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Shalhoub: 'Feed The Fish' Filming a Family Affair

24 Jan, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Feed the Fish

For Green Bay, Wis., native Tony Shalhoub, being on the Door County set of the indie comedy Feed the Fish felt a lot like home — in more ways than one. The Strand Releasing film streets Jan. 25 at $24.99 on DVD.

Shalhoub’s nephew, Michael Matzdorff, is the film’s director, writer, editor and producer. Previously, Matzdorff edited the 2002 Shalhoub-directed mockumentary Made-Up, and has edited on “Monk,” the TV show synonymous with Shalhoub.

So when Matzdorff envisioned his uncle for the part of the overbearing Sheriff Andersen character — whom Shalhoub based on an amalgam of law-enforcement officers that he encountered throughout the years — the actor-executive producer was eager to start production.

“I was involved very early on,” Shalhoub said. “I just liked the project — I liked the humor in it, and I like the fact that it’s about someone getting a fresh start, getting rejuvenated when they feel their life is in the toilet.”

Feed the Fish is about a burned-out children’s book author Joe (Ross Partridge), who finds love when he leaves Los Angeles to remedy his writer’s block with a sojourn to Wisconsin. Sif (Katie Aselton), a very-available waitress, steals his heart. In the process, Joe encounters her protective father, the sheriff, whose trust he eventually earns.

Also on set were Shalhoub’s brother, Michael, who plays Dr. Koosa, and sister, Susan, as Nurse Joseph, who both have appeared on “Monk.”

“I guess you could say we’re kind of an acting family” Shalhoub said. “I love collaborating with friends and family.”

While Shalhoub spent his youthful summers in Wisconsin’s Door County and returns to the state yearly for family visits, working on Feed the Fish was the first time he filmed in a locale so familiar to him. However, getting reacquainted with the 20-degree and colder weather took some adjusting.

“I was [in Wisconsin] for a good three weeks — or I should say, a bad three weeks,” Shalhoub said with a laugh. “I think it’s why I live in Southern California now. I feel like I paid my winter dues.”

That being said, Shalhoub passed on taking the Polar Bear Plunge into the icy waters of Lake Michigan for the film’s final scene. His co-stars weren’t as lucky.

“I thought about it for four seconds. [Then I thought,] I really don’t see a point to this — for me or my character,” Shalhoub said. “So, mercifully, I escaped.”

One highlight of the film is a shooting lesson between the sheriff and Joe, in which the out-of-towner accidentally decimates the family shed. The explosion was filmed in advance, so the two actors were looking out at an empty field when the scene was shot. Nevertheless, Shalhoub breaks into robust laughter for the part.

“Laughing is harder than crying, as an actor, for sure — especially when you have to laugh uncontrollably,” he said, explaining the motivation behind that hearty guffaw. “Part of it was the fact that it was so cold and absurd. Part of it was this sweet nostalgia. Our family owns that [16-acre farm]. … This was our (his and Matzdorff’s) baby, so there were a lot of reasons to enjoy that moment.”

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