Ray Romano Says Directing His First Film Was ‘The Hardest Thing’

NEW YORK — Ray Romano makes directing look easy.

On Friday, the “Everybody Loves Raymond” star touched down in his native New York for the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of his directorial debut “Somewhere in Queens,” a cute and hilarious new drama that he also co-wrote and stars in.

The film follows an Italian-American father named Leo Russo (Romano), who helps run his family’s construction business, and his wife, Angela (Laurie Metcalf), a breast cancer survivor who lives in constant fear. for him to come back. Her quiet teenage son, nicknamed Sticks (Jacob Ward), struggles to make friends and meet girls, until he falls for the iron-willed Dani (Sadie Stanley) and begins to open up.

When Dani breaks his heart weeks later, Sticks falls into a depression and risks losing his chance at a college basketball scholarship. So Leo goes to extreme and somewhat shady measures to get his son back on track, but he slowly begins to wonder who he’s really doing it for.

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Ray Romano walks the red carpet at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of his directorial debut "Somewhere in Queens."

“Queens” was met with warm reviews, along with plenty of laughter and applause at its premiere in Lower Manhattan on Friday. The enthusiastic reception was no doubt a relief to Romano, 64, who was extremely eager to get behind the camera for the first time.

“Before that, it was the hardest thing,” Romano told USA TODAY on the red carpet. Two days after coming to New York to start pre-production, “I had to have a stress test because I realized, ‘I’m going to have a crew, I’m going to have to go on location, I’m going to have to make decisions.’ It was too much for me. I told my agent on day 3, ‘I can’t do it.’ He talked me into it and somehow I got over it, I don’t even know how.”

At some point, “you just have to go, there’s no time for anything else and then you thrive (stress),” Romano continued. “That’s what surprised me: that I really enjoyed it.”

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Leo (Ray Romano, left) and Angela (Laurie Metcalf) meet their son's new girlfriend at "Somewhere in Queens."

Romano received directing advice from his “Get Shorty” collaborator Davey Holmes, as well as late-night host James Corden, who recommended a book called “My First Movie: Twenty Famous Directors Discuss Their First Movie.”

“One of the themes of this movie is that we’re not alone: ​​every fear you have, someone else has,” Romano said. “It’s nice to know that other people are going through some of the things you’re going through and get over it. It was great to see some of these directors talk about how scared they were and didn’t know anything, and how they cried every night thinking about the crew. I hated them. I don’t know why, that was kind of comforting.”

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