NEW YORK – Doris Roberts (search) talks tough.
"I'm a Russian Jew peasant, honey," the actress said. "I came up from the ground and that's who I am."
Roberts, who plays Raymond's outspoken mother, Marie, on "Everybody Loves Raymond," (search) was talking about the business end of her acting career.
She's also quite articulate when talking about the artistic aspects of her craft, but it's the business side of "Raymond" that has made headlines lately following co-star Brad Garrett's (search) recent contract fight with CBS.
Roberts, 73, said there are no hard feelings between any of the cast members and Garrett, who plays Ray's brother Robert and who returned to work Aug. 27 after a month-long strike, missing the first episode of the new season.
She supports a fellow actor's play for more money because she's been there. A year ago, it was she who held out for eight weeks before signing a new deal.
"It's tough to hold out," she said last week in an interview with The New York Post.
"They warn you that they'll fire you. I was told last year by [CBS President] Les Moonves (search) - he listed the people who have been fired, on the phone - Erik Estrada, Suzanne Somers, Valerie Harper (search) - he listed all of them."
Nevertheless, Roberts held her ground.
"He said, 'It's going to be ugly, kid'," she recalled. "And so I said, 'Well, Les, I don't know how it's going down. I gotta tell you that I've had the best six years of my life. This character's put my career over the top. I will always be grateful to you for that opportunity. I love you and good-bye,' and I hung up."
They eventually reached an agreement on a new deal and she returned in time to film all of last season's episodes. One of the sticking points for Ray Romano's co-stars had been their lack of participation in sharing the earnings from syndication, but Roberts confirmed that all of the principal cast members are now on board to profit from the reruns.
"Truth be told," she said, "none of us were getting anything on the back end and you have 'Frasier,' 'Friends,' 'Will and Grace' and 'King of Queens' (search) all with back-end deals.
"And considering that we are the top comedy on CBS, give the kids a few bucks, you know what I mean?"
Roberts was in New York last week to get an early jump on promoting a new TV movie she shot earlier this summer for Hallmark Channel.
In the film - titled "A Time to Remember" (search) and scheduled to air on Nov. 23 - Roberts plays a Waspy family matriarch suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimers Disease, who seeks to make amends with an estranged daughter (Dana Delany) before it is too late.
"This is a great role for me because it's totally different than anyone has ever expected of me," said Roberts, who has been acting professionally since the mid-'50s.
Born in St. Louis and raised in the Bronx and Manhattan, she's best known for her character roles in classic New York movies such as "Hester Street" and "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3," as well as her roles on TV series such as "Remington Steele," "Angie" and, of course, "Raymond."
She said if Ray Romano (search) decides to call it quits at the end of this coming season, as has been rumored, she vows, "I'm gonna spank him."
Her new in-laws (Robert got married at the end of last season) - played by TV vets Fred Willard, Georgia Engel (as the parents) and Chris Elliott (as the brother) - will be stepping up into greater prominence in the new season.
"There's such fodder for wonderful stories."