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July 28th 2009

I was invited to participate in a press conference call with Tony Shalhoub, thanks to Inside Pulse, New Media Strategies and Electric Artists. The latter two comprise part of USA Network's publicity machine. They had all the press outlets, some traditional print organizations but mostly online press, dial in. Each caller was told they could ask only one question and they had to punch in a code to do so. I punched in, but apparenly it's a lot like Jeopardy and you have to be a lot quicker on the buzzer than I was. They never got around to letting me ask my question, which was asked anyways, (regarding future Monk movies) or my back up question, which was also asked, (regarding Tony's future plans) or my back up back up question, about Tony's episode submission for his Emmy nomination, which nobody asked. So we still don't know. [Update: Now we know. It's Mr. Monk and the Miracle."]

This is the edited version of the transcript, which I noticed some sites have posted verbatim. I've chosen to remove most of the "You know"s, "Kind of"s, "Um"s, "Uh"s and false starts on Tony's part, because I think that you know, ummm... uh, I think he'd kind of appreciate it. Not that Tony's difficult to understand at all, but we all have speech patterns which don't read that well on the page. (Especially when you're asked to talk for an hour straight and you don't know what you're going to be asked.) I also cut out most of the media's chatter and left the bare bones questions.

Tony did seem completely at ease. No surprise, since he's done this many times before. He was gracious, patient and excited about the final season. Many of the questions were the same old chestnuts he usually gets in interviews: "How much are you really like Monk"? etc., but he's always ready with an entertaining and honest answer.


I was wondering, what’s the lasting impression you want audience members to take from watching your show and watching you? – Jamie Steinberg with Starry Constellation

I think if I had to choose one thing I would say that I would want people to take away the idea that sometimes people’s problems or neuroses are really the things that are kind of a blessing in disguise. Even though sometimes 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 this show. We’ve portrayed this character as someone who turns his liabilities into assets for his life. I hope that when we get to the end, I don’t know this for sure, but I hope that when we get to the end of season eight that we’ll have seen some real healing for Monk. I believe in that now. I believe that there is healing and that there is change and that all those things are really key to all of our lives.

Okay, I’ll try to make this quick. I wonder if you’ve had any input into the new changes of Monk because it seems from the ads that he’s sort of looser and more comedic and do you have a preference for comedy or drama or horror? – Jennifer Iaccino of Media Blvd

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, I got a chance to do a broad range of things. 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. I think that’s why I have a diverse kind of résumé. It’s what I set out to do as an actor originally.

Tony Shalhoub 1

You talked about the character and what he means, but in terms of the pantheon of great television series what sort of legacy do you think this show will leave and what do you sort of take away from it in that regard? – Joshua Maloney with Niagara Frontier

I think one of the things that will be remembered about this show, I hope it will be remembered, is that at a time when there was a lot of television, -- especially with the onslaught of cable and in a period where television is kind of redefining itself – there were precious few shows on the air that were suitable for a wider audience: like a younger audience, people in their 30s and elderly people in their 70s and 80s. But here was a show that all those different demographics could tune into and appreciate on their own level. I think there isn’t a lot of shows like that. There haven’t been a lot of shows like that in the last decade. I hope that that’s something people will focus on and remember for a long time: 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. This show was kind of able to stand out and do that.

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Tony Shalhoub in Wings
Hi, Tony. My first interview with you was way back in Wings and I think you’re one of the good ones. I’ve always been happy for you: how well you’ve done for yourself and the good work that you’ve done. One time when I interviewed you, you mentioned that you’re the only one at your home who knows absolutely the only right way how to load the dishwasher which struck me as a kind of Monk thing to say. – David Martindale with Hearst Newspapers

I’m not the only one in my home; I’m the only one in my community, I think. In my entire neighborhood, I’m pretty sure.

My question is have you found the longer that you’ve played Monk the differences between you, Tony and the character have eroded? Which is to say have you become more like him and he more like you over the years? – David Martindale with Hearst Newspapers

I would say yes, absolutely. I resisted it for a long time. I’ve wrestled with it. I fought with it. I was in denial about it and all of that, but inevitably I feel like I’ve been infected in some way by this character. Minor tendencies that I’ve had in my life prior to Monk, have just kind of ballooned and it’s inevitable. I’ve given up trying to resist it. I’m hoping that when Monk is over I’ll have some period of recovery, but I’m not holding my breath.

How is the final season structured? You know the season premiere seems like the standard great hilarious episode, but when do we kind of get into the wrapping of things up? – Jim Halterman with The Futon Critic

What the writers have in mind is to do is our normal stand alone episodes for the first I would say eleven, because we’re doing 16 as usual. So the first eleven I would say are going to be stand alone and the last five will be kind of connected. They’ll have a connective 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, will be just one story, a two parter. It will air in two segments. The episode, that two parter, 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? – Sarah Fulgham with

I think there were a lot of things at play there. I mean, long conversations that I had with Andy Breckman, one of the co-creators and the main writer. We’d been talking all along about how many seasons to do, how many episodes that he had in him as a writer. He at one point said that he didn’t think he had more than six seasons and then he got a gigantic second wind and we did the seventh. We weren’t sure when we were doing the seventh if the network was going to go with us on the eighth, but a long story short, we all kind of agreed that the eighth season would be it for all of us.

Tony Shalhoub 2
I think we’ll have 124 episodes by the end of the eighth season. I think we’re all ready to resolve the story line 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 still feel we’re doing great work, delivering 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 goodbye this last season? – BethAnn Henderson with

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 an episode, I believe it’s episode #12, which we’ll start shooting in September. They want to bring that character back and kind of wrap it up and give that a good send off. A lot of people really missed that character and the dynamic between Monk and Sharona. 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’s 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. That’s it. Of course Dr. Bell [Hector Elizondo], the psychiatrist, will be in a number of episodes. People have asked if we’re going to see Ambrose. I don’t really think that’s in the cards, simply because John [Turturro] is so busy. It’s difficult to schedule him. If I had my way we’d do kind of what Seinfeld did and bring back almost every guest star there was on the show, but ours is going to go in a different direction.

I have to tell you I’m from Wisconsin and you’re one of my Mother’s favorite actor’s. – Christine Nyholm with the

I’m in Wisconsin as we speak. I’m at a family reunion in Door County. It’s so beautiful here.

Oh, it’s fantastic there. My question is, being from Wisconsin, how did you make your way from Wisconsin to Hollywood? And do your mid-western roots impact your acting at all? And how? – Christine Nyholm with the

How? Boy, I think so, I think they do. I went to college on the East Coast in Portland, Maine. I went to graduate school at the Yale Drama School, worked in the theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts for years and then went to New York and then to Los Angeles. That was kind of the road map of it, but I always come back to Wisconsin every year. I have family here, of course. I don’t know. This place was kind of a fantastic place to grow up and kind of keeps me grounded and keeps me somewhat humble. Just to kind of return to it, I think it keeps me balanced. I still have great friends here and I feel like it’s home.

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Have you Tony learned anything from your years with the character of Adrian Monk and do you think Adrian has learned anything from Tony? – Laura Tucker with Small Screen Monthly

I think I have learned something from Adrian. I think I’ve learned sometimes hyper focusing on things is actually a good thing to do. Not all the time, and I wouldn’t want to get as fixated and obsessed as Adrian, but sometimes I’ve found that it’s real helpful to look at things in my own life with the same 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 to quick to judge something or label something. So in that sense I feel like I’ve gained a little real life wisdom.

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 degree that he can, embraces other people’s points of view. I feel like I’ve been that kind of a person in my life. Open-minded.

How involved were you with the development of the character of Monk and are there any clues that point to the potential killer for Trudy, besides the garage? – Joe Hummel of Pop Culture Madness

I wasn’t really there when this character was created. The script was around for a number of years before it came to me. Although I do feel I’ve had some significant input. When I came to the project the script and the character was somewhat different and I had long conversations with Andy Breckman about kind of morphing the character more towards what I wanted to do, more to my strengths. The original script that I read was a little more slapstick-y and I wanted to emphasize the darker aspects of this character, more of the pain. So that was a conversation a lot of the producers had in the beginning. I think Andy did such a great job of morphing what he had originally written to fit me and what I wanted to do.

As far as the other clues: I don’t want to give away too much before these episodes air, because I think it will be a lot more interesting for people to discover things as we go along.

I was just wondering if in your own life you found some of Monk’s compulsions entering your life in small ways and if so kind of what they were. – Lauren Becker with Shooting Star Magazine

Tony Shalhoub 5
You know, they take so many different forms and kind of crop up at the oddest times really. 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 in that particular moment seems like it’s absolutely essential that the sugar packets are facing one way and then everything else has to stop until this particular task is completed. Then I realize, you know, 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 trust me, it just kind of comes over me in waves. I have to really, really check myself and try and pull myself out of these things.
Stanley Kamel
It was a big loss for you on the show this year with the loss of Stanley Kamel as Dr. Kroger. We know kind of how Monk is dealing with the loss of the character, but can you tell us a little bit about how you’re dealing with the loss of Stanley? – Gino Sassani with
It’s been really tricky and we all speak of him and it’s almost as if he has never left us, because his name comes up and stories and anecdotes come up about him all the time on the set. And you know he’s missed, but we try and sort of keep him alive and keep him in our midst. He was there from the very, very beginning, from the pilot episode. I have to say those scenes, those Dr. Kroger scenes in the pilot, were so important just in terms of my process, my discovery of who Monk was. I think those scenes in particular were the most informative and the richest. They really, really helped me to define the parameters of my character. So I kind of carried that with me through all these seasons. Then now when I’m in these sessions, these scenes with Hector Elizondo who plays Dr. Bell, I can’t even go into these scenes without.… I sort of do this internal toast, as it were to Stanley Kamel, because he was the original doctor and I like to think that he’s kind of there in those sessions with me. He is missed.

As you’ve already discussed you’ve had a lot of guest stars on the show. I was wondering if you had a favorite you’ve worked with over the years and then a favorite you’ve worked with so far this year? –Travis Tidmore with the Cinemaniac

It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite because there were so many great ones and I got the chance to bring friends of mine on the show, 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 that of all the seasons and of all of the guest stars the most thrilling for me was the 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.
So I was the one who 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. I was stunned and thrilled to find out that she wanted to do it. Then working those eight days with her was so…. I felt really, when we finished that episode, I felt like I could retire. 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 hopefully will see her at the Emmy’s in September.
Lady Next Door
Tony Shalhoub & Gena Rowlands in "Mr. Monk and the Lady Next Door"

I think the character of Monk has been portrayed very respectful. What was the process you went into in the research to try and make sure you didn’t go over the top and play it maybe possibly offensive? –Josh Bozeman with

The process, and it’s a process I have used in approaching other characters, knowing it’s a comedy, I try to find out what are the more serious aspects of the character. Conversely, when I do a serious role I try and find out what’s funny about the character. The beauty of this particular character is that I have the opportunity to do both comedy and drama in one series and one character. I guess to answer your question, it’s really, 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 believes informs the comedy. Then, conversely, when moments are really dark and poignant I try to infuse those with an unexpected and sometimes inappropriate, or seemingly inappropriate, comedic flash, a little spark of something absurd or comedic. That’s been my approach.

I know you talked about your favorite guest stars, but I was wondering if you had a particular favorite episode of Monk? –Sandy Lo with Star Shine Magazine

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. I will say the ones that I think we did where we’ve done the best — 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 jobs, 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.” It’s basically a doppelganger episode, where Monk assumes the character of this man who looks just like him, but the character happens to be a professional hit man for the mafia. So this character dies and Monk is asked to take this guy on and become him. So those opportunities to kind of transform within the character are really, really challenging and satisfying.

Trudy’s murder has been one of the most successful narrative arcs in television history, rivaling even Mulder’s sister Samantha on the X-Files. So do you think it should be solved or left for the audience as more of a MacGuffin? –Sarah Lafferty with

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 a life for this character beyond the series and that possibly the solving of Trudy’s murder would cure him in some way or take down his OCD symptoms and then the character really wouldn’t be the character that we’ve come to recognize, 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 to the audience and to ourselves, but to the character of Monk and to the character of Trudy that we’ve created. I think we should solve it.

Big Night
Tony Shalhoub & Stanley Tucci
in Big Night

What's the most memorable moment you’ve had from filming Monk? –Jessica Mahn with

The most memorable moment? [long pause] I can’t remember my most memorable. No, 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”.

He and I were — you know, having been reunited from working together a number of times — he and I, 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 our arms over each others shoulders, because it was reminiscent of a moment in Big Night, which was such a gigantic turning point for me in terms of film and my career. So that moment in Monk kind of reminded me of that moment in the movie. It was pretty emotional. It was a pretty emotional time.

Just because USA is bringing the series to an end, because of their choice and collectively yours as we’ve heard, that doesn’t mean another network down the line in a couple of years or so wouldn’t pick it up. Following on, of course, from the reveal of who the killer was, now is this something that you’ve thought about that maybe you would contemplate a return to the character down the line in a couple or three years perhaps? –Russell Trunk with

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. 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. I don’t know if that answers your question.

That was kind of my question, too. Do you ever foresee maybe doing specials in the future? –Earl Dittman with Wireless Magazine

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Tony Shalhoub with Lisa Rinna
on the TV Guide Network

I assume you’re talking about like a TV movie or something with the character, the way Columbo did. I don’t really see that being so likely, just because I think I’m going to be busy with other things. Maybe I’m deluding myself.

I just watched the season premier, and this question is sort of specific to that. Have you ever run across any people who are as passionate about Adrian Monk as Adrian was about Christine Rapp? –Jay Jacobs with Pop Entertainment

Favorite Show 9
Tony Shalhoub w/Eliabeth Perkins (Christine Rapp) and Rena Sofer
in Mr. Monk's Favorite Show
Yes. I have to say that I have, actually. It’s kind of a disturbing notion, but that’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.
I just hope that those people keep a nice, healthy distance in the future: a nice, healthy, respectful distance.

Your fans want to know what’s up next for you after you’re done with Monk. Are you going to take a nice long vacation or will we get the pleasure of seeing you more on the big screen? –Rosa Cordero with Accidental

Well, I don’t want to take too long a vacation, although I do think I need a break. 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. 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 indie. So we’re looking for distribution to sell this picture. So people should look for that.

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.

I have a question about the character and how much freedom you have to kind of riff on the OCD? It seems like there are moments in different episodes that are just complete adlib where you’re just playing that personality trait more for the comedic effect. How much freedom do you have to just kind of take an idea and run with it? –Tom Parsons with Blogcritics

I have an enormous amount of freedom. In terms of dialog, I try to stay really close to the script. We all do, but we do have a writer with us on the set every moment and we’re always pitching ideas to this writer/producer and seeing what we can get away with. As far as physical behavior and things that I discover that may not be in the script, but we discover in whatever environment we’re in, whether it’s somewhere outdoors or somewhere in an office or wherever the setting may be. I’ve been able to kind of just find things and work with them. That’s what’s really been so exciting. Believe me, playing an OCD character with some of those tendencies myself, there’s an endless, endless array of stuff to become preoccupied with out there in the world, whether it’s intentioned by the script or completely unintentional.

To be honest, most of my questions I was hoping to ask you have been asked, so on a lighter note, knowing you’re a Packer fan, and me being from Green Bay, Wisconsin myself, I was hoping to actually maybe get your feelings on the possibility of Brett Favre playing for the Vikings. Does that upset you, like it upsets most of us? –Adam Krause with Static Mutimedia

It doesn’t really upset me. I think if someone like him, who is so passionate about his work and just cannot give it up, thinks he can give it up, and 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 I think what’s really a little bit unsettling to me is this idea of being at Lambeau Field on that day when the Packers are playing the Vikings, and he trots out through the tunnel wearing the wrong uniform. I don’t really have any desire to be at that game. It’ll be all I can do to be watching it on television with my remote getting ready to just flick it off really quickly. I’ve lost a little sleep over that, but hey, the guy is just trying to make a buck, you know.

This is a bit of a follow-up on a previous question. A number of seasons ago, it looked like Monk could actually solve Trudy’s murder. Has it always been the plan to wait until the final season to possibly solve it, or were there ideas along the way to solve it, and then continue on in a different plot angle? –Kendra White with Side Reel

No, I think from as far back as I can recall, it was always part of Andy Breckman’s agenda to save the wrap-up until the end. I think the biggest reason being that it keeps Monk in a bit of a fog, and it keeps him on his heels, this unresolved…. this one case that he just cannot figure out, and that he’s just too close to, to figure out. And so I think it was always part of his plan.

You played so many varied characters over the years, and I’m looking forward to many more. Do you have any interest to do more work behind the scenes? –Roger Newcomb with We Love Soaps

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.

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Tony Shalhoub as Lawyer
Freddy Riedenschneider

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.

I wonder maybe if you could tell us what so far has made a career in this industry rewarding for you? –Steve Eeramo with Sci Fi and TV Talk

Well, a number of things: having the opportunity to work in all three different mediums: theater, film, and television. Having the opportunity to work with people that I really respect, and having, most importantly, which was my original objective from way, way, way back was to have longevity in the industry. It was never really one of my goals to gain a tremendous amount of celebrity or make a tremendous amount of money necessarily, but it was very important to me when I set out that I would be able to do it for a long period of time and not burn out too quickly or not paint myself into a corner necessarily by doing one thing, which is another reason why I think it’s a healthy and a perfect time to bring Monk to an end because there are other things that I really want to do.

The die hard fans don’t really need to be convinced to tune in to the new season, but for those who maybe know the show, but are not quite addicted yet, apart from like the obvious things, is there anything you can give us about maybe why we really need to tune in to the new season? –Mark Eastman with

I think people will be really gratified and startled maybe to see that the quality remains really, really high, that the stories are interesting, that we do a bit of what we’ve tried to do every season, which is kind of break our own rules and do some unexpected things. We always have interesting guest stars. We try to bring in people to do things that they may not be necessarily known for. We try to do our guest casting so that it isn’t completely on the nose. For example, we have Jay Mohr coming in an upcoming episode that we shot recently. He plays a sort of super lawyer, a kind of Johnny Cochran super lawyer who’s never lost a case. And it’s really an interesting turn by Jay Mohr. I think we keep it kind of just off center enough to make it interesting. I hope we do.

How do you figure the season will find him in terms of the OCD, solving the case with Trudy will that give him a little more control, or will he spin further out because there won’t be that big goal? –Sheldon Wiebe with Eclipse Magazine

Tony Shalhoub 9
No, I think it will actually help him, and it will give him some kind of peace and in that peace, his OCD symptoms will begin to significantly drop away. When that happens, I think he’ll be able to move forward in his life. He won’t feel so paralyzed. He won’t have such an aversion to being with other people. He might even, who knows, — I don’t know because the writers haven’t revealed this to me — but he might even be able to find love and romance in his life again. All those things, I think, remain on the table and are good possibilities.
Thanks again Tony. For all participants transcripts of today’s session will be distributed within 48 hours. So please look for those. Additionally as part of the final season USA will present the first live action original web series on USA called Little Monk which is a spin-off of the critically acclaimed series. Little Monk will premier during an all new episode of Monk on Friday, August 21st with a two minute sneak peak. Viewers can then go online for the conclusion along with additional webisodes to run weekly. We’ll also send out information about that along with today’s transcript which you’ll receive shortly and, of course, remember to tune in to the season premier of Monk on Friday August 7th at 9/8 central on USA Network. Thanks again everybody for participating and enjoy the rest of your day. – Chrissy Fehskens, our host

Tony and Traylor


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