Hailed by critics and viewers for its funny, smart and honest look at the ups and downs of midlife, Men of a Certain Age has almost completed its second season on TNT. The series stars Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) as Joe, a divorced, slightly neurotic party-store owner; Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) as Owen, happily married with two children who runs an automobile dealership with his father; and Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise) as Terry, an out of work actor who has taken a job with Owen as a car salesman.
Ray Romano, who is also the Executive Producer and creator of the series, and Scott Bakula spoke with us about of their popular dramedy.
None of the three lead characters are from the basic TV food groups – cops, doctors or lawyers. You’re not fighting aliens. You’ve not time traveling. Most networks must have laughed in your face when you proposed the series about three middle-aged men who have lunch or breakfast together and then muddle through life. How did you sell this in the first place?
Ray Romano: Well, if you look around TNT it has everything you said. They’ve got the cops. They’re fighting aliens. They’ve got all that already.
Did you go back to CBS, that produced Raymond, to see if they would consider it?
Ray: Yeah, CBS was actually interested in our show if we made it a half hour and made it a comedy. And I said, ‘We did nine years of that already.’ What happened was we were doing it for HBO and then the powers that be kind of changed over there. TNT is by far the best fit.
Were you worried that Andre Baugher, who is a dramatic actor, might not be funny in this?
Ray: We were very scared in the beginning. We knew Scott had done comedy. I had done comedy, and not that we were pushing the comedy, but we wanted it to have drama and comedy.
Michael Wright at TNT first suggested Andre Baugher, and our original reaction was, ‘That’s the guy from Homicide. That’s not our guy.’
We wanted a bit of a put-upon guy who’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and a little overweight, who had let himself go a little. This was who we pictured that we wrote the role for.
Then when Andre came in the room, we saw he had put on a few pounds. Maybe he did it for the role, we don’t know! He was game to do this kind of role where he wasn’t the guy in charge and, at the end of the day, we said, ‘You know what, let’s just go with the best actor.’
Being an actor, how does it feel playing an actor who is not successful?
Scott Bakula: Horrified empathy. It’s so much fun to get to play an actor, and certainly I can relate to times in my life when acting wasn’t going so well for me. And I have many friends who are this age who are still trying to act and make a go of it, and they are doing other things also.
I loved this character from the get-go. When I first read the script, it jumped off the page, and I’m lucky enough to play him.
Why did you choose to have your character coming off a divorce? Is it just more interesting than married life?
Ray: When we first discussed it, I immediately said it’s going to be more interesting if Joe was just coming out of a relationship.
First of all, I had done the married guy for nine years (on Everyone Loves Raymond), and it’s an interesting part of a man’s life if he is at this age thrown into this single world. We always write what we know and I know nothing about that, but neither does this character.
Joe’s obsession with golf seems to be pretty much the same as yours? And what is your handicap?
Ray: I don’t think anyone needs to know my handicap! I want to keep some things private. (he laughs)
Scott: I’ll tell her if you want.
Ray: I’m about a 14 handicap, if that means anything to anybody, and yeah, I’m obsessed with golf, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at it.
They say to write what you know, so on the show Joe had dreams of being on the pro tour. So he’s a scratch. I’m 14 strokes better. That’s the hardest acting I’ve doing right there, swinging a golf club to pretend to look like a scratch golfer.
Scott, are the moments when you see a script and you see some stuff that Terry’s got to go through that reminds you of moments in your own past?
Scott: There are so many things. I made commercials when I was starting out in New York. So there are connections, but they’re not right on. They’re not coming to me and saying, ‘Tell us a story about when you were struggling and you were in bartending school in New York City.’ But they’re real enough that they all kind of resonate with me.
I have to say what resonates more than anything is the fact that we all know actors and actresses who haven’t quite made it, but are still hanging on. And I guess it’s true in any profession, but ours particularly.
There is so much that middle-aged guys can get from this show, but what are you hearing from the women? Are they connecting to it?
Ray: My wife is saying every time she sees me doing a kissing scene, ‘This is bull. We have enough money.’
Scott: My wife says, ‘Keep kissing.’
Ray: There was a recent article where they compared us to Sex and the City, but I don’t see that. There’s no city, and there’s very little sex on the show. They’re saying that we’re having discussions and thoughts like women would.
Well, I just know sometimes I’ll have a conversation with a buddy, and I’ll say after five minutes, ‘There’s no way my wife would ever have this conversation with her girlfriend about this!’