Monk at the Paley Festival

Transcribed by Mina Sharpe

Moderator: Tonight we are going to salute USA’s wonderful, enchanting, and delightful Monk. Monk quickly became the highest rated original series on cable when it debuted in July on USA. The show blends the best of humor and mystery in Adrian Monk, a phobia-ridden but brilliant detective. Tom Shales of the Washington Post calls Monk “enticingly screwy and potentially addictive,” which I think we’ve all realized. I’m going to invite our cast to join us onstage one by one. Then I’ll ask one of our cast or creators to come up and introduce the screening for you. They will come down and join you in the audience, then they will come back up afterwards and answer some questions, then we will open it up to all of you.


             So, our first panelist tonight is David Hoberman. David is the executive producer of Monk. He is the co-chairman and co-CEO of Hyde Park Entertainment and founder and president of Mandeville Films. As past president of the motion picture group of Walt Disney Studios, David was behind the release of such films as Pretty Woman, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dead Poets’ Society, and Father of the Bride. Please welcome David Hoberman.

           Andy Breckman is the creator and executive producer of Monk. He began his career in television writing for the original Late Night with David Letterman, and he has written for Saturday Night Live on and off for many years. For the last ten years, Andy has co-hosted a weekly radio show on WFMU in New York called Seven-Second Delay. Please welcome Andy.

            Stanley Kamel plays Monk’s psychiatrist, Dr. Kroeger. As well as television roles on such shows such as Days of Our Lives, Murder One, and Dark Angel, Stanley currently has a recurring role on the series Mr. Sterling. Feature film credits include Star 80 and Making Love. Please welcome Stanley.

            Jason Gray-Stanford plays police detective Randall Disher. His feature film credits include Mystery, Alaska, A Beautiful Mind, and Goldmember. Jason co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s television series Taken. Please welcome Jason.

            Ted Levine plays Captain Leland Stottlemeyer. Feature film credits include Silence of the Lambs, The Fast and the Furious, and Wild Wild West. Ted starred in the television series Wonderland and the television movies From the Earth to the Moon and The Last Outlaw. Please welcome Ted.

            Bitty Schram is Adrian Monk’s nurse, Sharona Fleming. On television, Bitty has appeared in Felicity, Roswell, and Strong Medicine. Her film credits include A League of Their Own, Cleopatra’s Second Husband, and Kissing a Fool. Please welcome Bitty.

            Tony Shalhoub won a 2003 Golden Globe award for his portrayal of Adrian Monk. He was a series regular on Wings and Stark Raving Mad and appeared in the TV movies Gypsy and That Championship Season. Film roles include Men in Black 2, Big Night, Spy Kids, A Civil Action, and Imposter. Tony madehis directorial debut with the Independent film Made Up and has played in many theater productions including the New York Shakespeare Festival’s productions of Henry IV and Richard III. Please welcome Tony Shalhoub.

            (At this point, all the cast is sitting across the stage, under the screen, from left to right in the order they were introduced, with the moderator next to Tony on the end.)

Moderator: Who’s going to introduce the episode for us tonight?

(David comes up to the mike, dragging Andy behind him.)

David: I can’t go anywhere with Monk without Andy Breckman. The show you’re going to see tonight is called “Mr. Monk Goes to the Carnival.” I’d really like to thank the MTR for inviting us. We’re really proud to be here, and we thank you all for joining us, and we’ll see you after the episode.

(The cast all leave the stage, and the episode begins. It was a blast watching the show on the big screen with such an enthusiastic audience. After the episode, the cast returns to the stage to the tune of the Monk theme.)

Moderator: I want to start by asking Andy and David a little bit about how the whole concept of this show got started. I know that it started initially with Touchstone, and there was talk initially about whether it was going to be a spoof or straight drama. So walk us through a little bit from how it went from concept to ABC to USA.

Andy: Because David is here in the room, I have to be honest and tell you that the idea was originally his. We had a lunch, must be four years ago, and my friend David Hoberman said, “Do you think we could do a show about a cop who has OCD?” and the smartest thing I ever did was say, “Yeah, maybe that could work.” And where he got the idea, I never asked him. He stole it from somewhere, I’m pretty sure.

David: It actually came because I have, mostly as a child, I had most of the things that Monk has. And I continue to have some of them today, but I’m sure I’m the only one who has made any money off of it. I met with ABC and they were looking to do an Inspector Clouseau type of show, and I don’t know, I went home and though of this OCD character and someone who had to overcome his obstacles during the course of the show to catch the bad guy, and I had made a movie called What about Bob which dealt with an OCD character, and I think the Nicholson film (As Good as It Gets) had come out about that time, so it just sort of happened, and then I got together with Andy, and his first, second, third, and fourth choices for writers weren’t available, and that’s sort of it.

Mod: And then at USA, did you have any difficulties selling it there?

David: Well, it was at ABC for about three years, and we could never come up with a cast that they liked that we liked—the lead guy—and Tony was actually one of the original guys that we presented at the time, and for whatever reasons, his availability or. . . it just didn’t work, so they tried and tried, to their credit, but we could never come up with somebody who was satisfactory to both, so Steve McPhearson and Jackie Lyons, who used to be at ABC and loved the show and went to USA, called Steve and asked if it was possible to get it out of ABC and take it to USA, and we did, it did, and it survived several people over there and with their support it got on the air, and became a really good show.

Andy: It’s unusual in TV to have a story like that. Usually in TV if a pilot doesn’t go, it’s gone forever, but this is like a cockroach. We couldn’t kill it. . . . It’s like a cockroach in many ways.

Mod: The initial molding of the character, Andy, you reported in a magazine article. . . .

Andy: I was drunk!

Mod: You and David, too, part drunk and sober, because you said you thought that this character was based in part on Sherlock Holmes.

Andy: I did read a lot of Sherlock Holmes as a kid, and if you read Sherlock Holmes, he really is an eccentric sort of difficult guy who has trouble functioning in the world. And obviously the basic formula we have, where he has an assistant, our Dr. Watson of course is our Sharona, and there is an Inspector Lestrade, if you know Sherlock Holmes, who is our Captain Stottlemeyer, and so if you’re going to steal from anyone, why not steal from a detective who is field tested, you know? After all these years, he’s still the most popular fictional character ever created, so it seemed like not a bad place to steal from.

Mod: David, you said that some of the characters are based on your own characteristics. You, Andy, in your bio said that you have trouble making friends, which I thought is the most interesting bio I have ever read. Are there any of your characteristics in this character?

Andy: The USA executives are here, and I think they could tell you why. . . . I think everyone here up on stage, and I’m guessing most of the people in the audience, can

relate to what Monk has to battle every day. I’m very conscious of germs. . . . While we were out front earlier tonight, I shook a lot of hands, and I excused myself a couple times and discreetly washed my hands. But everyone, I think, and obviously Tony brings a lot of himself, maybe more than he wants to admit to the character. (Tony laughs.) I’ll account for some of it if Tony will.

Tony: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Mod: So there’s none of you in Monk.

Tony: Yeah, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some of me in Monk. I have certain things I share with Monk.

Andy: This goes beyond the refrigerator.

Tony: I have certain tendencies, compulsions, idiosyncrasies you might say, so it wasn’t so difficult to tap into that. Monk has it to a much more magnified degree, so it’s interesting that in playing Monk, I get to sort of take care of all those things that I’m too embarrassed to do in real like. I am carte blanche. (Laughter)

David: I just have to say, because my mother’s in the audience, that she literally wanted to take me to the psychiatrist when I was thirteen because I had so many of them.

Andy: I’ve been wanting to get you to a psychiatrist since the second episode.

Mod: So we’ve talked a little bit about how you were cast in this role, so let’s go down and ask the other cast members how they came, and whether they have all these dysfunctions as well. (To Bitty): Go ahead, how did you come to this role? Tell me about the casting process.

Bitty (very flustered and stammering): Oh, I just, you know, I just read . . . and I got it, and that’s it!

Mod: Who called you, who did you read for, which network?

Bitty: Oh, just my manager, and I went, OK, and I just went in and . . . .

Andy: That’s a true story! (Laughter)

Tony: I’ll tell it. Bitty came in and read. I think she read first for David.

Bitty: Dean.

Tony: Dean Parisot, who was the director for the pilot, and then I remember I was there for her first callback, and we read together for the callback, and I was reading with people, then she came in and read for the network.

David: It was an exhaustive search. We were making the show and we did not have Sharona.

Tony: That’s right. Originally it was written in the script as a black woman.

David: Our first choice was Queen Latifah. . . . She has a new movie this weekend. Why aren’t you all there?

Mod: I’ll go to the ten o’clock.

Tony: So, anyway, there was a lot of different ideas when it came to casting of this particular part, and a lot of people were brought in and read, and I read with Bitty, and Bitty just had this certain unexpected thing.

David: It really was love at first sight; it was like falling in love. We just knew it.

Tony: It wasn’t that way with me, then? (Laughter. David looks away sheepishly.)

Mod: Ted?

Ted: Could you repeat the question?

Mod: What about the casting process? How did you come to this show? What did you like about the part?

Ted: Ah, well, it was beautifully written. I really liked the tone of voice. It’s not a nasty thing. I’ve played a lot of cops, a lot of police dramas, and this had kind of a sweet sentiment. . . . I liked the script a lot, so I came in and read, and they liked the way I read, so I got the part.

Mod: Who did you read for?

Ted: I don’t know. (Gestures to Bitty.) We were there at the same time. . . . I don’t know. Tony, you know. . . .

Tony: We have what are called, after the second or third callback, what are called network test auditions. People come in to read, and Ted was in a position where he just came in to the networks. He didn’t have to go through the preliminaries because of who he is . . . .

Mod: Ah!

Tony: That’s right. . . . I would love to tell the story about your audition, but I don’t know if it’s appropriate.

Mod: Absolutely. Come on. (Audience starts cheering and clapping.)

Tony: Ted became my instant hero—I don’t know if I should tell this story . . . . This can’t leave the room! Ted became my instant hero. I had never met him. Though I was a big fan of his work, we had never met, and as I said he didn’t have any preliminary auditions; he just came into the network. That was the first time I met him, first time we read together. And these network auditions are tough because you come into a room and you watch, and Bitty will tell you—we’ve all been in this position—and there’s a lot of tension in the air. I was interested because being an actor who has been in a number of network auditions, and indeed this one where I already knew I was doing the role, so I was just reading with these people, and I saw actors come in and do strange things at these network auditions that they hadn’t done in the first auditions. They psyched themselves out and they sabotaged themselves. It’s a real lesson in auditioning to go into these rooms because there are so many people in these rooms and there’s so much tension. Ted came in that day and he had his script, and I could see he had a certain amount of anxiety. He came and he sat down in the chair and took a moment of silence while we waited for him, and before he started reading he just looked up around the room at all the network and studio people and said, “Fuck every one of you people.” (Lots of clapping and laughing) There was the moment, not even a moment, a split second of tension, and then the whole room just burst out laughing. . . .

Andy: if there are any actors here, that never fails!

David: Only one guy can get away with this.

Tony: But it’s interesting—they all laughed, and some of them are in this room tonight! But he didn’t laugh. He was not smiling, not laughing. Then he looked at me and gave me a little nod, and we started reading, and we finished, and he got up, and we just all looked at each other like, “That’s the guy.” He became my hero, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted say that, and now I can because everybody knows this story.

Mod: I’m getting a kick out of you telling these acting stories, but let’s see what Jason has to say.

Jason: That’s a hard act to follow, but actually, it’s pretty simple. I knew that Tony was doing it, Bitty was doing it, Ted was doing it, and that the director was Dean Parisot for the pilot, and I read the script and thought, ”Wow. I have to audition for this.” It had a great cast and was great, and I actually went for a different part, a guest-starring actor in the pilot, and the director said to me, “You didn’t get it. Come back and read for this other part,” and I was quite depressed ’cause I didn’t think it was as big, and I went back in and he said, “This part is better for you. Read this part,” and I got it, and did it, and I didn’t know what to expect, and by the time we finished shooting the pilot, David came up to me and said, “Congratulations. You’re on a TV series.” (Laughs) And then I said, “Fuck you all.” (Laughter) And then I was fired. Then I was rehired.

Mod: Stanley?

Stanley: I said, “Fuck you all!” And then I auditioned, and they put me on tape and sent it to Dean Parisot, who was the director, and Dean had said all the time that he wanted me to play the character because I had played not always the nicest guy in a lot of shows . . . . The psychiatrist I played in Murder One was a psychopathic killer, and it—it’s good to go against type, and I said, “Fuck you!” So David came down, and I had to read for David, and he said, “That’s really good, but I couldn’t hear a word you said.” And I said, “Well I was talking,” and he said, “Well, I still couldn’t hear you,” and I said, “Well, aren’t we using a microphone?” And that was it, and I guess he heard me eventually, and then I got it.

Andy: He had such a mellifluous voice, that was just very calming, and he had that look about him, and we thought that he was exactly what Monk needed, and he got the role.

Stanley: I got it?

Tony: For now.

Stanley: Oh, good.

David: Unless Whoopi wants it!

Tony: That’s a whole other story.

(End of Part 1.)