Tony Shalhoub is an actor’s actor, the kind who thrives on working with other really good actors.
This is made abundantly clear in the new batch of “Monk” mysteries set to debut Jan. 16 on cable’s USA Network.
John Turturro guest stars in the second of seven new episodes, “Mr. Monk and the Three Pies,” as the phobia-addled, obsessive brother of Shalhoub’s obsessive-genius detective Adrian Monk.
Shalhoub and Turturro did an off-Broadway production of “Waiting for Godot” together in 1998, and it shows. (For “Monk” maniacs, the episode also has the bonus of being packed with insights into Adrian Monk’s dark back story.)
“He’s a revelation,” Shalhoub says of Turturro’s work. “The man never ceases ... to amaze.”
Award-worthy performancesNeither does Shalhoub. With every tick and every flinch, Shalhoub shows why he took home last year’s Golden Globe and Emmy comedy actor trophies and why he and “Monk” are Globe contenders again this year.
This time around, Shalhoub says he’s more than happy to have Bitty Schram, who plays his street-wise and savvy assistant Sharona Fleming, in the Globe nominees circle as well.
“She’s like Judy Holliday with a real edge,” Shalhoub says. He also has nothing but the highest praise for the other two key players in “Monk’s” core ensemble, Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford.
As “Monk” heads into the second half of its sophomore year, executive producer David Hoberman says he continues to marvel at how well the show has come together after years of pushing to get it off the ground. Hoberman credits the work of the cast, creator/executive producer Andy Breckman and his writing staff.
“Andy has really found his stride and has become an important voice in television for this kind of offbeat comedy,” Hoberman says.
A perfect fit for ShalhoubFor an actor whose roots are in theater and film, Shalhoub admits that he wishes that his “Monk” schedule afforded him more time for outside projects. But for now, he’s happily challenged by the role of the sad-eyed, ex-cop gumshoe who can solve any convoluted murder scheme in the world — even one committed by a man in a coma — except for the car-bomb killing of his own wife.
Indeed, longtime Shalhoub friend Jane Kaczmarek says the dark comedy of “Monk” is a perfect platform for his skills.
“Tony is like a character in a Chekhov play,” she says. “When he’s acting, he’s so full of melancholy, so full of hilarity. You don’t know whether he’s going to start crying or start laughing.”
In addition to finding happiness with “Monk,” Shalhoub is in the midst of fulfilling a professional dream by making his feature directorial debut with the indie comedy “Made-Up.” The movie, in which he co-stars with his wife, Brooke Adams, and friends like Gary Sinise, is done in a mock documentary style and “deals with beauty in our culture,” Shalhoub says.
After making the festival rounds during the past year, “Made-Up” is settling into an engagement at Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinemas starting Jan. 23 and at New York’s Angelika Film Center as of Feb. 6.
“Directing truly does legitimize our control-freakish tendencies,” Shalhoub says. “It brought out the most Monk-ish aspects of my character.”