Doris Roberts dies at 90; Italian mamma from ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’

Doris Roberts autographs a sign during the Feb. 10, 2003, ceremony honoring her with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Doris Roberts autographs a sign during the Feb. 10, 2003, ceremony honoring her with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

(Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images)

Doris Roberts, a five-time Emmy winner best known for her work as Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” died Sunday in Los Angeles, a family spokeswoman confirmed to The Times on Monday.

The actress “died peacefully in her sleep of natural causes,” the family said. She was 90.

“Doris Roberts had an energy and a spirit that amazed me,” costar Ray Romano said in a statement. “She never stopped. Whether working professionally or with her many charities, or just nurturing and mentoring a young, green comic trying to make it as an actor, she did it all with such a grand love for life and people, and I will miss her dearly.”

Roberts was a part of the “Raymond” family from 1996 to 2005, but also counted an Emmy-winning turn on “St. Elsewhere” and credits on well-known ‘70s and ‘80s shows, including “Remington Steele,” “Soap,” “Fantasy Island,” “The Love Boat” and “The Streets of San Francisco.” She starred as Theresa Falco, mother to Donna Pescow’s title character on the show “Angie,” which ran for two seasons.


“Everybody Loves Raymond” co-star Patricia Heaton tweeted: “My wonderful TV mother-in-law and ELR nemesis Doris Roberts was a consummate professional from whom I learned so much. She was funny and tough and loved life, living it to the fullest. Nothing gave her greater joy than her three wonderful grandchildren, of whom she was so proud. It truly was a privilege Doris. I love you and miss you.”

“Everyone Loves Raymond” show creator Phil Rosenthal said that although Roberts had been “waning in the last few months” she still had her “fierce” spirit until the end. “She was taking acting classes right up to the end,” he told The Times. “ And really cared about being an actress and being professional. She was very dedicated to the craft. She was the real thing. She wanted to always stay sharp.”

Recently, Rosenthal accompanied her to see Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform at the Hollywood Bowl. “Lady Gaga couldn’t believe she was getting to meet Doris Roberts!” he said. “We had dinner in the box, we drank, we watched the show and loved it.”

As for the footprint Roberts leaves behind, Rosenthal told The Times she will always be remembered as “the rock of the show.” “She was fearless and fierce and strong,” he said.

He added: “I liked that she was a strong female character. That’s what people really responded to her. It was universal: that meddling mom.”

Long before she became a sitcom icon as the ultimate Italian mamma, Roberts was a young actress trying to make a name for herself in New York in the 1950s.


“I was a member of the Actors Studio,” Roberts told The Times in a 2009 interview. “Marilyn Monroe used to come to class. Martin Balsam was there. Anne Bancroft was there. Geraldine Page.”

Roberts made her Broadway debut in a 1955 revival of William Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life,” which closed after 15 performances. She played a hooker in a bar. Later that year, Roberts had a small role and understudied star Shirley Booth in the comedy hit “The Desk Set.”

She was nominated for 11 Emmys throughout her career. She won best supporting actress in a drama for “St. Elsewhere” in 1983 and four times for best supporting actress in a comedy for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Among Roberts’ Emmy nods was one for her work on “Remington Steele,” and in 2003, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After “Raymond” went off the air in 2005, she kept her status as a working actress, appearing in various TV series, plays and movies with credits running into 2016.

“Desperate Housewives,” “The King of Queens,” “The Middle,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Law & Order: SVU” were among her more recent TV credits.

In 2000, she told The Times, “I’m at the age now where I don’t have to do anything. But I do have to see my grandchildren -- Kelsey, Andrew and Devon.” She talked about taking them to amusement parks and to see “The Lion King.”

“Sometimes what I do for fun with friends is go on a ramble,” Roberts continued. “Most of the time you have to plan for everything. My life is always planned. When you ramble, you choose north, south, east or west and you just go. And when you see something you like, you stop. It could be anything -- a flea market or restaurant. And if you find you don’t like it, you can just leave. You come across extraordinary little villages in the middle of the mountains. Or you can go in another direction and you’ve got the ocean.”

“Truly the end of an era,” Heaton said on Twitter, addressing her thoughts to her “beloved Marie.”

Roberts was born in St. Louis on Nov. 4, 1925, and grew up in New York. She was married to Michael Cannata from 1956 to 1962 and had one son, Michael Cannata Jr. William Goyen, a writer, was her husband from 1963 until his death in 1983.

She is survived by her son, Michael Cannata Jr., daughter-in-law, Jane, and three grandchildren, Kelsey, Andrew and Devon Cannata.

Follow Christie D’Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ.

Times staff writer Brenda Rodriguez and special correspondents Susan King and Robin Rauzi contributed to this report.