The cast of “Somewhere in Queens,” a new family comedy-drama set in “The World’s Borough” marking Ray Romano’s directorial debut, appeared at a special film screening in Manhattan on Monday, April 17.
The new flick tells the story of an Italian-American family living in Queens who are torn apart when their son Sticks (Jacob Ward) faces a big setback after finding success on his high school basketball team. Sticks is on the path to a college sports scholarship but loses interest in the sport when his girlfriend breaks up with him, and so Romano — who plays Sticks’ father, Leo — goes to unexpected lengths to keep his son focused on the game and his future.
The special screening was hosted at the Metrograph Theater, located at 7 Ludlow St., which is situated in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The film will be released in theaters on Friday, April 21, and also stars actors such as Jennifer Esposito, Laurie Metcalf, Sadie Stanley, Tony Lo Bianco, Deirdre Friel and Jon Manfrellotti, all of whom were in attendance. Rose Byrne, an Australian actress known for starring in movies such as “Bridesmaids” and “X-Men,” was also in attendance, although she does not appear in the movie.
Romano, who grew up in Forest Hills and shot to fame in the 1990s for the TV sitcom ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ also co-wrote the script to ‘Somewhere in Queens.
“This is my love letter to my hometown Queens,” Romano told Schneps Media at the screening. “I still consider it my home. I live in L.A. now, but the Queens is still in me.”
“It was just a great neighborhood,” Romano added. “You knew everyone on the block. You had the pizza place, the schoolyard to hang out — it was very diverse.”
Romano said the movie contains a lot of family fun and draws on his own experiences growing up in Queens and being a father to a son who played basketball.
“There are pieces from my life, some big, some small,” Romano said. “My son was a high school basketball player who graduated, and when that was coming to an end, I was sad. And so we made a story out of that, about a guy that all he has in his life is his son playing basketball.”
“Of course, I grew up in an Italian American Queens household, so I brought all those elements in also,” Romano added.
Romano said that much of the movie was shot in various neighborhoods throughout Queens.
“The houses that we film in are all in Middle Village, where I moved to after I got married,” Romano said. “We drive by Dominick’s Hotdogs [hot dog truck] on Woodhaven Boulevard. We pass Citi Field where the Mets play… we’re scattered all over Queens.”
Some scenes were also shot in Astoria, according to several cast members.
Romano said Sticks plays with the Glendale Cougars high school basketball team in the movie. The hoops scenes were filmed at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village. The school is an arch-rival to Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, where Romano attended.
In the movie, Leo lives a simple life in Queens with his wife Angela (Laurie Metcalf), his only child Sticks, and Leo’s close-knit network of Italian American relatives and neighborhood friends. Leo is content working at the family construction business alongside his father (Tony Lo Bianco) and younger brother (Sebastian Maniscalco) and lives each week for Sticks’ high-school basketball games, never missing a chance to cheer on his only child as he rules the court.
Sticks, the shy star player for the Glendale Cougars high school basketball team, then gets a surprising and life-changing opportunity to play basketball in college via a sports scholarship and Leo jumps at the chance to provide a plan for his son’s future, and away from the family construction business.
But Sticks is overcome with heartbreak when his girlfriend Dani (Sadie Stanley) breaks up with him, which threatens to derail Leo’s plans for his son. Leo then comes up with extraordinary ways to keep his son on the steady path he has laid out for him.
‘Somewhere in Queens’ marks Romano’s first movie as a director, although he said it was not his initial intention when he wrote the script along with co-writer Mark Stegemann.
“I had no plans at all to direct and my agent suggested I should do it because it’s a personal story and he twisted my arm pretty good because I was scared,” Romano said.
After agreeing to direct the movie, Romano said he was daunted at the challenge before him.
“Leading up to it I was a wreck, and then once we started it all went away. The actors were great, and I was happy I did it,” Romano said. “After I was finished, I was happy that I took it on. I would do it again, it’s something I’ve never done before so I have to say it’s an experience of a lifetime.
Romano urged people of all ages to come out and see the movie.
“Yes, please come out and see it … But you don’t [have] to be from Queens to see it. It’s just fun if you are.”
With additional reporting and video provided by Laura Dorgan.