Lauren Graham and Ray Romano can’t say for sure what will happen in the future with the relationship between their “Parenthood” characters Sarah Braverman and Hank Rizzoli because they aren’t sure what will happen themselves. In the NBC drama series “Parenthood,” Sarah is a divorced mother to two young adults: bright and rebellious Amber Holt (played by Mae Whitman) and sullen and sensitive Drew Holt (played by Miles Heizer). Sarah is navigating the dating world as while her three siblings Adam, Julia and Crosby (played Peter Krause, Erika Christensen and Dax Shepard) are all married and raising their own families, but the siblings all live near their parents in Berkeley, California.
Meanwhile, Sarah has been romantically involved with a younger man named Mark Cyr (played by Jason Ritter), but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t find herself attracted to other men. There’s been some sexual tension between Sarah and Hank, so “Parenthood” viewers wondering if the two characters are going to eventually become a couple. Graham and Romano are no strangers to ensemble TV series about families. Before joining “Parenthood,” Graham starred as Lorelai Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls.” And Romano is still best known for his starring role as Ray Barone in the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Here is what Graham and Romano had to say to journalists about “Parenthood” in an interview done via a telephone conference call.
Romano: I was a fan of the show. I watched the show since the beginning and I was on my show while it was on. I just like the tone of it. There’s nothing quite being done like that on television. I knew Jason Katims … he created the TV show.
And I knew him and we had been in touch, you know. He was a fan of my show. I was a fan of his show. And then unfortunately, my show no longer existed.
And in between trying to find out what to do next, I had been speaking to Jason and I believe I put it out there first. Kind of jokingly I said, “Hey, if you ever find something for me, I work cheap.” And he took me up on it and cheap it is, but I’m still happy to do it.
And what am I going to do on it? If you’ve been watching up to now you kind of get who the guy is. And we’re going to see a little more of him and I guess find out a little more about him. And it gets a little it gets a little deeper than it is now but kind of what you see right now.
Do you like the character? Do you relate to him in some way?
Graham: Are you phoning it in, Ray, or what?
Romano: I’m not phoning it in. I hate me. I like the character. I do like the character because first of all I like how he’s introduced and I like how they’re writing him. We don’t really kind of find out about this guy. As it goes along we find out a little more and more and he’s a flawed person. He’s a troubled guy and yet I guess we’re finding out the good in him.
Lauren’s bringing that out. Sarah I guess is finding that out. But I like it because I also haven’t really played that much. I mean, “Men of a Certain Age,” it wasn’t Ray Barone but it was kind of close to the vest, I guess. And this is somebody a little different, so yes I do enjoy playing him that’s for sure.
Lauren, Matthew Perry has nothing but great things to say about you. He was just talking about you in glowing terms.
Graham: Well, that’s really nice. I would say similarly Matthew both as a friend and someone I’ve gotten to work with is somebody I just naturally enjoy chemistry with. And I feel like Ray and I have had that too. And the dynamic of this guy who has a past and has sort of a sadness and teases her, but is smart and strong and kind of not going to, I don’t know, indulge her or something is like a great dynamic.
And I think they’ve written this sort of slowly developing relationship between these two people who have a past and who have pain in that past. But I don’t know, there’s something about each other that they like, has been really, really, really fun and very nice for me to have as like a piece of moving my character forward.
She often makes the wrong decisions but I think in this story you see what is so compelling and that’s what’s interesting to me. Like I don’t mind being flawed and sort of making these reckless choices. But you want it to come from someplace and I think you see what’s appealing about him.
With the kiss between Hank and Sarah, how awkward was it for the two of you to play that romantic awkwardness?
Romano: Take it away. Take it away, Lauren.
Graham: I don’t think it wasn’t awkward.
Romano: I know you’re going to say what I said before the scene.
Graham: What? I don’t remember what you said. You say what you said.
Romano: That I’m not going to kiss you during rehearsal.
Graham: Right, because to make it awkward ... It’s always awkward, but what I like about it is these loaded moments that are confusing I think are the most interesting of life. I think there’s all these mixed feelings and hopefully we capture just kind of two people trying to connect. And people more often than not kind of did sound perfect. I like that.
Romano: I like doing it because first of all … that’s in my wheelhouse. It’s very easy for me to be awkward especially around women. But with this guy that’s why I like this because it had to be awkward but filtered through Hank, which was totally different than anything I’ve done with Ray Barone or even “Men of a Certain Age” or anything. There was like a little bit of refusing to accept that it was awkward kind of. So it was a weird line I had to walk and I kind of felt that that scene was really unique and felt good when we did it.
Ray, since you’ve had so much success in your career, how do you relate to Hank’s bitterness about where he’s at right now?
Romano: You know, success is only in the eye of the beholder. First of all, I’m a comedian so I’m never really happy with myself for what I’ve done. And you’re always looking for something, for the next thing and you never think you really got it. So it’s kind of a dichotomy. You’re successful but you don’t accept and you don’t really believe it.
I don’t feel the bitterness. I don’t know if I connect to the bitterness but I do connect to the feeling of wanting there’s an artistic need for something, to accomplish something more and falling short of that. Believe it or not, I do kind of connect to that so it’s easy to kind of tap into that. I mean, it’s not all about money. My wife has all the money. This has nothing to do with money.
Since Sarah had the kiss with Hank and then asked Mark to move in, do you think it made her feelings for Mark stronger or she was just scared?
Graham: It’s sort of neither one nor the other. I think it made her resolve a little stronger to try to keep her life on the track that she’d planned and hoped for and finally looked like she’s about to achieve. And by the way, we still don’t really know what is going to happen, nor does the creator of the show if we believe what he said. I mean, one of the funny things about this show is he kind of adjusts as things go along, and kind of picks up on the threads that are interesting to him more than maybe they do on most shows … which is not to say it’s not planned.
We don’t know kind of where we’re going. So the line I’m trying to play is confusion. And I think it’s justifiably confusing what’s happening. But yes, in that moment I think she was like, “This felt like a sort of step outside the lines. Let me bring myself back.” But I don’t know that it’s going to work.
Hank was obviously overwhelmed when he met the Bravermans. Ray, what was it like for you jumping into this show with this enormous “Parenthood” ensemble?
Romano: I guess I’m kind of in the business and I’ve done this, and I’ve seen all the bells and whistles and I know what goes on. I was a fan of the show. The first day, it was just with you Lauren, right? I guess the third day was I had a scene with the whole cast and it was a weird feeling.
I was just like a viewer. I was like, “Wait a minute.” You really get wrapped up in that this is the Braverman family. I’m like, “Well wait a minute. I know it’s not. I know that guy and him. I’ve worked with him and whatever.” But yes I was a little bit … I don’t know if star-struck is the word but it was a little surreal that I’m in this world that I’ve just been watching and been wrapped up in …
Graham: I was just going to say even if you’re in that group they’re so loud, and there’s so many of us. And it those scenes are always really daunting.
Romano: Yes, it was. I do still get intimidated by certain things, and I was slightly intimidated on that day because also just on a regular level of this is the first time they’re seeing me I want to not screw up.
I want to do well and I want to fit in. They’ve been together and they’ve got their rhythms and the tone and everything, and I want to make sure my character fits into the show and the universe that they’re in. But everybody was nice except for a few. No, I’m kidding. Everybody was great and it was fun.
Lauren, your “Parenthood” co-star Sam Jaeger directed an episode and did a wonderful job. Do you have any interest in directing?
Graham: I do for sure. Actually Peter Krause who’s directed Dax [Shepard] is going to. Sam has, and it’s a very welcoming show in that way, because we work in a very particular kind of technique. It’s actually more helpful to have someone who is on the inside who knows the show and who knows how we rehearse and how we sort of find the scenes. So yes, that would be of interest to me for sure … Within this show, yes, I think that it would be great to direct an episode.
Sarah kissed Hank, and she had that kiss with her ex-husband in the previous season. Is she trying to pull away from her relationship with Mark, or is it just coincidence or is she someone who’s just inherently never quite satisfied with the relationship she’s in at the moment?
Graham: I don’t know. I ask those questions too … My natural inclination is to make a clear choice and stick with it. That’s just a little more who I am personally, but I like living in the world of this indecision, although it’s frustrating to me as an actress sometimes too.
I think she’s had a tough time. She hasn’t really settled down. This is still someone who is just finding a career who is just sort of re-identifying herself as not she’s kind of done everything for her kids and just survived and now is trying to define who she is.
I don’t know what the future for her is, but I try to sort of take it as I get the information. And to me this Hank story is compelling and given kind of the issues she’s had in the relationship with Mark and kind of being in very different life places, I think it makes sense. I think it makes sense.
How is the rest of the family going to react to Mark moving in with Sarah?
Graham: I move in with him, and I think in general the family sort of wants her to be settled and in general feel that Mark is a great guy. So there isn’t a huge reaction in the negative to that. I think what’s difficult is to move my high-school-aged son into a new domestic situation is hard for him.
Ray, if the Bravermans and the Barones got into a steel cage match, which family would be victorious?
Romano: They have the numbers on us, but we have Doris Roberts who’s an animal. I mean, Craig T. Nelson’s taller than I thought, but he’s not as tall as Brad [Garrett]. But Brad’s 6-foot-8. And he’s Jewish so that’s like a world’s record right there. That’s the tallest Jewish man I think in the world. Is that bad? Was that bad to say? No.
Graham: No. That is true.
Romano: I don’t know. I’m not going to answer that.
Graham: You have to pick your own family, but you’re outnumbered, Ray.
Romano: I’m going to go with the Barones.
Graham: You’re outnumbered and you’re out-youthed. Think of all the youths in the Bravermans.
Romano: Yes, but I could take the little kids, I’ll tell you that much. I wouldn’t want to fight. Lauren could beat me up.
Graham: And I do.
There’s a scene in “Parenthood” where you two were kind of bantering back and forth. And Lauren, given that “Gilmore Girls” had a really distinct style to it, and Ray given that you had spent so many years on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” are there techniques that you have to employ so that you don’t maybe necessarily fall back into delivery patterns from other such distinct shows? Do old habits come along?
Romano: Yes. Lauren, you’ve been doing it for four seasons now but for me this is new and I am embracing this character. And there is a bit of improv out there also, more than a bit. So you’re right. But you’re right though. It is easy to slip into just for the sake of a line is to slip out of character for me a little bit.
And so I’m kind of keeping that in check and making sure everything comes through this character … because there are certain moments where I don’t hear Hank. And I just hope that they see it in the edit room and they just take it out. And so far I’ve been happy with everything they’ve done and chosen, you know. It’s rare but I guess it’s kind of new to me so I’m just kind of getting used to it. Lauren, you’ve been doing it for four years now.
Graham: I don’t know. I think every project’s like a new adjustment. “Gilmore Girls” did have a particular sound to it and that was in the very extremely precise writing and the fact that you could not improvise at all.
And here it’s just a completely different music to me. Do I sometimes sound the same? Probably because I’m just the same person, but to me it I had way more of an adjustment at the beginning of this show not having that kind of very technical and kind of tight line which I missed it in a way.
Now I sort of love how loose and hopefully natural this show sounds. I’m sure I’ll have an adjustment to whatever the next thing I do is. I just did an episode of “Go On,” and that was an adjustment because it’s much more kind of written in a comedic sense but it’s not a four-camera half-hour.
I think that’s one of your jobs as an actor is to know the world you’re in and the tone and kind of adjust accordingly. And hopefully nothing is you’re never falling back on the thing you did before. It’s not huge adjustments but you’re always kind of finding some things new.
Drew was upset with Sarah’s decision to move them into Mark’s apartment. What’s that about? And Ray will we see your reaction to that?
Romano: Yes … I was surprised they gave a kiss away in the coming in the coming attractions because that’s all I had in that episode. They gave away the whole team. And so I told my mom, “You don’t got to watch.”
But for Hank it’s kind of what you see is what you get in the coming attractions. He’s not thrown by it, but he’s just a little perplexed that she moved in with her boyfriend. But I don’t think he’s openly going to comment on it or anything.
Graham: I think for a while we ride this line of “What does it all mean? And are there feelings here? Is something going to collapse because of it? Is this just sort of her head being turned but it’s going to be fine?”
We don’t really know what the impact is for a while and I like that tension. I think that’s very real. You know, normally people don’t we’re doing however many episodes this year. It takes a lot longer for most relationships to develop, and I like when they sort of stay in the tension. So we stay in that a little bit.
Lauren, we can’t help but notice what a great rapport you established with the actors who play your children on “Parenthood.” So can you talk about that?
Graham: I don’t know how I have been so lucky. They are both really exceptional actors, really sweet people and I worried when I started this show that it was going to feel similar either to me or to people who watched the other show. The relationships have been so different, but I just really love them both so much.
I think that both my kids on the show on “Parenthood” are really, really special actors. We have great friendship and I see a lot, more so maybe than in Alexis [Bledel, who played my daughter in “Gilmore Girls”], I see a lot of myself in Mae [Whitman] in sort of who she is.
And I don’t know, that’s been a very rewarding thing. They’re both so short though. Mae is like so tiny and I’ve gone into these scenes where I’m like looking way down. It’s my only issue.
What TV moms and dads did you guys like most when you were growing up?
Romano: I watched a lot of Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffin.
Graham: I oddly related to a lot of TV dads. Like I remember growing up watching “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” I had a single dad and he was a single dad. I really related to him. I loved Mary Tyler Moore. I Liked “The White Shadow.” Was he a dad?
Romano: Kind of. He was a dad to the kids. You know, he was a coach. So it’s kind of the same thing. Yes. And Homer Simpson let’s not forget who deep down he’s trying to do the right thing, right. I just kind of like him a little bit.
Lauren, you mentioned the chemistry between you and Ray and you and a lot of the other actors that you have. What other feedback have both of you gotten regarding like the kiss and Hank and Sarah’s relationship?
Romano: My wife looked at the kiss on TV and then looked at me and says, “You know, we don’t need any more money. You know that, right?” And I said, “All right. Relax.”
I was scared walking into this because I didn’t know where they were going to go with the character exactly. But I knew because Jason Katims had said in interviews, “He complicates the relationship,” was the quote.
I was like, “Oh, I got to go up against Jason Ritter. I got to go up against a 30-year-old stud,” and I was scared crapless. And stupid me, I do go on the Internet. I know Lauren, you kind of stay away from there.
But I saw some of the things but it’s a credit to the guys, to the writers the way they’ve done it, the way they’ve eased into it and we got to know this guy. Thankfully and luckily, people have people have taken to the character and kind of enjoy the character. What they’ll say when things get a little more “complicated” I don’t know. But I’m going to stay off the Internet from here on in.
Graham: I will pay you money to stay off if you actually can. I challenge you.
Romano: I’m going to have to wear either blinkers or like the cone that dogs wear around their neck just so I can’t see past. Yes.
Graham: What I’ve heard is pretty much how you just described it, which is there’s no way I like this relationship. Wait, now I’m confused which to me is it means everybody’s doing exactly what they should be. It’s meant to reflect sort of real life and what can be difficult and confusing and compelling, and that to me is good television.
You know, it’s like when Carrie [from “Homeland”] goes back for the bag in Abu Nazir’s apartment. You’re afraid but you want her to do it. So I think that’s just a good compelling relationship in which everybody is kind of doing a really great job.
Hank and Sarah are more like contemporaries. Mark and Sarah are not quite contemporaries. Do you think the closeness in ages of Hank and Sarah draws her more since they have a little bit more in common?
Graham: I’ll just answer that because I know that had been like an issue in the beginning that that was one of the intentions. I actually think it has nothing to do with that. I think Ray’s character could be lots of different ages and it’s the person and I think the same with Mark and Sarah. We haven’t actually explored as much age stuff as I thought we would.
Like his friends want to go dancing or whatever. I have creaky joints or like I don’t know. It’s just like we actually didn’t go down that road that much. I think it’s just the differences between the people and the dynamic between them. I mean, we’ve seen Hank’s daughter once, which was a good connection they made. But I think it’s just something about the two of them.
Ray, if your wife felt like that about the kissing scene, let’s say hypothetically you have a big love scene coming up. How will she handle that?
Romano: First of all, don’t scare Lauren Graham off the phone. I tell her what I always tell her. No, I’m not going to do that one. I have this go-to line and that’s “Go cry in a bag of money.” I think any love scene on “Parenthood” is not explicit or even long or has there even been one?
Graham: People do it, it’s not like “Last Tango in Paris” or something.
Romano: Right. Exactly. Exactly. I think my wife’s kind of over it. I think she kind of knows who I am and she kind of knows that I’m fooling everybody, and I don’t think she has an issue with it anymore.
Having said that, she still takes a couple issues with things she sees. I remember with “Raymond” we were watching a scene once, and it was me and Patty Heaton and we were in bed and this wasn’t a love scene. We were just talking. We were just having a conversation and my wife looked at that and then looked at me and said, “You talk to her in that scene more than you’ve talked to me this whole week.”
And I said, “I have writers on the show. If I had writers at home we would have a conversation.” But yes, she’s kind of over that now and it’s not like I’m not Matthew McConaughey taking my shirt off and jumping in bed with every woman. It’s rare and few and so she’ll roll with it.
Don’t you think Ray’s sort of getting a heartthrob status thanks to this role?
Graham: I know, but he always was. And then he does this thing where he’s like, “I’m unappealing. No one likes me. Makes you like him more, which he’s got to know somewhere. But he’s a handsome, smart guy and I think - and now this character has like this beautiful, vulnerable heart and yes there you go. That’s the recipe right there.
Romano: Yes. It’s good that they don’t show my ass on camera, because that would lose it all.
Graham: Oh my God.
Romano: I would lose all my viewers.
Graham: This is what I’m talking about. Even that’s appealing that you just said that. We love you more. There’s nothing you can do. You’re powerless to stop the love.
Romano: All right. All right.
Lauren, we love the wonderful scenes that you do have with Mae Whitman. Is there going to be any more this season? I mean, she’s kind of independent as a 20-year-old.
Graham: I know. Well, that’s the funny thing about this show is sometimes when you’re in one storyline … there are so many kind of people and stories to juggle sometimes you got a little bit isolated. We do have some stuff coming up. She starts dating somebody and I try to sort of advise her a little bit about it. But not as much as I would like.
I love scenes with her although I think it’s realistic. You know, she’s out of the house. It’s a little bit of a different relationship but yes, we have a little bit of stuff coming up. She’s got a great storyline with someone she starts dating...
Romano: Hey, so by the way that’s one thing that blew me away when I was just a viewer was how good the kids were as actors. They just were unbelievably just so strong. Yes.
Lauren, your fans, who call themselves Graham Crackers, keep requesting you to join Twitter. Is that still something you’re avoiding?
Graham: I have been avoiding it. I don’t know. There’s something about it ... I worry I would just never leave the house and I’d just go too far the other way. However, I am publishing a novel in the spring, and I have been told that I will have to do some of that stuff just in support of that, so I will. I don’t know what. Also, it’s like that thing where you give people what they want, and I’m sure I’ll be disappointing and not fulfilling my Cracker status, but I’ll try.
People must constantly ask you about a “Gilmore Girls” movie. How does that make you feel? Is there any chance for it?
Graham: Not that I know of but they’re doing the “Arrested Development” movie years after that show finished. I think what I didn’t really understand in the midst of that and what I understand much better now is just what a compliment it is that those characters were compelling to people and they want to see they want to see them and what happened to them. And I feel proud to have been I feel that way about “Downton Abbey.” I feel proud to have been that for somebody, but the rest of the stuff I kind of have no control over.
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