Ray Romano, the stand-up comedian and star of the wildly popular family sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, has left the building. But Ray Romano, the co-creator, executive producer, writer and star of the drama Men of a Certain Age, is just getting started.
"That ended too soon," Romano tells TVGuide.com of the TNT series, which got the axe after two critically acclaimed but woefully underrated seasons. "I still have the affinity towards that type of show and towards that type of performing and that's what they do great here on Parenthood."
In the Season 4 premiere (Tuesday, 10/9c) of the NBC family drama, Romano kicks off a multi-episode arc as Sarah's new boss, photography studio owner Hank Rizzoli. "Creatively, it's kind of a dead end for him. He used to be a photo journalist so he doesn't feel fulfilled at all. He's kind of got a chip on his shoulder."
Although the antisocial Hank may seem light years away from the character he's best known for — Ray Barone — Romano says he had no desire to return to the world of half-hour sitcoms after TNT pulled the plug on Men of a Certain Age last summer. "I got my fill of doing a sitcom in front of a live audience. I did it. I'm happy with what we did. I'm happy that that's my legacy if you will," he says. "I like the idea of doing comedy where you don't have to be big and broad and you can play subtle, and I like the fact that you can also do drama the same way. ... That's what Men of a Certain Age was —it had a lot of comedic moments and some real emotional moments too."
On Parenthood, those emotional moments may come from Hank's growing relationship with Sarah (Lauren Graham). "She is something that he's not. She can relate to customers and talk to customers," he says. "Little by little, I think they're starting to connect, and she's starting to see him for what he truly is and she's starting to see a real person."
Although Romano has been billed as someone who would "complicate" Sarah's relationship with her now-fiancé Mark (Jason Ritter), Graham insists not all is as it seems. "It's an interesting chemistry," she says. "It's another person who makes her think, 'Oh well, here's another way I could have gone. Here's someone who's had the experiences I've had and who also has a child.'"
She continues: "Also she's learning a lot from him and kind of excited. Sarah has really struggled to find work that is interesting so it's all mixed up in somebody whose talent she really admires."
Like her character, Graham has valued the opportunity to work with Romano. "We're similarly insecure and neurotic and so that's a really fun competition to see who really has lower self-esteem," she quips. "I just really value the experience."
To hear more about how Romano got his role on Parenthood, Graham's first brush with Romano during his Improv Club days and more, check out TVGuide.com's behind-the-scenes video from the set of Parenthood:
The new season of Parenthood premieres on Tuesday at 10/9c on NBC. Are you excited for Romano to meet the Bravermans?