Tuesday, April 19, 2016
RIP Doris Roberts
I got to work with her when I directed EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. And I know her son, Michael. We hired him to be our Post Production Supervisor on BIG WAVE DAVE’S.
If I had to play word association with “Doris Roberts,” my response would be “Joe DiMaggio.” Why? Because Joltin’ Joe was not just one of the greatest players ever; he made it seem effortless.
And that was Doris. She had impeccable comic timing and was given challenging material to do week after week, and yet she made it seem so easy, so natural, so – effortless.
But the truth is, her performance required hard work. To play a character who at times could be the antagonist and yet still be lovable is a major acting feat.
The key was that she played Marie Barone (and every character) “real.” Never an exaggeration, never a “sketch” – you loved Marie because you identified with her. That was your mother. Or your mother-in-law. Or you (although you’d never admit it).
And not only did she avoid playing Marie too broad; she also avoided playing her too soft. Many actors fear being viewed as unlikable so they balk at having to play unsympathetic in any way. Doris went for the truth of the character in all situations, regardless. And you loved her even more for that.
She just inherently knew the correct level and pitch. As I was directing her I would think, “She’s forgotten more about acting than I’ll ever know.” That said she was lovely on the set. The pro’s pro. Always prepared, always knew her lines, always available to rehearse, always generous with the other actors, be they regular cast members or guest players.
On television Doris Roberts will live another 90 years. I wish there was a way to retire her number. She was one of the all-time greats.