Just A Minute With: Ray Romano on "Ice Age"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Ray Romano, who became a major U.S. television star in the 1990s with his sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” has found another kind of fame -- as the voice of a woolly mammoth in the film “Ice Age.”

Actor Ray Romano, who gives his voice to Manny in the animated movie "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" poses for a portrait in Marina del Rey, California June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In the third film in the franchise, 3D animated adventure “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” which debuted in theaters on Wednesday, Romano’s character Manny is starting a family when he and his motley clan of animals find a world filled with dinosaurs.

Romano is also preparing to return to TV for the first time since his Emmy-winning comedy ended in 2005. His mid-life crisis drama “Men of a Certain Age,” which premieres on cable network TNT in December, looks at male friendship through the eyes of three college friends in their 40s.

Romano spoke to Reuters about “Ice Age”, becoming a father and his new show.

Q: How do you think the 3D turned out?

A: “I’m used to seeing 3D be horrible ... I was pretty amazed because I thought they didn’t really need to improve this. The animation is just unbelievable as it is ... But with this 3D, it’s like a whole new experience.”

Q: What else was different on this “Ice Age” film?

A: “The story’s different. The only reason I wanted to do it was if they had a good story and something new ... It’s such a clever thing to take the characters that we know and put them in this world of all this other excitement. That’s the reason I did it ... I don’t want to feel like we’re just running it just to make another paycheck ... I want to make sure it’s worth doing. And this one was.”

Q: Do you think you might do a fourth?

A: “It’s kind of like the same with my show. We did nine years and I thought we left on a high note. We could have done another one, I guess, but why taint it? ... So I’m thinking we did three great ones, so let’s wrap it up and that’s your legacy in animation right there. But having said that, I kind of thought we were there with two, also. So if they come up with a great idea and a good story, then there will be a number four. I’ll have grandkids by then and then they can be in it.”

Q: Manny is so concerned about (his mate) Ellie’s pregnancy and is almost overprotective. Did you draw on personal experiences from when you became a parent?

A: “I wasn’t that way before the baby was born, but I became that way after ... I was also kind of like Manny -- you think you know what you’re doing, but you don’t really, kind of fumbling. I remember I went to pick up my wife and daughter from the hospital, and I parked in a tow-away zone and the car wasn’t there and we had to go home in a cab from the hospital with a newborn in a New York city cab.”

Q: Sum up the movie’s message of family and friendship.

A: “It’s kind of a theme for the whole franchise really -- how you can always count on your family. It’s kind of what I’m learning also as I go through this, my career, and it’s true for everybody. It’s not that people or the world isn’t a nice place. It is. But when you really need someone to rely on who has your back, it’s your family.”

Q: How is the drama on TNT, “Men of a Certain Age”?

A: “We start filming in August. We’ve outlined all 10 episodes and we’re in the middle of actually writing scripts. During lunch just now I went over the first script that came in and made all my notes.”

Q: It sounds like you’re really hands on.

A: “Well, yeah, it’s mine. I created it with Michael Royce, my friend and writer. It’s kind of like “Raymond” where I was involved in everything. But “Raymond” at a certain point runs itself ... But this one, there’s even more pressure because it’s my return to television and those sometimes have a track record of not being good. So I really want to put all the effort into making this good. And even then it may not be what people want or expect. So you never know. But yeah, I want to be involved in all of it. Except if it fails, then I’ll say it wasn’t me.”

Reporting by Laura Isensee, editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney