Dan Hedaya and Tony Shalhoub, <EM>Monk</EM> Dan Hedaya and Tony Shalhoub, Monk

Although TV lovers sometimes have trouble coming up with his name, they always recognize his face. As one of Hollywood's most prolific character actors, Dan Hedaya has been working steadily since the late '70s, playing a hirsute assortment of cops, lawyers, cheating or cuckolded husbands and, in the underrated Nixon-era comedy Dick, a U.S. president. He adds another eccentric character to his résumé when he guests as Adrian's long-lost truck-driver dad on USA's hit crimedy Monk (Nov. 17, at 10 pm/ET).

TVGuide.com: I was thrilled when I heard that you were going to play Adrian's dad. But then I started to wonder if perhaps you're too young for the part.
Dan Hedaya:
I had that thought as well. I'm not old enough to be his father, really. I would have had to have been married at 11. But I don't think it interferes. Viewers can suspend their disbelief.

TVGuide.com: I know that you and Tony Shalhoub have worked together before.
Only in one movie, Civil Action.

TVGuide.com: Actually, you were in two more pictures together: A Life Less Ordinary and Searching for Bobby Fischer.
Look at that! You just told me something I didn't know. That's fascinating. Sometimes you work with somebody, and you don’t even know because you're not in any scenes together.

TVGuide.com: Did Shalhoub personally invite you to be on Monk?
No, [the producers] just made an offer, and I read the story and liked it very much. During a lunch break, I said to Tony, "I'm curious to know, how come you asked me to do this?" He looked at me and said, "What do you mean? We just wanted you!" I said, "Thank you!" There are 2,000 actors they could have picked from. I was happy they chose me.

TVGuide.com: Were you a fan of the show?
I don't watch a great deal of TV. I'm an artist, so I spend a lot of time at night painting. I had watched Monk a number of times, but I can't say that I did so religiously, as it seems many people do. But I do think Tony's an extraordinarily gifted fellow, and he's phenomenal on the show.

TVGuide.com: Do you think you might come back in the future?
They've talked to me about it. I think if I am invited back, it will somehow involve my other son, Ambrose [played by John Turturro]. I would love to return, because I had a wonderful time.

TVGuide.com: You've played so many memorable parts, from Carla's two-timing ex on Cheers to an offbeat lawyer on ER to Amy Sedaris' father in the Strangers with Candy movie. What role are you best known for?
I would say, because of the ubiquity of Cheers, Nick Tortelli. Cheers is probably shown somewhere at any given moment in time. In San Francisco, I think it repeats four times a day. I'm not kidding. I was once in Denmark walking around and somebody ran over to me screaming, "Sam's bar! Sam's bar!" People also recognize me from Clueless [as Alicia Silverstone's father]. I have never seen anything that has such a wide range of appeal as that movie, and it's going on I don't know how many years now.

TVGuide.com: What about your role as a murderous husband in Blood Simple?
That attracts more of a movie-buff audience. It was a groundbreaking film. It was the first Coen Brothers movie, and it has an iconic standing. Following that, there was a boom in independent movies. I feel lucky and honored to have been a part of so many projects that are part of the culture. I don't know how it all happened. I really don't.

TVGuide.com: In Hollywood years, you started your career rather late in life. You didn't begin working regularly until you were in your thirties. What did you do beforehand?
I was a New York City teacher for about seven years, until I made the decision to try to make a living as an actor.

TVGuide.com: Was that what you'd always wanted to do?
No. I had no idea. I did plays in college, but I really didn't know what the hell I was doing. Then one day, when I was still working as a teacher, I was walking down the street and ran into an old friend who said, "You know I'm taking an acting class. It's great, it's so much fun. Come on, Tuesday nights." If I hadn't run into her....

TVGuide.com: What would you be doing?
I'd be dead, maybe. [Laughs] I don't know what I'd be doing. It's mysterious really, because nobody in my family is remotely interested in the arts. I can't explain it. It was fate or destiny or luck.

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