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The Monk Fun Page Episode Review
Major spoilers. I mean it.

Group Therapy 4
Tony Shalhoub, Hector Elizondo and Tim Bagley

It’s here: the halfway point. “Mr. Monk Goes to Group Therapy” is the eighth of sixteen episodes in the eighth and final season of Monk. I’m sure it’s completely subjective, but it seems like they’re going by far too quickly and each episode seems shorter than the last. Crazy, I know: eight years of anything else (curtains, jobs, elected officials, people) is way too much for me, but I’m just not ready to let go of Monk. That each episode so far this season has been memorable, sharp, and amusing, doesn’t help in my letting go process.

I could easily have watched an hour more of “Group Therapy”, especially since the wrap-up seemed oddly rushed. The episode itself concentrates more on Monk and his relationships than it does on the crime of the week. In particular it deals with the relationships between Monk and the two recurring characters on the show, Dr. Bell (Hector Elizondo) and Harold Krenshaw (Tim Bagley).

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Hector Elizondo
Dr. Neven Bell has been Monk’s therapist since the beginning of season seven ("Mr. Monk Buys a House"), when his first psychiatrist, Dr. Kroger, died suddenly off screen. He’s been a reassuring presence that Monk the character needed badly and veteran actor Hector Elizondo (now 72 years old) has been a reassuring presence that Monk the show needed badly after the equally sudden loss of Stanley Kamel who played Dr. Kroger.
It was a difficult transition for Tony Shalhoub in particular. “When I’m in these scenes with Hector Elizondo who plays Dr. Bell, I sort of do this internal toast, as it were to Stanley Kamel, because he was the original doctor and I like to think that he’s kind of there in those sessions with me. He is missed.”

Harold Krenshaw is Monk’s fellow patient and nemesis since his first appearance in the season three episode “Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf.” This is the ninth and final episode featuring Tim Bagley as Harold. “I don't know why they keep calling Harold Krenshaw back,” Tim told me in an interview this past spring, “but I'm thrilled when they do.” He also added, “I think we can all agree that Harold could use some help from Dr. Bell.”

Group Therapy 6
Tim Bagley

Agreed and Monk can always use some help from Tim Bagley and Harold Krenshaw.

There’s one more actor in this episode making a return appearance on the show: Amy Aquino. She plays fellow group therapy patient, Rhonda. She also played the ill-tempered applicant in “Mr. Monk and the Red Herring” who told Monk he didn’t need a nurse and set his waste basket on fire right before Natalie walked into his life. She still has a sharp tongue as Rhonda, but her character doesn’t fare so well this time around.

Also making a brief appearance in this episode is actor Mike Rock who played Lt. Dylan, the detective in charge of the first murder, who doesn't realize it is a murder until Monk shows up to say otherwise. Mike did a little email Q&A with me about working on the show.

South Park Anton
Artisit rendering of Anton Cropper
The director of "Mr. Monk Goes to Group Therapy" is Anton Cropper, who started as an assistant director on the show and moved up to associate producer and director. He also directed, "Mr. Monk on Wheels," and "Mr. Monk Joins a Cult" as well as "Mr. Monk and the Wrong Man" and "Mr. Monk is at Your Service". I had the pleasure of meeting him during a set visit a couple of years ago when he was an AD on "Mr. Monk and the Daredevil". I'm sure the duties of an AD are many and varied, but I remember him best as the guy in charge of getting everyone to be quiet on the set.
The writer of this episode, Joe Ventura, is a writing partner of Monk executive producer and writer Tom Scharpling. They had a film project, Jeff the Demon, which I haven't heard anything on for the past couple of years, but these days it takes a really long time to get a film out. Mr. Ventura also wrote the episode "Mr. Monk and the Bully".

"Group Therapy" is a fun and out of the ordinary episode, but it was a little rough on star Tony Shalhoub. “Last night I spent six hours in the trunk of a car with Tim Bagley who plays Harold Krenshaw,” he said during filming. "We get abducted and jammed into a trunk. The day before that I was in a swimming pool fully clothed, you know, up to my shoulders. The writers always seem to find really unglamorous places for me to wind up.”

Group Therapy 1
Tony Shalhoub, glamorous as usual

“I guess he’s cute… for a shrink”

Group Therapy 9
Joelle Carter as Barbara O'Keefe

A beautiful young woman (Joelle Carter) is taking her third bath of the day, during a drought, and chatting with her mother on the phone. She talks about her therapist Dr. Bell. The phone call is cut off. Her cat pushes open the door, frightening her. She wonders who let the cat in, getting out of the tub to investigate. An unseen intruder moves out of the shadows and forces his way into the bathroom.

The next morning the pool guy (Alex Castillo) makes a gruesome discovery: The bathtub woman (who we later learn is Dr. Bell's group therapy patient, Barbara O’Keefe) is now floating in the pool naked-ish and dead. The maid/housekeeper finally catches a break in this episode: somebody else gets to find the body.

Joelle Carter co-starred with Ted Levine in Wonderland. She's also appeared in Cold Case, CSI: Miami, Law & Order and a bunch of other stuff.

“Fear of bees in blenders.”

Weeks later Natalie brings Monk his mail, which he advises her to throw away. She opens it anyway while scolding him about wasting water by washing a single plate. Apparently there’s a drought and the reservoir is almost empty. (We don’t really have any reservoirs in San Francisco per se. Most of the city’s water comes from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir up in Yosemite. However, in Monkland apparently there is a reservoir where one might hide a body… at least during the rainy season.)

One of the letters is from Monk’s HMO. He knows that can’t be good news. “What do you think? I won a free colonoscopy?”

No, not a colonoscopy. It’s a cap on the number of counseling sessions they’ll cover. Even though that number is “seven times the national average”, not surprisingly Monk is about to exceed it. He has one session left.

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When Monk next visits his therapist, Dr. Bell (Hector Elizondo) he comes prepared with a stack of index cards listing all his issues and phobia. After explaining the HMO issue to the doctor, and rejecting the notion that he pay the $200 fee himself, he suggests they “knock off” as many of his issues as they can in the one remaining session. With issues such as “fear of disappointing his father” and “sibling rivalry” and “fear of fear itself” it doesn’t look too promising. Dr. Bell suggests that he try group therapy which is covered by the HMO. Monk’s not crazy about that idea. “They don’t like me. I can’t do it.”

Instead of choosing the relatively sane option of group therapy, Monk decides to join/stalk Dr. Bell on his morning bike ride, hoping for an open air session. Natalie thinks it’s a crazy idea, but she does do all the pedaling on their bicycle as Monk tries to engage Dr. Bell in a discussion about his mother.

Group Therapy 10

The doctor again advises him to join group therapy and then speeds away. Natalie can’t keep up and they tumble to the ground. Monk surrenders: “Okay I’ll join the group.”

I want to note at this point, for the record, that Hector Elizondo looks exceptionally fit during the biking scene for a man of any age, much less 72. He's not just cute, he's hot. There, I said it.

“I’m gonna put a Kentucky Fried Chicken on your roof!”

The group therapy session has just gotten underway when Monk shows up. Rhonda (Amy Aquino) has just started complaining about her job at a medical supply store, when he pokes his head in. Dr. Bell introduces him. Group member Augie (Brad Grunberg, a.k.a. Johnny Cocktails, brother of Greg Grunberg, who guest starred in "Mr. Monk and the Actor") introduces himself by listing his phobias. Last, but not least “And of course, you know, Harold.”

Apparently after Natalie let it slip that Monk was seeing Dr. Bell last season (“Mr. Monk Fights City Hall”) Harold Krenshaw (Tim Bagley) promptly insinuated himself and is now a patient of Neven’s, as he calls him. Monk takes this in stride (sort of) and prepares to sit, but Rhonda shrilly warns him not to take Barbara’s seat. “She was in our group. She died three weeks ago,” Dr. Bell informs Monk.
Group Therapy 2

Augie adds that she drowned in her pool. Harold immediately tries to begin the little game of one-upmanship he likes to play with Monk, pretending he’s chummy with Dr. Bell and that he’s cured of germaphobia and claustrophobia. He makes fun of Monk needing an assistant, finally goading him into an argument. They begin to bicker viciously and Dr. Bell separates them.

Later in the grocery store check out line Monk complains to Natalie about Harold: “I hate him. He can go to hell” and the rest of the group, “All they did was drone on and on about their own lives” and Dr. Bell “He kept interrupting everybody telling little parables and stories.”

His whining is interrupted by Harold, who’s there to encourage him to quit. He points out another group member buying cleaning supplies in the next aisle, Xavier Danko (Karl Makinen), who has recently been cured and “left the nest” a few weeks before.

Group Therapy 11

Danko was obsessed with an “exotic dancer” named Tiffany, but he’s feeling much better now according to Harold, who wants to be cured like Danko and thinks Monk is hampering that goal. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but being obsessed with and stalking an exotic dancer is a completely different illness than say claustrophobia. I think he belonged in a completely different group.)

Thinking that Harold doesn’t want him there, mostly because Harold says just that, Monk tells him he won’t be quitting the group.

Later (apparently several weeks later) Monk and Natalie are called to a crime scene, Stottlemeyer and Disher, in the first of only two scenes they get in this episode, escort them to a dead body in an apartment alley way. They’ve found a card with Dr. Bell’s name on it in the dead man’s pocket and they thought Monk might know him. He does. It’s Augie Wellman from his therapy group. He fell from the apartment roof and they think it might be suicide. Of course it’s not. Monk finds evidence that the victim was tied up. It was murder.

Disher has a theory. It’s a serial killer, killing off people according to their phobias. Monk points out that Augie wasn’t afraid of heights. He had arachnophobia. Disher amends his theory. He’s killing them with the opposite of their phobias. He immediately dubs him “The Opposite Killer”. Although Stottlemeyer points out that a spider is not the opposite of a tall building, Randy clings to his theory.
Group Therapy 12

Monk is forming a theory of his own. He thinks it’s strange that two members of his therapy group have died within two months of each other. The go to the squad room to talk with the detective in charge of the first victim Barbara’s case, Lt. Dylan (Mike Rock). He tells them it looked like an accident and the case is now cold. The body has been cremated. Looking at photos of the scene Monk notices there is no towel. “I wouldn’t go swimming first thing in the morning in October without a towel,” he says.

(I got news for you. You can’t go swimming first thing in the morning in July or any other month without a towel in San Francisco.)

Group Therapy 13
In any case Monk concludes that she was murdered. Since she wasn’t afraid of water, Disher still wants to credit “The Opposite Killer.” Stottlemeyer runs out of patience. “There is no opposite killer. If there were you would have been killed by a falling rocket scientist years ago.”

What really makes that scene for me is the reaction and look that Lt. Dylan gives Randy after that comment. Just another example of how well even the smaller roles are cast on Monk.

After the cops leave to investigate further, and never return again, Monk has a realization. “I think somebody is killing off my therapy group.”

When Natalie points out that he’s smiling, he tries unsuccessfully for a more somber tone. “You’re still smiling!” says Natalie.

“So Harold, how is it up there in Neven’s butt? You lonely? Getting scared of the dark?”

In Monk’s next group therapy session the few remaining members are pretty bummed about Augie’s death… even more so when Monk tells them he thinks Augie was murdered… and even more than that when he says Barbara may have been murdered too… and one of them could be the killer. “There is a possibility that one of you is not quite sane,” he says, looking straight at Harold.

Harold, not surprisingly, picks up on this and immediately goes on the offensive, pointing out that Monk had motive (not wanting to share Dr. Bell with the group). He gets up and poorly imitates Monk’s unique Zen hand moves. He accuses Monk of the crime and establishes that Monk also had the means, being a homicide expert, and the opportunity since he has no alibis for the times when Augie and Barbara were killed.
Group Therapy 15
Harold does his own outrageous and very funny here’s-what-happened and describes just how Monk could have killed them. Dr. Bell tells him it’s nonsense, but he seems to halfway convince Monk that it could be true. I don't know what it means, but I thought it was visually interesting that Harold's bogus flashback scenes were in blue-ish shadowy tones, rather than the black and white flashbacks that Monk narrates.
Group Therapy 16
Later at home he discusses it with Natalie, wondering if he could be the killer and not know it. After all he reminds her, he’s had blackouts before. She firmly dismisses the notion and tells him to concentrate on the other group members. That’s a pretty short list now and after crossing off Harold (“God would never do that. It would make me too happy.”) the only one left is Rhonda.

The go to see her at the medical supply store where she works, but they quickly find they can cross her off the list as well. She’s dead, apparently overcome by gas fumes from cleaning supplies. Monk thinks that’s just how he might kill someone. Natalie points out the supplies are not his brand, but he remembers that it was the cheap brand they saw ex-patient Xavier Danko buying. Just as Monk figures that Danko’s the guy, Natalie passes out from the cleaning fumes. He sits her next to an open window and hears someone in the store. Arming himself with prosthetic limbs he searches for the intruder, but Danko sneaks up behind him and knocks him out. Monk wakes up in the trunk of a car with Harold!

“I still think it was you.”

Danko has thrown them both in the trunk of his Lincoln and he’s driving over the Bay Bridge. Monk and Harold scream for help, but they’re quickly distracted by who is touching who in the close quarters of the trunk. When they have that sorted out Monk tells Harold “My side’s carpeted.”

Back at the medical supply store, Natalie regains consciousness and calls Stottlemeyer. That’s it. There’s no more of Natalie in this episode. I suppose we got a whole lot of Natalie in the two previous episodes, “Critic” and “Voodoo Curse” and I shouldn’t be greedy, but I was really expecting some sort of wrap up that included her and the rest of the gang after she made that call. It just seemed like a scene was missing.

When Harold goes into panic mode, clearly demonstrating that he hasn’t conquered his claustrophobia, Monk calms him down. He confesses that he admires Harold for being out in the world despite having the same issues Monk does. Harold is still feeling claustrophobic. “I think we’ve been looking at this the wrong way,” Monk tells him. “These walls aren’t closing in on us. They’re protecting us. They’re keeping the bad stuff out.”
Group Therapy 17

They both list the “bad stuff” including germs, harmonicas, nature, Harold’s mother and her new boyfriend… and Xavier Danko. They’re bonding and they both agree that the “group therapy thing really works.”

(I don't think it's keeping Xavier Danko out. I’m thinking Xavier Danko doesn’t need to visualize a key for that trunk. He’s probably got a real one.)

“It takes the police four minutes and 20 seconds to get here. Don’t ask.”

Now friends, they cooperate, using a tire jack to break open the trunk. They get it open after Danko has stopped the car and left. When they crawl out they find that they’re at Dr. Bell’s house. Armed only with a croquet mallet and a tire iron, they break down his front door thinking Dr. Bell needs to be rescued. Turns out not so much.

Group Therapy 18
Dr. Bell has super psychiatrist powers. Instead of trying to kill him, Danko is tearfully confessing. He explains to Monk and Harold that Danko killed Tiffany Bolt, the “exotic dancer” he was stalking, and dumped her body in the reservoir. When the drought hit he was afraid she would be discovered. Since his therapy group could link him to the crime, he decided to kill them too.

Dr. Bell doesn’t reveal why Danko abandoned the plan when it was going so well. Presumably Neven is a very smooth talker. Since he’s already called the police and seems to have Danko well in hand, Monk and Harold sit sown for an impromptu session. They want to share their breakthrough. “I definitely think we can cross claustrophobia off both of our lists,” says Monk.

Still distraught, Danko interrupts to ask Dr. Bell is he believes in God. Harold stops him. “Excuse me my friend was just talking. We didn’t interrupt you.”

Monk smiles. He has a new friend and he needs all the friends he can get.

“This is a good group”

In Monk’s next “group” session he and Dr. Bell are alone in the office with a lot of empty chairs. Of course, most of the group is unfortunately dead. Monk asks where Harold is and Dr. Bell tells him Harold has found another doctor so that Monk can have the sessions all to himself. “A friend like that is a blessing,” he says. Monk is very happy to return to the status quo, albeit in much less comfy chairs, and that the sessions are still covered by his HMO.

Doctor Bell will be making at least one more appearance, but it looks like this is the last of Harold. It’s a shame. I would have liked to see the new friendship grow. I think Tim Bagley knew that the relationship could go in that direction. He once said: “I see Harold Krenshaw as a very sad little needy man who sees a lot of himself in Adrian Monk, and instead of being best of friends with him, he chooses to compete, and undermine, and loathe him.”
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It’s nice to see they’re not afraid to redefine the relationships and take some chances in the final season.

Guest Cast

Hector Elizondo – Dr. Neven Bell
Tim Bagley – Harold Krenshaw
Amy Aquino – Rhonda
Joelle Carter – Barbara O'Keefe
Alex Castillo – Pool Cleaner

Brad Grunberg
– Auggie Wellman
Karl Makinen – Xavier Danko
Jessica McCabe – Teenage Cashier
Mike Rock – Lt. Dylan

Mike Rock 3
Mike Rock as Lt. Dylan
Photo by Monk Crew

Mike Rock is a hard working actor who co-stars in "Group Therapy" as the SFPD detective, Lieutenant Dylan and has also made appearances in Law & Order and The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie as well as numerous commercials (you can see one at the bottom of this page) and lots of theater. He's also a voice over artist and a writer. Like Tony Shalhoub he haiIs from the dairy state of Wisconsin. I prevailed upon him to tackle a few questions about his Monk experience and he really stepped up.

How did you get the part on Monk?

Well, one of the casting associates (Corbin) had seen me do a short scene in an actor's showcase night and he saw an opportunity to bring me in for a role. They had originally read me for a different part and liked what I did with it, but as happens sometimes, they decided I should do this role instead. I was very gratified to be considered for both.

Why do you think they chose you for the role?

I think the role called for a certain degree of gravity, seriousness, a detective who is somewhat self-assured and has a bit of authority (not so much to come off as challenging the Captain) just confident enough in his work to be a bit bothered by Mr. Monk's inquiry. I am told I possess a degree of all those things, so I guess it's close to me.

What was your concept of the character? How did you approach it?

My concept of the character came from the script: as I said, he had to have a bit of seriousness and pride in his work so that he's a tad bothered by Mr. Monk's desire to re-examine his case. He seemed to me a hard-working, no b.s. type of detective who doesn't like to second guess himself let alone have others second guess him. I approached it thinking: well, I take pride in my work and like to be thorough so it can be tough when someone who's ~not~ my boss /director challenges that, so how would this guy feel? And I'm an actor; not a homicide detective, so this guy (Lt. Dylan) has a lot more at stake than I do when he feels challenged.

What do you think you may have brought to the role that wasn't in the script?

That is a tough question because the Monk scripts are so well written; it sounds sort of cliche to say it but "it's all on the page" meaning, everything you need to understand your character is in the script already. However, any actor, just by playing a role, naturally brings something to it that can't be seen in the written form. (Smart-alecky comments about "typical actors" aside) we are 3-dimensional humans and when we play a role we can't help but bring part of ourself to it. Specifically though, and at the risk of sounding pompous, I feel like perhaps I was able to make Lt. Dylan slightly more nuanced than one might expect to see in an co-star role cop on episodic television. I hope in my very brief scene I was able to convey a character who took his job and the situation very seriously, was able to stand up for himself & his work but also realized he'd been proven wrong and finally I hoped to convey that, even though you'd never seen him before-- he was a co-worker, teammate, etc on the SFPD and had a relationship with the other characters.

How long did it take?

The Monk crew works like a well-oiled machine. my scene was done in a few short hours. I think I arrived around 10:00am and left around 2:00pm. That includes wardrobe, make-up, rehearsal and shooting from all the angles.

What's the atmosphere on the set like?

Monk was a very, very friendly set. I felt very welcome, supported and respected at every turn. Not that that is so terribly unusual, but there are people who take an extra moment to be friendly and that's not always the case – people on sets are very busy and in most cases, seconds count. You come to expect that exchanges with crew will be quick and to the point. so when people are extra nice, you notice. Plus since the show was ending, some people had a sort of wistfulness or nostalgia going on. It's hard to explain. But I was really happy to have been able to meet and work with everyone.

Who was the director of the episode and what was he like to work with?

Anton Cropper. He had been 1st Assistant Director on something like 41 episodes, so he was part of the family for a long, long time. He was so nice and so easy to work with it was great. I knew from the audition (for the other role) that he was a nice guy and good with actors. On set he was mellow and made me feel very much at home. Which of course is what you want – to be relaxed – so you can do your job and do it right.

Co-star roles are sometimes harder than larger roles in a sense because your scene is usually very, very brief. Sometimes you have only a word or two or even no dialogue at all and you've never been on that set before (co-star actors only very rarely return because the characters rarely return and it's nearly never that an actor who'd been a co-star would return to a show in a different role – almost never) so you don't have days of preparation and rehearsal and time to get to know everyone – you just jump in and do it. So naturally, you want to do well, do it right the first time, not waste anyone's time etc, etc., because you know the cast and crew have much more to work on so you don't want to hold up the show.... A co-star is a bit like a plumber or an electrician or something; you show up with a certain duty to perform, you don't spend a lot of time hanging out, you come prepared to do the job under whatever conditions are present and that's it.

What was the most memorable moment for you during the filming?

The most memorable moment during the filming - well, can I pick two? If you look a the scene, Ted Levine & Jason Gray-Stanford and I are kind of squished together; Anton & Ted worked it out so I would start closest to Tony, explaining my case and that when Monk noticed something, The Captain would kind of "pull-rank" & push past me to get closer.

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They could have just had me step out of the shot at that point, but Ted & Jason wanted to make sure my character stayed involved in the scene – it was a nice gesture. The other was a moment in one of the takes where I somehow slowed down a couple words in my longer sentence and I felt it happen and thought "hm, hope no one else caught that" but of course 5 seconds later Anton came up and whispered something like: "that was great, let's just pick up the pace a bit...."

Did you watch the show before you got the role?

I had, yes. I am a Monk fan. Sorry to see it go.

You and Tony Shalhoub are both from Wisconsin. Did you have a chance to discuss that with him or find out if you have anything else in common?

Absolutely. We know some people in common and of course have spent time in a lot of the same places. We dairy state folks like to stick together. It was fun talking about that stuff.

How did you get into acting?

I am one of seven children, and one of the younger ones, so I was always performing - from the beginning. To paraphrase David Letterman, I think comedians & actors go into their line of work because they either got too much attention as a kid; or not enough. I always knew I wanted to be one of the people I saw on movies & on tv, so when a neighbor & friend of my folks was directing a play and asked my mom (and me) if I'd like to do it, I was pretty psyched. I think I was around 8 or 9 years old. From there, I just kept finding plays and things to feed the habit. I took any & every opportunity to make presentations in school (or just be a class clown.) I think it was really a clumsy attempt to impress girls. (Note: I should've learned to play guitar and been in a rock band.)

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What do you enjoy most about acting?

Well, I have always felt this instinctual need or desire to entertain people, bring people together, to put people at ease, in a way. As I said, it started in my large family. Making my parents and siblings, etc, laugh was (and still is) my biggest thrill. That developed, as I grew up, to include not just making people laugh but moving people, affecting people, educating, motivating or simply distracting people from their day-to-day worries, etc.. So, I guess what I enjoy most is the combination of the chance to effect people in a positive way and the feeling of putting to good use the creative tools I've been given. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I do believe that artists in general and actors (in my case) specifically, channel something from the universe and are driven to express it. The writer James Lee Burke said: "Whatever degree of creative talent I possess was not earned, but was given to me by a power outside myself, for a specific purpose, one that has little to do with my own life." That's a powerful, if extreme, viewpoint about being artistically inclined.

What has been your best acting experience so far?

Hm. I'm always looking forward to whatever is coming next so I feel like I couldn't really pick a "best." For years I did improvisation & then sketch comedy with a group of my best friends. We had many moments over the years one could describe as "magical," "transcendent" and "amazing." We shared a lot of career "firsts" with one-another as writer/actors too. Personally, I have been lucky enough to hear about some moments when someone was particularly moved by a performance and when that happens, it is incredibly humbling and gratifying. I guess whenever the whole experience "clicks" on a project & in a scene; it feels completely natural, time disappears and there's this flow of creativity and connectedness; with the material, the actors, the director, the audience. Anytime you achieve something close to that, it's a great experience.

Professionally speaking, what's the one thing you'd most like to do that you haven't done yet?

Play a bad guy. Or a secretly bad guy. Or a good guy who you think is a bad guy but who, in the end, turns out to have been a good guy all-along but was just misunderstood. That and get a recurring role on a tv show.

What's next on your agenda?

I'm busy auditioning, doing commercials & voice-overs and with the help of friends, currently editing the pilot episode of a potential web series I co-wrote & acted in.

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