It's a big week in the life of actor Tony Shalhoub. For starters, Men in Black II, in which he plays a wall-eyed alien with replaceable heads, is the nation's No. 1 film. And come Friday, his offbeat mystery series, Monk, debuts on USA Network (9 pm/ET). In the latter, he portrays a sharp-eyed detective who's obsessive-compulsive. (One scene finds his title character pulling out antiseptic wipes in the middle of a high-speed chase.) Sadly, Shalhoub tells TV Guide Online that he thinks the disorder is contagious.
"I spend so many more of my waking hours as Monk than I do as myself that I'm afraid a little of him is starting to rub off on me," confesses the former Wings cabby, calling from the show's set in Toronto. "I'm cleaning the phone right now as we speak. Believe me, there is a lot of bacteria on this phone!"
Even before filming, though, Shalhoub did research on the disorder and soon discovered a few of his own, er, idiosyncrasies. "I am a little bit of a germaphobe," he says. "I also have issues about the way people stack the dishwasher. No one but me seems to know how to do it. I sometimes have to re-stack it... And I'm afraid of thong underwear!"
Shalhoub reluctantly admits to a slightly more serious fear: cancellation. Monk represents his first foray into television since NBC axed his 1999 sitcom Stark Raving Mad after only one season. "I got spoiled on Wings," he says. "I had just landed in L.A., this opportunity opened up to me, and I was on that show for six years. Every year we would come to the end of the season, and they would tell us we'd been picked up for another year. I just thought, 'Oh, that's the norm.'
"It was eye-opening when I got involved in another show that, for reasons way beyond my comprehension, was cancelled after one year," he sighs. "You start to realize that there are so many [failed shows], but you just have to hope for the best."