Ted Levine thought playing the voice of reason to Monk was just as complex as portraying Buffalo Bill

He wanted the friendship between Monk and the captain to grow organically.

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The central premise of Monk develops from the unique friendship between the retired detective Adrian Monk and his former commanding officer Captain Leland Stottlemeyer.

In early episodes of the show like "Mr. Monk and the Billionaire Mugger," audiences watched as Stottlemeyer encountered unusual cases – like a billionaire who puzzles everyone when he decides to throw it all away by mugging someone – and used these cases as an excuse to call in his old friend Monk as a consultant.

"Stottlemeyer is a tough man doing a tough job in a tough profession," actor Ted Levine, who played Stottlemeyer, told The Times in 2004. "His personal feelings are supposed to be kept to himself. He undoubtedly sympathized with Monk over the murder of his wife. And he didn’t want Monk to be taken off the force because of his psychological problems following her death. But there was very little he could do about it. But what he could do is get Monk hired as a consultant on the department’s most difficult cases. This way, Stottlemeyer gets the use of Monk’s remarkable brain."

Levine is an actor perhaps best known for portraying complex characters, most notably playing the killer Buffalo Bill in the iconic thriller The Silence of the Lambs.

He said playing Stottlemeyer was just as challenging a role as Buffalo Bill, though, because Monk’s writers were just that good.

"Good guys can be very complex characters," Levine said. "It depends on how they’re written. And Leland Stottlemeyer is very well-written. As with any of us, he reacts (to where and with whom) he is. He’s one person when he’s working, and another when he’s with his wife."

He continued, "As far as which characters are more challenging, I would say that I’ve enjoyed playing both bad guys and good guys. And I’ve found that each one presents its own challenge, and that’s what makes acting so rewarding."

Levine was glad to break free from the psychokiller mold after wrapping The Silence of the Lambs. When he first read the script, he wasn’t even interested in the Buffalo Bill part. He wanted to play the cannibal.

"It was obvious to me right from the get-go which role was the showstopper," Levine told The Canadian Press in 1997. "Yeah, it’s a drag. I would have preferred to have done Lector [sic]. It’s got a lot more going on."

In that interview, Levine also revealed how his nerves actually ended up giving him an edge during auditions that led him to be cast in roles like Buffalo Bill.

"The nervousness would translate into this kind of intensity, and I was born with this mug anyway," Levine explained.

After playing Buffalo Bill, Levine said all he got were endless offers to play psychokiller parts.

"It was ridiculous," he said.

Perhaps even more ridiculous, Levine said he never got stopped by fans on the street, but said that police "often stop him, convinced they’ve seen his mug shot somewhere."

Little did he know then that one of his next juicy characters would be a police officer who partners with the kind of detective who’s extremely good at contextualizing things. Monk would’ve picked up on Levine’s harmlessness.

"As Stottlemeyer has pointed out many times, Monk sees clues that no one else sees and makes connections that no one else can," Levine told The Times.

For Levine, becoming Stottlemeyer required intimately understanding the specific bond that the commanding officer shared with Monk.

He said what many viewers felt was a coldness toward Monk in the early episodes of the show was designed to reflect a much more organic evolution of their friendship, based on their long history working together.

Their affection for each other brews over time.

"Remember that distance Stottlemeyer maintained from Monk was also part of the job," Levine said. "He had once been Monk’s commanding officer. But as he got to know Monk more as a person – beyond his peculiarities, I might add – he could allow himself to show some affection for this strange, often exasperating, but brilliant guy."

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willy1969 2 months ago
Hate this show! It has no place on MeTV
JohnDoeherty 2 months ago
ATTENTION MeTV STAFFERS: Excuse me for this Monk-type observation of your otherwise interesting article. I draw your attention to Paragraph 8, first word, which currently reads: "Stottlemeyer was glad to break free from the psycho killer mold after wrapping The Silence of the Lambs." That is incorrect. "Stottlemeyer" had nothing to do with The Silence of the Lambs, since Stottlemeyer is a character on Monk. You guys got so "into" your characters that you have referred to Levine as Stottlemeyer in a real life reference outside of the show. Your sentence SHOULD READ: "LEVINE was glad to break free from the psycho killer mold after wrapping The Silence of the Lambs." In addition, The term "psycho killer" is TWO words, not one. Sincerely, A real life Monk-type person.
2 months ago
I don't feel that "Monk" is the right fit for ME TV, but Levine was unforgettable in "Silence of the Lambs." Scareee!
spsullivan58 2 months ago
No mention of the first roll I saw him in, "Crime Story" a TV Series (1986-1988) staring the late Dennis Farina. It followed "Miami Vice" on Friday nights and was also produced by Michael Mann. Ted Levine played Frank Holman, an extremely pivotal character throughout the series. His characters attempted to play both sides of the law, were frequently part of the plot twists and surprise cliffhanger endings. The "Crime Story" TV series was an excellent series, with a marvelous cast and great scripts. METV should look into acquiring the show to add to its already terrific line-up.
AlF 2 months ago
Levine is a great actor, and rose to the challenge of the writing.
streamteamer 2 months ago
I have to say I've really disliked Stottelmeyer for a long time. I couldn't get over hi character of Buffalo Bill. But someone once told me if a character did his job to bring out such intense feelings, they've done their job well. Every once and awhile Stottelmeyer will have the Buffalo Bill look in his glance...and for me, that feeling is still hard to put away. Love Monk...seeing it first time in reruns. Always loved Tony Shalhoub..right back to Wings..Antoino Scarpacci!!
LH streamteamer 2 months ago
I never saw Silence of the Lambs and so I wouldn’t have been able to recognize him at all. I’m glad I don’t have that picture of him in my mind the way you do!
fuzzball329 2 months ago
it rubs the lotion on it's skin
Pdls fuzzball329 2 months ago
"...or else it gets the hose again."

"Monk and Monk! What is Monk?" (paraphrasing a line from Star Trek.
lynngdance Pdls 2 months ago
Spock’s Brain? I believe that’s the episode you were paraphrasing? 😆
JohnGibbons 2 months ago
Never heard of Monk until now. Weird choice of programming. Get All in the Family back on. It’s relegated to Get TV
Which about 1% of the country receives.
AlF JohnGibbons 2 months ago
Monk is a great show, but starts out difficult to watch in the first few episodes. It took them a while to work out their "rhythm", but they ultimately did it. It's worth hanging in.
LH AlF 2 months ago
My feelings exactly. At the beginning few episodes of Monk are a little tough to get through but it really is worth hanging in. Relationships develop and bad ones mend. It’s a wonderful wonderful progression and I’m sorry that it had to end, but it couldn’t have ended any better.
Pacificsun JohnGibbons 2 months ago
What we don't need out there is any more negativity. All In The Family is best left to the history books.
JosephScarbrough 2 months ago
Yep. I much fear we are witnessing MeTV begin to succumb to the same fate that sunk both Nick@Nite and TV Land: all it takes is hyping up one show that's far more contemporary than their usual line up is dedicated to, the next thing you know, more and more recent and modern shows will be taking up the time slots to the point where true classic shows will either be relegated to "dead air" hours, if not dropped completely in favor of these more modern shows.
JosephScarbrough 2 months ago
Couldn't agree more!
It isn't "which" shows they choose and regardless of their decade of origin, it's the quality and production value of it. We like what we're calling classic TV choices exactly because of those elements. But other than the decade of original explain what is unlikeable about Monk the character, the plots and the supporting cast.

My hunch is viewers are uncomfortable with the idea that Monk represents some of our possible ideosyncrasies, and just takes it to the extreme.

Better tp see it as a statement about humanity and compassion, pretty rare on television exactly because we've move so far from the classic shows that we enjoy, and are the reason why we watch them.

Monk fits in exactly for those reasons. Give it a chance. Life isn't always a ball of fluff.
abbycloversquirt1 2 months ago
We have loved this show from the very beginning. So much humor, warmth and depth all at once. Monk & Stottlemeyer have tremendous depth. In season three Monk’s assistant changes from Sharona to Natalie which has a big impact on the show. The writing and acting is some of the very best I have ever seen. The OCD and other problems Monk has are not as far a leap as one might think. I believe many of us could have similar struggles if hit with a multitude of crises in our own lives. Stottlemeyer had a lot of relationship issues including with his son yet he loved deeply. So, for all the humor in this show and their great crime solving abilities, they also connected with the audience with their vulnerabilities and desire to love and be loved at the end of the day. Our favorite show ever. The more I watch it the more I see.
AlF abbycloversquirt1 2 months ago
The Sharona actress was good, but I thought the Natalie lady was awesome, and she has very few credits on IMDB. Can't help wondering about her backstory.

MeTV, can you help?
LH AlF 2 months ago
When I first started watching Monk, Natalie was his assistant and so I got used to her. Then I saw earlier ones with Sharona… I never watched the show when it first aired… Only re-runs. They were both great and I liked both of them equally.
But like I’ve said in several other posts as much as I love Monk, I STILL don’t believe it belongs on MeTV.
AgingDisgracefully 2 months ago
How about offering Ted Levine in Crime Story?
It's original broadcast time seems a little more MeTV.
And it's a lot more entertaining.
Pacificsun 2 months ago
Well written. It was kind of a complicated story, which the article warrants, but I think Levine made his point. Wish we would see more of his caliber of acting.

I think if viewers would give Monk a chance, they would warm up to it. It does take patience, and a viewer really does have to look for the relationships within it. Also note that his female assistant does change (I guess) from year to year. Those changes also create a different dynamic. Some make that relationship work better between them and Monk, than others. But that is a very important element in the show.

If that character wasn't written just right (and delivered well by Shaloub, he'd be just another crazy neurotic on TV!
gracie200 Pacificsun 2 months ago
I loved Monk. I watched the relationship between Monk and Stottlemeyer change and develop. It matured into something very special and significant. Throughout the show you got to know Monk and all his habits & idiosyncrasies; and that made it that much more amazing when he did something out of character.....you could see just a small piece of his heart. .......and he only had two assistants - both with different attitudes, qualities, and ways of doing things and dealing with Monk. It is a show worth watching and paying attention to.....not to mention very funny.
Pacificsun gracie200 2 months ago
I didn't know there were only 2 assistants, but one of the lessons to be learned was the level of their patience, understanding and support. Not only because the character was/is a brilliant mind, but because of the humanity they saw in him. It's something worth taking note of in this day as well.
texasluva 2 months ago
He was awkward, scary, morbid, lunatical , insane and a lepidopterologist. He was great as Buffalo Bill the villain in Silences of the lambs .
Michael 2 months ago
Don't forget, Ted Levine played an unlikeable character this winter on "Big Sky".
Rob Michael 2 months ago
He was also in one of my favorite movies, Heat.
DethBiz Rob 2 months ago
And the 80s tv series Crime Story with Dennis Farina and Anthony Denison. Now, that would be nice to see on MeTV.
tmac1951 2 months ago
Just what we need, another Monk story!! Don’t they read the comments, 100 to 1 against Monk. This show does not belong on METV, period, nothing left to say.
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LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 2 months ago
Good points. Monk is here and probably will be for a while anyways. So it is what it is. It would be nice if they did something creative with BB and GI but those too are probably viewer favorites. SBTB will most likely remain so they meet their requirements for E/I programming. There has to be another program that fits that category?
Pacificsun Pilaf 2 months ago
Absolutely not. I'm not a rabid Monk fan, but am for a show they no longer show. I can't stand the Three Stooges, and on it goes as stated in my comment. The value of MeTV is in the variety they offer. Rare (IMO) how the other classic channels handle their programming. I just noticed in the very early morning hours they're still showing Peter Gunn and Highway Patrol from the late Fifties and early Sixties. That's pretty special. Back it up a few hours on very early Monday AM's can a viewer can see a block of The Fugitive AND Mission Impossible! There are many specialty blocks that MeTV offers throughout 24 hours, and specialty on the weekends. I think they put a LOT of thought in what and how they offer classic TV. They also have high value production values (guest stars, good writing, etc.). MeTV doesn't need to defend itself, we'll do it for them.

Signed Appreciative!
JohnRichardson Pilaf 2 months ago
I love Monk and I am certainly not a MeTV programmer!
Mike 2 months ago
Ted Levine was the unsung hero of Monk.
The easy way would have been to make Stottlemeyer into "Gale Gordon with a badge".
Levine underplayed the Captain - and won the audience's empathy, thereby ensuring a long run for the character and the show.

My favorite Stottlemeyer line, from "The Three Pies":
"Everybody keep your hands away from the pies ... and please don't make me say that again."
Pacificsun Mike 2 months ago
Absolutely.

I don't understand why the show can be so alienating to some viewers. Why not just skip it.
LoveMETV22 2 months ago
Not a fan of Monk. The Silence of the Lambs is a great Psychological horror film. I love the interaction Levine had with Jodie Foster. Probably one of the best stories MeTv has posted thus far regarding Monk.
WordsmithWorks 2 months ago
I'm sorry, but I can't see Ted Levine without hearing "it put the lotion on it's skin."
WordsmithWorks 2 months ago
Aren't they overdoing it on the "Monk" promos?
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Trouter3161 Moody 2 months ago
Maybe it's time to boycott the advertisers.
AlF Moody 2 months ago
It's "MeTV". "Memorable entertainment TV".

Who said it has to be "classic", and what defines that, anyway?
CarolKelley AlF 2 months ago
Bingo, AIF!
TijuanaSlim AlF 2 months ago
- that said, from a genre perspective IF you are bringing in a ringer like Monk, why isn't he anchoring a Block alongside Mannix/Cannon/Barnaby Jones/Burke's Law, (Gimmick Detectives) rather than simply pairing it with Columbo and stealing his timeslot...
teire 2 months ago
Monk is full of distinctive characters, I really like Stottlemeyer. Plus Ted Levine has a great voice.
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