Shortly after graduating from Yale, Shalhoub moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he spent four seasons with the American Repertory Theater before heading to New York City, where he found work waiting tables. He made his Broadway debut in the 1985 Rita Moreno/Sally Struthers production of The Odd Couple and was nominated for a 1992 Tony Award for his featured role in Conversations with My Father. Shalhoub met his wife, actress Brooke Adams, when they co-starred on Broadway in The Heidi Chronicles. In 1998 Shalhoub starred in The Classic Stage Company’s production of Waiting For Godot alongside John Turturro and Christopher Lloyd. Shalhoub returned in December 2006 to the Off-Broadway Second Stage Theatre, opposite Patricia Heaton for a run of The Scene by Theresa Rebeck. In 2010, he went to Broadway to act as Saunders in a revival version of Lend Me a Tenor in New York at the Music Box Theatre. He was nominated for a 2013 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Golden Boy at the Belasco Theatre. He was nominated for a 2014 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Act One at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Shalhoub and his wife appeared in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days in June and July, 2015 in New York City. He starred in the musical stage adaptation of the film The Band’s Visit, in the Off-Broadway Atlantic Theatre Company production. The musical, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Itamar Moses, ran from November 11, 2016 through December 23, 2016. He reprised his role when the show moved to Broadway where it opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on November 9, 2017. For his performance, he won the 2018 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He also appeared as Walter Franz in the 2017 Broadway revival of The Price.
One of Shalhoub’s first television roles was in 1991 as the cab driver Antonio Scarpacci in the sitcom Wings. Shalhoub was pleasantly surprised to land the role after having a guest appearance in the second season. Shalhoub affected an Italian accent for the role. In the same time period, Shalhoub played the lead role of physicist Dr. Chester Ray Banton in The X-Files second-season episode “Soft Light,” the first episode written by Vince Gilligan. Banton’s shadow becomes lethal after Banton gets stuck in a particle accelerator, causing him to accidentally destroy anyone close to him, after which the government imprisons and tortures him in an effort to weaponize his superpower. Shalhoub’s film roles following his Wings breakout included an excitable producer consulted by John Turturro’s character in Barton Fink and a fast-talking lawyer in The Man Who Wasn’t There (both directed by the Coen brothers), a linguistically unidentified cabby in Quick Change, a Cuban-American businessman in Primary Colors, sleazy alien pawn shop owner Jack Jeebs in the Men in Black films, a sympathetic attorney working for John Travolta’s lawyer in A Civil Action, a widowed father in Thirteen Ghosts, a cameo role in the film Gattaca, and a has-been television star in Galaxy Quest. He had a co-starring role in the film Big Night, where he played an Italian-speaking chef complete with accent. In 1995 he had a role in the hit NBC sitcom Frasier in the episode “The Focus Group” as an Arab newsstand owner named Manu Habbib. He did voice acting for the 1997 computer game Fallout. Shalhoub demonstrated his dramatic range in the 1998 big-budget thriller The Siege, where he co-starred alongside Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, and Bruce Willis. His character, FBI Special Agent Frank Haddad, also a Lebanese American, suffered discrimination after terrorist attacks in New York City. He returned to series television in 1999, this time in a lead role on Stark Raving Mad, opposite Neil Patrick Harris. The show failed to attract an audience and NBC cancelled the series in 2000.
After a three-year absence from the small screen, Shalhoub starred in another TV series, Monk. Airing on the USA Network, the series featured Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Shalhoub was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in eight consecutive years from 2003 to 2010, winning in 2003, 2005, and 2006. He also took the Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, in 2003. In May 2020, NBC’s Peacock streaming service posted a series of videos on YouTube during the COVID-19 pandemic, entitled the “At-Home Variety Show”. Among them was a Monk short entitled “Mr. Monk Shelters in Place”, featuring Shalhoub and his co-stars Traylor Howard, Ted Levine, and Jason Gray-Stanford, showing how their characters were coping with the pandemic.
In addition to his acting work, Shalhoub, along with the Network of Arab-American Professionals and Zoom-in-Focus Productions, established The Arab-American Filmmaker Award Competition in 2005. Arab-American filmmakers submitted screenplays, and the chosen winner was flown to Hollywood to have their screenplay produced. He appeared with Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin in the 2004 Hollywood satire The Last Shot as a gruff small-time mobster with a love for movies. In 2006, he appeared in Danny Leiner’s drama The Great New Wonderful as a psychologist in post-9/11 New York City. In 2007, he appeared in the horror film 1408 and on-stage off-Broadway as Charlie in The Scene.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Shalhoub stars as Jewish-American math professor Abe Weissman, father of protagonist Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), in the Emmy-winning, Amazon-produced TV comedy series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
He received a 2008 Grammy nomination in the category “Best Spoken Word Album for Children” for his narration of The Cricket in Times Square. He provided the voice of Luigi, a 1959 Fiat 500 who runs a tire shop, in the 2006 Disney/Pixar film Cars and its 2011 and 2017 sequels, Cars 2 and Cars 3, respectively. Shalhoub voiced Splinter in the 2014 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and reprised the role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.