‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Creator Phil Rosenthal Nearly Quit Because CBS Wanted A ‘Hotter’ Actress To Play Ray’s Wife

Everybody Loves Raymond‘s long run on CBS was not without its mistakes. The life of a sportswriter, for one, is far more depressing and full of hot takes than the one Ray Romano portrayed in the suburbs of New York City. But years after the show left the air, its showrunner revealed that one big change was pitched for the show that almost made him quit altogether.

As Yahoo Entertainment detailed, the show’s nine-season run garnered plenty of praise from viewers and critics. But as showrunner Phil Rosenthal detailed, the sitcom got a big note from CBS during its casting process that nearly ended things before they got started. Romano’s Ray had a wife played by Patricia Heaton in the show that made it to air. But what CBS had in mind was much more cliche.

“CBS wanted someone hotter to play Debra,” he says, referring to the ’90s sitcom cliché where the schlubby male leads were routinely married to runway-ready women. (That eye-rolling convention was skewered in the recent AMC series Kevin Can F*** Himself, starring Annie Murphy.) “I almost quit the show over it.”

Rosenthal made it clear that note came before Heaton had even auditioned for the part, but the note was clearly leaning into the stereotype seen across many shows in the 90s and early 2000s. It turns out the network had another actress in mind that Rosenthal made sure to keep nameless, but it didn’t go anything like the network or actress hoped.

“They insisted on this actress. I thought she was wrong, but I met with her and she was a very pleasant, very nice person. 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!”

Rosenthal said that he was prepared to quit over the casting decision if it were forced upon him, namely from CBS president Les Moonves, who clearly held a lot of sway over the process. But it apparently didn’t come to that: Rosenthal stood his ground, and eventually Heaton came to read for the part and the rest was history.

When Moonves asked, “What about so-and-so,” Rosenthal gave him the only answer he could — the truth. “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. [Moonves] said, ‘Well, it’s just an idea.’ In other words, he let me slide and we agreed to keep looking! 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.”

Heaton clearly thrived in the role she landed as Romano’s TV wife, so it’s good things worked out the way they did for everyone involved. It’s hard to imagine Everybody Loves Raymond being nearly as successful without Heaton and Rosenthal involved, but we’ll always wonder just who came in and read so poorly that it opened the door for Heaton to get the gig.