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November 2009

Adria Tennor plays Donna DiMarco in "Mr. Monk and the Badge" one of the final episodes of Monk's eighth and final season. Adria has worked in numerous films (including Don't Mess with the Zohan and The First Wives Club) and television series (including Criminal Minds, Gary Unmarried and Mad Men and a recurring role on the ABC Family series Greek). She's a restaurant owner as well as an actor. (I had a chance to visit Barbrix recently. Lots of fun. I'd highly recommend it.) Adria was happy to talk about her experience on Monk.

Adria: It’s a very good show. Tony Shalhoub: I can’t say enough nice things about him. He was the sweetest man. I was a little worried because you know the Emmys were the night before and he didn’t win. Our scene was the first scene up and I’d never met him before so….

MFP: You thought maybe he’d be in a bad mood?

Adria: Yeah, you never know. Who knows? I’ve definitely have had actors be jerks to me, but he was very, very, very nice: just super, super sweet. One thing that always is kind of impressive is he was getting his hair and makeup done in the same trailer with the guest cast. A lot of time people have their own trailer. They don’t mingle or mix with the rest of the cast. I’m sure he could have that situation if he wanted to, but I think he likes to meet the people that are working on the show. He approached me right away and shook my hand and said, “Thank you so much for doing this.” I think I was reading someone else on your site said the same thing. I felt like look, “Thank you. I’m so grateful to be here.” So it was really good.

MFP: So was he the only one you had a scene with?

Adria: My scene was really with him. The other guys were in the scene. I’m so bad because I don’t know. They don’t give me the script. Here, let me go on IMDB and I’ll tell you, the sergeant was in the scene. I didn’t speak to those guys.

MFP: Jason [Gray-Stanford] and Ted [Levine], right?

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Adria Tennor in "Mr. Monk and the Badge"

Adria: Right, the other two guys on the show were in the scene. They interact with him, but they didn’t really interact with me. And I don’t get those pages. I just have the scene that I was in with Tony.

MFP: So they just gave you a little piece of it? Just your piece?

Adria: Yeah, because I think they don’t want the story to get out.

MFP: Do you think that’s the usual for them or do you think it was just because it was one of the final episodes?

Adria: I mean a lot of shows do that so I would think that it’s pretty normal and I think also they want people to watch the last few episodes for sure.

MFP: I think everyone will.

Adria: Yes.

MFP: So how did you get your part on the show?

Adria: Well, my agent has a relationship with the man who casts the show. The company is called CFB casting and it’s owned by Anya Coloff and Amy Britt. They have a gentleman working for them named Corbin Bronson and I’ve known him for a long time too. He’s always liked me and I’ve read for the show a few times. I never had a call back. What you do is you go in and you read for Corbin and then if he thinks you’re right he’ll call you back to read for the producers. I never did that. I never got to do that. So this was the first time I was called back to read for the producers.

I guess I did what they wanted and it was great, because Corbin he really works with you. Every time I’ve gone in to read, he really, really works with you. He has you do it several times, giving very specific direction. So I feel like I owe it to him because he told me do it this way. He was very specific. Monk has a really interesting tone. You know, it’s funny, but it’s serious. It’s kind of like CSI, only it’s quirky. So I think, and they told me this, a lot of actors have a tendency to want to sort of mug it up a bit and be funny, which I think I did in my first read for Corbin. He was like, “No, let’s play it more like you’re on CSI. It’s really serious.” You know the scene is very serious. So that’s what I did and they were all very happy with that. So that’s good.

MFP: What do you think there was about the role that made them choose you?

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Photo by Dana Patrick

Adria: Hmmm. I don’t want to give anything away. Well, I think that I look pretty innocent and sweet. You’re supposed to really sympathize with me. Monk is being a little inappropriate and… not you know in a weird way. You know how he is. He’s so focused on solving the crime that he doesn’t really pay attention to the circumstances of the wife and I think that’s just how I look. Plus I think I did a good job in my audition. Hopefully I’m a good actress.

MFP: So where were your scenes shot?

Adria: I have one scene. Just one and that was shot in a house in Hollywood, West Hollywood. Like about five minutes from my house. I could probably spit and it would hit the place we were at. It was a really beautiful sort of Craftsman house. And I think it was close to where they shoot most of the show. Their base camp was pretty close by.

MFP: So how long did it take to shoot your scene?

Adria: Ummm. It took the morning, but I was done, I think, by one. I probably got there at six or seven in the morning and it was done by one. I mean the actual shooting. They take about an hour and a half to do you hair and make up and stuff. Some blocking scenes. I probably got to set about nine and was done by one I think.

MFP: So did it all go smoothly?

Adria: Yes. There was a little bit of choreography: not dancing, but there’s a little bit of physicality. Not with me, but with the other guys and Tony. So they did that a couple of different ways. Yes, it was very smooth and you know what else? There were some extras in the scene and they were great. They really helped me actually do a good job. So that was nice. Sometimes other actors that are principals, you know, can be catty or whatever, but there was a girl that I had to interact with a bit and she was really great, really great. Helped me a lot.

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MFP: So it sounds like everybody was pretty happy to be there.

Adria: Yes, it was awesome. It was really great. I mean it was the best experience. I think it was my best. I felt like I had died and gone to actor heaven. Really, it was great. I couldn’t have asked for more. Oh, the other thing that was so great: you know my scene’s a little bit emotional. Tony’s like “You want to do one more? Because I want you to feel really good about it,” which meant that he and everybody else had to sit there longer to let me do it again, but he wanted me to do it again. Then when we started to do the take, he said, “Okay everybody I want you to give her a moment please be quiet. Let her take her time.” You know you just don’t experience that most of the time, especially when you’re playing a little guest part. You know, it’s not about you. So, it was just really nice.

MFP: So who was your director for this episode?

Adria: A gentleman name Dean Parisot. He was great. He directed um…Galaxy Quest, yes.

MFP: And the pilot of Monk. He directed the pilot.

Adria: Yes. He was great and also really complimentary and appreciative. He had some good ideas and it was great.

MFP: So what can you tell me about your character? Do you remember what her name was?

Adria: I played Donna DiMarco and I am married to a cop and I think that’s kind of all I can tell you. You know, she’s sort of working class, sweet, innocent, I think, pretty innocent, earnest. Yes. I can’t tell you anything else.

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MFP: Okay. So what was your most memorable moment of the filming?

Adria: Well, I guess at the very end, I was leaving and Tony came at me, shook my hand and said “Thank you so much. You’re a terrific actress and I really appreciate you doing this for us.”

That was like, you know, just awesome. It was great to feel and you don’t get that too much. Maybe if you’re a superstar winning Oscars people will tell you how good you are, but very rarely if you’re an everyday actor. Like I said, it’s not about you: you’re there to support the star and their show and so you really don’t get any feedback. It’s really, hurry, let’s stand in line, get this sh** done. And it wasn’t like that at all. They were really…. I felt like a superstar. I felt like they were grateful that I was there. That’s how I felt and that’s something I don’t experience most of the time. [pause] Ever. Ever. Yes.

MFP: Did you watch the show before you got the role?

Adria: I watched the show. You know I own a restaurant and I’m also a writer. I can’t watch television religiously, but I do like the show and I really like Tony Shalhoub and I respect him. Actually one of my very dear friends is Melora Hardin. She directed a show that I’m in, a one woman show, called Strip Search. She directed it, so I feel like we have also that kind of tie to the show as well. She plays Trudy.

MFP: She also directed a film that you were in, right.

Adria: Yes I’m in that too, exactly.

MFP: You?

Adria: I’m actually…. I’m not in the movie. They edited my scene out. It didn’t go. It didn’t fit with the rest of the movie.

MFP: Oh, that’s too bad.

Adria: But it is on the deleted scenes on the DVD. I’m going to put that on my website. The scene it’s really funny and I think I played it too funny. Maybe if I hadn’t played it so funny I would still be in the movie. I think I needed Corbin Bronson there to tell me to make it more CSI. So that’s a long answer to that question. I have seen the show. I don’t watch it religiously. I definitely have watched it and I like it.

MFP: So, Strip Search that’s based on a one woman show you did. Is that right?

Adria: Yes, it’s my one woman show. It’s autobiographical. It’s based on my pole dancing studies with Sheila Kelly. She’s also an actress. She produced and acted in a movie called Dancing at the Blue Iguana which is all about a strip club. In order to play this part she put a pole up in her house and taught herself how to pole dance and all of her friends like Alison Janney and Amy Pietz and all these actresses wanted to learn. She started teaching them and it just sort of turned into this amazing movement. She’s now got five or six studios around the country.

So this is about finding my sexuality and myself. It’s a sweet love story with a fairy tale ending. Actually, I just performed that about a week and a half ago. I mean I did it for about two years in L.A., but then Sheila just asked me to do it at the studio. So I just did that, after so many years, a week ago. Melora couldn’t come because she was doing a movie. She just finished the movie. She’s seen it 20 million times, but she couldn’t be here for this last time. She was shooting Knucklehead.

MFP: So what do you enjoy most about acting?

Adria: Well, when I was young, I felt like the times that I learned the most were the times that I was emotionally moved. If I had to just sit there and read about the civil war in a history book that wasn’t as powerful to me as watching Gone with the Wind. I felt like I wanted to do that. I wanted to show people things. I wanted to move people. I wanted people to understand something that I was sharing with them better because it was an emotional connection… that they may or may not get. Hopefully they do…. I want to change the molecules in the room, stir things up, get people’s attention and not in a superficial way, but in a real way: like just to be completely, really, honestly present. Most people don’t do that in their life. You know, they don’t even realize that they’re kind of skating through things, but for an actor that’s gold, to just stand there and be present. So I guess that’s what I like. It’s like the fleeting moments that I get to really be alive, to be there. Does that make sense?

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Adria Tennor in Amateur (1994)

MFP: Yes, it does. So do you get a different feeling from playing a part than you do from being yourself on stage?

Adria: I think that, especially in Los Angeles, that most of the time I am playing myself. They don’t really want you to come in and do this crazy acting job. You know I got to play a twelve year old boy once. That was my first part. I was 23 at the time. I think that’s about as big a stretch as I ever got to do. I have to use myself you know that’s all I can do and use my imagination.

MFP: So professionally is there anything in particular that you want to do that you haven’t done yet?

Adria: I’d like to be a regular on a show. I’d like to go every week to work and I’d like to do a play in New York. I mean I’ve done plays in New York, but I mean on Broadway. I want to win an Oscar too. I’d like to win an Oscar too.

MFP: What kind of Broadway role would you want to do? I know you dance. Do you sing as well?

Adria: I can sing, but there are people that do that way better than I do. I wouldn’t be like a musical girl. It would just really be…. I mean I think I’m a great comedian, but I’m also a great dramatic actress. So either one of those situations would be good, but I wouldn’t be good in like Guys and Dolls. I’ll leave that to Faith Prince. Yes, we’ll let her do all that singing and dancing and Melora. I mean my goodness, Melora is an amazing singer. Oh my gosh! She’s had a lot of training, you know, singing lessons and stuff like that. I went to se her in Les Miz at the Hollywood bowl. She played right along side all these actors who had been… the guy who played Jean Valjean, who originated the role. She held her own. She was amazing. Yeah, leave it to Melora.

MFP: She just did Chicago too, didn’t she?

Adria: She did and she rocked it! She rocked her audition too. No, she’s great I hope she gets to do more, I think she will. She should do that. I think that’s kind of her dream. Not my dream. I mean I would love to do that, but I’m just not cut from that cloth.

MFP: So what’s your best acting experience so far?

Adria: It was Monk and I’m not just saying that because I am talking to you. It was Monk. It was great. Like I said, I felt like I died and went to actor heaven.

MFP: That’s good to hear.

Adria: Yeah, it was great.

MFP: Do you remember your worst?

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Adria: Yeah. I don’t want to say what it was.

MFP: I find that actors usually don’t.

Adria: Yes, you don’t want to bad mouth anyone. It wasn’t really anybody’s fault it was just and maybe it was just me, too…. I don’t know whether maybe I just wasn’t in a good space, but it was a set where the people they weren’t friendly to me. I felt like the new kid in school that was being ostracized, you know. Even the director of the episode who was also one of the producers (and maybe I’m talking too much) he did not even talk to me even though I was a principle. He treated me like an extra. Even that to me is like…. you know they’re actors. They do good work and what they do is not always easy either…. but he wouldn’t speak to me. He had the second AD, who’s the one who speaks to the extras, talk to me so he would tell him to tell me what to do. It’s just the whole thing was….

The writers on the show were amazing. I’ll say that and it was amazing to watch them work. It was a comedy, a sitcom, and the way they do sitcom with an audience is kind of unbelievable. You rehearse all week and then you do the show in front of an audience and they rewrite it right there. It’s kind of insane the way they come up with stuff right there on the spot and the actors learn it right there on the spot and do it again like within a period of about four minutes. It’s just insane.

MFP: It sounds nerve wracking.

Adria: Yes, but I gotta say when it’s a good experience doing a sitcom is… there’s nothing better. There’s no better feeling to say a line and have this huge studio audience laugh at you it’s just…. there’s nothing better. Nothing better.

MFP: So if you did do a series would you prefer a comedy to a drama?

Adria: You know they just don’t do them very much anymore. I don’t think I could…. I would do anything: either way I’d be happy. I have a feeling that no matter what I did there’d be some humor in it. You know even if it was a drama. You gotta have humor.

MFP: So what’s up next for you? What’s your next project?

Adria: I’m really grateful I’ve been doing some episodes of a show called Greek, which is a really sweet little show on ABC family. It’s really well acted and really well written. I play something I don’t get to play very much and I’m really pleased. I play this sort of kooky professor who wants to be cool so I do all these silly things. So hopefully, that will continue and I’ll get to do some more. I’ve done about three. I’m also writing a screenplay of my show. I’d love to produce that. I think it’s a great…. It’s kind of like My Big Fat Greek Wedding with pole dancing. It’s a story I feel really needs to be told. I wish that somebody had told me this story when I was going through puberty and dating and all that crap. So definitely a good story and I continue to run this wine bar that my husband and I opened.

MFP: How long have you had that?

Adria: We opened about six months ago. It took us two and a half years to go through all the red tape. We almost lost everything: our house, everything because the city of Los Angeles, God love ‘em, they make it hard.

MFP: I was going to say, if there’s a tougher business in Hollywood than acting, it’s opening a restaurant.

Adria: Oh yeah, definitely, definitely. I know. And I think that’s why we opened, because there was a moment where my husband said, and I’m going to get teary and choked up, he said, “You know, I think maybe we should just quit and just declare bankruptcy and we’ll lose the house.” I think because I’m an actress and because I am so stubborn and pig headed and the word no does not mean no to me, it just means not right now, I just said, “No, this is your dream.”

I think that’s another thing I think that people who are actors really, they are not people who play it safe. These are people that have decided, “F**k it! I’m going to do this.” And you know we’re not realistic. We are dreamers definitely. I just said, “No way. This is your dream.” You know, if we had given up we would never ever be able to, unless we won the lottery or unless I like got on a show and made money like the Friends people made money, we never would have had that much money to do this again. So I just said, “You gotta go for broke, maybe we will lose everything, but let’s lose everything after having given it every shot we could.”

MFP: So where is the wine bar?

Adria: It’s in Silver Lake, which is a sweet little neighborhood in Los Angeles. It’s kind of the eastern edge of town and it’s very bohemian. There are a lot of people there that sort of don’t buy in to the whole Hollywood-Beverly Hills showy thing. It’s more like New York and it’s a real neighborhood. They really try to keep out the chains, like Starbucks. There’s no mall there, there’s no Pottery Barn you know it’s all small businesses and it’s a great little community which just felt like they needed a good restaurant there.

This is what my husband does: it’s kind of how we met, because I spent most of my acting days waitressing to help pay the bills. I don’t like to be poor. So there’s so much good wine and you know it’s just silly these days, especially in this economy, you don’t need to pay 12, 15, 16, sometimes even $20 for a glass of wine. We wanted to have a place where somebody could go and have a six dollar glass of wine and a little bite to eat and you know get out of there for 20 bucks and have good food and not spend a lot of money. Now you can spend a lot of money: it’s small plates so you can or you can keep it manageable, which is what we wanted to do.

MFP: What’s it called?

Adria: Oh, it’s called Barbrix. Brix is the unit of measuring sugar in liquids and it’s how winemakers know when to pick the grapes. They measure the brix of the juice so if they want it to be very sweet they would wait ‘til the brix are higher and bar because you know we’re a bar.

MFP: What’s your favorite wine?

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Adria: Well, I really love Austrian white wine. I would say my favorite wine is Rudi Pichler Reisling. That’s an Austrian winemaker.

MFP: Right. So those were my questions.

Adria: I hope I answered everything sufficiently.

MFP: Yes, you did. I appreciate it.

Adria: I appreciate you contacting me that was really sweet and I’m happy to get to talk to you. You have a really lovely little site. It’s really great.

MFP: Thank you very much.

Adria Tennor's Official Web site

Adria Tennor on the IMDB

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