By Mike Barnes
The five-time Emmy winner excelled at playing motherly types. “I’m not some celebrity thinking, ‘I’m greater than anybody else,’ ” she once said.
Doris Roberts, who delighted audiences as the meddling mother next door on Everybody Loves Raymond, has died, her representative confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 90.
Roberts, who won Emmys for best supporting actress in a comedy for playing Marie Barone, the mother of Ray Romano’s sportswriter character, in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005, died Sunday in Los Angeles.
In 1995, Roberts landed the part of Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, playing Ray’s mom and the husband of the cranky Frank (Peter Boyle). She was with the hit CBS sitcom for every one of the show’s nine seasons, covering 210 episodes.
“When Peter Boyle and I met for the first time on the show it was as if we had known each other for 45 years,“ she said in a 2014 interview with Parade magazine. "We got more laughs just giving each other dirty looks than anything else.”
She was scheduled to appear at an Everybody Loves Raymond reunion in June in Austin, Texas.
“Truly the end of an era,” Patrica Heaton, who did battle with Roberts as daughter-in-law Debra on the show, wrote on Twitter. “My wonderful TV mother-in-law and ELR nemesis Doris Roberts was a consummate professional from whom I learned so much. She was funny and tough and loved life, living it to the fullest.”
Roberts once said she based Marie on a combination of Ray Romano’s mother, an Italian, and series producer Phil Rosenthal’s mom, a German-Jew.
“Everything [Marie does, she does] because she want them (the other characters) to make a better life, a better home,“ she said. "It all comes from love. That’s why I’m very pleased and excited that I have that much of a contribution for that character that makes everyone laugh, because if you laugh at me, you can laugh at your own parents.”
Wrote Rosenthal on Twitter: “We loved our mom, the great #DorisRoberts. A wonderful, funny, indelible actress and friend.”
“Doris Roberts had an energy and a spirit that amazed me,” Romano said in a statement. “She never stopped. Whether working professionally or with her many charities, or just nurturing and mentoring a green young comic trying to make it as an actor, she did everything with such a grand love for life and people.”
Roberts excelled in motherly roles throughout her career. She played Donna Pescow’s mother on the 1979-80 ABC series Angie, created by Garry Marshall, and joined NBC's Remington Steeleas Mildred Krebs, the receptionist for the detective agency run by Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist, in 1983. She stayed with the show through 1987.
Roberts also won another Emmy in 1983 for a stint on St. Elsewhere.
A native of St. Louis who was raised in the Bronx after her father left the family when she was 10, Roberts made her Broadway debut in 1955 in The Time of Your Life, written by William Saroyan, and also appeared in The Desk Set that year.
She left New York when Lily Tomlin saw her in the Terrence McNally play Bad Habits and brought her to California to do ABC's The Lily Tomlin Comedy Hour in 1975.
Her big-screen résumé included Something Wild (1961), Barefoot in the Park (1967), The Honeymoon Killers (1969), A New Leaf (1971), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Rabbit Test (1978) andThe Rose (1979).
Roberts wrote a 2005 best-seller, Are You Hungry, Dear? Life, Laughs and Lasagna.
Her marriage to novelist and short story writer William Goyen lasted 22 years until he died of leukemia in 1983 at age 68.
Asked in the Parade interview why the audience seemed to identify with her, Roberts replied: “I’m not a bull artist. I tell it like it is. I’m not some celebrity thinking, 'I’m greater than anybody else.’ I’m one of the people. And they know that. It’s wonderful when they say to me, 'Thank you for the humor you’ve brought us all these years.’ I am a lucky son of a gun. I get paid for it.”
Ryan Parker and Jennifer Konerman contributed to this report.