Patricia Heaton, an actor perhaps most famous for her role in Everyone Loves Raymond, found her stand-in in a most unlikely way: through the organization Catholic Big Sisters.

Back in New York City in the mid-1980s, Heaton mentored a sixteen-year-old from Spanish Harlem named Carmen Vargas. Carmen had lost her mother when she was younger, and she was paired with Heaton, who had also lost her mother when she was younger. As a part of Catholic Big Sisters, Heaton and Carmen were big sister and little sister for one year. Heaton helped Carmen with her homework and took her to Broadway shows (even though Heaton didn’t have a lot of money at the time). Carmen helped Heaton with auditions. They met about twice a month and also talked on the phone. But after the year ran out, they continued to stay in touch.

Briefly, Carmen moved to Los Angeles and was invited to live with Heaton, her new husband, and their newborn in their small home. Heaton had relocated to Los Angeles to pursue the next chapter in her career. However, L.A. didn’t work out for Carmen, and she soon returned to NYC.

As Everyone Loves Raymond was beginning production, its star Ray Romano moved from New York to California. He left his wife in New York to care for their child. Heaton referred Carmen to Romano as a nanny to help his wife, and Carmen landed the job. Once the show was picked up for its second season, Carmen moved with the Romano family to California. Before long, she was working on the show as a production assistant and as a stand-in. She even played the role of Guard on the show.

Back in 2002, Carmen was interviewed for a piece on Heaton for the Orlando Sentinel. This is what Carmen said of Heaton:

She’s been great in my life, a great friend […] I think of her as a sister in so many ways. When I first knew Patty and she was a struggling actress in New York, I never doubted she was going to make it big, because she had the talent […] Now here she is working on a No. 1 show with me kind of riding behind her coattails and still looking up to her. It really hasn’t changed. She’s still the same person, a little busier, of course, but every time I need her, she’s really there.

Carmen has remained in Heaton’s life. For her cooking show Patricia Heaton Parties, Carmen comes to help Patricia prepare drinks for Heaton’s “Silver Anniversary Surprise” episode. In the episode, Heaton shares that Carmen is still her stand-in, currently on the television series The Middle. And by the looks of it, they are the same height! See Carmen introduced starting at 14:37:

Heaton even wrote about her relationship with Carmen in her 2003 memoir, Motherhood and Hollywood: How to Get a Job Like Mine.

More about Carmen Vargas and her close relationship with her first-team counterpart is here:

A Down-to-Earth Star — a 2002 article from the Orlando Sentinel

Kid Sister Stages a Comeback — a 2004 article from the New York Daily News

Hollywood Ending — a 2004 article from People

Carmen Vargas on IMDb

Motherhood and Hollywood: How to Get a Job Like Mine on Amazon