Liotta went to a local high school where he was more interested in sports than academia, excelling at soccer and basketball.While he was at high school, the family took him and his sister on vacations to Japan and Europe, and he worked part-time at his father’s store and helped his parents, both ardent Democrats, canvass for the party.Persuaded by his father to go to college, Liotta attended the University of Miami and took up drama as a hobby, by all reports more out of boredom and to meet girls than from any real calling.
His first turn on the boards was followed by other musicals such as 'West Side Story' and 'The Sound of Music'.He found his niche though with dramatic roles in 'Death of a Salesman' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.Liotta left university with a theatre major and moved to New York.His first break came just three days after arriving when he was spotted by casting agents while accompanying a friend to a studio.He landed a TV commercial and within weeks he was auditioning and screen-testing for movies.
In 1978, only a few months after arriving in New York, Liotta’s piercing eyes and hunky good looks landed him the role of Joey Perrini in the long-running soap opera 'Another World'.
Liotta stayed with the role until 1981 and then scored small parts in TV movies including the family movie 'Hardhat and Legs' and the coming of age movie 'Crazy Times', starring alongside a young David Caruso.
A TV series based on the classic movie 'Casablanca' was next, though it meant a move to California for filming.
Liotta contacted his old university friend Steven Bauer who lived in Malibu with his then wife Melanie Griffith.
Bauer swapped his house for Liotta’s New York apartment and through Griffith, Ray met Heidi von Beltz, a stunt-woman who had been paralysed in a car accident while making Cannonball Run.
The two became friends and then started a relationship which lasted a year.