The hit TV show Everybody Loves Raymond may be going off the air at the end of this season, but don’t expect actress Doris Roberts, who’s brought mother Marie to life for nine years, to be out of sight. As she’ll demonstrate when she speaks at a benefit for the Banyan Theater Company March 7 at Michael’s On East (tickets $100; call 358-5330), Roberts’ acting career is based on longevity as well as talent.
Q. I hear you have some friends already in Sarasota, including [actress] Sharon Spelman of the Asolo?
A. Oh, yes, she and I did a TV show years ago called Angie. And I also know [Sarasotans] Sam and Rosetta Miller very well. I’ve visited them, and Sarasota is great.
Q. After an acting career of 50 years that’s included stage and film as well as TV, how does it feel to know that for some people you’ll always be Marie Barone?
A. It’s great. I travel a lot, and everywhere I go, except for Russia, they tell me how much they love watching the show and Marie, how they go to bed with a smile on their faces. The people it touches, it’s amazing.
Q. Despite the fact that Marie is, well, a bit difficult-
A. She’s impossible! She’s a control freak, a buttinsky. But although she’s so intrusive, everything she does is from love. She wants her house to be cleaner, she wants her grandchildren to be well fed, she wants her son to be happy. One thing I do-when I’m talking to you now, I’m speaking in my normal voice. When I speak as Marie, it’s much higher, which makes her less formidable.
Q. Any comparisons between Marie as mother and you as mother to your son Michael [who's also her manager]?
A. Oh, no. I’m too smart for that. My son is glad I’m doing all that to Ray and leaving him alone.
Q. You always wanted to act, right?
A. Since I was in kindergarten. I was in a school play where my line was "I’m Patrick Potato. This is my cousin, Mrs. Tomato." I heard laughter and loved the sound of it.
Q. Is part of having such a long, successful career being that lucky or being that talented?
A. I’m old enough  to say this: I think I’m that talented. They had 100 actresses up for the part of Marie, and I came in and aced it. And I have the same passion for performing that I did when I was 18.
Q. Besides performing, what keeps you busy?
A. I travel a lot around the world talking to children about hope. I tell them, "Don’t listen to that voice in the back of your head that says you can’t do it. Whatever it is you want to do, if you love it, it’s no longer a job for you, it’s a profession." Also, I have a book out, Are You, Hungry, Dear? And I speak out about age discrimination whenever I get a chance to. It’s the last bastion of bigotry.
Q. Are you sad about the end of Raymond?
A. We’re all very sad. We [the cast] not only like and respect each other, we trust each other. But people are offering me things, and I certainly want to continue to work.