Ray Romano feels “blessed” that his relationship with Martin Scorsese began by the famed director having no idea who he was, despite having been the star of the wildly successful “Everybody Loves Raymond”.
When Romano, who played the titular character for a total of nine seasons and 210 episodes, auditioned for Scorsese’s 2016 HBO series “Vinyl”, the screenwriter and producer had never heard of the actor.
“Scorsese did the pilot and I had to go on tape for him,” Romano, 65, recalled on a recent episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. “The cool thing was, I went on tape and the response we got back was, ‘Yeah, Marty likes it. He’s in the running. And Marty wants to know who he is. He’s never seen him,’ And my agent was like, ‘So he’s never seen the show?’ And they go, ‘No, no, no, he doesn’t know who the guy is,’ which was a blessing because he didn’t have to erase the sitcom character from his mind.”
“I can buy that,” Romano continued,” that Martin Scorsese doesn’t watch television. So when he hired me, he liked what he saw.”
Throughout its 1996 to 2005 run, “Everybody Loves Raymond” won 15 Emmy awards and was named one of the top 10 most-watched shows on television for five seasons.
In “Vinyl”, about a troubled music studio in the 1970s, Romano starred as one of the company executives. The series, which was co-created by Scorsese alongside Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen and Terence Winter, also starred Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde.
Romano went on to call his role in the show “a stretch” as it was much “heavier” than the characters he was used to playing.
“We do the pilot and I’m playing this guy from the ’70s, this music guy, and I’m snorting coke, this and that, and it’s a stretch for me but it’s fun as hell,” Romano recounted. “And then a year goes by, almost a year until they do the second episode. And I’m reading it and my character has to contemplate killing myself in his garage and breakdown crying. And I go to my agent: ‘Well, I don’t know if I can do this.’ And this is how compassionate he was: He goes, ‘Well you better do it!’ That’s the response. And that was the first time where I had something that heavy and I’m like, ‘Holy s**t.’”
Romano admitted that he “surprised” himself as he took on the role, which he tapped into by listening to Coldplay’s “Fix You”.
“I tapped into it and pulled it off. It was weird,” he said. “It turned a corner for me, to attack that kind of scene.”
Although “Vinyl” was short-lived after HBO cancelled the series after only one season, Romano’s partnership with Scorsese wasn’t. The actor went on to team up with the filmmaker for a second time on his 2019 Netflix mob drama “The Irishman”.