‘Monk’ role has been a dream job for Traylor Howard

Traylor Howard, right, has played Tony Shaloub's assistant for five years on the show "Monk" which is ending it's 8-year run.
USA Network/MCT

HOLLYWOOD — You’d never know by watching the cast and crew
of USA’s whodunit, Monk, that its days
are sadly numbered.

After eight seasons the obsessive-compulsive detective, his
ministering assistant and pals at the precinct are heading off into the sunset
after Dec. 4.

But today on the set at Paramount Studios, they’re all in
full swing. Executive producer Randy Zisk is directing and watches intently as
Tony Shalhoub as Monk struggles to avoid a hypodermic needle prominently poised
by a nurse.

Two cohorts hold him down while his assistant, Natalie
(Traylor Howard), tries to coax him into submission.

It’s just one brief scene in an upcoming episode, but it
takes two hours to change camera angles, reposition the needle and remove a
wall for a better view.

“It doesn’t seem quite real,” sighs Traylor
Howard, who has been playing Monk’s assistant for five years.

Shivering on the sidelines of the drafty set, her feet
swathed in wool-lined boots, she says, “Today’s our last Tuesday, we were
joking. I have a little boy who’s almost 3. He’s been on the set since he was
born and everyone’s so lovely with him. And it’s been a huge impact on his
life. He’s a really social, curious little boy. I think, ‘God, I’ve got to get
another job so he can be in this environment again.’

“I was trying to explain to him today that it was
ending. But he doesn’t really get it. It’ll be weird not to work with Tony a
lot. He’s such a lovely man. And I adore him, and it’s such a great part for a
woman and all that stuff.”

Howard came on the show when Monk’s original helper, Bitty
Schram as Sharona, left. “I was naive when I took on this part,” says
Howard. “I didn’t realize the cult following of the show and Sharona. I
didn’t know it was such a big deal. So being naive worked in my favor. It
wasn’t until the press stuff started coming out that I realized, ‘Gosh, I hope
it goes OK.’

“They took a big risk to make that sort of transition
at that time,” she says. “Because I was so naive and I’d been at the
startup of other shows, which is very hard because you have so many elements —
you’re trying to find the right tone of the clothes and the hair and the sets
and the characters. A lot of times they get canceled and never get up and
running. So to come into something that was already pretty fine tuned was
actually kind of easier for me.”

Howard says she toiled for years before she realized she was
an actress. At first she worked in advertising but casually auditioned for a
commercial one day when her boyfriend did. Eventually she hawked beer, cereal,
cat litter, cars and gum. “Then I started getting little comedic
commercials and it started to pique my interest in other things.”

The “other things” included an acting class with
Joanne Baron. “I took one class and sort of got the bug. Then I got a show
called ‘Boston Common’ and I’ve been working ever since. I wasn’t getting it
and the teacher said once, ‘It’s OK,I was a late bloomer in my class.’ Awww.
The wrong thing to say to me! But I WAS a late bloomer and I usually am on most
things. But I’m OK with it now. I grew up around a lot of boys and I was a
prissy tomboy, but didn’t really have the (acting) bug.”

Howard has been divorced twice and is a single mom to her
son, Sabu. She won’t say whether she has a sweetheart or not, but acknowledges,
“I have no problems with romance. That’s a new thing too. Before I didn’t
really have the time. But now things are good.”

Though her working hours are long, Howard says one ritual
she can’t avoid is meditating. “That’s pretty much of a game changer for
me. I’ve gotten pretty focused but it’s evolved, trust me. But when I don’t
meditate, my personality is slightly different. I’m just better. I’m more
relaxed, more focused, more balanced, more at ease. I used to not sleep that
great so it helps me to sleep. If I don’t do it I don’t operate in the same
way. I used to be really diligent. Before Sabu I’d wake up no matter what my
call-time was, a half hour early whether it was 4 in the morning, and meditate.
Now it’s hard to do it all, but I find time.”

Zisk calls for a new setup and Shalhoub is able to take a
break. After eight years, it is time for the show to end, he says. “But I
think everyone was thinking it was time and we wanted to go out on a high note
while the show is doing very well. There are a lot of moving parts to that
question but eventually all these things have to end,” he says.

“I’m having a little separation anxiety already but looking
forward to doing other things and different roles. This has been such a great
experience and part to work on and people to work with. But in a way I think
for me, it’s time to move on.”

Shalhoub will take time off during the holidays. “Then
there’s a very good chance my wife (actress Brooke Adams) and I will go to New
York to do a play on Broadway, a revival of Lend Me a Tenor. Stanley Tucci is directing it. It’s not 100 percent
locked in but looks good. I’m looking forward to going back doing a play. My
wife and I met doing a play on Broadway, ‘The Heidi Chronicles,’ so it’ll be
exactly 20 years later to do another play together.”



Robert Knepper is known for the menacing villains he’s been
playing on television for years, and now he’s enjoying a juicy part on Heroes. But if Knepper could REALLY have some kind of super
power his ideal would be something far less ambitious than fiction.

“I have two thoughts and, sorry, they’re just immediate
thoughts; one of them is I’m sitting in my messy office; I wish I had the power
to whenever I wanted to just be able to go ‘I’m going to clean my office,’ and
it’s clean. Because that’s the last room in our house that just — it gets the
least amount of attention. And damn it, I deserve it and I’m worth it; I should
be able to have a clean office. But it’s up to me to do it.

“And the second thing is, I would love to have the
power to be the just eternally perfect husband so my wife would always be
happy; that would take me to heaven if I could figure that one out.”


Zooey Deschanel will join her sister, Emily, on a special
episode of Bones coming to Fox on Dec.
10. It marks the first time the Deschanel sisters have worked onscreen
together, though they both have enjoyed long careers. Zooey will play Brennan’s
closest blood relative that she’s not met before. “We’ve tried this before
and then she has a very busy, unpredictable schedule so something could come up
and she’s like, ‘Sorry, I have to take this job somewhere.’ Or she has to go on
tour or something. I know she’s excited about it,” says Emily.

They both were born to the challenge. They are the daughters
of famous cinematographer-director Caleb Deschanel.


Gary Sinese will narrate a wonderful 10-hour special series
on World War II beginning Sunday on the History Channel. The saga is composed
of film from both professionals and amateurs and all in HD. The story is about
12 American soldiers who fought in the war or helped out with the war effort,
presented in color. Sinese, who stars in CSI: New York, admits that he’s always worried when he starts a
new project.

“I’m scared up until the week after I start something.
And then I’m scared until it’s over, in a certain way. I think that’s good,
because you don’t let up on it. I’m always nervous that I’m not doing the right
thing, or I’m overlooking something in the work, or there’s something I’m
taking for granted, something I’m not thinking about. Some element that’s
missing that I haven’t grabbed onto yet. So I’m always kind of scared that if I
let down my guard on something while I’m doing it, I’ll regret it later. So
I’ve got to stay on top of it.”


Robert Pattinson, who’s starring in the second of the Twilight
movies, New Moon, opening Nov. 20, claims he does share one
commonality with his vampire character. “I guess stubbornness, in some
ways, about some things. He’s pretty self-righteous. I get quite obsessive
about things, and possessive as well. I have very, very specific ideas about
how I want to do my work and how I want to be perceived, to the point of
ridiculousness, sometimes,” he says.

“I don’t listen to anyone else. That’s why I don’t have
a publicist or anything. I can’t stand it if someone is trying to tell me to do
something, which is maybe a mistake sometimes. I like being meticulous, and
it’s quite difficult, as an actor, to have that much control. The good thing
about the Twilight series is that it
does give you a lot more control over diddly little things, which I want to
have. I’m a control freak about it.”

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.