Ray Romano’s legacy as a comedian has long been secure.
Mostly because of the monstrous success of his hit CBS show Everybody Loves Raymond, but also due to his stellar comedic career that made him one of the most respected stand-ups of the 1990s.
Over the last few years, though, Romano has proven remarkably adept in dramatic roles, too, excelling in the Oscar nominated The Big Sick and very much holding his own against the always extraordinary Holly Hunter.
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Ray Romano talks Paddleton
In fact, it was this performance that convinced indie producer and actor Mark Duplass that Romano was perfect for Paddleton, which sees the pair star as Michael and Andy, respectively, two misfit neighbors that have to come to terms with the latter’s cancer diagnosis.
“He was at the after-party,” Romano tells Metro. “It was the first time we’d ever met. I guess he liked what he saw, because he said, ‘You know, you and I, you would be good for this one project that I'm thinking of.’ He didn't really tell me anything about it.”
That’s actually because there wasn’t much to tell, as Paddleton, much like Mark Duplass’ other projects, didn’t have a shooting script, only an outline.
“He said to me, ‘We only do outlines and we improvise the scenes.’ I mean, it was a pretty detailed outline. And I just liked the idea of it. The execution and the style of it scared me a little. But I was very intrigued. So I quickly decided to take this chance.”
Romano even adjusted his own acting approach to merge with Mark Duplass’ style, which he calls “slow and subtle and intimate,” as he just trusted his instincts to make sure the performance felt “more real.”
“Normally in a scripted piece when I do in an emotional scene, I am in the corner, I put on my headphones, I need to listen to sad music. I need to get myself to that spot. But for this I needed none of that. That was just the type of movie that it was. You know you're living with a guy, you're creating his lines for 20 days in a row, you just put so much of your soul into this guy. So it just felt so real. It felt so organic.”
Although, Romano also insists that his prestigious work as a comedian aided his improvised creation of Andy.
“I love doing quips that are well-written. But there’s another thing that happens when you're creating the lines yourself from this character. Listen there are great actors that can't do that and that's fine.”
“So this easily could have been a disaster. But I think he trusted that I had the ability. Especially in comedy and I've improved a lot unscripted stuff I've done extra lines here and there and just on stage, but dramatically, there is a question of how it was all going to play out dramatically.”
But considering that Romano and Duplass only met for the first time just a few months before, how did the pair create such an authentic friendship on screen?
“I met him a couple of times before we started filming. We discussed who these guys were in great detail. He described them as these outsiders who are socially awkward and really just have each other. Mark is a very friendly guy."
"It’s hard not to feel comfortable and like him, you know? He made me feel very at ease. I really took to him. I was really comfortable with him. We were still getting to know each other until we started filming. But everything felt right.”
Romano also wrote a heartfelt backstory about his character Andy. “I just wrote about how he had found this one guy who could be his soulmate. And how he couldn’t connect with anybody. He probably felt like he would be alone until he found this one friend.”
Paddleton is released on Netflix on February 22.