What happens when you put two of the biggest names in television production together? They become best friends, of course.
Speaking to EW at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, Phil Rosenthal, star of PBS’ I’ll Have What Phil’s Having and creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, described the foundation of his friendship with legendary producer Norman Lear (All in the Family, Sanford and Son).
“Can you believe I live in a world where 20 years ago I was in season 1 of my show, I was telling the press… I owe it all to Norman Lear. I grew up watching his shows; all I wanted to do was emulate him,” said Rosenthal, 56.
He went on to recount an out-of-the-blue phone call he received from Lear, which ended in a lunch meeting that included a surprise guest: Lear’s friend, Carl Reiner, whom Rosenthal wasn’t expecting. Like any time-tested pair, however, Lear and Rosenthal recall the situation differently. Refuting Rosenthal’s claims, Lear said, “You said to me, ‘There are two people I admire the most: you and Carl Reiner.’ I said, ‘When we have lunch, what if Carl came with us?’”
Rosenthal playfully pushed back, saying, “That doesn’t sound like I would say that because I would have been so awestruck that you called me I wouldn’t mention Carl, I wouldn’t mention another fella!”
“But you did, you f—in’ did,” Lear joked. “If we’re going to have to fight about it, we’ll fight about it. I don’t care. I said you did!”
Then the conversation took an emotional turn. “He’s more than enough for me, I can’t say that we’ve been friends ever since, I feel like we’ve been family ever since,” Rosenthal admitted.
“Oh God, that is the sweetest,” responded Lear. “That’s because I spend a lot of time at his house. He runs films on Sunday evenings.”
Rosenthal ended the discussion by affectionately taking Lear’s hand and revealing he can’t get the producer out of his house. He also joked that “no one would feed” the 93-year old if it weren’t for him.
Lear can next be seen in the upcoming documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, which opens in theaters on July 8.
Watch Lear and Rosenthal banter in the video above.