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Joe Christie

Enrico Colantoni guest starred as Joe Christie on the season three episode "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month" much to my delight. I first noticed Rico in Galaxy Quest which also starred Tony Shalhoub. Their individual performances in the film were brilliant and since then I've followed both their careers closely. That's why I started watching Monk, but before there was The Monk Fun Page, there was The Enrico Colantoni Fan Site, my first solo web page. So when Rico's name appeared in the credits of "Employee of the Month" I was flabbergasted. It was divine kismet, seeing my favorite actor on my favorite show. Yes, logic tells me that actors who have worked with Tony Shalhoub have an exponentially higher chance of being cast in the show (John Turturro, Tim Daly, Stanley Tucci, etc.), but sometimes it seems the Monk sun shines on me. And it gets better. A couple of months ago, out of the blue, Enrico Colantoni emailed me. He'd seen the website and, no doubt, his curiosity got the better of him. A few emails later, we had arranged to meet here in San Francisco for this interview.

The Hilton in Chinatown
where we did the interview

I confess, until I actually saw him in the hotel lobby, I thought there was a chance I was being punked. But there he was: a living, breathing actor and all around nice guy. We were joined by my friend, Monk Fun Page photographer Seth Williams. He chimes in with an occasional question and he took all these great photos, which will get much bigger if you click on them. (We talked for quite a while, so only the Monk and Galaxy Quest questions are on this page. For the Veronica Mars questions you can go here. To read the entire, mostly unedited, version of the interview, go here.)


The Interview Begins
Me and Rico and my list of questions
in the hotel dining room

Teresa: How did you get the role [of Joe Christie]? Did Tony Shalhoub ask you?

Rico: You know what? It was interesting because…. Remember the John Turturro character? His brother, his sort of reclusive brother?

Teresa: Right.

Rico: Right, I never saw the episode, but I met them all. I mean I knew Tony from Galaxy Quest, but I met them on that role. They were considering me for that role.

Seth: Oh, wow.

Rico: So when I went in and sort of approached it from a realistic kind of way, it was like a really wonderful audition with me and Tony. So I think that sort of sparked something in them, because then the next season they just said, “Do you want to do this?” I hadn’t really watched the show, so I didn’t realize how poignant that character was, because apparently it was a glimpse into Monk’s past before the trauma.

Teresa: Right. We hadn’t really gotten much of that before in his relationships.

Rico: So that was pretty cool, but that’s how it happened, sort of like a two step process.

Teresa: So have you watched the show much since?

Rico: Uh, uh.

Teresa: No?

Rico: No, I don’t watch much TV.

Teresa: No time?

Rico: It’s a choice I make, because between the work and my kids and hockey season….

Seth: Something’s got to give?


Rico: Uh, huh. You know, plus all the good shows are on at like nine, ten o’clock. And I like to be in bed by then. And you know if I try to watch a show that’s intense like Sopranos or something like that I tend to carry it with me so I don’t sleep and if I don’t sleep I’m an asshole. You know?

Teresa: Did you get enough sleep last night?

Rico: I did, but you know I was writing until midnight and I didn’t realize it was so late, but I did get eight hours.

Teresa: That’s good.

Rico: Yeah, I won’t be an asshole anymore. Even if I feel like an asshole, I won’t be.

Seth: How many kids do you have?

Rico: Two. Yeah he’s…. the boy is eight and the girl is five.

Teresa: Is the girl easier to raise?

Rico: You know what, psychologically easier, but not in the moment easier.

On Being Daddy
Because I sort of I look at him and I realize that he is more of an extension of myself and I feel the weight and the responsibility of like having to be a good example for him. And not that I don’t with her, but I know she has her mother to teach her all the things that I know nothing about like earrings and make-up and nails and fashion and shopping. Aaaaah, you know what I mean? So my time with her is just sort of spent just sort of hugging and kissing.

Seth: Being Daddy.

Rico: Yeah, as opposed to my son. I have to be Father.

Seth: Right.

Rico: Saying, “You know what, dude, this is how we do things. This is, you know, this is how we deal with things.” With her it’s like, oh, mom will worry about that. But she is much more temperamental and just, well, she’s a girl.

Teresa: Would you say she’s more like you?

Rico: Yeah, I think so. I think when push comes to shove she is much more articulate and dramatic and expressive than he is. So maybe, you know, who knows?

Teresa: Okay… getting back to Monk, do you have any interesting stories about what went on on the set?

Rico: Ummm....

Teresa: Was it all pretty smooth?

Rico: You know what? The only problem that I remember was those damn dogs. You remember they had dogs for the security. They were the nicest Dobermans. So we spent more time trying to film it in a way that could maximize their aggressiveness. And me going like, "Aaarrrgh!" and the dog is like [unenthusiastically] "Err err err aarh." You know, and [the director]’s just like cut. And you know they had this bark for like two seconds and all the sudden he’s like…. [makes licking noises] They’re lickin’ you.

Seth: I think I saw a couple of scenes where you don’t quite catch the aggressive side of the dog.

Remembering the Dogs

Rico: No, it’s sort of like [doing pretty impressive Scooby Doo imitation] Errrr? Errrr?

Teresa: And when the dog’s running through the store and he slips and you just feel sorry for the poor dog.

Rico: Right, poor dog. What a dummy. And I think the cut they actually used was me doing this. Uhhhh uhh huhh uhh. The dog’s like okay.

Teresa: Awww.

Rico: And the fact that I got to hang out with Tony again. And just sort of have this relationship with him in a character way, plus the past that I’ve had with him.

Seth: That’s something I really saw translate across the screen, that you two knew each other.

Rico: Yeah. Nice.

Going to Yale

Seth: That there was a betrayal in the friendship and it really came across really well.

Rico: The coolest thing about Tony is that he’s an old world guy and I think we share that. We have that immigrant sort of mentality in a way.

Teresa: Well, that’s right. I guess both your fathers are from the old country.

Rico: Right, so we have that in common.

Teresa: You also both went to Yale.

Rico: Yeah, and I knew of him before. One of the greatest theatrical experiences I ever had was watching Rameau’s Nephew at CSC in New York and I was like 23 or 24. And Shalhoub was doing it. And he was like the greatest actor and it was the greatest performance I’d ever seen up until that point. And I’m reading his bio and I go, “Oh shit, Yale School of Drama. I wanna go there.” So it was a combination of watching his performance and seeing David Alan Grier [also a Yale Graduate] in an audition room. The two of them together sort of made me go, “These are the greatest actors I’ve ever seen. I want to go to Yale.” So I owe them a lot, especially Tony, because if you’d ever seen Rameau’s Nephew, he was like he was so fucking good.

Teresa: What was it about his performance that you think made it really stand out?

Rico: Well if you know the play, it’s a two hander and it’s about I guess Rameau, some painter or something during the French past, I don’t know the history of Rameau at all, but his nephew was a scoundrel and a cheat and a vagabond and a drunk and a whore and when an actor gets to play all those things…. he was having the best time. And his voice and his vocal range were just so beautiful because it was like a whole… I remember this coughing fit that he had that lasted ten minutes and just how it built and what he did and it would stop and it would go back again. His physicality was just divine.

Teresa: You and he really seemed to have a great rapport in your scenes.

Rico: I think so, yeah.

Teresa: Do you attribute that to having the past together?

Rico: Well, yeah. That’s valuable homework. You know somebody and you already respect them and admire them for what they do and what was the characters name again?

Teresa: Joe Christie.

Joe Christie

Rico: Yes, you know the admiration he had for Monk and his ability. You know, he was like a true gumshoe. He was like a true investigator.

Teresa: Have they asked you to reprise the role?

Rico: No. I wonder why? Maybe they know I’m busy.

Teresa: You do have a series of your own.


Rico: But it’s sort of remarkable how so many people have seen that and they remember that episode. There are a lot of fans out there, aren’t there?

Teresa: There are.

Rico: Incredible.

Teresa: I think I told you that’s one of the most popular guest characters they’ve ever had.

Rico: Incredible. You know I don’t get out much. There’s a lot of traveling a lot of time in the car, going to San Diego and stuff, so I’m always amazed when people say, “Hey, I saw you on blah blah blah.” I go, “Oh yeah that’s right, that’s what I do. Good to see you.” I think it’s a good place to come from.

Teresa: Is that pretty much the only feedback you get for television roles. I mean for a play, of course, you have the audience right there.

Rico: Yeah, I think that’s the best that could happen, because when people say, “I appreciate what you do.” That’s the greatest. So let’s get back to Monk. [He leans over to look at my questions.]

Teresa: I think we’ve covered that.

Rico: [Reading] Would you consider returning…? Yes, I would consider it. Oh yeah, that would be great.

Teresa: Okay. Where were your scenes films? We’re curious because we like to take pictures of where scenes are filmed.

Rico: They have there own lot, right. What was that? [Ren-Mar Studios] I don’t know, but I know we ended up on the Universal lot, cause that whole diner thing with the old partner was in a diner there. That’s one of those old streamliner things. And then we were in Simi Valley, which I’ve never been to Simi Valley the whole…. It’s funny all those years in L.A. and I’ve never been to Simi Valley.

Teresa: Simi Valley: that’s where the shopping center was. That didn’t seem very San Francisco to me.

Rico: Yeah, I know. I didn’t think so.

Seth: It’s funny to see a shopping center in San Francisco.

Rico: Right. Because that’s insane, right?

That's Insane

Seth: You may get six cars in a parking lot here and that’s about it.

Rico: There’s got to be a…. I mean didn’t it take place in some suburban part of it?

Seth: Yes, probably. That’s the way I think of it.

Rico: Yeah, how does that feel when you know it’s clearly not….?

Teresa: Oh, that’s okay with me.

Seth: You kind of let your imagination go with it. You know, I tend to kind of try and fill in the gaps.

Rico: That’s what I love about the sitcom. They just have the stock footage in the beginning and then they’re in some stage somewhere.

Teresa: Everybody knows it’s a stage and that’s something they agree to.

Rico: Yeah, but we had that stock footage. When I did Hope and Gloria we had that stock footage of Pittsburgh. It’s like, Pittsburgh? Awesome.

Teresa: Weren’t you glad you didn’t have to film there?

Rico: Well, you know when we first did that pilot it was set in Philadelphia, so you know I sort of had an idea of a Philadelphia regionalism and then they day we shot we go, we’re in Pittsburgh now. I can’t just drop a regionalism. So I resorted to me.

Teresa: That worked.

Rico: Yeah.

Teresa: What was the experience like working on Galaxy Quest?

Rico: What was that experience like? Perfect. From beginning to end. Because It’s not often where actors are allowed to do their work. Sometimes directors have such a strong vision of what they want.

Teresa: Is that more true in films?

Rico: Yeah, I think so, because I think they’re scared. They really just want to hold on to that vision. They’re afraid to sort of let go and let all the elements come together.

I attribute the whole experience to [Monk Pilot Director] Dean Parisot who was the director who had this very laid back attitude. He was brought on it late. I think it was… what’s his name? [Barry Sonnenfeld] He had just done Wild Wild West.

Seth: Uh Kevin Kline?

Teresa: No, the director on that.

Seth: Oh, the director. No, shoot. And I’m such a fan of the old television series.

Rico: Harold Ramis, maybe? Somebody like that was supposed to direct it. He wanted Klein. The studio wanted Tim Allen. He said “No, I’m tired. I don’t want to do it anymore.” So right in the middle of it they brought Dean in. He sort of started behind the eight ball. Well, maybe that’s how he works all the time. He’s just sort of like, “Whatever you guys want to bring,” which allowed me to just be goofy and bring that guy in. He said, “Great!” Actors usually don’t have that luxury.

Seth: The nice thing about Galaxy Quest is the parody was spot on.

Rico: The writing was great, you know what I mean? It was such a good story. So everybody was having fun. There was not one ounce of drama going on. It was perfect.

Teresa: There was nobody who thought they were bigger than everybody else? It had a very big name cast.

Rico: Nooooo. And Tim couldn’t do it. You know, I’m sure he was capable of being the Prima Donna, but Sigourney [Weaver] was there you know to keep him in check and Alan [Rickman] was there to just remind everybody that there was a real fuckin’ actor on stage. So everybody was like hmmm. Even Tim had a wonderful sense of humor about it. He goes, “Huh, I guess this isn’t a Tim Allen movie is it?” I go, “I don’t think it is, Tim.” And he realized that it wasn’t his movie. He had to interview. He had to meet the people and then in the middle of the interview he realized, “Oh, this isn’t mine, is it?” He realized it and that just brought him right down. He was actually a joy. He had such humility about it and I think to date it’s still his favorite thing that he’s done.

Teresa: I think it’s the best thing he’s ever done.

Seth: It’s funny because the thing about the character, you know, he’s the Captain he’s supposed to fix everything. He’s perfect.

Rico: Yeah, right.

Seth: That’s what he brought across in the character. “It’s my show!”

Galaxy Quest was perfect

Rico: Right, right, but not really though. Yeah, it was all just great. And Chill was… I just remember him as Chill.

Teresa: That’s Daryl “Chill” Mitchell. Yeah, he had an accident, right?

Rico: Yeah he’s like…

Teresa: He’s paralyzed from the waist down.

Seth: When did this happen?

Rico: Years ago. 7 or 8 years ago.

Teresa: This was just a year or so after Galaxy Quest.

Rico: Yeah, not much longer, yeah.

Teresa: And he continues to act.

Rico: He sure does. And why shouldn’t he?

Teresa: I heard some talk many years ago that they were considering a sequel to that.

End of interview

Rico: Yeah, they’ve been talking about it forever. I think the original screen writer wrote a sequel. I hope they don’t. They can’t.

Seth: It would be fun, but it’s almost like past its prime sort of.

Rico: Yeah, yeah. And not only that, they do it with every movie. You don’t even remember the first one anymore.

Seth: Like Austin Powers.

Rico: Yeah, it’s like now they’re just all one big blur. Like is that one, two or three. If there’s just one it’s like, there it is.

Teresa: It’s its own work of art.

Rico: Its own work of art, that’s right. I’m glad they didn’t do it.

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Thanks to Forrest Prull for all his help setting this up.

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