The actor talks about reprising his role as the loveable Manny the woolly mammoth

Ray Romano is back as the loveable Manny the woolly mammoth in the funny, warm-hearted and exciting Ice Age: The Meltdown. As the ice age ends, the animals have to flee to safety before the damn breaks and the valley floods. Will our hero and his little family of friends manage to survive? Spring is in the air for the familiar group of prehistoric animals - but so is romance. Manny is concerned that he is the only one of his kind left on Earth, until he encounters a gorgeous female mammoth - Ellie - voiced by the charismatic actress, Queen Latifah.

Ray Romano is best known as the star of popular TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond, which ran for nine years. He won numerous awards including an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2002. He also received two Emmys as an executive producer of the series in 2003 and 2005.

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Romano says he grew up knowing that he had a gift for comedy, His mentor was Bill Cosby and he could always make his friends laugh. He started his career in 1984 when he began doing stand up comedy. At the time however, he continued to earn a living at a variety of jobs including stints as a futon mattress deliveryman and a bank teller, doing his comedy at night. Eventually he was able to pursue comedy full time when he won a competition and began to get wider recognition for his talent.

The 48 year-old comedian made his big screen debut as Manny in Ice Age. He has also starred in Eulogy and "Welcome to Mosseport". Romano is the author of a best-selling book, based on his comedy, Everything and a Kite. His comedy album, Live at Carnegie Hall was nominated for a Grammy in 2002.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children.

The actor looks relaxed and casual wearing a yellow tee-shirt under a gold colored corduroy shirt and jeans as he discusses his role in Ice Age: The Meltdown. As usual he is amusing, self-depracating and very charming.

Was it fun playing Manny again?

Ray Romano: "It was fun and much easier than the first time. because I had done it and knew the character. I was a little more secure. The first time I literally thought I was going to get fired after every recording session. I am not kidding. I thought 'I'm not doing it right '. I panicked. This time I thought 'they wouldn't hire me again, just to fire me. They must like me,' so in that respect it was easier."

What is it that you like about the character - he is so endearing?

Ray Romano: "I love his heart and spirit, he is big and curmudgeonly and has good values despite the fact that he has a big chip on his shoulder."

What are the fears your character deals with in this film?

Ray Romano: " He has a fear of women and he's afraid that he's the only mammoth left on the planet, that the species is extinct. I like the fact that this time he is not so sure of himself; he is insecure, particularly when it comes to romance. He does not know what to do when he starts talking to Ellie. It was great to play this mammoth who is so tough on the outside and yet, when it comes to women he's tongue-tied. And that was really easy and very organic for me because I cannot communicate with women either. I am terrible at talking to women."


Ray Romano: "Yes absolutely."

But you are married with children?

Ray Romano: "Yes it is true that I have a wife and kids in real life but that doesn't mean I know how to talk to women. You talk to my wife, she'll tell you. My wife was the third woman I ever asked out, because the first two said no. So I give her credit for being with me."

It is interesting, because we would imagine a famous star to be pretty confident, especially a successful star?

Ray Romano: "No, that's part of the reason we are in show business because we are so insecure. For comedians there is a very low self-esteem. That is the common denominator. I've always said that my insecurity comes from my parents. I blame my father. If my father had hugged me once I would be an accountant right now, I wouldn't need to go on stage. (laugh)."

How much fun was it portraying Manny's relationship with Ellie Can you talk a little about the on screen relationship between your characters and the romance?

Ray Romano: "It was exciting to be in an on-screen romance, but I kept having to remind myself that this is an animated film. Queen Latifah (who plays Ellie) wasn't even in the recording booth with me and I only met her yesterday in fact. But Manny is immediately excited that there is another mammoth on the planet and the fact that she's female is even more thrilling. He has to overcome his obvious awkwardness with women. The fact that she believes she is a possum, that she's a little crazy, is another obstacle he faces. But that's appealing to me actually. Those are the type of women I like, the ones who have a screw loose, because then I appear better and quite stable by comparison. (laughs) But the relationship develops between them and I think he sees her as someone with a big heart like his own. I like the scene where we flash back and you see how she came to be with these possums. And we also see the way she cares for them and the friendship she has with them. He sees her as being a good soul and there is chemistry, he is attracted to her. That is what it is all about."

How did you get into character, physically?

A:" Sometimes it was tough, at one point when Manny was struggling, Carlos the director would come in and we would have a little tug of war, so that I would be in the right frame of mind. Those scenes are always weird because you've got to be physical, but you've got to stay exactly in front of the microphone, so it can be awkward. I focused on Manny's voice the whole time. I would tweak my voice a little and the way I would do it was by getting in touch with a line from the first movie when I yelled at some of the other animals. 'I'm not going'. So I would use that as my trigger to help me get in touch with him."

What do you think it is about the magic of the film and your characters that kids really identify with?

Ray Romano: "I think that for children in an animated movie, you need a hero like me and a good villain. Kids love a scary aspect and they love the big guy who is going to save the day, like Manny, and then the little funny guys, like the possums or Scrat. They love little and funny characters, the littler and funnier the better. That 's how it always works. So they love Sid, then you go even smaller and they adore the possums, they like funny fast-talking guys, that's the formula. Then for parents, I think you have to make the humor a little subtle. They have to write for adults as well as kids so all generations are entertained and this film does all that. "

What do you think of the themes in Ice Age: The Meltdown?

Ray Romano: "There are a lot of good themes. First of all there is the fact that all these different species have to work together to survive. They need to help each other. Diego's confronting his fears, he's afraid to swim and also Ellie is just accepting who she is and then there's global warming. Lets not candy coat this ... we're all going to burn. (laughs)"

Are there similarities between you and Manny?

Ray Romano: "I suppose so. He is rough and tough but he's the guy with the big heart you know. He's a softie underneath it. I like that and I like that there's a vulnerable side to him because it makes him more real. I don't know if I've got a big heart. I do have my own moral compass because I tend to be too soft. That does not please my manager, because often in this business you need to be tough. That is hard for me. It is hard for comedians in general to be confrontational. It is not in their nature. They want everybody to like them and in this business you can't please everyone. My goal is to make sure I do the right thing and not hurt anybody and I guess that's Manny, that's how you can describe Manny. But Manny's much more assertive and much more forceful than me. I have his bad traits in that I'm awkward with women and I don't have his good traits because I cannot say how I feel. "

You have a stand up movie coming out soon?

Ray Romano: "There's a documentary which documents a stand up tour I did three years ago. We flew to Miami and we drove to Savannah and performed in seven cities and filmed it. There were 130 hours of footage and apparently we now have 75 minutes and it's entertaining - I guess, people like it. There's plenty of standup, it's like a fly on the wall and it shows a side of me I probably wish people wouldn't see."

Is it liberating not having a regular TV show or do you miss that routine?

Ray Romano: "In the beginning it was kind of liberating to have such a lot of time, because the show was all consuming, it was 24/ 7. And it was great to have time to be there for the family, because the show had been a lot of hard work. All of a sudden I was free and I enjoyed that. But after a couple of months there was a real sense of loss, it's like the loss of a family member, it's a delayed reaction. You're in denial to start with and there's a mourning period you have to go through, because first of all, you're separated from all the people you've worked with and the bonds you made. Everything suddenly disappears; all the creative energy I had for nine years was gone too. That's one of the reasons I went back into stand-up comedy again, just to get that feeling of who I was before the show. I had been doing stand up for eleven years and then suddenly the show came along and was off the circuit and I was living in the 'Raymond' bubble for nine years.So I had to come to terms with where I am now. I had been in a kind of submarine for all those years and being above water took some getting used to, I can give you my shrink's number! "

What do you talk about in your routines now?

Ray Romano: "It's always the same it's just what's going on in my life, not having sex is about half my act."

Ice Age: The Meltdown is in theaters this Friday.