A Dialogue With Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub


Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams in their Chilmark home. —Lexi Pline

The living/kitchen area of a warm, airy house on a hill in Chilmark. February, present day.

Sitting across from each other at a long wooden dining room table are TONY SHALHOUB (mid-60s, bearded, well-known character actor and Emmy winner for his eight-year stint as the eponymous, OCD-plagued Detective Monk, plus Emmys and SAGs for his current role as the father of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, not to mention a recent Tony Award for his leading role in The Band’s Visit on Broadway) and BROOKE ADAMS (about 70, sloe-eyed actor with cheekbones to die for who shot to stardom in 1978 with Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Days of Heaven; painter; writer).

They smile at each other frequently. His smile is understated, confiding; hers is savvy and teasing. Occasionally he reaches across the table to touch her hand; both laugh liberally throughout, even when not specified in the stage directions.

Also seated at the table, trying to be unobtrusive, is the A&I INTERVIEWER. Leaning on the kitchen island is Brooke’s sister, LYNNE ADAMS (silver-haired actor in her early 70s, a 10-year vet of CBS’s “The Guiding Light”; writer).

TONY: I was a working actor, mostly theater, because that was my training, and I was cast in The Heidi Chronicles as part of the first replacement cast [circa 1990]. It was my second Broadway show. Christine Lahti left the show after four months to do a film, and Brooke replaced her.

BROOKE: I was living in L.A., not getting much work as an actress —

LYNNE (accurately): But you’d been a star!

BROOKE (chuckling): — “But I’d been a star,” sure. [As a single woman] I’d adopted Josie, and the only thing I knew about The Heidi Chronicles was that it was about a single woman who adopts a baby. That’s not why I adopted Josie, of course. Anyway, one day I got a call from [Heidi’s playwright] Wendy Wasserstein, saying, “Brooke, would you like to do my play?” And I said “Yes.” She said, “Have you read it?” I said “No.” “Have you seen it?” I said “No.” She said, “Well, maybe you should read it before you say yes.” I said, “I want to do it!” It had always been my dream to do Broadway — this was my first Broadway show. I said, “How come you’re calling me, Wendy? Nobody else is. Are you crazy?” She told me we’d both been at a party at Paul Simon’s house 15 years earlier, and I was the only person at the party who was nice to her. She never forgot it, and she thought, “That’s my Heidi.” And then of course I met Tony, and that was the biggest gift of the phone call.

TONY: My contract was up in February, but because Brooke was in it, I re-upped for another four months, because I couldn’t extricate myself.

BROOKE: That doesn’t sound very good – “extricate myself”?! You were trapped?!

TONY: I just couldn’t leave.

BROOKE: You didn’t want to leave.

TONY: I did not want to leave.

BROOKE: Because you were so completely enamored of me, is that right?

TONY: That’s right.

BROOKE (grinning): Let’s hear it.

TONY: I was so completely enamored of her that I just could not leave.

Despite their mutual attraction, nothing happened between them until after they had each left the show and separately relocated to Los Angeles for work. About eight months later, Tony’s father passed away, and Brooke wrote him a condolence letter. They reconnected, and soon after, began to date.

A&I: What were you first drawn to in each other?

TONY: Well. I mean. I don’t even know where to begin. It was kind of an immediate chemical reaction. And also, Josie was a toddler —

BROOKE: Ooh yes, Josie picked Tony, and he fell for her bigtime —

TONY: — and also we worked very well together. We were really simpatico. I guess, too, it has a lot to do with where you are in your life, and your sense of readiness. When we got married, I was 38 and Brooke had just turned 43. We were both single, and had both steered clear of marriage and large commitments, and there was this instant feeling, that this was going to be it, there would never be any other person for me. There was a matter of that readiness.

BROOKE: And my fabulousness.

TONY: That’s what I mean. I mean seeing you, I realized, “There is no need to continue like this.” My main focus had been on my work, and that took priority over everything. But then, when I met Brooke, I realized, no, it didn’t have to be that way. The work could be in its place, and I could also have my life, a relationship, children. I needed to be more well-rounded. Because just being on that one track of my career was not healthy for me. In retrospect, I realized it was because I was out of balance, hyper-focused on one thing, and other areas of my life — my psyche, my physical health, my emotional health — were being compromised. This one thing was at the expense of all the rest. Once Brooke came into my life, the rest of my life just improved so vastly, and so quickly, it was an immediate turnaround. We got engaged very quickly, really just a matter of a few months. But then after we got engaged, Brooke had gotten the national tour of Lost in Yonkers, and I was doing Wings in L.A. Every three weeks, I had a week’s hiatus, so I would travel to wherever she was on the road, to meet up with her and Josie. And then we got married in April.

BROOKE: I got three months off the tour to go to New York to get married, and then I joined back up with the tour in L.A.

TONY: Yeah, so we were all over the place in a very short period of time. We were moving around a lot.

LYNNE (piping in from the kitchen): I lived with them for several years in the early days, and until then, I never thought marriage was something I would ever want to do. Then living with them, I thought: This is good, I like this. They were so compatible, they seemed to like each other so much, they had fun together. Tony was so supportive of Brooke, he did a lot of stuff Brooke hated to do, and Brooke was the entertainer, she would have company over —

TONY: Well, that was true too, but also I was working, and she was raising the kids [Josie and her younger sister Sophie, also adopted]. She was putting the house together, she —

LYNNE: She made a beautiful house for them, she did. She’s my sister and I know her good attributes, so that wasn’t so much a surprise to me, but seeing her be able to live with somebody in such a great way… they never fought, they never argued even, they just got along really well, and were good to each other and liked each other’s friends.

TONY: Well, it’s not like we didn’t argue, but we argued in a very productive and loving way.

BROOKE: We’d argue, and then we’d get over it.

TONY: We didn’t fight-fight.

LYNNE: That’s why I looked for a husband. They were setting such a good example, to somebody who had never wanted to get married. They changed my mind about marriage.

TONY: Thank you, Lynne, that’s sweet of you.

BROOKE: Tony does everything in our marriage, which makes it very easy for me. He does the shopping, cooking, paying the bills, earning the money … what else? He gives me massage, sometimes an occasional facial —

TONY: I did her nails last night —

BROOKE: — He does everything, he loves to clean, he loves to organize, he’s detail-oriented, and he loves to fix things — he’s a Mr. Fix-It on top of everything. Everybody tells me, “You’re so lucky to have married this guy —”

TONY: And it hasn’t done a bit of good, that all those people have told her how lucky she is, hasn’t fazed her one bit.

BROOKE: Everybody knows that he’s the best husband, so I don’t think I have to tell him, because he already knows it.

TONY: All she has to do is tear me down.

The roofbeams ring with their laughter.


TONY: [After we were married,] we did a lot of projects together. When I was still doing Wings, Brooke did an episode of Wings. We did a play back at the ART in the mid to late ’90s, a Mamet play, and then around 2001 Lynne wrote the movie Made Up, which Lynne and Brooke produced. I directed it, and we all acted in it.

BROOKE: My second Broadway show was Lend Me a Tenor, which I did with Tony [circa 2010], with me just totally riding on his coattails now.

TONY: When I was doing Monk, she did five or so episodes of Monk, playing different characters each time. And then we did Happy Days, of course [by Samuel Beckett, in a 2014 production directed by Andrei Belgrader]. We’ve overlapped a lot.

BROOKE: You did a reading of my play, which I wrote — Delusion by Proxy.

TONY: And I did an episode of All Downhill From Here.

BROOKE: That’s right, Lynne and I did our web series (Made Up’s cheekily metatheatrical sequel), All Downhill From Here, and Tony was in the last episode.

TONY: So we’ve had a lot of chances to collaborate.

A&I: And how does it work when you’re not collaborating? How do you support each other?

BROOKE: I would say the trickiest part about negotiating this two-actors thing is that I’d like him to just make it all happen for me. I’ve written a play. People are always saying, “Well, if Tony does it, you can get it done,” and so then I’m pissed off at him because he’s not doing anything about it and (to Tony) is this too much exposing my inner —

TONY (smiling): rage —

BROOKE (grinning): — ego —

LYNNE: Did you even know about this, Tony?

TONY: No. I asked to audition for her play, but she wouldn’t let me!

BROOKE: I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek, because Tony doesn’t think he can make anything happen for anyone. (Grinning at him.) So my tongue is in his cheek. Anyway, it’s true there can be a kind of a competition between two actors, but now I’ve decided I’m not an actor anymore, and it’s fine. So now I’m not competing with him in that way. I’m now a painter. I love to paint, and I sell my paintings, so it’s all good. And after all, Tony just keeps acting. Say something, Tony, I’m exposing everything here.

TONY: I’m sure a day will come when they stop asking me to do things, or I stop having opportunities to work, so then Brooke will be the main breadwinner, because unlike her, I don’t have a fallback position. She’s writing, she’s painting, she has all these creative outlets, she’s reinvented her creative side many times, while I will be left high and dry because I really don’t have a backup.

A&I: Are you seriously concerned that could happen, though?

TONY: It could happen to anyone at any time. It’s a tricky thing; there’s never any guarantee, there’s never any sense of security. Except for maybe a handful of people, I don’t really think there’s such a thing, it’s just not that kind of business. I’ve done countless projects that just haven’t worked. If I’m this “sure thing,” then those projects would not have failed. That’s just not the way it is. There are sometimes greater or lesser works, sometimes there are near-misses, sometimes there are flops, and it has to do with a lot more than just one person’s status in the business. Sometimes I’ll be sent a script, saying, “Would you attach your name to this so we can raise money?” And that’s just not going to work; I’m not going to bring money to a project. Maybe a little, but certainly not enough to get the project off the ground. Some people can do that. I just don’t have that. It’s a lesson that I’ve learned again and again.

BROOKE: But also, I think that fame can really fuck people up. Tony didn’t get fucked up with it.

TONY (laughing): I’m too insecure. (Serious.) I don’t think of myself as famous. I don’t. That’s a perception from the outside.

BROOKE: I was a big star when I met Tony, I was above the title, and suddenly I became a has-been, and he became a huge star. It was really important to me to get into a new head space, of not feeling like I was a has-been.

TONY: I don’t see you that way. I never did.

BROOKE: That’s a feeling, and then there is the fact. The point is, it was important to me to change my mindset. Just recently I said to Tony, “I think I should decide I’m not going to act anymore.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you call up this agent who’s interested in handling you and see what he thinks?” And I said (laughing), “That’s exactly what I don’t want to do! Call up some agent who might be willing to handle me?” So that was what convinced me I was right, and I feel good now I’ve done that. I’m a painter, and I love painting.

Scene change: Brooke’s painting studio, an upstairs room with floods of natural light washing over her current projects and recently finished work — candid portraits of individuals or families, many with children. There are also some landscape pieces.

BROOKE: I want to do a series of paintings of Vineyard people, like Stan Murphy did. Maybe even self-publish a book of it. I spoke to Rez [Williams] and Lucy last night, and they said they’d do it. I’d like to do a lot of paintings of fisherman, a lot of artists, like Traeger [di Pietro] and Colin [Ruel] and Kara [Taylor]. What I love about all of the artists here is that they’re so supportive of each other.

A&I: Are you connected to artists the same way in your life in New York?

BROOKE: No, not like on the Vineyard. My life is much richer here. I mean, I love New York, but in terms of social life — even though I hide from too much socializing here, because I just love to be up here painting — I connect better with people, I just love people more here. I even know the same person in L.A. and here, and I like them better here. In some ways, we have less social life here than in New York, because in New York we go out every night just to eat, and here Tony likes to shop and cook, and I want to give him that. But there’s such a supportive feel to people here, don’t you think?

TONY: I do, yes. And also I think everyone feels … this sounds trite, but everyone feels closer to nature and to the earth here, there’s a different kind of connection between people that springs from that.

BROOKE: It’s a tiny little Island that probably won’t even be here for very much longer.

TONY: You’re always so upbeat.

BROOKE: That does make it more precious.

TONY: Well, that’s true.

A&I: The fact that you’re here in February speaks volumes.

BROOKE: I don’t think we’re ever going to sell this place, are we?

TONY: We are not.

LYNNE: You should. Five years from now, everyone’s going to know it will be underwater, so you should sell it now because the prices will just plummet.

BROOKE: We’re on a hill, we’ll have beachfront property.

TONY: As much as you want to be here on a break, we’re tethered to the industry because of other people from California or New York who have places here, or vacation here. We did a workshop with James Lepine a few years back. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds, especially in the summer when there is so much going on. Galleries, openings, countless painters Brooke knows. It’s a cultural hotbed.

BROOKE: One of the things that I find fun about the Vineyard in the summer is that we always get asked to do readings and stuff. There’s just so much going on, at the Yard, the Vineyard Playhouse, the Vineyard Arts Project. Our MO is to always say yes, and then bitch and moan about it until we actually do it — and then we love it.

A&I: Do you have a favorite event to attend?

TONY: That would be one with an oyster bar and a shucker.

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