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'Raymond' co-star is ready to walk

Emmy winner Brad Garrett, who plays an underdog on the show, believes he is underpaid.

August 14, 2003|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

This week's scheduled production start on the eighth season premiere of CBS' hit "Everybody Loves Raymond" has been delayed until Monday following the illness of co-star Patricia Heaton and a contract dispute involving Brad Garrett.

Heaton, who plays the wife of star Ray Romano, called in sick Monday and Tuesday, and producers decided to move production of the series until next Monday. A spokeswoman for Heaton said, "She's really under the weather and has been to a doctor." Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle, the two other members of the supporting cast, did report to work this week.

Meanwhile, Garrett, an Emmy Award winner for his portrayal of the Romano character's underdog brother, Robert, is continuing his standoff with CBS. The actor was written out of the season premiere after he informed the network at the end of July that he would not return to work until they began discussing a pay hike.

The disruption comes as CBS is pondering the future of the show, which is TV's second-most-popular comedy after NBC's "Friends." Both Romano and executive producer Phil Rosenthal have stated in recent interviews that they intend to leave the series after the coming season. One of the network's contingency plans has been a spinoff series featuring the supporting cast.

In response to Garrett's stance, CBS said in a statement released Wednesday, "Brad Garrett is an enormously talented actor whom we hold in the highest regard. As such, we have accommodated Brad's request to negotiate new contracts twice over the past four years. The most recent agreement calls for Brad's services through the eighth season of 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' It's unfortunate that he is not honoring his contract."

It's not the first time Garrett has fallen out with the network and producers. A few years ago he threatened not to board a plane to Italy where the show was filming a two-part episode unless he got a raise. He got it.

Garrett's dispute comes in the wake of reports that Romano is earning more than $40 million for the coming season.

Romano could not be reached for comment.

Representatives for Garrett said Wednesday that there was no update or progress in the situation, but noted that they were standing behind earlier statements that Garrett was prepared to leave the show if his demands were not met.

On Tuesday, Garrett's representatives released a statement criticizing CBS.

"CBS elected to make a one-year deal with Ray Romano making him the highest-paid sitcom actor ever," it said. "Ray deserves every penny, plus the profits he will earn. At the same time, despite our repeated attempts to discuss Brad's salary over the past seven months, CBS has refused to talk to us. Brad earns less than 10% of Ray's salary, and is the lowest-paid member of a grossly underpaid supporting cast."

Salary conflicts are a frequent problem on successful TV series. Rob Lowe left NBC's "The West Wing" last season after failing to win the pay hike he sought. Jennifer Garner of ABC's "Alias" recently received a reported boost of $150,000 per episode. And Jane Kaczmarek of Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle" received a pay increase after being absent from the set several days last year.

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