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Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula – Knocking Back a Few with Men of a Certain Age

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula in "Men of a Certain Age."

Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula in “Men of a Certain Age.”

Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula

Knocking Back a Few with Men of a Certain Age

by Jay S. Jacobs

How do you follow up arguably the most popular situation comedy of the last decade? 

Ray Romano faced that dilemma just a couple of years ago when his classic sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond went out on top. Not sure of what he wanted to do next, he started meeting up with his former Raymond co-writer Mike Royce to bat around ideas. 

What they came up with was close to home – to say the least – a funny and yet dramatic look at the lives, loves and disappointments of men in their late 40s. The idea grew into Men of a Certain Age, which is just about to start its second season on the TNT Network.

To play his character’s best friends, Romano turned to two actors who were no strangers to iconic television themselves. Andre Braugher is best known for playing Det. Frank Pembleton on the classic 90s crime drama Homicide: Life on the Street, but he had also played lead characters in the series Gideon’s Crossing and Hack. Scott Bakula also has had his share of series success – particularly playing Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap. He has also had starring roles on Star Trek: Enterprise, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and more recently Chuck. 

A few weeks before the return of Men of a Certain Age, we were lucky enough to be one of the few websites invited to sit in on conference calls with all three stars of the series.

I love your show. It's really great. 

Ray Romano: Thank you. 

My favorite shows, yours and Dexter. 

Ray Romano: Oh, nice. Yes, well they're the same. The same theme, really, underneath it all. 

Yes, it's a great show. I was wondering what you gave you the idea to come up with the show. 

Ray Romano: Well the idea - I didn't come up with the idea. By that I mean I was kind of living the idea. Myself and Mike Royce were both coming off of the show [Everybody Loves] Raymond, and about four months after it ended we had lunch together. We knew we wanted to do something together. We just [were] talking: what did we want to write about? What do we know how to write about? We both were going through the same thing – this identity search. Here we are, late 40s, just finished a successful thing but what's next? What does it mean? Existentially we were kind of flipping around. You get to that age, and you wonder are you going to be passionate again? Is anything going to drive you? Or did you do everything you wanted? So that's kind of where we were, all at different levels. We said, "Let's just write about that." 

How much can you relate to Owen? 

Andre Braugher: I relate to everything. I’m a father, a son, and a coworker, you know what I mean, and a pal. There’s nothing here that’s not true for me too. I don’t have Owen’s health problems but just in terms of having a sharp strong-willed wife – I’ve got one of those. And the rambunctious, three rambunctious boys, I’ve got those. I’ve got the whole stew of relationships in terms of father, coworker, pal, husband. I’ve got it all. 

You didn’t have to do a heck of a lot of research then? 

Andre Braugher: No not really, because this is right up my alley. The hardest part of the job really is being honest about what these situations are and not shying away from the uncomfortableness of them, you know what I mean? They are uncomfortable and I think we do our best service when we acknowledge them and deal with these uncomfortable moments. I think that’s one of the things that people like about the show is that we don’t have a wise crack that’s an act out and didn’t shy away from the uncomfortableness of being who we are.

Andre said that his character was very much like him, he can relate to him almost 100%. Can you relate to your character a lot? I mean is it a lot of him in you? 

Scott Bakula: There is hardly any of me in him. That is what was so attractive when I read the part. Obviously, I can relate to the actor side of him, and I can relate to some of his actor's frustrations certainly. But what has been most appealing for me is that he is so different from me. What most actors like to do is escape into a character. For me to play this guy who has no responsibility and no relationship and no kids and no mortgage and sleeps with all kinds of women – different ages, sizes, colors – it's really a blast for me to do. 

All three of you guys sort of played iconic TV roles previously. How involved were you in the casting of Andre and Scott? And when did you know that you had the right mix – that people aren't going to be thinking about Raymond or Homicide or Quantum Leap, they'll be thinking about you guys as normal guys in their 40s just getting together? 

Ray Romano: I was involved in every step of the way in casting – myself and Mike Royce. I think the biggest thing for me was casting Andre as this character because he never entered our mind. We pictured kind of a beaten down, frumpy middle-aged man who's underneath his father's shadow, and he's a little bit unsure of himself. Somebody pitched Andre to us. At first, we didn't want to meet him – because we thought of Homicide, and we thought this guy commands this presence and he walks in a room and he's sure of himself. So we met him, and he was so game to play this – and not that this mattered, but he wasn't physically the same way he was on Homicide. Middle age had caught up to him a little bit in that respect. But he had never done comedy and not that we're a comedy, but there's comedy in the show. He was open to do it. We just thought, "Geez, he's such a great actor, let's just go with the best actor." That was the one, the chemistry, that I was worried about. And I thought it was there immediately. Like in the pilot when we're in the car and I'm talking losing two pounds of pee – losing two pounds by peeing last night – and the way he responds to me. All my worries went away. I just thought this guy is this character, yeah. 

And Scott was just great right off the bat. Scott had this naturalness to him. So he came in and read. He was another guy who [we] really didn't really think of, then when he came in and read, we saw that yeah, he had this natural flow with this character. 

Once you got together with the guys how quickly did you feel that you were really meshing and were able to get into these characters without the baggage of your former parts? 

Andre Braugher: I don’t feel as though I carried over any baggage from my former parts and I will say that beginning with the first read through as well as the first rehearsal we were all really concentrated and focused on really telling the story to the best of our ability. The beauty of this story resides in the fact that all of these guys are really fumbling their way through their lives and that they are not blessed with competence in every arena. Some are married, some are not, some are successful, some are not. We meshed pretty quickly because I think we all realize the tone of this show is the ridiculousness of the struggle but also its poignancy. We’re all in our own way in the same place. We’re struggling for that happiness and that satisfaction in life. We want to do a good job. We want to honor these relationships and in its own way it’s all of us looking for our own happiness – but of course it’s elusive, it’s an elusive goal.

Tell me about the overall theme of the season in your mind? What do you see as each guy's challenge this year? 

Scott Bakula: Well, certainly, Terry's challenge is life challenges – which is when is he going to grow up and kind of get on with life? With his real job trying to sell cars for his friend in the car dealership, he is pressed into that. Also he gets involved in a more serious kind of adult relationship this year on the show and there are challenges there. Joe's character is wrestling with being single, continues to wrestle with some gambling issues and his peculiar friendship that he has with Manfro, his bookie. Andre's challenges are beyond just trying to live and balance a wife and three kids. The reality of that. He is now saddled with running this dealership and still having his dad looking over his shoulders and running a dealership in a time when not everybody is out there buying cars. So everybody has again some kind of very real issues, none of them earth shattering but all of them relevant and relatable. 

What appeals to you about playing your role? 

Andre Braugher: About playing Owen? Well when I read the pilot script back in, I guess the spring of 2008, I was just impressed by the struggle of one man to find validation, in his work and among his family. What was appealing to me was that this character was not an authority figure and that he was immersed in this rich stew of relationships – with being a husband, a father, a son, a pal, a coworker, and a boss. All of these different relationships seemed to be fascinating because not often do we get a chance to see men in this demographic in their natural element. Quite often – and I’ve played many of these roles – they’re authority figures or they’re functionaries or something to that effect. I felt as though Owen was a special kind of guy and more appealing because he wasn’t exactly sharp or competent. The struggle appealed to me.

Ray Romano: Well, I mean it's a drama for one thing. It's challenging to not have to resort to the old comedic crutches that I did. Not crutches, but just the go-to comedic kind of way that you do a sitcom and the way you deliver lines. What's good about this is trying to get rid of all that and do it real. Are you there? I heard a click. 

Yes, yes. 

Ray Romano: Okay. Sometimes people just hang up in the middle of me when I'm answering. But anyway, yes, even when we do comedic scenes it's a challenge. I spent nine years on Raymond, which I loved doing and I'm proud of. But the genre is what it is in that's it's real, but it's a little bit pseudo-real. It's kind of a little bit broader than real life, a little bit tweaked. When I do this show I want to make sure I don't go there. I want this character to be real, organic, and still be funny and still be dramatic. That’s kind of challenging. I mean I'm finding it fun to do and also to be subtle. Because you know how you're doing film, and you don't need to be big. When you do a sitcom - it's like a play. You have to play out to the people. In this, people come into you, if that makes any sense. 

I love the scene in the upcoming episode where your character is in the car with Marcus and does that thing with the cars. It was so cool and the way he won Marcus over. Marcus was like “you the man.” That obviously didn’t totally settle the problems that he has with Marcus. Is there anything you can tell us without spoiling too much about what’s going to happen this season with him and Marcus and how you’re going to deal with having him around? 

Andre Braugher: Well, I don’t deal with Marcus in the same dimension because being the general manager of the dealership, instead of being down on the floor with the salesmen. I’m really exploring the whole idea of running the place, promoting the place, and finding out what’s going to be happening in the future. So it’s not so much interpersonal, but that’s something that Marcus... 

Right but the inadequacy is there about how his father feels about Marcus and couldn’t survive without him, had to hire him back or had to swallow his pride and all that. 

Andre Braugher: Right, exactly. Well part of it yes, is swallowing my pride. But the other thing is in the ongoing story of Owen’s maturation. Putting the business first is important also. So yes, you have to swallow your pride, if I want to play at this level. And if I want to be a salesman and hold petty grudges, I could step back on the floor. But I think my father is asking me to step up and it’s hard. It’s a different aspect of being a leader, a general manager, which has its complications. Of course, this being a well-written show, nothing goes right. But it is an attempt on Owen’s part to grow up here. 

So is it an important step in his maturing? 

Andre Braugher: It is. It is an important step.

I was wondering if you still sing and if so, do you think your character will be singing on the show? 

Scott Bakula: I do still sing. I still study voice. I've done a few musicals in the last three or four years. I've been able to get out and have to go and do that. That is kind of my first love. I don’t know that I will sing on the show. My character certainly is an actor and we talked about some musicals that I did when I was back in college. So I have the possibility of doing that. There was a time when they originally conceived Terry that my part time job was going to be as a kind of a wedding singer. Which would have been a blast, but they went away from that. I hope that maybe we'll get a chance to sing. There was a point in time when if we had gone long enough in Enterprise, I would have been a singing starship captain, but we didn’t get that far. 

I really enjoyed the first two episodes for the new season. Sort of in honor of Terry's old frozen food commercial in the second episode, do you have any early showbiz jobs that ever come back to haunt you? 

Scott Bakula: (laughs) Well, I wouldn’t say that they’ve come back to haunt me, but I did a few commercials when I was just starting out in New York. They were great because they paid bills and gave me some financial freedom. But there were a few of them that were… I had a big, huge Canada Dry commercial that I did with Bob Giraldi and Michael Peters when he was alive. It was right after the “Thriller” video came out, so I was a singing, dancing, guy at the front of the triangle coming down dancing to Canada Dry music. It has never come back to haunt me, but it definitely makes me smile. 

And I want to tell you that your old commercials are on YouTube, I just looked them up.

Scott Bakula: I'm sure that they are. I'm sure that they are. You can't get away from anything anymore, really. I'm not sure that that’s necessarily a good thing. Some things should be memories, but that is not the world we live in anymore. So certainly, it's relevant that this episode this idea of me having made a commercial twenty years ago and having it come back to haunt me – in whatever way it works in our show – is real. And maybe a little bit painful but those commercials paid some bills. 

I wanted to know if anything is done on the production to reduce its carbon footprint. Are there any things that are done like as far as like waste reduction or reusing-recycling bins? Because you are involved as a producer, you are in some way responsible. Does anything like that happen? 

Ray Romano: Yes. On the set, I'm trying to think what's going on on the set. I know that in our offices, because I'm in my office every day, we've supplied every office with co-mingle recycling bins for our waste and everything. So yes, we are very green conscious, and we all drive Priuses, myself and Mike Royce. And I get paid in apple seeds. But no, we're doing our duty, we are very environmentally conscious. To the best of our ability, we're pitching in. 

What keeps challenging you about playing Owen? 

Andre Braugher: Well like life, nothing ever goes right and that’s a beautiful thing, because as I mentioned before, the struggle is fascinating. Quite often I’ve played very assured characters, very competent characters, and this was a departure from that, and I think a welcome one just in terms of broadening my ability to express myself in this dimension. These relationships are really the most appealing part about it, to play a character who has been married for 20 years and still is crazy about his wife, with three kids and struggling to make a living selling cars. It’s a challenge. The evolution, the maturation of the Owen character is just appealing to me. Quite often the characters I’ve played are ready-made atoms in their own way. They don’t have a lot of contexts and they don’t have a lot of history. But here is a character that is all context and all history and it’s a welcome departure. 

Why do you think people continue to tune in and watch Men of a Certain Age? 

Andre Braugher: Only because we’re telling stories that they find appealing in this way. Truth telling is a very compelling and watchable experience. When you find stories that tell the truth about your life, you find them fascinating because it’s an affirmation that instead of being a faceless drone or the stupid dad on television that you’re really dealing with people with dimension. So consequently I think that’s one of the reasons people enjoy tuning in.

Scott Bakula: Well, I think the big catch with the show from the beginning was because it is so different, whether people were actually going to like it. That hasn’t changed and people embraced the show. We are coming back with more and more of the same but obviously a brand-new season. Because there isn't a show like us on the air and Ray Romano and Michael Royce's point of view is kind of unique. I think people have responded to that.

There is a great sense of reality that the show has. All three of our characters are different and yet relatable. So many people have come up to me. Men have come up and said, “I see a little bit of myself in all three of your guys’ characters.” That has made us popular. Lots of women over the course of the last year have said, “when you threw that coffee on that back of that car and chased after the car, my husband would do that just like that” and you know the husbands are kind of looking down at his toes. I think we are a relatable show. We are not fancy, but people seem to be comfortable with us. 

I guess this is another way of asking too – reaction to the show from fans, have you gotten a lot just in your being out in the world? 

Andre Braugher: Yes, people recognize me. It’s a self-selected audience of course. People who hate the show don’t come up to me at all. People who like the show come up and they express an appreciation for the fact that we’re telling a story about older people who are typically invisible on shows – or functionaries like the Chief of Police, or the doctor who delivered the bad news or something to that effect. They’re pleased that someone is telling a story that reveals people of a certain age in all their dimensions.

What is your working process with Mike Royce is like on this show, and how has that changed from when you were working on Raymond together? 

Ray Romano: Well on Raymond, he was one of the writers on the staff. Phil Rosenthal kind of ran the writer's room and I was in there whenever I wasn't on stage. And this, it's just me and him and you know, it's kind of new for both of us running the show. Not only that – it's a one-hour and it's a single camera. What made Raymond flow so smoothly compared to other sitcoms – from what I hear – is we started the season with scripts written, with about twelve scripts fully written already. Phil made sure that we had that going, and that made all the difference. That's what we tried to do here, Mike and I. We started writing. We had a staff of only five writers, and we met in March, and we weren't going to start filming till August. We just beat out stories the room, and we got scripts written before we started filming. It's still a crazy amount of work but it seems to be manageable now.

I love the fact that the guys are lifelong friends. They’ve been together for all these years even though they are very different types. Did you guys sort of get together and discuss the characters’ back story: how they met and stayed together after all these years? Also do you have any friends from childhood that you still see regularly? 

Andre Braugher: I do have friends from childhood that I see regularly. I don’t think we had formal conversations about exactly what the back story is. We all went to Syracuse. According to the opening credits, we all got in the car and drove to sunny California together. My character is from California because my father is a former Laker star and an auto dealer. In that way I am returning home. I don’t know exactly where Terry’s character is from. He’s from the Midwest, that much we know. His little brother is out here that essentially grew up without his father. These are certain little facts that we know about these characters. But we’ve never really sat down and said this is what happened in 1984 and this is what happened in 1994. We didn’t do that. 

My mother sends her regards. She is still obsessed with Homicide, and she wants to know when they will be redoing it with you.


Andre Braugher: I don’t think it will ever happen but please give her my regards. 

It’s sort of tough for an actor to get a role in a single multi-season series and obviously you had Homicide, and I was also a big fan of Hack. How gratifying is it that you’re now able to do it yet again? 

Andre Braugher: It’s good. It’s good. It helps put my kids through college, you know what I’m saying. But the other thing about it is it’s sort of a role that I’ve been waiting for, you know. So often in my career I have played brilliant, authoritative, hyper competent characters. Benjamin Gideon is a brilliant oncologist and researcher, and Frank Pembleton is a brilliant detective in a small town in Baltimore. But when I look up with this role, I just found it really satisfying to not be hyper competent and not be brilliant. In a certain way explore the joy of Owen’s ordinariness. So I’m happy about getting this job and I’m looking for the next challenge after the series ends, you know, three, four, five years. I don’t know what it will be. It’s really dependent on how the audiences feel about it. But there will be another challenge somewhere along the line and really looking forward to grabbing something new. I have learned a lot by watching both Ray and Scott in terms of how to bring out the human comedy. I’ve learned a lot about the art of storytelling by watching these guys really craft and hone these shows – sometimes on their feet while we’re doing them. A lot about the honesty, the truthfulness, and the bravery necessary to play comedy. This has been a really satisfying experience. I don’t know how long it will last, how long it will be a joy ride. As long as it lasts, I’m going to try to really glean all of the good stuff from it I possibly can.

I am from Israel. I have two questions about that and sorry I am a bit nostalgic but because we didn’t have a lot of channels on TV here, so it was very meaningful for us to see you every day. So I wanted to ask, do you know what your effect outside of the USA, like people like me growing on the character of Sam Beckett and also, do you miss him sometimes and do you think maybe you would have wanted him to have more leaps these days? 

Scott Bakula: Yes, thank you. Yes, I am very aware of the worldwide effect that Quantum Leap has had. The few times I get out and do any kind of convention or a fan gathering, people come from all over the world and are fans. I'm always touched by that. For the people that were involved in making the show, it really lands on you in terms of the impact that you've had and the families that watched our show together and how much of an impression we made. That is always a great feeling. 

And yes, we would have loved for the show to have gone on longer. The continuing popularity of the show – with younger people now and people that grew up on it [that] are now sharing it with their kids – it really makes you proud. It makes you realize that you did something that not only had a lot of effect on people when it came out but still has relevance and meaning in the world. Certainly, a character like Sam Beckett – we could use a few more of him around. So I'm proud of the show and I love to hear that you enjoyed it over there so much. I hope it wasn’t just because you only had a few channels to watch. 

What was your reaction to the Emmy nomination? 

Andre Braugher: I was pleased without a doubt. But, like everybody else, when you’re handicapping, you know, Aaron Paul was going to win it. So, I was prepared, and sure enough Aaron Paul won it so there we have it. But I was pleased. It’s nice that people recognize the show. It’s nice to be recognized for telling the kind of stories that are pleasing to us and then amazingly are also pleasing to the audience. So awards aside, the nomination is really a testament to the fact that we’re on the right track. 

I started watching because you and Scott Bakula were on but it’s such an amazing, well-written show and has such great characters and probably because of my age I guess I can relate. It’s not just men of a certain age: it’s people of a certain age. I’m also Type 2 diabetic, I was going to ask you if you think Owen will be having more issues, more problems with that in the upcoming episodes. 

Andre Braugher: I don’t think so. We had a whole episode about the intense concentration on Owen and Owen’s eating disorder, the emotional side to it. He made a vow to his kids about eating healthy and the character has been eating healthy, so it looks as though there will be an improvement. I mean, literally an improvement in his health and his outlook. I don’t think his diabetes will become showcased as a part of his character.

Were there things you learned last season in this process with Mike that you adapted to for this season? 

Ray Romano: Well, it worked last year, where we wanted to make sure we could do that again, and we only had ten episodes last year. This year we went to twelve episodes. And we were kind of sure we could handle it. It's caught up to us a little bit now, because now we're filming now and we’re in our tenth episode and we still have to write the finale. It's kind of catching up with us. So if anything we're just learning that it pays to be ahead of the game – when you've got to rush the creativity process it never really comes out as good as you want it. We're just learning to prepare. It's catching up with us a little bit, but we're going to make it. If we had to do a sixteen-episode season right now, we would be in trouble – which is why we're not going to.

You mentioned earlier and it is true that the show is very unique. I was wondering why you think that there are so few shows out there around the personal lives and problems of men in their 40s – or women in their 40s, for that matter? Why is something like that is so unique in today's television world? 

Scott Bakula: Well, I think in today's television world, I don’t think this show – to be quite honest – would have made it on the air if Ray hadn't been attached to it. I think this is driven completely by the presence of Ray Romano and his return to television. That's what seriously got TNT excited. In the landscape of today's television, most writers are going to be going and pitch a story like this and then the network is going to say, "Well do they fight crime together when they're not at the diner talking?" "Do they own a strip club?" Or "How can we jazz the show up?" Happily, because Ray and the network's desire to be in business with him, he was able to let the show be and let the show breathe. The network has been fantastic, allowing the show to be human. It's just in the world today – and advertising and marketing – people are used to flashier, catchier, fancier, dressed up hours of television. So it just doesn’t fit in. Then you can say, “well gosh look at Mad Men” or look at whatever. It's very rare that you can get a show that is about people. I have pit shows in my life where it's a relationship show, and they almost left you out of the room because they just wanted to be about something. It needs to have a franchise. What is the franchise? That is not what our show's about. This is just one of those marriages where the material and the right guy brought it to the right network. We are where we are because believe me, if we'd done the show on a major network, it wouldn’t be the show that you see right now. We're just lucky, I think. Nothing against guys my own age and guys in their 40s but I think the concept in television is that we are not that interesting unless we are solving crimes, driving fast cars, or flying Starships – as I have done. So we just got lucky. 

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: December 3, 2010.

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