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Shooting hoops with Shalhoub

Actor promoting independent film made in Wisconsin

October 06, 2010 | 08:56 AM
Lyons — Obsessive compulsive murder detective Adrian Monk would never have slipped into a white terrycloth robe that had been worn by someone else, and then strolled onto a basketball court in black flip flops to shoot some hoops.

But award-winning actor Tony Shalhoub, who played the lead role on the hit USA television show "Monk," had no problem with any of that.

Although he played a former high school basketball champion in the 1999 television movie "That Championship Season" and received some basketball help on the set in the past, Shalhoub said he still plays the game "very badly, very, very badly" while he fired a couple shots at the rim on Grand Geneva's court.

Shalhoub, who earlier in the day accepted the Spirit of Wisconsin Award from the National Association of Theater Owners of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, was enjoying a few minutes of free time last Wednesday afternoon before heading in for a massage. Then, he was scheduled to be in Madison for a premiere screening of the independent comedy he stars in called "Feed the Fish."

Joined by his nephew Michael Matzdorff, who was the writer, producer and director of the film, the soft-spoken and down-to-earth Shalhoub, a Green Bay native, sat down for a quick interview between a few air balls and some swishes to talk about a couple of topics, including filming the movie in Door County and receiving the Spirit of Wisconsin award.

"Shooting the film there was extraordinary," he said. "I spent every summer of my life growing up in Door County. We started vacationing up there probably the year I was born. Then, when I was a teenager, I had a summer job up there. We have had family reunions up there for decades, as long as I can remember. I know and love the people there. Being back there in the winter and shooting up there, all the locations we were familiar with was just tremendous."

In the movie, Shalhoub plays a sheriff of a small town. He called it an "interesting character."

"He is overprotective of his daughter and I have two daughters," Shalhoub said. "I just like the whole tenor of the movie and Mike wrote this part with me in mind. I like the journey the character has over the film — he goes through a real transformation."

This part is much different than the one he played to stardom as Monk.

"There's really not much similarity other than they're both in law enforcement," Shalhoub said. "I like to do a wide variety of roles, that is what makes this whole job fun. Now that Monk is finished, I am looking to do other things."

One thing he has accomplished is making a movie in his home state of Wisconsin. Not only was movie filmed in Door County, all the production staff and others who helped with the move also have Wisconsin ties.

That's why he received the Spirit of Wisconsin award.

"This is a great way to call attention to the film industry in Wisconsin that is partially funded through the state of Wisconsin," said Carlo Petrick, of the Geneva Convention Committee and communications director for Marcus Theaters. "We want to encourage filmmakers to make films in Wisconsin. Marcus Theaters have pledged to show films made in Wisconsin."

Shalhoub said receiving the award was "satisfying."

"Ever since I have been an actor, I have wanted to do something in my home state and receiving this award, it was the right time," he said. "We would love to do it again. The award is for being one of the producers of the film and drawing attention for opportunities for filmmakers in the state of Wisconsin."

While he's been all over Wisconsin, this was Shalhoub's first visit to Lake Geneva. Matzdorff said he had been here before.

"It is beautiful," Matzdorff said.

Shalhoub agreed.

"Now that I have seen what Lake Geneva has to offer, I absolutely want to come back here."

The annual Geneva Convention, which has been held at the Grand Geneva since the late 1990s, drew about 500 to 600 people from the theater industry. In the past, the convention has had movie stars attend such as Jeff Daniels and Elisabeth Shue have attended the convention.

"The convention is very thrilled to have Tony here to be part of the festivities," Petrick said. "It makes our event much more fun for the people who attend to rub shoulder's with a star of Tony Shalhoub's magnitude."

A serious Shalhoub sunk a short jumper, then clanked a few off the rim before heading off the court.

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