If CBS network execs had their way, Patricia Heaton’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” character, Debra Barone, would have been played by a different actress.
That’s the claim being made by the show’s creator, Phil Rosenthal, who told Yahoo! Entertainment that “CBS wanted someone hotter to play Debra.”
According to Rosenthal, he pushed back hard.
“I almost quit the show over it,” he said, revealing that the network “insisted” that a specific actress be cast as the wife of Ray Romano’s character, Ray Barone.
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“I thought she was wrong, but I met with her and she was a very pleasant, very nice person,” said Rosenthal of the unnamed actress. “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!”
As a result, Rosenthal became equally insistent that the actress being foisted on him was wrong for Debra, and shared his thoughts with then-CBS president Les Moonves.
“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.’ [Les] said, ‘Well, it’s just an idea.’ In other words, he let me slide and we agreed to keep looking!” he recalled.
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When Heaton read for the role, Rosenthal immediately knew he’d found Debra.
“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 explained.