For eight seasons, fans of the award-winning dramedy Monk watched Jason Gray-Stanford bring heart and humor to San Francisco’s homicide unit in the popular mystery series. Gray-Stanford played Randy Disher, the show’s lovable Lietuenant whose boyish naïveté and far-fetched theories provided comic relief during Monk‘s most gruesome cases.
I recently caught up with Jason and had a chance to ask him some questions about his time on the acclaimed show as well as his continued success. And fans will be happy to learn that he’s been up to plenty more since Monk.
Follow him on social media and you’ll quickly see that Jason Gray-Stanford is a humble, down-to-earth guy who enjoys the simple things in life. He’s an animal advocate, dog dad, and hard worker. And at a time when some hope has been lost in a lot of Hollywood’s leading men, interviewing this all-around nice guy was like a breath of fresh air.
Though he’s been in L.A. for years, Jason Gray-Stanford is originally from Vancouver, and proudly describes himself as “Canadian through and through.” The charming Canuck’s British Columbia upbringing is evident in his love for hockey and use of phrases like “muck it up.” (That’s one you don’t hear often enough, don’t you think?)
A trained thespian, Gray-Stanford earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre from the University of British Columbia. He began acting in his teens and has considerable background as a voiceover artist, including playing Donatello in Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation and Raditz in the incredibly popular Dragonball Z series.
After early appearances in films such as Mystery, Alaska and A Beautiful Mind, Jason’s starring role on Monk came in 2002. His character started the pilot, incidentally, named Randy Deacon, but was later changed to Disher. Jason captured audiences by making Randy a likable and silly guy you’d laugh with over a beer, while at the same time a competent detective in his own right.
“The Randy Disher Project” was a fan favorite of Monk — especially when Randy “didn’t need a badge” — and left many to wonder if Gray-Stanford actually plays guitar in real life. “Yup I play probably as bad as Randy does,” he joked with me modestly. “The great writers wrote the words, I did the tune.”
Since Monk wrapped, he has had several TV roles on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, and recently garnered attention with a chilling role in the revival of the cult favorite The X-Files.
As television has been bringing back so many shows like The X-Files, I wondered if actors like Jason share the viewers’ enthusiasm for reboots and revivals.
“I’m all for reboots, I think it’s a great idea,” he told me. “It seems everything old is new again…especially on TV.” Gray-Stanford seems to get that same fuzzy feeling we all have when we flip on the TV and see folks we grew up with. “It’s good timing with all that’s going on in the world,” he added insightfully. “It’s comfortable, familiar territory of a less complicated time. Like a warm blanket.”
But according to Jason, don’t mess with success — or nostalgia. “I do prefer the reboots where they use the original casts and premise…not just the name of a show and then change many other aspects of the original. It feels a little lazy when they revive a show just in ‘title’ and hope that folks relate it to the original.”
Sticking as much as possible to the original is the key. “That’s when it becomes a little tricky, if you have different people playing different roles that were played by other actors in the original,” Jason explained. “It’s not quite a revival or a reboot is it. It’s really just a different show with a familiar title…at least that’s my philosophy on it.”
And he doesn’t seem to worry that there is more pressure to live up to a show’s first round success. “I don’t think so,” he answered. “As long as they were good to begin with. They should hold up.”
After his experience on The X-Files revival, I wondered how easily fans take to rebooted shows.
“Well the fans already have a base with the revivals and reboots,” Gray-Stanford told me. “So it’s easy to slip back into them. Fans are familiar with the actors and the characters they play and with the stories.”
The attraction of reboots is clearly not just among fans, but with actors as well, since the loyalty of viewers brings promise. “With new shows you have to win them over in all aspects,” Gray-Stanford explained. “The old shows…you already had your audience and now it’s just about continuing the stories.”
The return of so many favorite TV series like The X-Files has made Monk fans itching for more of Randy Disher and the gang. So would Jason and company be willing to do a Monk revival?
“I think the cast would love to do one,” he answered. “That is probably a better question for USA network where we spent eight great years.” (Cue the petition, Monk fanatics.) “But I do hear that lots of people out there would love a few more MONKS,” he added. With the dedicated fan base the show still has, a few more Monks would undoubtedly be a huge hit.
So what would the Monk revival look like, I wondered, and does Jason Gray-Stanford have any storylines in mind?
(Laughing) “I stay away from all the stories and let the wonderful writers and Andy Breckman our creator take care of all of that,” he answered. “They did such a great job that I wouldn’t dare muck it up for them.” The idea seems to spark Jason’s imagination too. “But yeah, I bet there are still a lot of great storylines out there for MONK and the gang.”
The beloved cast of Gray-Stanford, Tony Shalhoub, Ted Levine, and Traylor Howard has a connection as genuine as it appeared on TV and still stay in touch, Jason shared, “as best we can. Everybody has their own life and everybody’s busy but we have a great bond,” he continued. “And we all loved being together on MONK.”
Jason’s most recent project is the feature film The Miracle Season which hits theatres this Friday, April 6. The movie, which also stars Helen Hunt and William Hurt, is based on the true story of a high school volleyball star from Iowa who died in a moped accident, shattering her teammates until they band together to work toward winning the state championship.
In the highly anticipated film, Gray-Stanford plays Scott Sanders, the team’s assistant coach who provides “much of the levity in the film, as it is quite the heartfelt drama,” he explained to me. “I’m proud to have been part of this wonderful true story.”
The versatility of this accomplished actor makes Jason Gray-Stanford a name to watch. His involvement in acclaimed TV series and successful feature films spans a range of talent from an actor truly dedicated to his craft.
And while acting is clearly “his thing,” I always wonder what people would be doing if not in their current career. If we never had Randy Disher, what would Jason be today?
“Astronaut… chef… pro athlete… spy… No real back up plan,” he joked. “Seriously, I’d work more with animals,” he added, not surprisingly.
Lucky for us, his continued success allows him to keep sharing his talent with the world.
Good to see that being one of the nice guys pays off.