SciFiChick.com was able to participate in a conference call Q&A session with Tony Shalhoub, star of USA’s Monk. Here’s the transcript from that call.
And don’t forget to tune in to USA on Friday night, August 7th, for the season premier of the final season of Monk!
What’s the lasting impression you want audience members to take from watching your show and watching you?
That’s a great question. I think, if I had to choose one thing, I would say that I would want people to take away this idea that sometimes people’s problems or neuroses are really the things that are kind of a blessing in disguise, and even though there’s, you know, sometimes there’s pain associated with these things that sometimes in the face of adversity with obstacles to overcome, people can really kind of soar and find their higher selves and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do on the show is we’ve portrayed this character as someone who turns his liability, his liabilities into assets per his life. And that there’s – and I hope that when we get to the end – I don’t know this for sure, but I hope when we get to the end of season eight that we’ll have seen some real healing from Monk, and I believe in that. I believe that there is healing and that there is change, and that all of those things are – they are just really, really key to all of our lives.
Do you have a preference to comedy or drama or horror?
Well, I don’t really have a preference, to be honest. In fact, my preference, my only preference is to have a lot of variety and diversity in the material that I work on. I’ve been so fortunate throughout my career, when I was doing theater, more theater than anything else, and when I was doing films that I got a chance just to do a broad range of things. In fact, a lot of my choices that I made were about that very thing. Every project that I had an opportunity to do or chose to do, I wanted it to be different from the last thing I did, and I think that’s why I have a good, you know, I had kind of a diverse kind of résumé. I’m really – it’s what I set out to do as an actor originally.
You talked about the character and what he sort of means, but what sort of legacy do you think this show leaves, and what do you take away from it?
Well, I think one of the things that will be remembered about this show, I hope will be remembered, is that at a time when there was, in a lot of television, especially with the onslaught of cable and in a period where television is kind of redefining itself, that there were precious few shows on the air that were suitable for a wider audience, like a younger audience, you know, people in their 30’s and then people like elderly people in the 70’s and 80’s. That there was a show that all those different demographics could tune into and appreciate, and would appreciate on their own level.
And I think there aren’t a lot of shows like that. There haven’t been a lot of shows like that in the last decade. And I hope that that’s something that people will focus on and remember for a long time, you know, that it’s still possible to do interesting stories and good comedy without having it have to be all exclusively adult themed kinds of things or super violent or with language that some people might feel is inappropriate for younger audiences, and that this show was kind of able to stand out and do that.
You have mentioned that you’re the only one at your home who knows how to absolutely – the only right way to load the dishwasher, which is a kind of Monk thing to say.
I’m not the only one in my home. I’m the only one in my community, I think, my entire neighborhood, I’m pretty sure.
Have you found that the longer you play Monk, over the years, the more like him you become?
I would say yes, absolutely. I mean, I resisted it for a long time. I wrestled with it. I fought with it. I was in denial about it and all of that. But inevitably, you know, there have been some – you know, as I said, in interviews too. I feel like I’ve been infected in some way by this character. Tendencies, you know, minor tendencies that I’ve had in my life prior to Monk have just kind of ballooned and expanded and it’s inevitably. I mean, I just, there’s no point in trying to – I’ve given up trying to resist it. I’ve had to just surrender to it. I mean, I’m hoping that when Monk is over that I’ll have some period of recovery, but I’m not holding my breath.
How is the final season structured? When do we get into the wrapping up of things?
Excellent question. What the writers have in mind is to do, you know, as you said, our normal standalone episodes for the first, I would say, 11, because we’re doing 16, as usual. So the first 11, I would say, are going to be standalone, and then the last 5 is when we’ll be kind of connected. They’ll have a connected tissue, and we’ll start to get into the wrap up, not just of Monk, but of some of the other characters as well. Then what they want to do is the final two episodes, number 15 and 16, it’ll just be one story, a two-part, you know, aired in two segments. Just to follow – that episode, I mean that two-part will involve the wrap up of Trudy’s murder, you know, the solving of Trudy’s murder.
What was the deciding factor to make this season the final season?
Well, I think there were a lot of things at play there. I mean, long conversations that I had with Andy Breckman, you know, one of the co-creators and the main writer. We’ve been talking all along about how many seasons to do, how many episodes that he had in him, you know, as the writer. He, at one point, said that he didn’t think really he had more than six seasons, and then he kind of got a gigantic second wind, and we did the seventh, and we weren’t sure when we were doing the seventh if the network was going to go with us on the eighth. But to make a long story short, we all kind of agreed that the eighth season would be it for all of us.
I think it will have 124 episodes by the end of the eighth season, and I think we’re all ready to resolve the storyline and move on to other things. We certainly don’t want to go too long and have the quality start to wane and just limp to the finish line. We want to go out while we’re still really, we feel really that we’re doing great work and delivering really strong episodes. We want to go out on a high.
How many of the old faces from past episodes are we going to see as a way of saying good-bye this last season?
Well, we’ll certainly, I’m sure you’ve probably read because there’s been a lot of publicity about Sharona coming back. Bitty Schram is going to come back for episode – I believe it’s episode number 12, which will start shooting in September. And they want to bring that character back and kind of wrap it up and kind of give that a good send off. A lot of people really missed that character and the dynamic between Monk and Sharona. And so we’re all looking forward to that.
Of course, we’ll see Harold Krenshaw comes back, one of my favorites. He’s the other OCD patient who is always kind of in competition with Monk, played so brilliantly by Tim Bagley. He’s going to return for at least a couple of episodes.
And well, that’s it. I mean, of course, Dr. Bell, the psychiatrist will be in a number of episodes. I don’t think – people have asked if we’re going to see Ambrose. I don’t really think that’s in the cards simply because that’s … John is so busy. It’s difficult to schedule him in. I mean, if I had my way, we’d do kind of what Seinfeld did and bring back almost every guest star there ever was on the show, but ours is going to go in a different direction.
Do you have a favorite guest star over the years and a favorite you’ve worked with so far this year?
It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite because there have been so many great ones, and I’ve had the chance to bring friends of mine on the show, I mean, people that I’ve worked with in the past like Stanley Tucci and John Turturro and people that I’ve always wanted to work with like Laurie Metcalf. But I have to say, of all of the seasons, and of all of the guest stars, the most thrilling for me was last season working with Gena Rowlands on Mr. Monk and the Lady Next Door. She was such a tremendous influence on me when I was a student and studying acting. I was a devotee of John Cassavetes movies and the movies she did even separate from him.
I was the one who actually when we were casting that particular episode, The Lady Next Door, there were a number of names on the list, and I pitched her name. And I was stunned and thrilled to find out that she wanted to do it. And then working those eight days with her was just, you know, I felt really, when we finished that episode, I felt like I could retire, that I had done everything I needed to do now. She was so gracious and so good, and of course she’s been nominated for an Emmy for that episode too, so I will hopefully see her at the Emmys in September.
Do you have a particular favorite episode of Monk?
Man. This is so difficult because I have so many that are just so near and dear to me. I kind of will reframe the question in the answer, I think. The ones that – I will say the ones where I think we did, where we’ve done the best, in other words, those episodes where we did 100% of what we set out to do or 100% of how we imagined the show should be in a perfect world when we’re doing our job – just the best. Those episodes would be, I would say, the first John Turturro episode where we meet the character of Ambrose. That was called Mr. Monk and the Three Pies.
Another favorite of mine was Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine because it was a chance for me to do this character almost as a different character – see a different part of him emerge. We did an episode that we just shot in the first part of season eight, which will be airing in about a month. It’s called Mr. Monk is Someone Else, and it’s an episode where it’s basically … assume this character of a man who looks just like him, but the character happens to be a professional hit man for the mafia, and this character dies, and Monk is asked to take on, you know, to take this guy on and become him. And so those opportunities to kind of transform within the character are really, really challenging and satisfying.
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had filming the series?
The most memorable moment? I can’t remember my most memorable. I think I would have to say the most memorable moment would be when I was doing the episode with Stanley Tucci, Mr. Monk and the Actor, and he and I were, you know, having been reunited from having worked together for a number of times, he and I sort of, in the climax of the episode where I take the gun away from him, and we’re kind of sitting on the floor leaning up against this counter thing, you know, kind of our arms over each other’s shoulders because it was reminiscent of a moment in Big Night, which was such a gigantic turning point for me, I think, in terms of film of my career. So in that moment in Monk kind of reminded me of the moment in the movie was pretty emotional, a pretty emotional time.
Have you ever run across any people who are as passionate about Adrian Monk as Adrian was about Christine?
Yes. I have to say that I have, actually, and it’s kind of a disturbing notion. But that’s kind of, you know, it’s kind of been part of what’s been interesting about this character is that being an obsessive character, I find that there are obsessive fans. There are people who know way too much about the details of the character and way too much about various moments in different episodes, things that I, frankly, have long forgotten, small, small details. I suppose that’s good on the one hand. You know, I just – it’s – I just hope that those people keep a nice, healthy distance in the future, a nice, healthy, respectful distance.
After you’re done with Monk, are you going to take a nice long vacation? Or will we be seeing more of you on the big screen?
Well, I don’t want to take too long a vacation, although I do think I need a break. I start to – whenever I take too long a break or don’t work a while, all my demons start to resurface, and I go a little nuts. And I did work on an independent feature this past winter, which I hope will be coming out soon called Feed the Fish, a movie that I acted in, but also co-produced, and a really nice … so we’re looking for distribution to sell this picture, so people should look for that.
But beyond that, I want to really, really take some time for myself to decide which direction to go next. I might do some theater for a year before I do any more television. I think I need a break from hour long episodic for a while.