1996 are still on-air today. Despite its success, Rosenthal claimed in a new interview with Yahoo! Entertainment that he “almost quit” the show because of CBS’ persistence in casting a particular actress for the role.

“They insisted on this actress. 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!” Rosenthal claimed, without naming the actress.

Patricia Heaton is well known for her role as Debra Barone on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’
( Francis Specker/CBS)

After that, Rosenthal recalled proposing three picks for Debra, including CBS’ preference and two other actors. He said he went into a meeting with CBS executives, including former CEO Leslie Moonves, thinking he’d end up leaving it without a job.

“Again, I didn’t have Patty yet; I didn’t even know she existed. 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 said.

However, Rosenthal’s suspicions turned out to be false. He proposed to execs that he believed they could “do better” in casting for the part and they were on board.

“In other words, [Moonves] 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,” he said.

Patricia Heaton and Ray Romano as Deborah and Ray Barone on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’
(Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times )

That wasn’t the only hoop Rosenthal jumped through to make the show a success. He revealed that he actually quit the gig before filming began when he learned he would be co-showrunner.

“I felt that person was still going to be in charge, and I’m not going to have any say in my own show. So I quit! I told them, ‘I quit, goodbye.’ It wasn’t because I was brave — I was actually s—-ing my pants because I quit the thing I loved.” 

He would find out days later that he was named the sole showrunner for the series.

“I asked him why the sudden turnaround, and he told me, ‘[Moonves] liked how you handled that thing with so-and-so.’ It just goes to show you that if you stick to your guns — and maybe quit — they see you have some integrity. So my advice to young people is to always quit! I’m not saying quit on your first job, or if you’re dependent on it to be able to eat. But if it’s not your first job and it’s your own thing, that’s when you get to show your integrity. I can’t tell you how many shows have been ruined by the writers taking every note from the network and the studio and then the network goes, ‘This isn’t very good.’”

“Everybody Loves Raymond” also starred Peter Boyle, Doris Roberts and Brad Garrett.

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