Tony Shalhoub and Hector Elizondo talk about season seven of Monk
There are two things you may or may not believe about Monk. One is the fact that it is now entering its seventh season on USA Network (season premiere on Friday, July 18th). The other is that the series will be celebrating its 100th episode this year, making it the grandaddy of the 'Characters Welcome' slate of original programming on the network.
This will be an interesting season for Mr. Monk. With the death of Stanley Kamel back in April, Monk will be getting a new doctor this year in the form of Hector Elizondo. In addition to that, Monk's search for his wife's killer will intensify after a big piece of the puzzle was revealed during last season's finale. Throw in guest appearances by Robert Loggia, Brad Garrett and Eric McCormick, and this could be a big season for the show.
To promote this season, Monk star and executive producer Tony Shalhoub joined Hector Elizondo on a conference call to discuss working with each other, the differences between Hector's character and Kamel's Dr. Kroger, and their favorite TV detectives.
On the death of Stanley Kamel: Shalhoub said that the death of Kamel was very sudden. They had all been together at the upfronts a few days prior to his death and he seemed better than ever. "His bright, cheerful self," Tony added. It was a shock when they heard the news. Shalhoub went on to say that you don't fully appreciate someone and his position in his life until they are gone. As to the choice of Hector Elizondo as Kamel's replacement on the series, Tony mentioned that Stanley would have been very pleased and proud that an actor like Hector decided to come to the show.
Hector on being cast in Monk: Working with Tony was his main motivation to be on the series, said Elizondo, and it came at a perfect time (his previous series, CBS' Cane, was recently canceled). Hector thought that it would take more time to adjust to the cast and his role as Monk's new doctor, but it never occurred. He credits Tony for the well-oiled machine that he runs for the quick adjustments he made into his role. "It is an environment that is quite likable," added Elizondo.
For Shalhoub, it was a feeling that he had worked with Hector before that made the transition so easy. Even though they never worked together in the past both men had so many friends and business associates in common that he wondered why they didn't work together previously. It was a fulfillment of Tony's wish that Hector was added to the cast.
How the guest actors are chosen: Because he is an Executive Producer on the show, Shalhoub is heavily involved in the guest casting. When he sees a role in the script he usually makes a personal call to a particular person or their people to get them to fill that role. This is how Tony got Brad Garrett to guest star in the seventh season premiere. Added Shalhoub, "it's been really kind of rewarding and interesting to do that."
Shalhoub on the seventh season: Tony never dreamed he would be approaching his seventh season and 100th episode. He didn't think the character would be able to last as long as it did. Eventually, Shalhoub realized that potential for the character hasn't been exhausted. Yet, Tony doesn't think it would be healthy for the him to portray the character for ever and ever.
What to expect this season: Shalhoub said they would continue to explore the back stories of Monk as well as the other characters of the ensemble cast. In one episode, Monk will be hypnotized and go back to a small period of time where he was a much happier person. This will make the present-day Monk a bit happier for a time. In another episode, Monk will express interest in an Eastern European woman. It will be the first time Monk shows an interest in a woman since Trudy's death. It will worry him, but it will also exhilarate him as well.
Finding Trudy's killer: After the events of the season six finale, the search for Trudy's killer will continue through season seven. According to Shalhoub, a lot of what happens will depend on what the network decides to do about the series. If they decide to renew it for one more year, then season eight would feature a 16-episode arc which would wrap the storyline up. If the network decides to end the series then the wrap-up would be at the end of this season. Or, as Shalhoub stated, the identity of the killer could be left unknown in order to develop Monk TV movies. Shalhoub is wide open to however the writers want to pursue this storyline.
Becoming Monk: At the beginning of every season, Shalhoub has to regroup and remember how to be Monk again. Because this year's hiatus was longer (thanks to the Writers Strike), there was even more concern on how long it would take him to get into the role. Luckily, said Tony, it took only a couple of days to get right back into the character.
The difference between Dr. Kroger and Elizondo's Dr. Bell: According to Shalhoub, the main difference between Hector's character and Dr. Kroger is that Dr. Bell is more direct than Kroger ever was. Kroger handled Monk with kids gloves and was differential to a fault. Dr. Bell, said Tony, is a little more old school, a little more 'get over yourself.' Shalhoub said that Elizondo's character comes at a good time for the series.
Favorite TV detectives: Both Tony and Hector stated Columbo as one of the favorite detectives. Veering off of the detective front, Shalhoub said he also enjoyed The Avengers and Aaron Spelling's Honey West, and was completely obsessed with The Wild Wild West. For Elizondo it was Get Smart and Richard Boone in Have Gun - Will Travel.