09/02/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT
As a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) on the new USA Network series Monk, Tony Shalhoub has had to pick up his share of strange habits—not all of which he can leave behind on the set. "At home I have to restack the dishwasher," says Shalhoub, 48, who lives in L.A. with his actress wife, Brooke Adams, 53, and their daughters Josie, 13, and Sophie, 8. "No one knows the proper way—it's a matter of getting the maximum amount of things in. It's a science."
He's not as scientific when it comes to choosing his roles. "I never really became an actor to play myself," says Shalhoub, who gained attention as the naive cabbie Antonio Scarpacci on the 1990s sitcom Wings. He also has a sure gig as an alien in the Men in Black films. "They can't kill my character off," he says. "They blast my head off, and it grows back."
Shalhoub is hoping that Monk, which he coproduces, will be similarly resilient, and that real OCD sufferers will embrace his portrayal. "We certainly haven't had any letter-writing campaigns so far," he says. "Imagine the campaign—it would be endless, wouldn't it?"