Friday, February 10, 2023

From The Archives: Q&A With Actor Tony Shaloub.

Tony Shaloub is one of the best American actors working today in film and television. He can do comedy such as his roles in both Men In Black films or he can become a cut throat lawyer that is the polar opposite of his comedic work as can be seen in his characters he’s played in films by The Coen Brothers like The Man Who Wasn’t There. Yet Mr. Shaloub will always be remembered now for his work in the title role of the hit USA Network original series, Monk, which is about to begin its eighth and final season on Friday, August 7, 2009 at 9pm (ET/PT). Mr. Shaloub was very gracious and candid during the conversation.

When asked what he wanted the lasting impression for the audience of Monk to be, he said “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.”

Tony described his diverse career with sincere humility when he noted his roots stating “ 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.” Mr. Shaloub remarked that he hoped people would remember the show as being one of a precious few that was suitable for a wider audience, commenting how it was okay for kids to watch it while the show’s demographic still appealed to a range of viewers from 30 to 80, which is rare.

When asked if he has become more like his television character counterpart, Mr. Shaloub replied, “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. “ He continued this thought about his character in relation to what he has learned from playing Adrian Monk later stating, “I think I have learned something from Adrian.  I think I’ve learned to – sometimes, you know, hyper-focusing on things is actually a good thing to do.  Not all the time, and I wouldn’t want to be as kind of fixed – you know, get as fixated and as obsessed as Adrian, but sometimes, you know, I’ve found that it’s really helpful to look at things in my own life with the same kind of sort of relentlessness that Monk does, just turning something over and over and over and trying to see it from all angles, and not being too quick to judge something or label something.  So in that sense, I feel like I’ve gained a little real life wisdom.” Pausing briefly, he stated,

What has Monk gotten from me?  Boy, I don’t know.  That’s a really good question.  I feel like Monk has maybe become a little more – because I was playing the role, maybe Monk has become a little more open to others and embraces to the level, to the degree that he can, embraces other people’s point of view.  I feel like I’ve been that kind of a person in my life, open-minded.” When asked to further expound upon any little compulsions that have entered his life since playing Adrian Monk, Mr. Shaloub stated, Sometimes I feel like – there are moments when I feel like I’m just nothing like the character.  But then something will happen, and I’ll just realize that I’m rearranging something on a table at a restaurant, which seems that in that particular moment, seems like it’s absolutely essential that the sugar packets are facing one way and that everything else has to stop until this particular task is completed.  Then I realize, what the  hell am I doing?  I’m channeling the character again.  So it would take me about an hour and a half to describe all of the things that occur, but just trust me.  It just kind of comes over me in waves, and I have to really, really check myself and try and pull myself out of these things.”

Playing Monk is not something one goes into lightly because he is a person dealing with issues that afflict many people world wide and yet he has to find comedy in it as he spoke about his approach he said, “The process was really one of - it’s a process that I use and have used in approaching other characters, which is to find out – you know, knowing that it’s a comedy and to find out what – in any comedy, what I try to do is I try and find out what are the more serious aspects of the character.  And, conversely, when I do a serious role, I try and find out what’s funny about the character.  And the beauty of this particular character is that I’ve had the opportunity to do both comedy and drama within one series, one character.  

So I guess to answer your question, it’s really digging out the – when you’re doing the comedic moments, digging out what’s really, really at stake and what is the most important and most serious thing to the character, which I believe informs the comedy. And then conversely, you know, when the moments are really dark and poignant, trying to infuse those with an unexpected and sometimes inappropriate or seemingly inappropriate comedic flash, you know, a little spark of something absurd or comedic.That’s been my approach.” Asked if he would ever return to the role sometimes in the future, Shaloub stated, “You know, I’ve given that a lot of thought.  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, and I could change my mind.  Certainly I’ve been known to change my mind.  I just think time will tell.  I would never ever rule something like that out.”

Regarding what some of his future plans may be in addition to the completion of the eighth and final season of Monk, he candidly stated, “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.”

Big thanks to Mr. Shaloub for granting the opportunity to talk with him and to the USA Network and Terry Goldman at Electric Artists for making it happen.

© Copyright 2009 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.