Interview With Monk’s Tony Shalhoub

| August 4, 2009

With the final season of Monk premiering on USA Friday, August 4, Tony Shalhoub recently took part in a conference call to answer questions about his time on the show as well as the connections between himself and the very OCD Adrian Monk. Listening to him talk about his time on the show and with this character, it almost seems like he might be losing a friend, or maybe even part of himself.
Originally Andy Breckman, one of the co-creators and the main writer, had stated he only had about six seasons in him for Monk, yet after that “he kind of got a gigantic second wind,” and they ended up filming the seventh season. They weren’t sure at that time that the network would let them do an eighth season, yet once they had that confirmed, they all agreed that the eighth season would be the last. They don’t want to overstay their welcome, go too long, and “have the quality start to wane and just limp to the finish line.” They want to go out on a high, still delivering really strong episodes.
To wrap up the series the writers plan on doing eleven or so standalone episodes, then the last five will be somewhat connected. That’s when they’ll start to get into the wrap up, not just of Monk, but of some of the other characters on the show as well. The final two episodes will be a two-parter which will be the solving of Trudy’s murder. We’ll get to see some old faces as well, with Sharona coming back, as well as Bitty Schram. One of Shalhoub’s favorites, Harold Krenshaw, will come back as well. Dr. Bell will be in a number of episodes. He doesn’t think we’ll see Ambrose again though. Shalhoub admits he’d love to see a Seinfeld type of ending where everyone comes back.
One character that obviously won’t be coming back is Dr. Kroger because of Stanley Kamel’s death last year. While we’ve seen the effects of this loss on Adrian, Shalhoub discussed a little what it’s been like to deal with the loss of Kamel. He feels in some ways it’s like he never left, as he still seems a part of everything on the set in stories and anecdotes that come up. He feels those early scenes with Dr. Kroger were very important and the richest for him in terms of defining the character of Adrian. Even when he’s doing the scenes with Hector Elizondo as Dr. Bell, he still does a “little infernal toast,” as if Kamel were still there with him.
Shalhoub enjoyed many of the great guest stars he got to work with, such as Stanley Tucci and John Turturro, as well as Laurie Metcalf who he always wanted to work with. Yet, of all the seasons, it was Gena Rowlands that was the most thrilling for him to work with. She had been “a tremendous influence on me when I was a student and studying acting.” He had actually pitched her name for the episode, and was both stunned and thrilled that she wanted to do it. He felt like he could retire after the episode, as he’d done everything he needed to do.  
From the ads for this upcoming season, it seems Monk becomes a little looser and more comedic, and when asked if he prefers comedy, drama, or horror, Shalhoub states he doesn’t really have a preference and seems to feel lucky to have variety and diversity in what he does. Many of the choices that he has made have been just to do something “different form the last thing I did.” It’s all based on what he originally set out to do as an actor.
In all these years of playing Adrian Monk, Shalhoub and his role seem to have crossed paths some, as he doesn’t feel anyone in his home, let alone his community, knows how to load a dishwasher properly. While he resisted the comparisons for a long time, he does feel he was infected in some way by the character. Minor tendencies that he had prior to Monk have “ballooned and expanded.” He’s noticed himself being sure all the sugar packets are facing one way. Eventually he just had to surrender to it. He is hoping that “when Monk is over that I’ll have some period of recovery, but I’m not holding my breath.”
Being that I’m a big one for life lessons, all of this made me wonder if Tony learned anything from his years with Adrian Monk, and if Adrian learned anything from Tony. The question made him laugh, and he admitted he did learn from Adrian. He thinks sometimes, hyper-focusing on things is actually a good thing to do, yet not all the time. “It’s really helpful to look at things in my own life with the same kind of sort of relentlessness that Monk does.” In return, he feels maybe Adrian has learned from him to be a little more open to others and even embrace others’ point of view.
Shalhoub was asked what lasting impression he wants people to take away after watching Monk, and if he had to choose one thing, it would be the “idea that sometimes people’s problems or neuroses are really the things that are kind of a blessing in disguise.” Sometimes there’s pain associated with it, but when overcoming adversity, “people can really kind of soar and find their higher selves.” Shalhoub feels that they have turned Monk’s liabilities into assets and hopes by the end of the season, we’ll see some type of healing from Monk.
“With the onslaught of cable, and in a period where television is kind of redefining itself,”  of creating shows for a wider ranger of audience, Shalhoub hopes Monk will be remembered as a show that shared all those different demographics, that everyone could tun into and appreciate on their own level, and he seems to feel his show is unique in that manner. He feels it’s possible to do interesting stories and good comedy without having to rely on adult themes, violence, or language.
As for what’s next for Shalhoub, he doesn’t want to take a long vacation, although he recognizes he does need a break. He’s afraid of taking too long of a break and allowing his demons to resurface, making him “go a little nuts.” He worked on an independent feature this past winter, Feed the Fish, in which he acted and co-produced, and he hopes to maybe do some theater before he returns to television again. While he would never want to give up acting, he would like to do more producing, as well as some directing.
And if any of that fails, maybe he can get a show on the Food Network showing people how to load a dishwasher properly and how to stack sugar packets to make a good presentation.

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