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Doris Roberts: 13 Facts About the ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star

Check out the sometimes rocky road that led the actress to become the mother of all TV mothers

When it comes to mothers on TV sitcoms, nobody did it better than Doris Roberts, who portrayed them a number of times, but never as effectively as Everybody Loves Raymond’s Marie Barone. Here she was at 5′ 1″ tall, a little dynamo who, when she chose to use her gifts of guilt or anger, intimidated the other members of her family, including 6′ 8″ son Robert.

The power that emanated from Doris Roberts — despite the fact it was played on the show for comedy — was actually reflective and a result of the journey she took in life. Born on November 4, 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri, she had (justifiably) “daddy issues” due to the fact her father abandoned she and her mother when she was a child; she fought like hell to establish herself as an actress — a marriage coming together and falling apart in the process — and began eeking out roles on Broadway and in television guest appearances, before scoring some film roles.

Her credits are extensive, though there were only a handful of TV shows that she was a regular cast member on, including Angie (1979 to 1980), Maggie (1981), Remington Steele (1983 to 1987) and, of course, Everybody Loves Raymond (1996 to 2005), not to mention all of the recurring roles she portrayed as well.

MUST-READ: ‘Remington Steele’ Cast — See the Beloved 80s Investigators Then and Now!

Celebrating 100 episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond
The cast of Everybody Loves Raymond celebrates the show’s 100th episode in 2000Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Over the course of a career that began in 1951 and went until 2015, she won five Emmy Awards and One Screen Actor’s Guild award. Beyond that, Doris Roberts was an animal rights advocate, working with Puppies Behind Bars, a program that allows prison inmates to train dogs for the elderly and physically disabled; and she was Chairman of the Children with AIDS Foundation.

Presumably you didn’t know a number of those facts about Doris Roberts, but there are even more to follow.

1. She was emotionally impacted by her father’s abandonment

Doris Roberts in the early 1960s
Doris Roberts in the early 1960s©CBS/IMDb

When she was a child, Doris and her mother were abandoned by her father, and the impact on her emotionally was very strong. “For years,” she admitted, “I thought it was my fault. All little kids think divorce or desertion has to do with them. It took me years to let go of that; years not to expect any man I loved to ‘take a walk.'”

2. When she was four or five she was attracted to the idea of performing

Doris Roberts in 1978's Rabbit Test
Hamilton Camp, Peter Elbling, Henry Polic, and Doris Roberts are amazed at the condition of the world’s first pregnant man in a scene from the film Rabbit Test, 1978AVCO Embassy/Getty Images

As Doris told The Sela Enterprise, “I had one line in a play in kindergarten in which I said, ‘I am Patrick Patato and this is my cousin, Mrs. Tomato.’ There was laughter in the room and I loved the sound of that. It made me feel very important and that’s what I wanted to do from that moment.”

3. After getting married, she studied acting late each night

Doris Roberts with her Emmy Award
Emmy Winner Doris Roberts backstage at the 53rd Emmy Awards Show , November 4, 2001 Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

In 1956, Doris married Michael Cannata and they had a son named Michael, but her desire for a career definitely added some strain to their marriage. She detailed, “In the late ’50s and early ’60s, I couldn’t get arrested on or off Broadway, so I made work for myself. From midnight until 3 A.M., I studied at the Actor’s Studio in New York. Why at that hour? Because I couldn’t get my then-husband to babysit until then. And I needed to work for my sense of self. Even then it was hard to keep believing in my talent when I wasn’t getting paid for the work I did. Still, what I learned was priceless.”

4. Acting roles came her way on TV and Broadway

Doris Roberts gets her star
Actress Doris Roberts poses during the ceremony honoring her on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 10, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Early credits included anthology series during television’s Golden Age, among them Starlight Theatre (1951), Studio One and Suspense (both of which were in 1952) and Look Up and Live (1954). The next year she would appear in two Broadway shows, The Time of Your Life and The Desk Set.

5. Her marriage fell apart in 1962

Barbara Billingsley, Shirley Jones and Doris Roberts
Barbara Billingsley Shirley Jones and Doris Roberts at the TV Land Awards circa 2004Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

The marriage fell apart in 1962, which was difficult for her, especially since she was terrified — her word, not ours — of being alone. In a very candid interview with The Sacramento Bee, Doris also acknowledged that she knew she had to make a commitment to her lifeL “In those days, women were taught not only that they couldn’t, but that they shouldn’t be independent. A man, they said, doesn’t want a woman who is too strong.”

6. Doris Roberts frequently self-sabotaged her life

Doris Roberts
Doris Roberts during The 12th Annual Night of 100 Stars Oscar Gala at Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2014Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Doris stated that in her early efforts to go life alone, she would actually make herself sick. “Every time I came close to succeeding,” she said, “I’d become ill. A part of me didn’t want to make it on my own. My sickness in wanting a man, a Big Daddy-like man to take over my life and make it all wonderful.” It actually took years of therapy before she found that she could depend on herself.

7. During her second marriage, she was becoming an increasingly angry woman

Doris shows her support for the Dodgers
Doris Roberts during CBS Stars Party at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 2013 L. Cohen/WireImage

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Doris worked pretty consistently as a guest star on TV shows and playing supporting roles in films. She also married writer William Goyen in 1963 and though they were together for 20 years until his death, during the early years she found that she was growing angrier as a person. This was largely due to the dissatisfaction she felt over her career; that although she was working, she innately knew that she should be farther along than she was.

8. Her view on life changed after her son’s skiing accident

Desperate Housewives
Doris Roberts and Eva Longoria in a 2012 episode of Desperate Housewives©ABC/courtesy

Her entire outlook on life changed after her son experienced a skiing accident that nearly left him a quadriplegic, but somehow didn’t. Her response? “To think there was a time when I was so worried about tomorrow and so angry about what didn’t happen yesterday, that I couldn’t enjoy today. Michael’s accident changed me. It slowed me down. It grounded me in the present. Because I was always about how wonderful everything would be when I reached the promised land, I never enjoyed what I had.”

9. Angie was the first regular series for Doris Roberts

Doris Roberts in Angie
Doris Roberts in 1979’s Angie©ABC/YouTube

Although she was a part of The Mary Tyler Moore Hour in 1979, more significant was the fact that producer Garry Marshall (The Odd Couple, Happy Days) cast her as the mother of Donna Pescow’s Angelina “Angie” Falco in the television series Angie. At the time she was frequently asked if this was the time of her life, but, in reflection of her new philosophy, she differed, “When Michael was born, when I married Bill, those were the times of my life. Angie does make me feel like I’m attending my own birthday party everyday, but my family, my husband and son are the cake and Angie‘s the icing.”

Angie only lasted a single season, but after doing some guest starring, in 1980 she was a regular on the series Maggie, created by Erma Bombeck, best friend and hair dresser to series lead Mariam Flynn in the title role.

(MUST READ: See the Happy Days Cast Then and Now — and Find Out What They’re Doing Today!)

10. Then Came Remington Steele

Obviously when people think of Remington Steele, thoughts of Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist come to mind, but it should be noted that Doris became an integral part of the show as former IRS agent Mildred Krebs. She started off merely an office worker, but through her talents and comedic skills, the part continued to grow larger.

The cast of Remington Steele
Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan and Doris Robert in Remington Steele, 1986©NBC/courtesy

As she related to the Los Angeles Times in 1985, the experience had such a positive impact on her life and self-esteem. “A lot of women,” she stated, “who are past 45 feel obsolete, because they don’t find their purpose in life and are usually intimidated by youth. I came out here from New York feeling obsolete. I was angry that I was no longer that thin, pretty, sexy young woman. I was a mature woman and everyone around me was young. And I hated them. But then I began to look at the things I had accomplished, all the good work I had done on the Broadway stage and all the wonderful relationships I had made in my life.”

11. Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Marie Barone became Doris Roberts’ most famous role

The cast of Everybody Loves Raymond
Doris Roberts and the cast of 1996 to 2005’s Everybody Loves Raymond©CBS/courtesy

TV history came calling and Doris answered the door when she took on the role of Marie Barone on the Ray Romano series Everybody Loves Raymond, which ran from 1996 to 2005. While the show’s stars were really Romano and Patricia Heaton as husband-and-wife Ray and Debra Barone, the cast was filled out with Brad Garrett as Ray’s ever-jealous brother Robert and, as his parents who lived right across the street, Doris and Peter Boyle as Marie and Frank Barone. The chemistry between them all was evident right from the first episode and it’s why the show still holds up today, nearly two decades since it went off the air.

MUST-READ: Where Are They Now: The Cast of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’!

12. Marie Barone was at the center of Raymond — according to Doris Roberts

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Doris made no secret of the fact that she feels she, or at least her character, was an integral part of the show’s success. “If you play her as written, she’s a control freak,” the actress pointed out.

“She’s a pain in the neck and a buttinski. I mean, she’s so many things that are annoying, but I make you laugh. The smart thing that I’ve done as the character is making her a cross between [co-creators] Ray Romano’s mother, who was an Italian American, and Phil Rosenthal’s, who was a German Jew. Now, from my point of view, the German Jew is cerebral and the Italian American is visceral. So I’ve combined the two and that’s why you laugh at me. If you didn’t, if you found her to be too much, you wouldn’t find her funny.

“How I treat my son,” she added, “how I treat my daughter-in-law, how I treat the other brother who feels that I don’t love him as much as this one, how I treat Peter Boyle … all of that gfoes back to the mother. if you take her out of it, what have you got? You’ve got a husband trying to get his wife to give him more sex. You have a brother who’s angry and feels major sibling rivalry. This was much more than that.”

13. Doris worked until the end

The actress and Peter Boyle
Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle at the Doris Roberts book signing for Are You Hungry, Dear? at Barnes & Nobles Lincoln Center in New York, 2003Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic

Following the conclusion of Everybody Loves Raymond — for which she took home four Emmy Awards — Doris continued to push herself, making numerous television appearances and starring in a total of 14 movies. On top of that, in 2003 she wrote a combination memoir and cookbook in the form of Are You Hungry, Dear?.

At the age of 90, Doris Roberts passed away on April 17, 2016 after long battling pulmonary hypertension and suffering a stroke. And while she entertained a couple of generations of television viewers, her crowning achievement was undoubtedly Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, which will live on — as will she — for decades to come.

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