Interview conducted on July 28, 2009
Like many other people who were born and raised in the great city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, I was brought up with the privilege of knowing certain things to be fact. One, nothing beats Green Bay Packer football. Two, never eat cheese that was made in any other state because it’s just a waste of time. And three, Tony Shaloub is one of the greatest actors ever. Whether it was the buzz going around town back in the early 90s of how the Italian cab driver from Wings use to live right down the street or my brother-in-law bragging about how he went to the same high school as Adrian Monk, it’s safe to say that since Mr. Shaloub’s career began, our hometown hero has had an entire city rooting for him.
And there has been plenty for us to root about over the past 20 years. With his extensive work both on the stage and in television accompanied by his impressive film resume, which includes roles in movies like the hilarious Galaxy Quest, Men in Black, 1408 and Cars, Tony Shaloub has seen his share of success. None more successful then his critically acclaimed television show Monk, which has been one of the USA Network’s top-rated shows for the past seven years.
The show, which heads into it’s eight and final season in just few days, revolves around Adrian Monk, a talented police detective who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which was a result from a nervous breakdown the character endured after the murder of his wife. The heart of the show’s success has always been Tony Shaloub’s brilliant portrayal of the charming-yet-troubled detective. A portrayal that has earned him numerous awards and accolades, including recently being nominated for a seventh Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, an honor he has already won three times.
I recently was lucky enough to chat with Mr. Shaloub on the phone, where he was kind enough to take time away from a family reunion he was attending up in Door County, Wisconsin to answer questions of mine pertaining to the final season of his hit television show. He informed me on what the fans can expect from the upcoming episodes and what life after Monk will hold for the actor.
Adam Krause: First and foremost, congratulations on the recent Emmy nomination.
Tony Shaloub: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.
AK: So what was the deciding factor to make this the final season for Monk?
TS: I’ve had long conversations with Andy Breckman (co-creator and head writer). We’ve been talking all along about how many seasons to do, how many episodes that he had in him as the writer. At one point, he said he didn’t think he had more than six seasons in him. And then he 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. 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 doing great work and delivering really strong episodes. We want to go out on a high.
AK: Die hard fans don’t need to be convinced to tune into the new season, but for those who are new to the show or just not sold yet, is there anything you can give to entice them into watching season eight?
TS: I think people will be really gratified to see that the quality remains very high and that the stories are really interesting. We always have interesting guest stars. We try to bring in people to do things that they may not be necessarily known for. For example, we have Jay Moore coming in an upcoming episode that we shot recently. He plays a sort of super, “Johnny Cochrane” type lawyer who has never lost a case. And it’s really an interesting turn by Jay Moore. I think we keep it just off center enough to make it interesting.
AK: Speaking of guest stars, Monk has had a plethora of great guest appearances over the years. Does any specific one stand out in your mind as a favorite?
TS: It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite because there have been so many great ones. 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 studying acting. I was the one who pitched her name when we were casting and I was thrilled to find out that she wanted to do it. 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.
AK: This being Monk’s final season, what sort of legacy do you think this show leaves, and what do you sort of take away from it in that regard?
TS: In a period where television is kind of redefining itself, I hope Monk will be remembered as one of the precious few shows on the air that were suitable for a wider audience. That it was a show in which many different demographics, ranging from younger viewers to elderly audiences, could tune into and appreciate on their own level. There haven’t been a lot of shows like that in the last decade. And I hope that’s something people will focus on and remember for a long time. Monk proved that it’s still possible to do interesting stories and good comedy without having it be exclusively adult themed with violence and language that some people might find inappropriate for younger audiences.
AK: So how is the final season structured? When do the characters start wrapping things up?
TS: What the writers have in mind is to do normal standalones for the first eleven episodes. And then the last five episodes will all be connected and that’s where we begin wrapping up. Not just of Monk, but some of the other characters as well. Then the final two episodes will just be one story aired in two segments that will involve the solving of Trudy’s (Monk’s wife in the show) murder.
AK: How important was it for you to see Monk finally solve Trudy’s murder?
TS: I really think it should be solved. I know there are people who say that maybe it shouldn’t because that would mean that there would be life for this character beyond the series. But I really feel that we’ve worked this storyline so delicately and for so long that I think we owe it to not just the audience and to ourselves, but to the character of Monk and to the character of Trudy that we’ve created.
AK: How many familiar faces from past episodes can fans look forward to?
TS: Well, I’m sure you’ve probably heard about Sharona coming back. Bitty Schram is coming back for an episode because they wanted to give her a good send off. A lot of people really missed that character and the dynamic between Monk and Sharona. 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. 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.
AK: Is it possible we could see you return as Adrian Monk after this final season?
TS: I assume you’re talking about a TV movie or something along those lines the way Colombo did. I feel like I’m ready to put this character to rest, but by the same token, I never say never, and circumstances could change. Certainly I’ve been known to change my mind. But I don’t really see that being so likely just because I think I’m going to be busy. At least, I’m hoping that I’m going to be busy with other things. Maybe I’m diluting myself.
AK: Speaking of changing your mind and not being able to give something up. Like you, I’m originally from Green Bay so I have to ask. What are your thoughts on Brett Favre possibly being a Viking?
TS: I understand that someone like him, who has been so passionate about his work, thinks he can retire but then discovers that it’s impossible to give it up. I think in some ways I would be like him. I would retire and then come out of retirement 17 times. But if Favre signs with Minnesota and there’s a game at Lambeau Field where Favre trots out through the tunnel wearing a Vikings uniform, I don’t really have any desire to watch that game.
AK: So what’s life after Monk going to include for you?
TS: 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, so people should look for that. But beyond that, I want to 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.
AK: A few years ago you directed the feature film Made-Up. With that experience along with your growing producing credits, do you have any interest in doing more work behind the scenes?
TS: Yes, actually, because I’ve been a producer on Monk from the very start, and that’s been such a great education for me, I have a couple things in mind that I want to produce that aren’t necessarily vehicles for me. But I think it’s time for me to branch out into producing. And then I would also like to do some directing. I’ve done a little of that in the past, but it’s something I’d like to do more of. But, of course, I would never consider giving up acting. I still want to keep that alive. But because of the experience that I’ve gained and the contacts that I’ve made now, I think producing is definitely in my future.
AK: What lasting impressions do you want audience members to take from watching your show and watching you?
TS: 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 blessings in disguise. And even though there’s pain associated with these things, sometimes in the face of adversity with obstacles to overcome, people can really kind of soar and find their higher selves. I think that’s what we’ve tried to do on the show is portray this character as someone who turns his liabilities into assets for his life. And I hope when we get to the end of season eight, we’ll have seen some real healing from Monk. 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.
The eighth and final season of Monk premieres on the USA Network on August 7 at 8 P.M. Central time.