Doris Roberts: Using Her 'Big Mouth' to Fight for Good

Starring in a new TV movie, the 'Everybody Loves Raymond' mother speaks out on behalf of older Americans and the homeless.

BY: Interview by Michael Kress

 
Doris RobertsDoris Roberts is probably best known as Marie Barone, Ray's hilariously judgmental mother on the long-running sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," which ended its nine-season run last year. While "Raymond" can still be seen in syndication at virtually all times of the day, Roberts, 76, has moved onto new projects. She's starring this weekend in "Our House," a Hallmark Channel movie in which she plays a lonely, depressed widow who's given up on life--until she meets Bobby, a homeless woman, played by Judy Reyes ("Scrubs"), who helps Roberts's character find a new purpose: offering shelter in her home to homeless people.

 

Roberts spoke with Beliefnet about  homelessness, the discrimination faced by older people, moving on after a loss, and her "Our House" and "Raymond" characters.

 

In "Our House" you play a very different type of mother than you played in "Everybody Loves Raymond." What do you think of these two different models?

 

Two Mother Characters
Both of them are different women, but they both need the same thing. Marie Barone, as crazy as she might have been at times, or as hard on her daughter-in-law as she was, it all came from love. She just wanted her sons to be in a household that was cleaner, a household where there was better food, and the grandchildren had the opportunity to have the luxury of a cleaner home and better food. That's what it stemmed from. It's not that she disliked the woman [her daughter-in-law, Deborah, played by Patricia Heaton], she just wanted her to be better for her boys. That's not an evil thing at all. She wasn't clever enough to do it with subtlety, but she did it from love, and that's how I played her. I never played her as being evil or resentful or mean-spirited. Not at all. I loved them, and I wanted it to better for them.

 

Now this woman [in "Our House"] has been pampered by money and has a great home, and it's empty. Absolutely empty. Useless. Empty rooms, when these people who are on the street, she brings them in and gives them a chance, just one step up. They need a second chance in life. They all do.

 

Marie Barone's character really seems to have resonated with people.

 

That show, "Everybody Loves Raymond," is now in 171 countries in the world. The United States government thought the Iraqi people should see an American family, so it was shown in Iraq--which was foolish, because we were so dysfunctional. It was shown twice, then taken off the air, because the mother was too strong.

 

Was your mother like her at all?

 

Not at all. My mother was a working mother. Those women who were taught to get married at an early age and have babies and take care of their babies and their husbands. They may have been obsessive about it, but they did good jobs, or they tried to.

 

Why were you attracted to this new movie, "Our House"?

 

The Problem of Homelessness
I live in California, in Los Angeles, and in Los Angeles alone, in the county, there are 90,000 people who are homeless. Twenty-five percent of those are women and children. We tend to be prejudiced about homeless people. We think that they're drunks or drug addicts or crazy or whatever the case may be.

 

It's not a behavioral thing. It's a question of having a place to live. And for them to be able to rent a place, it would take them 90 hours of work a week at $5 an hour. They're not going to make that. You know that. No one's making that. So we need to do something about that. We need our government to help them with affordable apartments or rooms and running water. It's very simple. It costs them more money to have them on the street than it would if they built affordable buildings for them. So that's what made me connect with that movie.

Continued on page 2: I'd like the word old to be stricken from our vocabulary. »

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