Jason Gray-Stanford, born in Canada, has a long and prolific career in both film and television. Now perhaps best known for his role as Lt. Randy Disher on Monk, Jason did a lot of work early in his career in cartoons. Not just any cartoons – Jason did a multitude of voice-over work for Japanese anime, honing his acting skills in the process. With the sixth season of Monk set to premiere early July, Jason stopped by to discuss his career and what we can expect on the upcoming season of Monk.
Below you will find both the written transcript and the full mp3 audio of the interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you just got started on the whole business? Was acting something you always wanted to do?
Yeah when I get—at the very beginning I mean I’m sure that’s a pretty common question. I think I’ve been asked this a handful of times too and at the beginning I think we, you know, about the whole acting thing, I mean I love film, I love television, I love going to the movies, I love watching TV, you know I was like a sports kid growing up. I played tennis, I played basketball, somewhere I guess I think in high school I realized there’s this program called the drama program and you know it was kind of, it was exciting, it was challenging and I kinda really fell into it, really just as a sideline and kind of from there, really, really fell in love with it and kinda continued on and you know I studied, I went to theater school and kinda thought “Hell, if I wanna be in this business I better try and get as good as I can get cause it’s pretty fucking competitive.” So I mean pretty much that’s it but I’ve always had a love for film and kind of the process of film and television and theater, I mean I used to love going to plays as a kid but as a young person I never really put together that I could actually do it, you know what I mean? You know I think nowadays there’s so many actors in the business start so young.
You know, earlier in your career, you did a bunch of genre TV and just appearances on TV shows but another thing you did a lot of was doing voice work for Japanese anime movies. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into that?
Well I’ll tell you what, honestly, that was a complete fluke. I was sitting in an audition I think going to audition for you know small parts in the television show as we all do when we start out and next door they were auditioning for a voice over for this Japanese animation program and sure enough I was waiting and taking a long time in the room and somebody came up to me, “Are you next?” And I guess I went. “Yeah, okay.” In a way I guess I crashed the audition and I just went in and just kinda winged it and it was lots of fun because you’re in a booth, you can wear your baseball hat, you’re not in front of the camera and if you blow it, you get another take right away and I really fell into it and as I said earlier, and as a young kid I loved watching TV, I love—which included cartoons and all that kinds of stuff and I dug comics…so it was really by fluke, but once you kind of get into it, the voice over business is also an odd business, man, because it’s like it’s very cliquey.
Do you think that doing voice over work helped you as an actor?
Absolutely. Without question, man. It was kind of…it’s invaluable, I think, because one of the things that I learned best from it is you gotta make choices on the fly. You have to work really, really quickly and you’re also working in the confines…especially if you’re doing kind of a…if you’re doing maybe Japanese or you’re looping somebody else’s already spoken word and you’re changing—because basically you gotta fit into what someone else already said. I’ve been doing what they call free-lay, which is where you’re making it up on your own and then they’re drawing the characters around you, that’s a lot more—had a lot more of your work into it because you’re dictating, the other way as you know, or maybe you don’t, the Japanese anime is already done. And then you’re putting an English, you know, you’re putting your English voice over on top of what’s already done in Japanese. So it kind of teaches you to think really fast on the fly and make choices really quick under the confines they’ve kind of given you already.
Going back a few years, can you talk a little bit about how you got the role of Randy Disher on Monk?
Yeah, I absolutely can. I was finishing up a miniseries at the time called Taken. I was shooting in Vancouver and I got a script for this pilot that was going to shoot in Vancouver that was called Monk and I looked at it very, very quickly and said, “No, I don’t think I wanna do it.” Because I was asked to come in and read for the character of the deputy mayor, who was gonna be the bad guy in the thing. And I had just gone four months on this miniseries and I was like “Oh forget it. I’m taking a break. I don’t wanna do it.” It was right around holiday season, Christmas time. And then they sent the script to me again and they said “Look.” Tony Shaloub was attached to this thing. You know, Tony being a great actor and coming obviously from a very diverse film and television career I thought I’d go in and audition for this character and I was told, “Great job, that was terrific but you’re not gonna get it. You’re not right for the part.”
At the end of all the auditions, the director said “Hey look, there was another character and they don’t know what they want to do with him yet, he’s not really written yet, so he’s gonna be like the sidekick to the main cop and we just cast Ted Levine as that guy,” and I went “Oh shit. Ted Levine, man. Fantastic. Another great actor.” So, he was like “Can you come in tomorrow just if we have something, will you read for it?” So, sure enough, I went in and read for this character who was at that time was called Lieutenant Deacon, which is a little bit of Monk trivia for anyone out there who cares and I got that part.
Initially going into the show with that pilot script, did you expect the show to have the long-running success that it’s had?
You know, that’s actually an excellent question. I mean, the short answer is no, not even remotely close because it was such an odd show, because in one sense it was a very formulaic, obviously mystery show with kind of an open and close in every episode. It was very kind of stock in one way, but on the flip side, it had these really interesting characters. You know, obviously headed by the obsessive compulsive Adrian Monk. So when we finished, when we shot the pilot, we knew we did a good job. We knew it was good, but whether it would catch on or not, I think we were all like, well, fifty fifty. But catching on for six seasons now, that’s a very, very rare thing, but I guess it’s a testament to people who left it on the air and also a great testament to our fans, who took a hold of it and appreciated it for what it was.
Prior to Monk you did a lot of sort one-off episodes, just single appearances on TV shows. What’s it like to have the stability of being a main character on the show?
Well I mean obviously first and foremost it’s a lovely day job to have, you know what I mean? As far as being able to go to work everyday on a TV show, I think that the biggest thing that’s been given to me…a forum to kind of work everyday as an actor. That’s what you get in the business for. At the beginning it’s work, half choice, and it allows me to kind of play this great character, day after day and at the same time it also allows me to explore other things or attempt to explore other things when I’m not working on the show because I do have a steady job. And anyone who kind of knocks the fact that in this business to have a steady job is not a great thing, you know shame on them because it really, really is and it’s a real luxury that can open up a lot of doors. Monk has been able to afford me as an actor to a lot of different things. So the bottom line is the win-win situation.
What can fans expect for the upcoming sixth season of Monk? I believe it debuts July 13.
We do indeed. With season six, I’ll tell you what, we really think we’ve got a great one. Once again, we got a host of eclectic, cool guest stars and we have Sarah Silverman coming back and reprising her role, she played a character a couple of seasons before. We have Alfred Molina, obviously a very, very accomplished actor, we have the king of rap, baby, Snoop Dogg, who’s gonna be on the show this season, so I mean we’re really running the gamut of great guest stars. I mean, Sharon Lawrence is coming back for a couple, so we’re all over the map and I think by doing that we’re kind of giving a whole bunch of different, you know, we’re giving a whole bunch of new looks to the show. You know, even if the show will stay very much character based around Monk, I guess bringing all these people really heightens our show. After six seasons to keep it going like that and still attract great, great guest stars makes us happy and excited about this new season coming up.
(Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl)
(Image Courtesy of USA)