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.

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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!"

Columbia Pictures

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!"

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nylasor 6 months ago
My favorite episodes were when Monk wasn't himself. The ones that come to mind are when he got bashed on his head and had amnesia; when he took some drug that completely changed his personality; when he was hypnotized and was childlike; and when he accidentally drank alcoholic wine when he thought it was non-alcoholic wine. I'm sure there were others, but I can't think of them at the moment. The contrast between who he was compared to his altered states was hilarious.
FloridaTopCat 12 months ago
"Sharona's" Last episode as a regular character (she made a guest appearance about 4 years later) was Season 3 Episode 9. All Three of the Monk cast, Ted Levine, Jason Gray-Sanford and Bitty Schram, were written out of the previous episode, "Mr Monk and the Game Show", which has Monk go to Los Angeles to figure out what is going on with his late wife's father's TV quiz show - namely, someone is stealing the answers. The talk at the time was that all three of the mentioned cast wanted more salary - since the Monk Show was doing so well, now into it's third season. They were written out of the quiz show episode, which instead featured Jarrad Paul (Monk's neighbor) and other guest actors instead. Per IMDB, Schram was fired after the following episode (S3E9), replaced by Traylor Howard as Natalie.
ComedyPalPisces 29 months ago
I LOVE Monk! Love love love. This show was great during its time on air and now. I play it in the background and the jokes and comfort are all there. I think on the Bitty leaving portion, that it was unfair how the network made her out to be. As a money grabbing woman who demanded more when she won awards. The men get raises and the main character women doesn't? So much so they had her leave mid season? Nope it doesn't sound right.
I personally liked both Natalie and Sharon's characters as they highlighted different aspects of the Monk character. It would have been better if she completed the 3rd Season and had an actual character leaving story versus some added lines thrown in afters she disappears.
I'm all for a reunion or a TV movie. Heck they've been bringing back a bunch of series and the Monk character is a great one
Jaxter14 32 months ago
Ingenious how he could solve the most complex crimes. Loved how the show kept his deceased wife Trudy “alive”.
gene 33 months ago
i tried to watch this program, i really did, but that is the dumbest damn show on tv, put columbo back at 8pm(pst)so i can watch, better yet tut love boat and mash back on, remove that dumb show, PLEASE
Mukusthebadd1 33 months ago
I have the Monk Series.
In one of the DVD's, the producer said Bitty was replaced to take the show in a new direction.
CarolKelley Mukusthebadd1 32 months ago
The producer was lying through his teeth. Ted Levine, Jason Gray Stanford, and Bitty all asked for pay raises one season and they could not afford to raise the pay of all three actors so they dropped Bitty. I loved the Bitty episodes although I grew to love Natalie as well. Sharona seemed more active in actually solving the cases. For instance the episode where Monk goes undercover in prison, Sharona's knowledge and experience was instrumental in the solution of the case.
Lacey CarolKelley 31 months ago
I am glad that you were here to fill in the answer to the question we casual watchers wanted to know, why did she leave. Pity METV did not feel the need to be so forthcoming.
paulat0805 33 months ago
MeTV is determined to stuff Monk down their viewers throats. I don’t consider any show made 15 years ago classic TV. The cable stations are over-saturated with endless reruns of Monk and MeTv could put that 2 hour timeslot on Sunday nights to far better use!!!
33 months ago
ME TV keeps pushing and pushing, but adding "Monk" to the primetime lineup was a huge mistake. Can't stand this show or the actor. I can only guess that ME TV got this non-hit show for dirt cheap.
gene Pilaf 33 months ago
my feelings exactly, that is the dumbest show on metv, bring back love boat and mash
Jaxter14 gene 32 months ago
When it comes to Mash only the early seasons with Henry Blake, Frank Burns & Trapper John were funny and are worth watching, when they replaced them 3 and got different writers the show went down the tubes.
goplad 33 months ago
I met Bitty once. I had always loved her as Sharona. Unfortunately I found her to be aloof and not terribly interested in talking with me about Monk. I was disappointed.
John111911Smith 33 months ago
Personally, I liked Traylor Howard (Natalie) better.
Michael John111911Smith 33 months ago
They face off towards the end of the last season. It should be on next week where I'm watching it. A chance to compare, I specially since the blurb indicates a level of competition between them.

This source interview was in 2004, the same year Bitty left/was fired. So it's not at a distance, after "Natalie" had a chance.
Michael Michael 33 months ago
So this episode was on last night where I watch it. Quite the contrast between assistants, some competition before they make up. Natalie does seem quieter in the episode, yet she's fine by herself.
LH John111911Smith 33 months ago
I liked them both. But Traylor Howard was great, because I liked her equally… to like a newbie as much as the original says something good about the newbie!!
Jaxter14 LH 32 months ago
Natalie always called him Mr. Monk while for Sharona it was Monk or Adrian.
jomo Jaxter14 30 months ago
It seemed that Monk was always late with Bitty's paychecks, and making her drive him around town in her car etc. He was lucky she didn't call him a few choice names besides Adrian or Monk.
Michael 33 months ago
Everytime an article talks about fans, it seems to leave me out. I remember people not liking the change, but it's change. People react to that. It may not be "this is better than that", but "I have to adjust to this change".

If this character was so loved, why did she last only 2.5 seasons, while Traylor Howard lasted so much longer?

Research isn't about digging up a decades old article and rewriting it, it's about reading a bunch of articles, taking a bit from each, and consolidating it. I either like someone or not, telling me I shouod doesn't change me. But once you go on about "Sharona", it deserves an attempt at explaining why she was dumped, or left.

I can't even picture "Sharona", it's been too long. Yes, I am watching Monk every day right now, but not on MeTV. Traylor Howard does a fine job. Natalie gets some funny scenes. And while she's constantly feeling Hundervalued, she's always saying things that aren't her job. "Ask the Captain to this football game". "Of course you have family, you have me, and Julie" .
Maverick66 33 months ago
MeTV needs to consider the implications of its copy a bit more carefully, especially something like "Hardcore fans couldn't get enough of Sharona." If that's true, it may be because the Sharona character often dressed like a - how can I put it most gently? - street walker, with various key body parts generously on display.
Maverick66 Maverick66 33 months ago
I preferred his second assistant, Natalie (Traylor Howard).
Pacificsun Maverick66 33 months ago
This is such an interesting comment because it’s so unique! (I think!) Unless it comes from the Well of Existing Monk Haters!

First of all, MeTV Staff writers wouldn’t be thinking that way. And I really wonder how many readers have, at least so far. But if so, so be it.

Second, she wasn’t randomly dressed by the Production company. Supporting actors often make suggestions leading to the development of their character but somebody approved those decisions.

Frankly I never noticed that she was dressed to an extreme. But I have enjoyed her acting style, character’s personality, and the chemistry she shares with Monk/Tony. I think that's the point of the article. Having that element of chemistry is not always very easy thing to do.

Third, the MOST important detail that the writers did leave out, is why was she replaced? From how the article itself is written, THAT mystery just seems like a huge gap in what the article is trying to point out in the first place. (How good they were together).

The usual reasons are financial, availability and concept.

The last one means that the producers could’ve felt she was beginning to take attention away from Monk, rather than enhancing his character in they way writers intended it to be. (I DO remember that "Circus" story.
The point being that how Monk handled the situation could've initiated a little alienation towards him. You'd be surprised at the reactions of Focus Groups!).

The actress who replaced her is much more understated, less flashy, (refined if you will) and “perhaps” more professional in tone. If she's part of the Police Force (I don't know that) then it's more believable.

But, in terms of research or interview, the Production Company as well as this article needs to own up to that detail.

Just as MASH has been raked over coals for every possible detail in it’s history!!!
CarolKelley Pacificsun 32 months ago
Read my reply above. It had NOTHING to do with taking the character in a new direction. it had everything the show's budget.
Pacificsun CarolKelley 32 months ago

And read my reply here.
Even though there's a nameless comment towards the top of the stack, I didn't make it. In fact I had been supporting Monk. Until it's turned into such a divisive issue. I can NOT understand why The Three Stooges continue and people can't watch Columbo 1 hour earlier (not later, but earlier).

What people miss in Monk (by calling it dumb) is that people with "distractions" (afflictions, what you will) get missed for who they are, while people just focus on the annoyance. Tony Shalhoub plays the role with nuance and sympathy. You don't get the feeling he's doing it for attention! He's a theater trained actor and should be better respected than by those making negative comments in this thread.
MikefromJersey Pacificsun 32 months ago
Hi Pacificsun,
Excellent post!
Bitty and the actors who portrayed Disher and Stottlemyer(I forgot their names) asked for
a pay increase as Monk was doing well and legendary cheapskates USA network fired Bitty
as an example. The other two folded instead of providing a united front with her, which they should have done as the series couldn't survive losing all three.
As for Bitty dressing like a hooker, PLEASE! How quaint.
As you noted, the studio determines wardrobe, in this case for a working class Jersey Girl, with the cliche hair and attitude. Hollywood confuses/conflates the classic Brooklyn "goil" and Jersey Girl anyway. In any event, in one episode it was revealed she had been a go-go dancer at 1 point,
to make her even more of a unlikely comedic pairing with Monk.
Jaxter14 MikefromJersey 30 months ago
It was great to see Sharona come back at the end of the series for a great episode featuring Sharona & Natalie together.
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