Photo by Brian Davis
To hear Lisa M. Rowe and Ruben Garcia talk about it, they share one of the great jobs in television production: rotating Key 2nd ADs on the USA Network series Monk.
Alternating 2nds are the exception in episodic TV, which usually employs alternating 1sts but only one Key 2nd and one 2nd 2nd. The waiver that was granted for Rowe and Garcia on Monk allows them to prep every other episode for 3-4 days, working as a team with the same 1st AD each time.
“If you’re all about money this isn’t the show for you,” cautions Garcia. “But if you like your mental health and allowing your body to rest for a couple of days every month, this is a great show. I really think it might be the wave of the future.”
Rowe, who has managed to only work on series that employ rotating 2nds (The Sopranos, Carnivale and now Monk) concurs. “With the alternating 2nd method, you’re right there with the 1st. You get to prep the show, go on all the scouts, and really know what’s going on.”
Born in Massachusetts, Rowe began her career in New York, working as a production assistant on a string of feature films, including several by Woody Allen. After only one job as a 2nd 2nd , she began keying.
Friends who were about to start work on a new HBO series called The Sopranos asked if she wanted to come on board. She stayed with the show for a year-and-a-half before relocating to Los Angeles where she landed Carnivale.
When Carnivale producer/production manager Anthony Santa Croce jumped to Monk during that show’s second season, he took Rowe with him. He also took the alternating 2nd method. 1st AD Anton Cropper was already with the show and Rowe became his Key 2nd.
Garcia got his professional education at Roger Corman’s Concord Studios. Since joining the DGA, he has worked on a number of TV shows, including American Dreams and The Shield, and such features as Hidalgo and Dreamer. He was brought onto Monk at the beginning of season three by 1st AD Fernando Altschul.
It was Garcia’s first experience with alternating 2nds. “It lends itself to a much more organized show,” he says. “Because you have a chance to read the script quietly and to see the locations, you are so much more involved.”
While he and Rowe don’t have much direct interaction they are constantly in communication. “We pass along information about little things–whatever we think may help the other,” notes Garcia. “Sometimes it’s as simple as needing additional help on an episode and I’ll call Lisa and ask who she uses, to keep a kind of continuity. Or I’ll tell her that an actor lives in Ojai and if he works more than one day we need to make local hotel reservations for him.”
Currently, Garcia is finishing up his second season with the popular series. Rowe recently had a baby and is home with her son, Baxter. She says she’d be happy to “day play or help transition the new Key 2nd" but isn’t ready to go back to work full time yet. She misses her friends, however. “I have been at Monk for two-and-a-half years and those people are my family.”