Tony Shalhoub

Jun 2, 2003  •  Post A Comment

USA Network’s Monk is an oddity in just about every way, and that’s the way actor Tony Shalhoub-who won a Golden Globe Award for the title role-likes it.

“Because I had some experience in television, I was really looking for something that didn’t feel like anything else that’s already out there,” said Mr. Shalhoub, whose character is different to say the least. Adrian Monk is a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Among Monk’s oddities is that it falls naturally into the hour-long mystery series category but for awards purposes, the series is submitted as a comedy. It’s also an original scripted summer basic cable series-few of which exist, much less draw Emmy buzz. What’s more, Mr. Shalhoub was in the unusual situation this year of being eligible for the Golden Globe for actor in a comedy series before he could be nominated for an Emmy, because Monk debuted after last year’s Emmy eligibility period. Most series, which generally air between fall and spring, are up for Emmys before Globes.

The show and its players are submitted in the comedy categories because “on the surface it’s a mystery, but in its soul it’s a comedy,” said Jeff Wachtel, USA Network’s executive VP of series and long-form programming. USA Cable Entertainment distributes the show, which Mandeville Films produces in association with Touchstone Television. David Hoberman, Andy Breckman and Rob Thompson executive produce.

In part because of the dichotomy of genres, Mr. Shalhoub said he didn’t “get” the role of Mr. Monk on the first read and that it’s one of the most challenging things he’s ever done.

“I thought, ‘I don’t know how to do this. I don’ t know if I can do this. I’m gonna do it,'” he said by phone during a break from shooting the show’s second season, which kicks off June 20 on USA. “At this point in my life it’s the best reason to do something.”

While Mr. Shalhoub, whose credits include the films The Siege and Big Night as well as TV’s Wings and Stark Raving Mad, has handled comedic and dramatic roles, this one truly requires a unique, moment-by-moment combination of both, he said.

“You have to find that perfect balance so that the comedy doesn’t undercut the drama and vice versa,” he said. “It’s almost like a tragicomedy in a way, with the whole issue of his dead wife, figuring out what happened in that case of murder, having lost his position in the police force and his endless effort to get reinstated in this job he loves and was born to do. It’s sad on a lot of levels and sort of, I think, defies category.”

Mr. Shalhoub’s career also includes roles in theater. His New York stage work includes Waiting for Godot and Conversations With My Father. His first film role was in Quick Change, and he went on to do such others as Barton Fink, Galaxy Quest and the upcoming Against the Ropes. He made his feature directorial debut with indie feature Made-Up, in which he starred alongside his wife, Brooke Adams, and Gary Sinise. He also serves as a producer on Monk.

Monk in somebody else’s hands “might not have found that incredible balance,” Mr. Wachtel said. “Monk succeeds because we were fortunate to marry a good idea and a great script to a brilliant performer.”