Hollywood’s Favorite Character Actor is Lebanese

Widely popular television series Monk is an American comedy-drama detective mystery created by Andy Breckman and starring Tony Shalhoub as the main character, Adrian Monk.

It originally ran from 2002 to 2009 and is primarily a police procedural series, but also exhibits comic and dramatic tones in its exploration of the main characters’ personal lives.

Produced by Mandeville Films and Touchstone Television in association with Universal Television, the show turned out to be an iconic and successful series for everyone involved.

Its star, Tony Shalhoub, the ninth of ten children, was born and raised in a Maronite Christian family in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

His father, Joe, was from Lebanon and immigrated to the United States as an orphan at the age of eight. He was a meat peddler who drove a refrigerated truck. His mother Helen is a second-generation Lebanese-American as well. 

Tony Shalhoub attended Green Bay East High School. He performed in the school’s final play that year, and the rest is quite again history. 

After a short time at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Drama from the University of Southern Maine.

He later went on to earn a Master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama in 1980.

Shortly after graduating from Yale, Shalhoub moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he spent four seasons with the American Repertory Theater before heading to New York City, where he found work waiting tables. 

He made his Broadway debut in the 1985 Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers production of The Odd Couple and was nominated for a 1992 Tony Award for his featured role in Conversations with My Father.

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One of Shalhoub’s first television roles was in 1991 as the cab driver Antonio Scarpacci in the sitcom Wings.

He was pleasantly surprised to land the role after having a guest appearance in the second season and went on affecting an Italian accent for the role.

In the same time period, he played physicist Dr. Chester Ray Banton in The X-Files second-season episode Soft Light.

Shalhoub’s film roles following his Wings’ breakout included an excitable producer consulted by John Turturro’s character in Barton Fink, a fast-talking lawyer in The Man Who Wasn’t There, and a linguistically unidentified cabby in Quick Change. 

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He went then performing as a Cuban-American businessman in Primary Colors, and as a sleazy alien pawnshop owner Jack Jeebs in the Men in Black films.

He played the role of a sympathetic attorney working for John Travolta’s lawyer in A Civil Action, as well as a widowed father in Thirteen Ghosts, as a cameo in the film Gattaca, and he has been a television star in Galaxy Quest.

Shalhoub demonstrated his dramatic range in the 1998 big-budget thriller The Siege, where he co-starred alongside Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, and Bruce Willis.

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He played the character of a Lebanese-American FBI Special Agent, Frank Haddad, who suffered discrimination after terrorist attacks in New York City. 

After a two-year absence from the small screen, Shalhoub starred in the TV series, Monk. Airing on the USA Network, the series featured Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Shalhoub was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in eight consecutive years from 2003 to 2010, winning in 2003, 2005, and 2006.

He also took the Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy, in 2003.

In addition to his acting work, Shalhoub, along with the Network of Arab-American Professionals and Zoom-in-Focus Productions, established “The Arab-American Filmmaker Award Competition” in 2005.

Arab-American filmmakers submitted screenplays, and the chosen winner was flown to Hollywood to have their screenplay produced.

Shalhoub appeared with Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin in the 2004 Hollywood satire The Last Shot as a gruff small-time mobster with a love for movies.

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In 2006, he appeared in Danny Leiner’s drama The Great New Wonderful as a psychologist in post-9/11 New York City.

In 2007, he appeared in the horror film 1408 and on-stage off-Broadway as Charlie in The Scene. 

Most recently, Shalhoub lent his voice to four episodes of the animated series Elena the Avalor, a computer-animated adventure television series that premiered on Disney Channel.

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