As a long time fan of the hilarious comedy Psych, it was a huge pleasure to speak to the shows lead stars James Roday and Dulé Hill last Friday. I must admit, at first I was a bit intimidated to be speaking to two funny, good looking guys but once I was on the line they made me feel like an old friend.
I love including my readers when I land these interviews because many of you have questions you’d like answered. When I asked you for questions via twitter to ask the boys, many of you responded with, “Tell James I want him!” or Tell Dulé I’d like to play his girlfriend next season!”
So here are the questions (without much help from you guys!) and the answers right from the sexy lips of our favorite psychic comedic team.
Q: How much say do you guys have over what get’s into the dialog between Shawn and Gus?
Roday: Unlike, I think, the majority of shows on television right now we actually have a frighteningly high amount of say in what we do with the dialog. A lot of times it comes in great and all we have to do is say it, but any time we sort of recognize an opportunity to throw something in or add something or if we have a better name for Gus than the one that came in we just pull the trigger.
We’re pretty good at monitoring ourselves so that we only do it if we’re making it better, and it’s very rare that we find out later that the people down in LA were disappointed because we changed something. They’re usually pretty pleased.
Hill: Yes. And the names that we come up with most of the time it has to do with somebody that we know, somebody in the cast knows or somebody that one of the writers knows or a producer, something like that. I would say pretty much eight times to of ten there is some relation to the crazy name that Gus is being called.
Q: What real life or fictional detectives have influenced your characters?
Roday: You know what, I go to this movie called Without a Clue that not a lot of people saw. It was Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley, and the idea behind the movie was that Watson was the brains of the operation and Holmes was just this very theatrical sort of charlatan that diverted people’s attention and got all the ladies. It’s a very, very funny movie that not a lot of people have seen.
But I love the fact that it was sort of rooted in the idea that these two guys absolutely, positively were dependent on one another to solve a crime, because Holmes was sort of the face of the franchise but Watson was the guy that sort of kept their feet on the ground and did a lot of the thinking. That’s not exactly what the dynamic is on Psych, but the sort of ying yang element of it of there’s no way that either of these guys could work on their own and there’s no way that they could accomplish what they were doing without the other one is definitely sort of a big element of what we do on Psych.
So that’s my answer. I feel decent about it. I’m passing it off to Dulé.
Hill: I guess for myself it’s not any real I guess template that I came in to with a preconceived notion about like in terms of a previous detective team. I guess if I had to choose one I would say Cosby and Poitier in Uptown Saturday Night. I want to say that would be the equivalence that I could think of, but besides that there’s not really anything that I’ve thought about before to say yes, this is what the template is.
Q: Is the show really as fun to shoot as it is to watch?
Hill: We have so much fun up there. The cast is great, the crew is even greater, and we just have a lot of fun. No one takes themselves too seriously; we all come to work and we are pretty much getting paid to laugh all day. We sing songs; we have the best singing crew in Vancouver. One day if you get a chance you come up there and we’ll have them sing you Happy Birthday just for no reason in particular. We sing Happy Birthday about three or four times a day just because. There’s a really great bunch of people up there.
Q: Any particular episode your favorite?
Roday: I like different ones for so many different reasons, but I can say that for me personally, just as an actor, I think the most fun I’ve ever had on our show was an episode called Life’s Camera Homicidio when my character got thrust into the world of a Spanish telenovela and I got to improvise in both English and Spanish. That was a blast.
Hill: Well I guess for that episode I guess Roday to be able to improvise in Spanish he was getting in touch with his roots so he was really excited about that.
NOTE: Roday is one of our Hispanic brothers! His father is Mexican!! ¡Órale!
Q: Can you tell us what we can expect in the upcoming season.
Roday: In terms of sort of themes for episodes you saw that we’re doing sort of an expedition Canada, catch a jewel/art thief episode, and we’re doing sort of a Shawn and Gus save an old western town and everything that comes along with that that you could imagine, including a grizzled, gray bearded James Brolin.
Hill: Exorcism episode.
Roday: Yes, we’re paying tribute to the Exorcist with our exorcism episode featuring the aforementioned Ray Wise, who is just fantastic in the episode I have to say. Just really came in and knocked it out of the park.
Hill: That’s right, a little love letter to American Werewolf in London and werewolf movies in general featuring David Naughton, obviously, and Josh Malina. And lots of other fun stuff.
I have to say I think we’re kind of storming out of our gates this year with some really good stuff. I think last year we stormed in our heads, but we were actually like trotting at a casual pace, and this year I actually think we’re storming out of the gates for real.
Q: James, did you visit any actual psychics as research for the show?
Roday: I visited a couple psychics back before we shot the pilot just because I was sort of interested to hear their back stories and sort of how the power manifests itself.
And of course you never know if they’re legit or not, but there were some interesting stories in terms of like physicalizing the gift. I was interested to hear like does it ever take over your body, does your body heat rise, stuff like that; anything that I could steal. Of course I did not tell them while visiting that I was going to be playing a fake psychic nor did they figure it out on their own, so maybe that tells you everything you need to know about the people that I met with.
And I have to say, for the record, my favorite line from Without A Clue is after Michael Caine pokes a dead body with a stick and announces to everyone, “It is my opinion that this man is dead.” So there you go.
Q: Does the chemistry between your characters transfer to real life?
Hill: I think so; I think it comes naturally. From the time we first got together there was a good vibe there, and we’ve had a cast that continued to grow with it. I think even off screen we get along very well. The cast as a whole we like hanging out with each, making each other laugh, going out having dinner, playing poker, playing mafia. It’s just us up there in Vancouver, so if we didn’t get along then I think it would show itself on screen. So I would say it comes pretty natural.
Roday: I agree with all of that.
Q: After so many seasons, how do you guys keep the material so fresh?
Roday: It’s a good question, and I think part of the answer is that all of us, from producers to writers to actors and everybody, is sort of hyper aware of what you just said. You couldn’t have a group that was sort of more acutely aware of not getting complacent, of recognizing how important it is to not become predictable and to not get stale, because it happens to so many other shows. And so when we go to break stories and we’re on set it sort of pushes us, quite frankly, to not settle for stuff that feels like it could be better and that’s sort of the way we’ve been treating the show from the beginning.
And while it may get more and more challenging the longer that we last the truth is we don’t ever want to be considered one of those shows that dropped off after season blank and then was just sort of on autopilot until the end. And I don’t think anyone will ever sort of break in that regard; we’ll always continue to challenge each other and make sure that everybody is working as hard as they possibly can.
Hill: And I think it’s very easy to, I guess, just to do what you think works. I think, as Roday was saying, we keep challenging ourselves to keep raising the bar, to keep staying engaged, and even as the actors on the set to keep staying connected and staying alive each time we do it.
And then also I think certain things we try to make sure we don’t run certain things to the ground, like Gus is not going to run screaming out every episode. After you find yourself doing certain things for a while you kind of say okay, let’s go someplace else with it to keep the characters alive.
Q: What do each of you think is your character’s most difficult trait to capture and what moment in the show has allowed that character element to shine?
Roday: Well that’s very insightful and thoughtful indeed. For me I would say the most challenging thing about playing Shawn is the tight wire act between slacker and man child, and then also somebody that you really do want to invest in emotionally and like every week. And the line between wanting to rub his head and slap his face is very, very, very thin. And sort of walking that line and always knowing when to stop is sort of the most challenging on a day-to-day basis.
In terms of like a single event that sort of helped me with that I would say probably when we brought Shawn’s mother onto the show, first episode of season three. Kind of we peeled back a layer that I think by tapping into it has allowed that sort of tight wire act to get a little easier just because you sort of saw a side of him that was way vulnerable that he didn’t have complete control over. And once we sort of put that out there I think it made things a little bit easier in terms of the balancing act.
Hill: character, so I don’t really think about it like that too often. I guess when a question comes up it makes me think about it, but in my day-to-day action on the set I don’t really process it I just do it.
I would say I guess for me it would be that Gus to not make him too nerdy but not make him too cool, because he is a nerd. But at the same time you want him to be cool also, and I think too far in either direction would change the dynamic of the show. So it’s always trying to find that balance of cool nerdiness or nerdy coolness or something like that.
Q: At Comic Con you guys mentioned something about a musical episode and also there was a mention of a possible porn spoof. And so I wanted to let you guys know if you did do the porn spoof I have a lot of volunteers.
[Lots of laughter]
Hill: Oh, okay. Tell them they’re welcome to come join us.
Me: I’m at the front of the line
Roday: That’s awesome. Thank you.
Me: So the musical episode—are you guys really going to do a musical?
Roday: I would say yes. If we can last a little bit longer you’ll definitely get a musical episode before all is said and done.
In an upcoming episode, Cary Elwes is a guest star.
Q: What was it like working with Cary Elwes?
Roday: We went pretty light on him. We went pretty light on him with The Princess Bride jokes. He came in and he was very focused and he wanted to do a really good job. He had given his character a lot of thought, and that was sort of enough for us, I think, just seeing an actor of that caliber come in and be definitely sort of concerned and tuned in as he was. I mean don’t get me wrong; we had a great time with him and he was a blast to work with, but we didn’t rib him too much.
Q: What was your experience at Comic Con like?
Hill: I actually loved it. I wished that I wasn’t so tired, because we had worked the night before in Vancouver and we flew down to LA I guess Wednesday and then I got up and flew to Comic Con Thursday morning. So I was pretty exhausted, so I wish I had more energy to be able to walk around. So I’m hoping to be able to go back next year and make sure I get some rest.
But I enjoyed it. It was great being there with all the fans and seeing people’s reactions. I enjoyed seeing the different outfits that I did see. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do it for many more years.
Roday: Yes, I was absolutely blown away. I mean working up in Vancouver, to an extent, sort of puts us in a bubble. To be able to come face-to-face with our fans and see their reaction I felt like the fourth Jonas Brother and I feel like Dulé was the fifth black Jonas Brother.
Even though it was only for an hour it was just an overwhelming, heartwarming response. I don’t want to go as far as to say it’s like a validating thing, but you really sort of felt for a moment there like wow what we’re doing is connecting with people, and that’s the best feeling you can have as an artist for sure.
Q: If anyone out there is not watching Psych yet, (BIG MISTAKE!) why should they tune in now?
Hill: Well there’s so much serious stuff going on in the world I think it’s a great show to come and sit back, put your feet up, and laugh for a little bit; just clear your minds. I think anyone who comes and watches this show definitely laughs out loud at least once, so if you’re looking to just step away from all the stress for a second then I would say check out Psych.
You know we’re like kids in a candy store, and it kind of brings people back to a time in their youth when people just dared to do anything, and that’s what we do on Psych.
Roday: And there are so few rules that we have to follow in terms of making this show. I don’t think there are a lot of other shows out there where one week you’re wearing chaps and spurs and riding a horse and the next week you’re running from a potato sack headed killer chasing you into the woods with a machete, and yet you’re still laughing both times. I think it’s a pretty unique little hybrid; it has something for everyone.
Q: How has the success of this show changed your life?
Roday: My socks and underwear don’t have holes in them anymore. That was a big deal for me.
Q: To wrap up this surreal interview, if you could have any guest star on the show who would it be and who would they play?
Roday: My answer is going to stay the same until we get him on. The answer is David Bowie, and anybody he wants is whom he will play.
Hill: And for myself I would like to get someone like Chris Tucker on the show. It would be great if he could play some kind of, I mean he could play anybody he wanted to also, but he could play some kind of relative of mine or something. It would be a lot of fun.
Roday: I think David Bowie could also play David Bowie if he wanted to, and Shawn and Gus could just have an episode where they hung out with David Bowie.
Hill: I think David Bowie could play Mr. Guster in season five.
Roday: He could.
Hill: There you go—because we change my dad all the time. Like dude, your daddy is David Bowie. … is not showing.
Roday: That would be fantastic.
Wow you guys! I hope this interview has been very informative, yet a bit long. Real fans will have enjoyed every minute and new fans will want to rejoice that Season 4 is about to begin.
Check out the new season of Psych on August 7, 2009!!