IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Tony Shalhoub Talks 'Pain & Gain' Blu-ray/DVD and Returning To TV With 'We Are Men'

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 20:27 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Tony Shalhoub Talks 'Pain & Gain' Blu-ray/DVD and Returning To TV With 'We Are Men'

One of the most distinctive and successful actors working today is Tony Shalhoub!

He first gained attention on the small screen for his role as Antonio Scarpacci on the popular sitcom Wings, and eventually went on to appear in a string of successful films like Barton Fink, Big Night, Men in Black, The Siege, A Civil Action, Primary Colors, Galaxy Quest, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and Spy Kids. But it was his breakout role as eccentric detective Adrian Monk on the long-running TV series Monk, which earned him three Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, and cemented him as a household name. After eight seasons on Monk, Shalhoub recently returned to the big screen with an impressive performance opposite Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson in director Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain, which will be available on Blu-ray and DVD beginning August 27th. 

Pain & Gain, which is actually based on a true story, follows a trio of Florida bodybuilders (Wahlberg, Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) who get caught up in an extortion and kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong. Shalhoub plays Victor Kershaw, a despicable tycoon that Wahlberg’s character trains and then decides to abduct for ransom. Kershaw eventually escapes and turns to former private investigator Ed DuBois (Ed Harris) for help in order to bring the bodybuilders to justice. In addition to Wahlberg, Johnson, Mackie, Harris, and Shalhoub, the film also stars Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies), Rebel Wilson (Bachelorette), Ken Jeong (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), and Michael Rispoli (The Rum Diary). 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Tony Shalhoub about his work on Pain & Gain, and his new TV series – We Are Men. The acclaimed veteran actor discussed Pain & Gain, the hard to believe true story it is based on, researching his character, the challenges of the role, working with Ed Harris, being on a Michael Bay set, Walhberg and Johnson’s impressive careers, what he looks for when choosing projects, and returning to TV with We Are Men.

Here is what the distinguished actor had to say:

IAR: To begin with, it’s hard to believe that Pain & Gain is based on a true story, what was your first reaction when you read the script?

Tony Shalhoub: Well much like yours. I did not fully buy that it was real. It was only after my initial meeting with Michael Bay that he told me and gave me some materials to read about the actual case. I was stunned that this actually happened and that this was going to be made into a film. I thought it was a really ambitious project to take on, I mean on his part. But then when I heard about all the people involved, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson of course and Anthony Mackie and Ed Harris, it was a no brainer. It was a thrill ride.

What kind of research did you do for the film? Did you have a chance to meet or speak with Marc Schiller, the real life person that your character - Victor Kershaw is based on? 

Shalhoub: The script is a little bit of an interpretation of that particular character. I did not have access to Schiller. He was not available, and by the way he is still around, but he did not make himself available. I don’t think he was thrilled with the idea of this project, but we did have access to other people like Ed DuBois, which is who Ed Harris played. He was around for the filming so we were able to talk to him. To answer your question, I did not have access to my character, but I did as much research as I could. Then together with the writers, Michael Bay and myself, we sort of concocted a version of that guy that would best serve the picture. 

You mentioned Ed Harris’ character – Detective Ed DuBois, who develops a very interesting relationship with Victor in the film. Can you talk a little bit about that and what it was like for you to work with the great Ed Harris?

Shalhoub: Working with Ed Harris was a lifelong dream come true. I’ve been such a great admirer of Ed Harris and they did have an interesting relationship, a love/hate relationship really. But something in Du Bois’ gut just told him that he needed to believe Schiller when no one else did. It was an instinctual thing. I’ll tell you something really interesting. We were speaking to the real Ed Du Bois down in Miami, because he visited the set. He had been doing this kind of work, as a private investigator, for 30 years maybe and he said that this story isn’t even the weirdest of the stories that he’s come across in Miami over those 30 years. So you could imagine how that is a wacky town. I think the fact that he had seen things more bizarre kind of maybe honed his skill and his radar so that he picked up on the authenticity of Schiller’s story. 

Victor is not an incredibly redeeming character, was it challenging for you to play a role like that? 

Shalhoub: The challenge was discovering where this guy’s core strength came from, and what made him so resilient and so internally strong. How did he stay sane, how did he focus, how did he survive all this? That was the main question for me to kind of explore. It’s interesting people say, “Oh, the guy was such a bastard and he’s such a bad guy,” and when I approach a role, I don’t think of him as a bad guy. I just think of him as a man who worked really hard, had a lot of success, didn’t tolerate any bullshit in his life and in his career, and he just became a victim. I was shocked when everyone sort of started asking me questions about what it was like to play a villain. I don’t think my character was the villain. I think my character was way more the victim. 

As an actor, what is it like working on a Michael Bay set?

Shalhoub: It’s a very intense atmosphere. It’s kind of life in the fast lane really. This movie was a relatively small budget for him. So there are money restraints and time restraints and all that stuff. We were shooting fast, but the intensity is also great on the other side. When we were laughing because of the craziness of the circumstances in the story, the laughs were huge and everything was just kind of heightened and ratcheted up. He is an incredible technician, and he’s got a very clear and unique vision. You just want to trust that and go with it. So I would do it again for sure.

With Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, I think you have two of the most successful actors to ever transfer over from other careers. Certainly Johnson is the most successful wrestle/athlete to ever become an actor, and Wahlberg is definitely one of the most successful rappers/models to ever become an actor. What was it that you liked about working with them and what do you think it is that has made them so successful in their transition to acting?

Shalhoub: Good point. I think it’s funny that you ask that because I believe that successful people are successful at a lot of things that they attempt and they’re successful for a reason. It’s how they approach their work, whatever that work is, and how they take their work seriously without taking themselves too seriously. I think both of these guys have this quality. They’re incredibly humble. They’re incredibly appreciative of how their lives have come out and how their work has paid off. There’s a sense of gratitude and there’s a tremendous work ethic. They do it with relish. They execute their tasks with such a real love of the work. I almost have the sense that they were so good to me and gracious to me because they were appreciating what I was bringing to the table. That just gave me the feeling of wanting to do more and take larger risks. You don’t always find that in pictures with big stars. 

At this point in your career, when you’re choosing projects to participate in, either on television or film, what is it that you’re looking for as an actor?

Shalhoub: You make it sound like I have a smorgasbord of choices here. I like to do things that are a little different from things I’ve done before. I like to do things that seem to have some kind of merit. For me it’s a lot about whom I’m going to be working with. Right now for example I’m shooting a television comedy for CBS, a half hour comedy called We Are Men. It’s a writer that I really, really like, a character I haven’t really done before, and I’m always looking to shake it up. 

Since you just mentioned We Are Men, how’s it been going back to TV for you after all your years on Monk and having done a few films in between?

Shalhoub: It’s been fun. It’s been really good actually. It’s funny I don’t look at it as going back to TV. To me it’s all one business. I did a play in New York last winter. I did a couple of movies for HBO, and everything kind of blends together. Then there was Pain & Gain. People kind of always want to think about it as separate worlds and for me it’s all just one universe.

So good material is just good material, is that right?

Shalhoub: Yes! Good material is good material and there are people who say movies are somehow a higher stature than television and then again if it’s a shitty movie or if it’s a lame-o script, then what’s the point? Why does that make it better? Probably the same is true with TV too. TV is all fine and good unless it’s crap and I can promise you from experience there’s nothing worse than being in a bad play. There are purists who say, “Oh, well theater is the real form and that’s where real actors are.” But the truth is that it’s all about the material. 

It’s definitely all blending together now. There’s not that line between TV and film like there was maybe 20 or 30 years ago, do you agree?

Shalhoub: Yeah, I think it’s all sort of becoming one. 

Finally, I want to follow up on something you said earlier. You seemed surprised when I asked you about choosing projects. I just assumed that at this point in your career you have a lot of different opportunities to choose from. Do you feel like you don’t have a lot of good projects offered to you and that you aren’t really getting to play the kind of roles that you want at this point in your career?

Shalhoub: Not necessarily. It’s not like I take everything that’s come down the pike. It’s a challenging time right now in this business. You see it a lot where feature people are moving to television and there’s fewer larger movies and more opportunities because of cable and Netflix and all of that. I don’t want to sound like I’m starving, but it’s always a bit of a rollercoaster, the career and the work. There are lean times and there are bad times, and I’m not the first person to say that. 

Pain & Gain will be available on Blu-ray and DVD beginning August 27th.

To enter our Pain & Gain contest for a chance to win a Blu-ray copy signed by Mark Wahlberg, please click here


We Are Men premieres September 30th on CBS.

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