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Lebanese-American actor Tony Shalhoub has seen it all—from the blinding lights of Broadway, behind the scenes as a successful producer, in front of the camera as various characters, and on stage as an Emmy-award winner. Most well-known for his portrayal of the obsessive-compulsive detective Monk on the hit TV show with the same name, Shalhoub has parlayed his ability to get underneath a character's skin to massive success. His Arab-American roots, however, are what set him apart from the rest of the Hollywood elite. Growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Shalhoub didn't really have a real sense of his Lebanese roots. Shalhoub doesn't speak Arabic and was taught that American culture was his culture, not necessarily the Arab culture his parents shared. Assimilation was key at the time, but as the budding actor began to trace his roots and really define who he was, his Arab identity and who he was seemed to become much clearer. As a struggling young actor, getting bit parts on stage and then moving on television was a way to break into "the biz." Snagging parts on shows like Wings and the X-Files were big breakthroughs for the actor who has compiled an impressive list of credits to his name. It was not until he was hired to play the neurotic detective Monk, that his star really took off, however. The critical reception the series was almost immediate, and Shalhoub won three Emmys for the role in 2003, 2005 and 2006. In addition to his critical successes on Monk, Shalhoub made sure he gave back to the Arab American community by joining forces with the Network of Arab-American Professionals and established the Arab-American Filmmaker Award Competition in 2005. He's also worked on independent films such as "American East," a film about Arab-Americans in Los Angeles dealing with the aftermaths of 9/11. Specifically, Shalhoub plays a Jewish Egyptian-American who opens up a restaurant with a Muslim Egyptian-American. The films is all about portraying cultural values and tensions as they really exist in the melting-pot that is Los Angeles, and Shalhoub has never backed down from issues that help strike up conversation and thought about the diverse Arab-American community. The director, writers and producers behind the film are all Arab-Americans, and Shalhoub's success as an actor is helping to bring more attention to a film which otherwise might be overlooked. Shalhoub was raised in middle America, and not until he succeeded as an actor on his won, did he realize that his Arab roots were essential to defining who he is. His tireless efforts to strike up dialogue between mainstream American audiences and his Arab-American counterparts have been pivotal.
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