Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Ray Romano on His Directorial Debut at 65: 'This Is The Story I Want To Tell'

The 'Everybody Loves Raymond' star spun bits of his life into a grownup drama 'Somewhere in Queens'

spinner image Ray Romano on the red carpet at the New York special screening of the film Somewhere in Queens
Ray Romano at the New York special screening of "Somewhere in Queens" held at Metrograph on April 17, 2023 in New York City.
Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty Images

Ray Romano always worries about the short shelf life of comedians, but at 65, his career keeps getting bigger. He makes his director-actor-cowriter debut with Somewhere in Queens (in theaters April 21), a funny, poignant dramedy about a squabbling, loving Italian family in New York, with The Conners star Laurie Metcalf, 67, as his breast-cancer survivor wife, and Jacob Ward as his shy high-school basketball star son, whose career and social life Romano’s dad character gets way too involved with. Romano tells AARP about his sort-of autobiographical movie and his winning streak as a grownup talent.

Actors used to panic after 60, but you got hit after hit: 'Get Shorty'; 'Made for Love'; a noncomic role in Martin Scorsese’s 'The Irishman'; and now you’re a director. What have your 60s been like for you?

Oh, I'm always in panic mode. But it's been very fast, these last five years. The day I turned 60, during The Irishman, I was sitting in a hotel room with Scorsese and Robert De Niro rehearsing a scene. They said, “How old are you?” And I made a face like I was I was upset — “Oh, I'm 60!” And they both looked at me and said, “Get the hell out of here!” Because they were both 74. I swear to you, that feels like it was last week. Amazing how fast it goes.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

'Somewhere in Queens' seems like a deeper dive into the world of 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' the 1996-2005 show inspired by your real life.

People comment that it's kind of the same ground as the sitcom, but in my opinion, it's nothing like that. I mean, the people in the world are similar. But the essence of it is something more real, more pointed. It's a different genre. As loud as this family is, and maybe stereotypical, we made sure that it was real. We didn't want to make cartoons out of these characters. There was going to be comedy in it, because it's hard for us to go three pages without putting something funny in it. But the goal was to write a drama.

So it's partly your life and partly an artist’s response, a story that you invented out of out of your life?

Yeah, I took elements of what I had lived through. The people, the neighborhood, the world I grew up in — you write what you know. Friendship, especially in this business, is tricky. I still have my friends that I had when I was growing up in Queens. After family, friends are the most important things you can have.

I did grab experiences from my own life. My son was a high-school basketball player who graduated and was done playing and it was very sad for me. And my wife was a breastcancer survivor. My kid has experienced social anxiety. It's all stuff I could tap into.

But you steered clear of sitcom laughs and Hollywood endings.

I felt, this is the story I want to tell. It doesn't have to have the happiest of endings, it has to have a realistic ending. But I just wanted everybody to come out of it OK, without making it too feel-good. The son comes out of it feeling as a stronger person. And even the father ends up with an awareness and acceptance.

Shopping & Groceries


$20 off a Walmart+ annual membership

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >

Did you pick up any lessons from Scorsese and De Niro from working alongside them?

Scorsese’s thing was, the most important thing about directing is the casting. And he was right. He has quite a different style, of course, than me. But his demeanor and his energy and the way he talked to actors, I tried to emulate that, because he was great at all of that.

On 'The Irishman,' who was the most intimidating: De Niro, Scorsese, Al Pacino or Joe Pesci?

All of them. They’re in that club of icons. You have to pinch yourself. I know Joe Pesci from golfing — we belong to the same course. De Niro is a quiet guy. I was scared to talk to him until I finally had the guts to start a conversation.

How about Pacino?

Very gregarious. He gave me my favorite accidental insult. I wear a little fat suit for the scenes when I’m in my 70s, and [in a scene when his character is younger], he said, “I didn’t know you were wearing a fat suit for this scene.” And I said, “I’m not, Al. But thanks for letting me figure out what my new year’s resolution will be.” It’s like the male version of asking a woman when she’s due when she’s not due. Granted, we had just come from lunch, and I was a little bloated and sitting, but still.

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

LIMITED TIME OFFER. Join AARP for just $9 per year when you sign up for a 5-year term. Join now and get a FREE GIFT!

spinner image Ray Romano stars in the film Somewhere in Queens
Ray Romano stars as Leo Russo in "Somewhere in Queens."
Roadside Attractions

Did you think life would be like this at 65?

It's funny, I say this all the time to my friends: It doesn't feel like 65, it's like, what? How did that happen? I feel mentally like I'm just a stupid young goofball. You know, all right, physically is another story, but careerwise? I mean, I always dreamed of being in showbiz. I never thought I would be successful. But right now, what I want to be more about concerned with is still being relevant. You know, are you maybe aging out of being able to entertain through standup [comedy]? Right now, it still seems to be working, but it's always in the back of my head, how much longer I'm going to be able to have anything an audience wants to see or hear.

Are you getting worse as an actor?

I'm not getting less neurotic, let's put it that way. I wish that would stop, and so does my wife. But as far as acting goes, I oddly feel like, I think as you get older, you might become a better actor, because you've got more to draw on. Especially if we're talking about dramatic acting. You've lived a bigger life, you know, and had more life experiences. So I feel that has helped me a little bit.

What’s the best part of aging?

Some articles say the happiest people are 65 to 70 and older. Assuming they have their health, they seem to be the most content people. I guess they don’t really need to prove anything anymore. They accept who they are and enjoy life.

Do you think you’ll ever retire?

I hope not. If I do, I hope it’s voluntarily. If I have a passion for travel all of a sudden — don’t bet on that — then my wife’s dream will come true. But as long as I still have the bug in me, I hope I’ll be able to keep going.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?