Jonathan Ames likes to create complex and flawed characters. His voice and perspective seems especially enabled to tell stories about quirky individuals who manage to temper their self agrandization with modicums of heartfelt compassion and sincerity. The formula allows viewers to feel warmth towards these characters, while shaking their heads at their authentic ridiculousness. Ames (known for Bored to Death, The Extra Man, and 361) seeks out actors who are able to walk that fine line, not giving so much of the true intention of the role as the desire to come into their own greatness…in a honestly benevolent manner. It can be said that the characters in his films and TV shows often mean well, even if they don’t achieve it…much like all of us. It is this ridiculous human condition that so attracts audiences to Ames’s creations. It also is what attracts so many talented people to want to work with him, like Canadian born actress Monika Smith. Smith can be seen in the role of Sylvia on Ames’s most recent critically acclaimed creation Blunt Talk on STARZ.
Taking on the world of cable news, the Golden Globe nominated Blunt Talk is the story of Walter Blunt (played by Patrick Stewart) a British ex pat in LA who is struggling with addiction, several failed marriages, and the host of a cable news program. Blunt is a constant trainwreck and yet seems determined to help others find their short comings. The character of Blunt comes across as an older sibling who is slightly preachy but always wanting to help, even though he finds himself out of control. Stewart is keenly able to play the role as he inspires confidence with this dignified delivery. It is precisely this type of actor who is required to enable the audience to believe the ridiculousness of his conduct. Blunt finds his counterpart in that of Sylvia (a porn star that works next door to Blunt) played by Monika Smith. Smith is an actress with her roots in comedy (for the award-winning ‘Les Douchbags Horribles’) and modeling, enabling her with both the sensibilities and the appearance to inspire the same confidence as Stewart. The saying goes, “iron sharpens iron” and Smith tells that she is overjoyed about working on this series with the highly respected cast and crew that surrounds her. Monika comments, “Working with Patrick Stewart is exactly as you would expect. He is a gifted actor who brings intensity to every role he performs. It was particularly enjoyable for me to work with him in a comedy setting as that is a lot of my background. He is delightful.”
Monika’s character Sylvia is the “adult-actress” set to perform in a porn with Mr. Blunts valet Harry Chandler. The reluctant Chandler is played by Adrian Scarborough (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables, Notes on a Scandal). The most intimate (although platonic) relationship in Harry’s life is with Walter Blunt, until Sylvia arrives. This places Monika, as Sylvia, between two acting heavyweights…a task that she welcomed and even more so delivered on. Smith tells that she particularly enjoyed the process of working with Scarborough noting, “Adrian’s resume is amazing! He is always working. I get to work with many amazing actors but Harry is one of those people who is always seeking out a new project to challenge himself. I try to do this in my career as well. Those situations make you grow. Whether it is television, film, or online situations like things I’ve done on Funny or Die, there are so many great avenues to create and learn.”
Viewers only see what is presented on camera but much of what happens off camera is what drives the production and actually enables its creation. This is particularly so in the case of Monika’s involvement in Blunt Talk. Smith had previously worked on the show Newsreaders. One of the writers on Newsreaders was also working on Blunt Talk and suggested that Smith audition for the role of Sylvia. As a long time admirer of Jonathan Ames’s work, she admits to being thrilled when she was cast as Sylvia. Many of the cast and crew have become great admirers of Monika’s throughout the process of working with her on season one of Blunt Talk. Writer/producer Duncan Birmingham (Blunt Talk, Maron) feels that Smith has allowed the show to achieve an even higher level of comedic tone noting, “Monika is one of the best actors I have worked with during my illustrious career. I have worked with the likes of the tremendously gifted, Oscar nominated director David Fincher, and currently, the legendary Patrick Stewart (who was nominated for a Golden Globe for Blunt Talk), but Monika holds her ground with those luminaries with ease. Monika has a great sense of comedic timing that lends itself perfectly to her role in Blunt Talk. She has an impressive career as an actor, proven by the immense amount of performances she has done over the years. Blunt Talk is a very funny show that centers on an incredible presence of strong wit and major comedic skills in order for it to reach the success that it has. Monika gets as close as you can to reaching the level of a true comedic genius.” In harmony with Birmingham’s statement is the fact that the role of Sylvia, which was introduced in the latter half of the first season, has been added to season two of Blunt Talk; an obvious nod to the tremendous performance Smith gave in this role. Smith rebuffs requests for details about season two but reveals that her characters participation in Blunt Talk’s second season is even bigger than in the previous one. As in Blunt Talk, it seems that audiences will keeping seeing more of this actress’s work with the high caliber of performances she continues to deliver and the accolades from her respected peers.