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Doris Roberts : Emily Merkle
Doris Roberts knew she would become a professional actress when she made her debut at the age of six, portraying a potato in a school play. Now, nine years as Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond” have brought her international accolades as the most popular comedic actress in television. Roberts has starred in two comedies and a horror/adventure blockbuster for Twentieth Century Fox, another for Miramax and two heavy dramas for Hallmark Channel, as well as a special segment of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” written especially for her.
Roberts, who boasts four Emmy® Awards for “Raymond” alone and a fifth for a dramatic portrayal as a victim of homelessness on “St. Elsewhere,” has continued her long career of diverse performances by co-starring as Ashley Tisdale’s grandmother in “Aliens in the Attic.” Earlier, she jumped into the title role of the Fox comedy “Grandma’s Boy,” and then starred opposite Garry Marshall in Miramax’s “Keeping Up With the Steins.” In between, Roberts won critical acclaim in the “Privilege” special of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” for NBC and the Hallmark Channel Original Movie “Our House.”
Roberts, whose pre-“Raymond” series and specials on television, countless features, and 30 years on Broadway made her one of the most beloved performers in entertainment, is no awards newcomer. In addition to five Emmys, she has been recognized three times as Best Television Actress by the National Viewers for Quality Television. In 2001 alone, she was selected by the prestigious American Film Institute as one of five actresses of the year, won the 2001 TV Guide Award, the 2000 Beautiful People Award and was named Best Actress in a Comedy at the American Comedy and Los Angeles Weekly Awards for her stage performance in 24 Hours. In March 2003, Roberts was immortalized with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in April of that year, St. Martin’s Press published her memoirs, Are You Hungry, Dear?, which became an immediate best seller.
Roberts made her Broadway debut in 1955 in William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life. The following year, she was the understudy to one of the great ladies of the American stage, Shirley Booth, in Desk Set. She then joined the famed Actors Studio, where her peers were also to become stars, among them Marilyn Monroe, Kim Stanley and Maureen Stapleton.
New York theater continued to beckon Roberts, who appeared both on and off Broadway in numerous successful productions, including It’s Only a Play, Desk Set, The American Dream, The Death of Bessie Smith, The Office, Marathon 33, The Color of Darkness, The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild, The Natural Look, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Cheaters and Bad Habits, for which she won the Outer Critics Circle Award.
Roberts moved away from Broadway to join “The Lily Tomlin Comedy Hour,” initiating a new and thriving career in television. She became one of the medium’s most successful stars as a series regular on “Angie,” “The Boys,” “Ladies on Sweet Street,” “Remington Steele,” “Maggie” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Comedy Hour.” Roberts also managed to fit in guest starring roles on “Rhoda,” “Amazing Grace,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Step By Step,” and “Full House,” among many others. Producers of TV movies were quick to take advantage of the actress’ popularity, and she was soon playing key roles in “A Thousand Men and a Baby,” “A Time To Heal,” “Blind Faith,” “Sunset Gang,” “A Mom For Christmas,” “The Fig Tree,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “It Happened One Christmas” and “Ruby and Oswald,” to name just a few.
Moving to the big screen, Roberts drew even more accolades for such films as “A Fish in the Bathtub,” “My Giant,” “Walking to Waldheim,” “The Grass Harp,” “Used People,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “The Night We Never Met,” “Something Wild,” “Barefoot In the Park,” “No Way to Treat a Lady,” “A Lovely Way to Die,” “Honeymoon Killers,” “A New Leaf,” “Such Good Friends,” “Little Murders,” “Heartbreak Kid,” “Hester Street,” “The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three,” “The Rose,” “Good Luck Miss Wyckoff,” “Rabbit Test,” “Simple Justice,” “Number One With A Bullet” and “Mamma Mia,” among others.
While most performers might begin to rest on their laurels, Roberts continued to shine. With a hefty weekly schedule on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” she also managed to star in three TV movies, racking up rave reviews for a dramatic role in “A Time To Remember” and “Our House” for Hallmark Channel and “Raising Waylon” for CBS. In between, she appeared as a regular on “Hollywood Squares” and accepted a special role written for her on “Touched By An Angel.”
Roberts devotes what free time she has to community service as a founder and active supporter of the charities Children Affected By AIDS and Puppies Behind Bars. For several years, she has produced “A Night of Comedy,” gathering top comedy stars to raise millions for Children Affected By AIDS. With Puppies Behind Bars, she has helped to create a new sense of humanity for prison inmates by providing them with pets and a sense of normal responsibility.
Roberts is also a formidable fighter for the rights of fellow actors in the continuing battle against ageism. In mid-2002 she made international headlines when she testified before U.S. Senator John Breaux’s Special Committee on Ageism in Washington, D.C. She then became a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State, traveling to underdeveloped countries throughout the world to speak about hope.
Some may call this indefatigable worker an actress who has done it all, but Roberts insists, “There’s always a new challenge around the corner and I’ll be ready when it comes.” Roberts currently lives in Los Angeles.