Even after nearly 50 years in the biz, Doris Roberts is still going strong. Since coming off her long-running hit TV show Everybody Loves Raymond, the Emmy-winning actress aleady has three movies under her belt--including the family comedy Keeping Up with the Steins, which hit theaters May 12. The film, also starring Jeremy Piven and Garry Marshall, revolves around 13-year-old Benjamin’s (Daryl Sabara) Bar Mitzvah in Brentwood, California.
Roberts takes a moment from her busy schedule to chat with Hollywood.com about working with Marshall--and reveals the key to success.
Hollywood.com: You and Garry Marshall have such a nice chemistry together in Steins. Is this the first time you’ve worked together?
Doris Roberts: Well, one of the first TV shows I did was Angie and Garry was the producer on that. But other than that, this is our first time on screen together. We had the best time. We did this great kissing scene but I don’t think it made it into the movie. Guess everyone would think it was gross or something. But Garry is a great kisser! He was modest at first, comes to me [puckering her lips]. I was like, “Oh, no, come over here and give me a real one!” [Laughs]
HW: It’s been a while since he’s had such a significant acting role--and he gets to be such a clown!
DR: Someone interviewed me this morning and said, “I understand Mr. Marshall is nude in the film” and I said, “Well, we do get to see his behind. And maybe that’s a good thing.” It was fun, it really was. And I think that its one of those true family movies. You can bring any age to the movie and they’ll find something to enjoy, laugh at. And maybe even learn a few things, too.
HW: Now that Everybody Loves Raymond has made you a household name, how does it feel, having all this attention?
DR: Now that [Everybody Loves Raymond] is in syndication, young people are watching it. It’s very exciting. I got off the plane here and there were eight young people, probably in their late teens, early 20s, wanting not just one photograph but like three or four. Apparently, a friend of theirs called them from the plane to say I was on it. The thing I really love about it, is that they come to me with big smiles on their faces and thank me for all the humor I bring into their homes. That’s lovely. [The show is ] in 171 countries in the world. Can you believe that? And I travel a lot. I have a great gig on the Crystal Cruise Lines. Everywhere I go, they know my name, my character’s name. They are ecstatic! So loving, it’s wonderful.
HW: Do you miss doing Raymond?
DR: I haven’t had a chance to miss it, really. I’ve done three movies since it ended. It’s been wonderful. Knock on wood. I did Grandma's Boy for Adam Sandler’s production company, which was a hoot. I don’t think I’d want my grandchildren to see it but fun nevertheless. And of course, Steins.
HW: Is the business difficult sometimes being over 70?
DR: It can be. There was this agent once, many years ago, by the name of Claudia Walden--and I have not forgotten her name. She called my agent and said, “I like to book Doris Thursday for a commercial.” My agent said, “I’m sorry, she’s not available.” “What do you mean she’s not available?” “Well, she’s working.” And this agent says, “Doris Roberts, working?” I wrote a book, which went on the bestsellers list of the New York Times called Are You Hungry, Dear? And I couldn’t get anyone to interview me for any magazine. So I was on The View and there’s was a young woman [who worked for a magazine] there, too, and I got her number. I called her up and asked, “Honey, how old are you?” She says 32, and I said, “Oh good, you got eight more years.” She said, “What?” I said, “According to your magazine, no one is worth anything over the age of 40.” And then I said, “OK, I’m going to pitch a story for you. I’m 70 years old. I have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, been nominated 12 times for Emmys, have won four [at the time, it’s now five], written a book, am a cultural ambassador. Don’t you think that’s a good story for a woman who’s 70 and doesn’t give up?” We did eventually get the story. But then I called the magazine and said, “Do you really want to make a lot of money? Put me on the cover. Everyone in my age group will buy the magazine because there is no magazine we can buy that talks to us!”
HW: Well, you are certainly an inspiration to older actresses.
DR: Oh, I hope so. I spoke to the Senate about it. My opening remark was, “Gentlemen, if you were in my business, you’d be out of a job.” It didn’t go over too well. [Laughs] I win these awards, up against these extraordinarily beautiful women, who are all very sexy. My argument is, if you are able and your mind is working and your body is working, why should we be dismissed? Why are we airbrushed out of society? We have wisdom, we have a whole life’s worth of experience. And we have a lot to contribute.
HW: What else have you been working on lately?
DR: I just did a film for the Hallmark Channel called Our House. It’s about homelessness. I did the Martha Stewart show recently and they asked me to cook. I don’t cook. I was just there to promote the movie. So then she asked if I’d do a craft thing and I said, “Sure, what are we doing?” She said we’d make a little blanket. I said I would if we could put it on eBay and have the money we raise go to the L.A. Mission for Homeless People. So we did that, which was great.
HW: Did you learn a few things about the homeless?
DR: In Los Angeles, there are 90,000 homeless, a quarter of them are women and children. A lot of them are veterans. It’s not always about behavior, it’s about affordable housing. Who gets enough for first and last month working today? And I think about all those people as a result of Katrina. It’s terrible. They have no hope, no future.
HW: You’ve been involved in a few programs for children, right?
DR: The United States government has made me a cultural ambassador. That sounds pompous, doesn’t it? Hope is what the children need, these children. I also belong to L.A.’s Best, which is an after-school program. Most of them are latch-key kids, and this is a lovely program that keeps them occupied, doing the things they love, for three hours or so after school. One time, I was sitting in a circle with a group of 11-12 year olds, and as I went around the room, there was one who played the drums, one who played bass, one who played guitar, one who wanted to sing. And I said, “We’ve got a band here! Let’s put it together and charge money!” That’s all it takes sometimes. I told them not to listen to that little voice that says they can’t do something. Yes, you can! I have a great time seeing their little faces light up.
HW: Have you ever heard that voice?
DR: I had the wife of one of my teachers at NYU tell me daily, “My dear, you don’t belong on the stage. You’re just a little mousy thing and we can’t hear you.” She wore me out, she did. I quit. But then I went to the neighborhood playhouse and auditioned for the great teacher Sandy Meisner and he gave me a scholarship. So there!
HW: What’s your key to survival?
DR: I don’t give in, I don’t give up, I don’t settle and I never take “no” for an answer. If you throw me out the door, I’ll come through the window. If you find something you love to do, then it’s not work. Then it’s a profession that you don’t mind getting up to go do. I’m blessed. I have a great family that I adore. I’m working. I’m successful at it. I’ve been awarded for so many things. I have wonderful friends, am free to come and go. I am blessed. Knock on wood.