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Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula – Knocking Back a Few with 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 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

Originally posted December 3, 2010.

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 write about? What do we know how to write about? We both were going through the same thing – this identify 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 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 and 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 100% almost.  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 aspect – 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.

Click here to read the rest of the interview!

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