Monk stars discuss the untouchable chemistry between Monk and Sharona
Monk's original assistant was a Jersey girl who drove him crazy. Hardcore fans couldn't get enough of Sharona.
In 1992, Tom Hanks screamed one of his most iconic movie lines of all time into this actor’s face, and most movie fans don't know her name.
But Monk fans certainly do.
In A League of Their Own, a movie about the first women's national baseball league, Bitty Schram played Evelyn Gardner, a baseball player coached to tears by Hank's character who retorts by screaming, "There's no crying in baseball!"
On Monk, she played the detective's original assistant, Sharona, a loud-mouthed Jersey girl who Schram described to Entertainment Weekly in 2004 as "like his mother. He drives her crazy, but she loves him."
Schram is the sort of actor who doesn't take just any part just to stay on screen. She prefers adventures in the real world, describing herself as an avid traveler who has been to Spain, Belgium, Moscow, Venezuela, you name it.
"I like to find adventure," Schram said, explaining why she rarely does roles. She says she waits around for the right projects, but in the meantime, she isn’t just sitting on her couch. She’s plotting the next trip. "I'd like to see the whole world."
Lucky for Monk fans, the pilot caught Schram's eye. She originally expected it to be a TV movie, but the chemistry between her and Monk allowed for much more potential that fans know the series absolutely paid off.
In an interview transcribed by Inside Pulse, Monk star Tony Shalhoub and Schram couldn't decide on their favorite Monk/Sharona moments because there are simply too many.
Although both praised the pilot, Shalhoub called out a second season episode called "Mr. Monk Goes to the Circus" as his favorite memory of working with Bitty.
"Sharona in that episode revealed that she had a fear of elephants," Shalhoub said. "That was just a really great runner [running joke] where Monk, after she's taken care of him and been sensitive to his problems and condition, he has no… he is so out of touch. Monk is so out of touch. He just gives her no sympathy at all when he finds out that she's got this fear of elephants because it's as if, why could you be afraid of anything so ridiculous. I think there was a lot of good back and forth in that episode in those moments."
"We've had a lot of good moments," Schram agreed.
Schram seemed so perfectly suited for the part of Sharona, many fans might wonder how alike she is to the Monk assistant. Schram said there’s definitely a lot of Sharona that comes straight from her, but they are far from the same person.
"I guess the similarities are, well, she's kind of feisty, you know," Schram said, admitting, "I guess I can get that way."
She saw Sharona as someone who rose to the challenge of being Monk's assistant despite not being made of tough stuff.
"I think she could have kind of a tough exterior, but she’s kind of mush inside," she said. "I think that's more me. I do. I do. I just think her strength or whatever just comes from a survival mechanism. It's not really like what she is, if she didn’t have to be."
As for how she differs from Sharona, well, Bitty didn’t hold back a little criticism for the Jersey girl:
"The differences?" Schram said. "I think I have more culture than her. I’m a lot smarter than she is."
Schram appeared on Monk from 2002 to 2004, but then Sharona abruptly leaves the show and Monk brings in a new assistant. For Schram’s hardcore fans – of which she gained many in her appearances as Sharona – this was a hard casting change to swallow.
"I was charmed by his mouthy Jersey girl assistant Sharona (Bitty Schram) and had a visceral feeling of betrayal… when they suddenly wrote her off the show and replaced her," raged one GQ writer who was professing love for watching reruns of Monk.
Shalhoub must've felt a huge sense of loss, too.
Out of all the guest stars and costars he had on Monk, Shalhoub said Schram remained his favorite. When asked who else he enjoyed working with, Shalhoub simply gasped, "Oh god, aside from Bitty? I can't think of anybody else who even comes close."
Schram saw Shalhoub in exactly the same light.
"I love the character and I love the chemistry and I absolutely love working with Tony," Schram said. "He knows how much I respect his work."
In Schram's career, she's worked on characters for Oscar-nominated and hit movies since the 1990s, but Monk was her longest consistent tenure on TV. She was even nominated for a Golden Globe for her work as Sharona.
It became the first time in her career that the actor who normally flies under the radar (while she's flying off to explore the world) became a household name.
And if you’re wondering about the name "Bitty," she said it's an affectionate nickname for Elizabeth that the actor chose to continue using as her stage name for a very simple reason.
"Bitty was a nickname," Schram told EW. "When I became an actress I kept it. It's the only thing that went with Schram!"