Interview with Ray Romano of "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas" - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Interview with Ray Romano of "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas" on FOX 11/16/11

Ray Romano is always great to chat with. He's such a nice, warm, down-to-earth guy, and so funny, too. I enjoyed speaking with him about this cartoon.

November 16, 2011/2:30 p.m. EST

Michael Fabiani
Ray Romano


Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the Ray Romano ICE AGE: A MAMMOTH CHRISTMAS call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. We will open the lines for questions.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Mr. Michael Fabiani with FOX.

M. Fabiani: Hi everyone. Thanks for taking the time to join the ICE AGE: A MAMMOTH CHRISTMAS call today with star Ray Romano who voices the character of Manny in our all new holiday special airing this Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 24 from 8 to 8:30 p.m. on FOX I'd now like to turn the call over to the question and answer portion.

Moderator: Thank you. We'll go to the first question of Mike Hughes with TV America. Please go ahead.

M. Hughes: Hey Ray, back when you did the first movie of almost 10 years ago people didn't realize how big these animated films were going to be. How surprised are you that it’s had a life of its own and “Ice Age” has been seen by a zillion people and they keep making more. So what did you first think about when you first saw the script?

R. Romano: Well, I mean, at that time there were successful animated movies. So I knew that if you did it right it could be something that is successful. I read the script and I enjoyed the script. It had a nice story. It had a nice moral. It has a nice message. Then I met the director, Chris Wedge, and he came in and he kind of pitched the look he was going to go for and what he was trying to get. And I had seen the short that he won an Academy Awards for that he did. And it had such a great look and creative feel to it. I knew–so I just kind of got the sense that this was going to be a quality thing and this was in the hands of some pretty talented people.
Did I know that this was going to happen that we were going to make a fourth? No, I didn't know that. I knew we were going to make a good movie but who can tell. You know, there are a lot of good movies and for whatever reason this caught on. I think it's very well done and I think it has a good message. I think, yes, it's just something that caught on with the audience.

Moderator: Thank you and our next question will go to the line of Mark Washburn with Charlotte Observer. Please go ahead.

M. Washburn: Hi Ray. I noticed there is a lot of new animation coming out this Christmas for holiday shows. I'm just curious, do you have favorites of your own that date back when you were a kid, or even into more recent times animated specials for the holidays?

R. Romano: Well, for the holidays–you're going to age me now. But I always remembered “Charlie Brown.” That was when I think of my childhood and I think of Christmas and watching an animated film. There weren't many then. I'm talking about in the 60s now. It's “Charlie Brown Christmas,” and the tree and Linus. That's where I go. And then, there's “Charlie Brown Halloween,” and the great pumpkin. That's it for me. There's nothing else for me in my memory of my childhood that stands out.

Now, of course, there was a couple as I became a young adult “The Grinch that Stole Christmas” and whatnot. But now, there are so many of them. Yes, but for me, I go right to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” That brings back memories. It's very nostalgic for me to see it and it's still on now. It still holds up. My kids watched it when they were at that age and pretty soon my grandkids are going to watch it. Oh God, I'm old.

Moderator: Thank you and we'll go to the line of Reg Seeton with Please go ahead.

R. Seeton: Hi Ray. After playing Manny so many times now, how do you find your way back into the character each time to separate yourself? Does it get easier between films?

R. Romano: It takes a couple of minutes when I get into the recording studio. I have a line that I use as my mantra, my way in. And it's a line from the first movie were Sid is trying to get him to go somewhere and he just gets into Sid's face and he says, "I'm not going." So I repeat that about a dozen times until I feel it. And the thing is, when people hear the movie they think that that's just me doing my voice and it's not. I'm tweaking my voice. It's Manny. I can distinguish between my normal speaking voice and Manny. I am doing the character. And yes, at this point, it's as simple as that. It's just repeating that line over and over again.

Moderator: Thank you and we'll go to Stacey Harrison with Tribune Media Services. Please go ahead.

S. Harrison: Hi Ray. I'm asking this aware that I could be reading too much into an “Ice Age” cartoon here. But was the concept–when they pitched this idea of a Christmas special, just the fact that it's Santa Claus and everything but taking place in prehistoric times, was that a little strange and then how do you think they handled that?

R. Romano: That doesn't quite make sense. I never got into that and it's the same with when we did the dinosaurs and how the logic behind it. You've, kind of, got to let that go. Mammoths don't talk either. So, I just give over to it. It's just a story and it's fun to combine Santa with this world. So, I don't think anyone–I think the audience that we're going for it is not going to bump for them. But I have had that question though.

Moderator: We have a question from Gerri Miller with MNN. Please go ahead.

G. Miller: Good morning Ray.

R. Romano: Hi. How are you?

G. Miller: First of all, did you do this recording for it at the same time as “Continental Drift?” Was that kind of—or did you do it earlier or when?

R. Romano: Yes. We get them together. When I would go in for a recording session for the new movie like the first hour or so would be for the special. For a couple of recording sessions we piggybacked them together.

G. Miller: And can you talk about that plot a little bit? It's something to do with the continent breaking off and global warming, is that true?

R. Romano: It's not so much the global warming because we did that one already. That was one of the plots of, I think, two now. Geez, they're starting to blend in. The new movie more is about the daughter that we have, Peaches, now is a teenager. It's kind of about that, about Manny dealing with a teenage daughter.

You know, there is so much crazy stuff that goes on but underlying it all is just the plight of the families and friends and all the trials and tribulations of being a family and a parent. That's what this one is. It's her trying to go out on her own and have a boyfriend and this, and that, and Manny has to learn to let go. But there's a great adventure which moves the story. Does that make any sense? Clean that up. I'm done.

Moderator: Thank you. We'll go to the line of Alice Chapman-Nugent with Times Courier. Please go ahead.

A. Chapman-Nugent: Hi Ray, great talking to you.

R. Romano: How are you?

A. Chapman-Nugent: Great. What is it about Manny that you think people will be able to relate to?

R. Romano: Well, he's kind of the every man mammoth. He's a little bit of a curmudgeon on the outside but we know he's got a great heart. He's a big hulking figure but he's a softy, really. And yes, it's the family aspect of it. He's a family man. And the family is the most important thing to him. So he may seem like a grouch but he sticks up for his friends and his family. I think people know people like this and people are like this. And, I think, people just relate to the values that he has, the family values.

Moderator: Thank you, and our question comes from Suzanne Lanoue with The TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.

S. Lanoue: Hi. Can I first say that I love “Men of a Certain Age” and I'm still very annoyed that it was canceled.

R. Romano: Me too. Keep talking about it. Write somebody.

S. Lanoue: I will.

R. Romano: Thank you.

S. Lanoue: I just watched the Christmas special, the “Ice Age” Christmas special. I thought it was very funny and something that even adults would like, not just kids.

R. Romano: Good. Thank you.

S. Lanoue: Actually, it's funny that you mentioned the “Charlie Brown Christmas” special because the Christmas rock kind of reminds me of that straggly tree in the “Charlie Brown Christmas” special.

R. Romano: Yes. And he has to decorate it. Yes and also in the “Great Pumpkin” all he got was a rock.

S. Lanoue: That's right. Yes, what do you think is the best thing about doing the animation as opposed to regular acting?

R. Romano: Well, it takes getting used to. The best thing is the fantasy of it all and here you can relate to everybody; adults and kids. It's timeless. It'll last. The actual procedure for an actor is kind of hard to get used to because it's just you in a studio. I know this is the fourth one I've done and I've never been in the recording studio with another actor. We're always on other sides of the country or this and that and you have to do it in piecemeal.

So that's kind of hard to get used to. But the pros of it is, yes, being able to be in this world, this fantasy world, and be able to take your kids and your friends kids and everything. It's just fun. It's fun. It's not an easy process but it's fun when it comes out.

S. Lanoue: Thank you very much.

R. Romano: Alright. Thanks.

Moderator: Next, we'll go to the line of Steve Eramo with Morton Report. Please go ahead.

S. Eramo: Hi Ray. It's a pleasure to speak with you today.

R. Romano: How are you doing?

S. Eramo: I've got just a general question for you. I wanted to find out, did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?

R. Romano: What industry are you talking about?

S. Eramo: The acting industry.

R. Romano: Of course, I originally was interested in acting. In college, I took a couple of drama classes. But I think my heart was always into comedy and standup comedy mostly. So when I became a standup comic I felt like this was my calling. I felt this was what I do the best and I loved doing it.

As the years went on and I was doing it for a living I knew that acting was the next step, not the next step, but the next venture. And I wanted to pursue it. Standup was a great vehicle to get me there and it did get me there. It got me my deal. David Letterman signed me to the deal to do “Raymond.”

But being a standup was my life goal at that time and it was very fulfilling for me. And now, I still love standup and I still think I am a standup at my core. But acting is another part of me that I want to pursue further and I want to perfect because I still have a lot to do. Does that make any sense?

S. Eramo: It does. Thanks very much Ray.

Moderator: We'll go to the line of Michael Moore with Please go ahead.

M. Moore: Ray, how are you?

R. Romano: I'm good. I'm good, how are you doing?

M. Moore: Great. Count me in as well as another person who's really going to miss “Men of a Certain Age.” You guys did some fantastic work on that show.

R. Romano: I appreciate it man. We're heartbroken. But thanks.

M. Moore: Yes, me too. Listen, my question was kind of asked already so I'm going to try and tweak it for you a little bit. You talked about your process for doing voice work on the “Ice Age” movie. But can you talk about just like your daily process regarding that, your preparation? When you're actually in the studio what kind of queues you get from the director, or whoever else is kind of helping you bring your character to life.

R. Romano: Well, it's such a weird process because, like I said, it's done in such piecemeal. And what happens is I get the script, the original script, and you've got to remember this takes a year and a half to two years sometimes of recording. And you go in and you record for like a four-hour session and then you don't get another date to record for maybe two months–a month, two months, three months sometimes. And in that time they're storyboarding it and rewriting it and the script gets rewritten continuously.

So each time you go in you don't know what scene you're doing. You don't know where you are and it's in such piecemeal that the director needs to tell you, "Okay, here's what's happening, the dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. You're falling off the cliff and dah, dah, dah." So, you really have to just get ready for every line.

Every line the director has to tell you, "Your daughter is lost and you haven't found her. And now you're on this ice shelf and the shelf is ...." And each line you just have to prepare for each line from what he gives you. So it is a weird process in that sense. But it's also kind of exciting that every line–one line you're being soft and emotional and the next line you're falling down an ice mountain.

Moderator: Thank you, and next we'll go to the line of Emily Ghane with TV Guide Canada. Please go ahead.

E. Ghane: Hey Ray.

R. Romano: Hi.

E. Ghane: I'm in big fan. So it's very exciting to talk to you.

R. Romano: Thank you.

E. Ghane: Now, I know that Manny is trying to uphold his traditions with his family in the half-hour special. Do you have any particular holiday traditions? Are you really into the holidays with your family?

R. Romano: Yes. Yes, Christmas is a big one. I force the kids not to open–the kids want to open and all the gifts and presents Christmas Eve. And I'm a strict “Christmas morning” is the morning. And a lot of people do Christmas Eve and it kind of drives my wife and the kids crazy. But one of my childhood memories is that Christmas morning, coming down, trying to wake your father up so you can get down. And he's got to go in the bathroom and shave and do whatever he's got to do and you're dying to get down there.

We're past waiting to see if Santa came but my youngest is 13. So he's still excited to get down and find what new videogame he's got. So that's big. Midnight mass is a tradition. I am a midnight mass guy before Christmas Eve. So me and the family go to midnight mass. That's big.

Then there are always the relatives on Christmas Day. Now we're here in L.A. and they're in New York. So it's a switch back and forth. Sometimes they'll come out here or we'll go out there. For Thanksgiving it's either we go to New York for the big Thanksgiving dinner/try to watch football or they'll come out here. But yes, we like to keep those things. My family gets a big kick out of doing all the things the way I grew up, even though they get a little anxious and want to update it. I try to keep them from–and keep the traditions alive.

E. Ghane: Awesome. Thank you very much.

R. Romano: Alright. Thanks.

Moderator: We'll go to the line of Nancy Basile with Please go ahead.

N. Basile: Hi. Sorry about that. I'm so far down in the queue that my questions got asked. So I'm just going to say are there any holiday films coming out right now that you are looking forward to?

R. Romano: Holiday films?

N. Basile: Are you a big “Twilight” fan, for instance?

R. Romano: I'm not. I haven't gotten into the “Twilight.” It's weird because my daughter who would be is just probably a little past that age where she'd be a heavy “Twilight” fan and my youngest is 13. No, so not “Twilight.” What else is coming out?

N. Basile: “Puss In Boots,” perhaps?

R. Romano: Well “Puss In Boots” is out already isn't it?

N. Basile: Yes. I was just looking for any films animated or otherwise that you might be–I was also–

R. Romano: Yes. There's that one Martin Scorsese one that looks pretty interesting, “Hugo.”

N. Basile: Oh, yes, from the “Hugo Cabret” book?

R. Romano: Yes. I've got that on my list of want to see.

N. Basile: That's very cool. What is it like going from standup where you have a full theater of people and a sitcom where you have a live audience to, kind of, the imploding silence of the booth when you go into record and you've just got your–

R. Romano: Well, like I said, it takes awhile to get used to. To be totally honest, on the first film I had no idea, you're right. It was such a difference for me and when I went in and recorded there's no feedback. There's nothing. I seriously thought I was going to get fired.

Like the first couple of sessions I would tell my manager, "You'd tell me if they fire me right?" He goes, "Yeah, yeah." I go, "Don't wait, just tell me. I can take it." And the next recording session I would be, "All right, well let's see." And then I would come out of that one and think, well, now they'd really have to fire me. Because it is so bizarre. It's such a weird genre in that sense, yes.

N. Basile: Thank you.

R. Romano: Alright. Thanks.

Moderator: We'll go to the line of Sammi Turano with TVGrapevine. Please go ahead.

S. Turano: Hi. How are you today?

R. Romano: Hello. I'm good. How are you doing?

S. Turano: I'm good. Thank you. My question for you is how did you initially get involved in this project of playing Manny?

R. Romano: Well, they approached me. It was during “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Oh God, what year was that? I guess it was, I'm going to take a guess that was either the third or fourth year. So they had known me from that and my manager just gave me the script and asked me to read it. And he says, "They are interested in meeting with you."

I read the script and it was a great script. So I said, "Yes, I'll meet with them." They came in to where we film “Raymond.” And during my lunch hour the director and the producer just sat with me and told me what they were thinking of and I signed on.

S. Turano: Wonderful. And did you ever expect it to be as big as it was now?

R. Romano: I did not and I still am baffled. Like after we did the third I said, "Wow, this is a great franchise but it's three and out, isn't it?” And sure enough the fans just wouldn't let it go. I knew that if they came up with an interesting story–it's good, it's great. But you also want to make sure you're not overdoing it. You're not overstaying it. But I really enjoyed this last one we did. Again, they have other stories to tell. The baby is now a teenager and it's a whole other set of circumstances.

S. Turano: Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much.

R. Romano: Alright. Thank you.

Moderator: We'll go to the line of Kristyn Clarke with Please go ahead.

K. Clarke: Hi Ray. Thanks so much for talking to us.

R. Romano: Thank you.

K. Clarke: You know, with such a strong background in comedy, I'm wondering if you can share what you feel is the formula for good comedy, be it, in animation, with “Ice Age,” or in front of the cameras with standup or other acting adventures?

R. Romano: Well, there's different formulas and there's different things that work for different people. But what works for me and also what appeals to me is, and it seems cliché but it is the truth. It's relatability. Any standup–I love all kinds of standup but the standup that I was really drawn to and influenced me was like Bill Cosby. Guys who talk about family and life and things that you experienced and then they made it funny.

And that's what worked for me. That's what worked in “Everybody Loves Raymond.” That's what we did. We took our own life experiences. Again, this is animation. It's “Ice Age” and it's animals talking but underneath it all, at the core, are just problems and relationships that people identify with. That's kind of half the battle in comedy, I think, is people identify with it and then, yes, you make it funny.

Moderator: And I'd like to turn it back to Mr. Fabiani for any closing remarks.

M. Fabiani: I wanted to thank everyone and especially Ray for participating in the call today. And just to remind you that ICE AGE: A MAMMOTH CHRISTMAS airs this Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 24 on Fox. And we also have the new installment of the motion picture franchise “Ice Age: Continental Drift” from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox hitting theaters July 13, 2012.

In the meantime, please check out the new Scrat short, “Scrat's Continental Crack-up”—Part 2 available exclusively on iTunes later today. Thank you Ray and thanks to everyone!

R. Romano: Okay. Thank you guys. Thank you everybody.

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, this conference will be available for replay after 4 p.m. Eastern time today through November 21, 2011 at midnight.

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