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A heartfelt encounter with Monk star Jason Gray-Stanford

From left, Jason Gray-Stanford, Tony Shalhoub, Traylor Howard and Ted Levine recently came back together to film a movie based on the show they acted in several years ago, Monk. Submitted photos

By Freddy Moyano

Contributing Writer

Widely known as Lieutenant Randy Disher in renowned TV series, Monk (2002-2009), and with a recently wrapped Monk feature film version likely releasing this fall, actor and musician Jason Gray-Stanford is thankful to be alive today.

During a telecast interview of Stanford on June 24, 2023 from St. Brendan’s Inn, downtown Green Bay, on the occasion of the MLC Awards film fest, he opened up with inspiring words as to an unexpected condition we developed some 9 years after wrapping his work in Monk.

“In 2018, I was fit, I had a healthy diet, I worked out…overall I was a very healthy person. All of a sudden I started not feeling great, started to underperform at the gym” Stanford said. He said he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with an arrhythmia in his heart, which led to heart failure. 

In spite of this, Stanford said that for a year and a half, through early 2020, he was able to maintain “a very regular lifestyle with check-ups at the doctor, proper medication, eating well, doing the right things, exercising.”

“Unfortunately my heart went downhill very quickly in 2020, and at the end of 2020 I had a heart transplant” Stanford said, adding that there is an ever present stigma linked to this condition. “It was very shocking…you don’t think of people like me having heart failure or heart disease in any way shape or form. It comes with a very interesting stigma that you have to be unhealthy, eat poorly. And yes, those are definitely factors, but the simple thing is heart failure, heart disease and cardiovascular disease can happen to anyone at any time, and I am walking proof of that” Stanford said.

Stanford insisted on how grateful he was during the interview, noting, “I’m a very lucky fellow to be here, to have made a full recovery and to be able to do all the things I used to do”.

Finding a donor is something Stanford will always be thankful. “Eventually things fell into place for me,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, it was not an easy recovery, but know I feel great.”

A “beautiful” Monk

Stanford said that when the group got together to film the Monk movie, their connection remained strong, as if they had never left.

Prior to Monk, Stanford had worked many titles in the TV world such as The Surrogate (1995), Millenium (1998) or even doing voice over work for Dragon Ball Z (1996-1997) and many other series along the 1990s, to include 26 episodes as the voice of Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (1999-2001).

Stanford said the breakthrough that led him to read for roles such as Lieutenant Disher came with the success of A Beautiful Mind (2001), a production in which he played the role of Ainsley, and collected more than 30 awards in the festival circuit, including 4 Oscars. His role in Taken (2002), a mini-series that won a Primetime Emmy in 2002, was also a factor in making Jason more known in the audition rooms of big productions, Monk being one of them.

On working with lead actor and one of the executive producers of Monk, Tony Shalhoub, Stanford said “Tony is an incredibly talented and professional actor. It is, has been and will always be a privilege to work along him. He sets the example by how he acts on set. If your lead, or number one as we call them, set the example as to how to be on set, then it says a lot and Tony is the master mind at doing that, being incredibly welcoming, kind… and that reflects on the cast, the crew”.

Recently, Stanford wrapped up the filming of the movie Monk in the Ontario area of Canada.

In regards to working with Ted Levine (Captain Stottlemeyer), Traylor Howard (Natalie Teeger) and Tony Shalhoub during the filming of the show and during their most recent reunion for the movie, Stanford highlighted that although the four of them have different personalities, they were able to work in great chemistry together.

Stanford put as an example of work unity the arrival of Howard to the show in 2004 (87 episode appearance between 2005 and 2009), which did not disrupt any of the “family” environment and “great chemistry” he said they all had on set.

When the actors came back together for the filming of the Monk movie, Stanford said “it feels like we never left.”

As far as advice for cast and crew in any production, Stanford said, “It takes a village, it’s not just about you, you have to be kind and it takes everybody working together to collaborate. If we have one loose wheel, the car is not going to drive straight…the best idea does not have to come from the director, the best idea has to come, period.”

For updates about Stanford, his work as an ambassador for the American Heart Association and updates on the upcoming Monk movie premiere, visit therandydisherpodcast.com.

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