Interviews TV

PSYCH James Roday and Dulé Hill Interview

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I spoke with James Roday and Dulé Hill about the return of Psych.  It’s always a pleasure to speak with them and trust me you don’t want to miss the return of Psych this week.  Despereaux (Cary Elwes) is back and you know what that means, the return of doting Shawn.  I love how much Shawn admires Despereaux.

Lena Lamoray:  “Heeeeere’s Lassie” is fantastic.

James Roday:  Thank you.

Dulé Hill:  Thank you. That was fun.

Lena Lamoray:  James, you did a phenomenal job directing it.

James Roday:  Well, I appreciate that, and I had pretty good source material to unapologetically steal from, so that always helps.

Lena Lamoray:  Can you both talk about filming that episode, and what horror film element that was brought into the episode scared you the most?

James Roday:  I can tell you that we got pretty lucky with – since you’ve seen the episode, with the set of twins that we found. You know, I think initially we were going to go with sort of more traditionally and closer to what you have in the original movie. And then they had come in and auditioned for a different episode, and I think it was Steve’s episode and he remembered them. And he was like you have to watch this. And we watched the audition, and it was like, oh my gosh. We’re going to do this instead, which was better because it allowed us to sort of put our own little spin on it. But they were I thought pretty effectively creepy. They were lovely ladies, and a hoot to have around, but I thought it was pretty – I thought it was just as creepy as the little girls in the movie quite frankly.

Dulé Hill:  Yes.

Lena Lamoray:  Definitely.

Dulé Hill:  And the little boy too. The little boy breaking his little pinky, that little finger – that was pretty spooky for me, especially when we’re down there in the laundry room and he comes by the window. It’s like – that was pretty spooky.

James Roday:  Little kids and twins, man. You can’t go wrong with those, you know what I mean?

Dulé Hill:  Two of the scariest things in the world.

More Conference Call Highlights:

Q:  Is the banter between Shawn and Gus improvised?

James Roday:  Yes, yes, we’ve sort of – we’ve got a nice balance of scripted stuff and improvisation since the very beginning. I think it’s part of what sparks the show and keeps things lively for Dulé and I, and luckily we’ve been doing it long enough that we can make it – we can generally make it sound like it belongs in the scene.

Q:  There’ve been a lot of parodies and tributes done on Psych so far. What’s coming up in the future?

Dulé Hill:  Well, James Roday has directed one, I think airing second. Maybe you might want to fill them in on what that is, there, James.

James Roday:  Thanks for bringing that up, man. You know what? We’ve got an episode called “Here’s Lassie” up second, which is our tribute to The Shining, not so much the book, more the Stanley Kubrick adaptation – film adaptation of the book, and that turned out pretty well. I think the highlight is easily Dulé Hill’s impression of Shelley Duvall. Everyone can look forward to that.

Dulé Hill:  Okay. Yes, Gus Duvall is in the house.

James Roday:  Gus gets his Duvall on in a big way.

Dulé Hill:        Yes, I see an opening too, I guess as an homage to the Indiana Jones series.

James Roday:  Yes, that’s true. That’s absolutely true. And then we also send up The Bachelor.

Dulé Hill:        Oh, that’s right.

James Roday:  That comes later in the season.

Dulé Hill:        Yes, that’s right.

James Roday:  So we do our version of the reality looking for love thing. And then we close down the season with a little nod to Chinatown, which we call Santa Barbara town.

Dulé Hill:  Santa Barbara town. See the play on words there, Chinatown, Santa Barbara town? See how we do it?

James Roday:  So, yes, you’ve got some tributes to look forward to coming up.

Q:  We know that Dulé has been doing an amazing job at Stick Fly this hiatus. What did you do over the hiatus, James? And everyone’s pretty curious about what they’ve dubbed “Ro-hawk” for your hair.

James Roday:  Wow. Well, yes. I was not doing an amazing job in Stick Fly, which allowed me to shave off 75% of my hair and spike the other part of it so that, you know, so that I could pretend like I’m a lot younger than I really am basically. I actually spent a good portion of this hiatus writing, which is another reason why I could do that to myself. So it was good. It was good, and hopefully something will come of it. But I kind of took it on easy, and spent some time renovating a house, it was very – it was a very domestic sort of break for me.

Dulé Hill:  There it is.

Q:  I want to go back to the beginning with you guys, because obviously you had Monk as a lead-in. I think a lesser show probably would have suffered when Monk went off the air. But you guys have turned the show into just a ginormous success, and I’m wondering to what you attribute that, if it’s the writing, the acting, the fans. You guys have really built the show up into a big success, and I’m wondering to what you attribute that.

Dulé Hill:  I would say it’s a perfect storm. I mean, I think it has to do with the writing. I think it has to do with the acting. I think it has to do with the fans. I think it has to do with the network. It has to do with the studio, the crew. I think it’s everybody. You know, creating a hit television show is – it’s not easy, and it’s – there’s no perfect science to making it happen, so when it does, you just kind of enjoy the ride. I think for us to sit back and say – to attribute it to any one thing would be very presumptuous of us, I feel like, that we know what the answer is.  Like I said, it’s just all these great things coming together, and people seem to enjoy it, and we have fun. I think nobody takes themselves too seriously, and I think that helps the process.

James Roday:  And you mentioned Monk, which was sort of a great shepherd for us, and you know, the truth is, you know, Monk managed to stick around long enough for us to kind of find our sea legs and get really comfortable doing what we were doing, so by the time that they did call it a series for Monk, we were sort of confident in our own skin and ready to spread our wings. So they kind of timed that out really nicely for us as well.

Dulé Hill:  You know, and I think also – I think like having the – like the support of the fans, especially like when we do our fan appreciation days, like we did our college tour and things like that, also I think allowed the studio and the network to see how much they enjoyed what we do, which also allows us to have more freedom to have more fun.

James Roday:  Right, and we get everything that keeps kind of playing into each other.  So thank you to the fans.

Dulé Hill:  Oh, yes. Thank you to Tony Shaloub.

Q:  You guys mentioned in the last call that there had still been more talk about a musical episode in season seven. Have you heard anything more?

James Roday:  You know what? That’s – the only person that can answer that question is Steve Franks. I’m pleading the fifth from now on. I’m not promising anything because it’s all on his shoulders. And I’ll say this. If he wants to do it we’ll do it, and that’s all we got. That’s all we got.  It’s all on Steve Franks.  You know, to Steve’s credit, I think obviously we’re all very excited by the possibility of doing a musical, but knowing that there – you know, it’s not unprecedented and that other shows have done it, I can tell you it’s very important to him that we not just do it, but that we do it incredibly well.  And I think he just doesn’t want to short change the fans or our show by delivering anything less than you know, a home run. And I’m not entirely sure if we’ve figured out what the home run is. So until that happens, it’s just a big question mark.

Q:  You sound sick Dulé, and I feel like you were sick on the last call.

Dulé Hill:  You know what? I was sick on the last call. I sort of was, but this cough just came up like in the last couple of days. You know, I’m just getting here to the end of the run of (unintelligible), now my body is kind of showing me its fatigue.

James Roday:  I’d say you were just – I thought you were just messing around with a Caribbean accent.

Dulé Hill:  Messing around with what?

James Roday:  A Caribbean accent. I just thought you were playing around with something new.

Dulé Hill:  Oh, yes. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.  I’ll be good. I’m not as bad as I was on the last call. The last call I was really struggling. This is just like a little annoying pressing cough.

James Roday:  Dulé’s a huge fan of the early work of WWE superstar Kofe Kingston, and every once in a while he tries to channel that on our (unintelligible).

Q:  In the Indiana Jones episode, there’s another Shawn and Gus fight, which are always fun.  If the two of them had to have a fight where someone has to declare a winner, who would win and why?

Dulé Hill:  I think what would happen, would – one of us would declare a winner, and then we probably would start fighting over who the winner is. So it’d be like this little black hole that we’d go into where we’d continue to fight over new things.  And then someone would say, you know, fine, you win, and then we would start fighting over who the – like, you know, I said you win, and he would say, “No, you won.” You know what I’m saying? It would just keep going back and forth.

James Roday:  It would be tough, because I – they’re both – I don’t think either of their pain thresholds are very high, and I also don’t think they have it in them to truly hurt the other person. So I think it would come down to semantics and debate as opposed to…

Dulé Hill:  Exactly.

James Roday:  …one man standing over the other.

Q:  Shawn hasn’t been hiding any secret kung fu moves or anything from his four classes?  They can’t run very fast, though, so that’s another problem.

James Roday:  Shawn would like to think that he has unlimited moves from any number of disciplines, but I think we all know the truth, which is that when danger is near, those guys run as quickly as they possibly can in the other direction.  They ran faster in the early seasons. I can tell you that.

Q:  How often do people in the streets or anywhere come up to you or the writers and suggest new nicknames for you to use on the show? Or how do you come up with those nicknames?

James Roday:  Well, you know in the very beginning, it – I was just pulling them out of my behind to make Dule laugh, mostly. And then they really caught on, so with our writing staff. And now there is never any shortage of options for Gus’s nicknames, along with alternatives (unintelligible) in every episode.  And I do think the fans have embraced it as well, and send in suggestions, and we hear those sometimes too. It’s a – it’s been sort of a fun give and take that if you’d told me back in the first season that it would become what it was, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. But it’s been a good time.

Q:  How much fun was it to get to work with Cary Elwes again?

Dulé Hill:  Well, it’s always fun working with Cary Elwes. He’s such a delight to work with. He’s a great guy, brings so much fun energy to the set. And being that he came back around for the third time, you start to really be familiar with people. But we had a blast. I mean, it was a wonderful experience, and if we have a chance to work with him again, we’ll look forward to that too.

James Roday:  Yes, Cary’s the real deal. I would actually that’s probably my favorite of the Despereaux episodes. It was really a good time.

Dulé Hill:  Definitely.

Q:  It seemed to be like a little bit more of an action adventure episode rather than a mystery kind of who-dun-it thing.

James Roday:  Yes, but yes, by design, I think that was sort of Steve’s take on this one, was to go sort of Spielberg adventure, swinging from things and running and blowing up boats and to jam, you know, 50% more action in than we have in the past.

Q:  You got to work with John Reese Davies.  Was that intimidating for you guys at all?

Dulé Hill:  Oh, yes, definitely. Oh, yes, yes, definitely. Oh, yes, that was really cool.

James Roday:  You know, that guy is bigger than life. There wasn’t even a moment to be intimidated. He – you know, he came over and it was kind of like – I don’t know. It was like working with Santa Claus or something almost.  You know, he’s got such – he’s got that big voice and that big personality and his laugh is really infectious, and yes, it was great. And I got the added bonus of working with (Mage Tunomic) in that episode too, who was like my original TV crush. It was just lots of good stuff going on.

Q:  Any other big name stars that we can tell people to look for? I know you’ve got Jaleel White coming back.

Dulé Hill:  Jaleel White, Makai Pfeiffer, Lou Gossett Jr., Wayne Brady, Greg Grumberg…

James Roday:  Anthony Anderson.

Q:  How in the world do you guys land all these big stars, because you’ve already had Bill Shatner and…?

James Roday:  Oh, yes. And Bill pops in again.

Dulé Hill:  That’s right.

James Roday:  The Shat comes back for a little something something.

Dulé Hill:  That’s something. I mean, I think people come to our show and they enjoy, you know, just from what they hear, that they don’t really have much fun on a lot of other shows, and everyone who comes to fight has a good time for a week (unintelligible).  They enjoy being up there, and I think word has started to spread to the – through the town that it’s a fun place to come and work, and to – you know, and to give actors a chance to come and play something interesting and different and have a week in Vancouver where we get a chance to laugh, laugh a lot. And we can laugh a lot.

Q:  Do you guys come up with those random pop culture references or do you have one and try to find a way to get it in there that you really want to mention?

James Roday:  I think it’s a little bit of everything, I think.

Dulé Hill:  Right.

James Roday:  I think for one, between me and Steve and the rest of our writing staff, it’s a pretty deep well of obscurity. And with, you know, each opportunity we get to come back, you know, we’ve got a list of ones that we haven’t gotten to yet, and then in addition to that, we’ll come up with stuff in the moment based on, you know, a song we’ve been singing, you know, in between takes. And we kind of – we jam all those in as well. It’s a pretty fantastic format, our show, because it kind of lends itself to doing just about anything you’d want and getting away with it.

Dulé Hill:  I know, I think, because for example, when we did our how we got to – using (unintelligible) – you know, the little intimate thing, I was in my trailer one day, you know, and somebody emailed me or I’d seen it somewhere like on the Web, you know, “and lovers, come on, son,” and I was just crying.  I think maybe on Facebook I think I saw it, and I was just rolling in my trailer and I finally said, “Oh, James, you got to come see this,” or I emailed it to him. And then we – he – it made him die laughing, and by chance we were filming the episode that (Bruce Davis) did, I think a season ago. And we just started dropping it in there, and it made it to the air.  And then of course this year, now, we were running with the “Come on, son,” and we were having dinner one day for (Andy Berman)’s episode. You know, why don’t we have (Ed Lover) come out and do “Come on, son.” And it just happened. So I think it kind of……saying come on, son.

James Roday:  Bringing the original article.

Dulé Hill:  You know?

Q:  In the episode coming up, Shawn has to deal with mortality. What do you imagine that would be the most likely way that Shawn and Gus kick the bucket?

James Roday:  Shawn has joked on several occasions that Gus will somehow inadvertently be the cause of his own death. I think Steve’s thrown that joke in like two or three times over the years, like Gus is going to accidentally walk into traffic or something and have no one to blame but himself. I don’t know, I – it’s a good question. I mean, I think these – I don’t know if these guys have given a lot of thought to mortality. They’re kind of stuck in the past…

Dulé Hill:        In denial. In the past, and in denial.

James Roday:  …and clinging to the idea of not growing up, so I think Shawn is probably convinced that he’ll never die, and I think, you know, Gus probably just doesn’t like thinking about it.

Dulé Hill:        Right. He doesn’t want to be putting any choice to talking about that.

James Roday:  Exactly.

Q:  You guys talked a little bit last fall, before this season debuted, about a clue-themed episode. Is there any word on that project?

James Roday:  That I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence is still happening. The reason that we were unable to do it in season six was sort of a perfect storm of scheduling issues with some of the pieces of talent that I think we could all agree you have to have on board if you’re going to do a clue episode.  So we basically just put a pin in it and pushed it to season seven, if there was going to be a season seven, and now that there is one, I can say here with confidence, barring some unforeseen glitch, you’re going to get your clue episode next up.

Q:  So obviously the show’s hysterical, and I don’t want to do Shawn and Gus a disservice by saying they’re growing up, but there are still some underlying more serious moments, like the mortality or when, in the Indiana Jones episode where Shawn was like, “Oh my God, Gus is going to die,” or even the emergency ring situation. So how would you characterize what’s going on with these two at this point in their lives? And are we going to see more of these realizations come upon them?

Dulé Hill:  I think you have to. I mean, I think, you know, we’ve been on the air for six years, going into our seventh. And you know, it would be false for us not to. I mean, the fact is they are trying to hold onto the past and to be never growing up, but the fact is they are growing up.  And as you see, you know, with Shawn, you know, and getting more serious with Juliet, and even Gus trying to find his own significant other and things like that, I think that’s a – the general, or – that’s going to be the arc of the characters. Otherwise I think it’d just be getting boring if we kept doing the same exact thing as season one.

Q:  What kind of crossover do you want to see with Psych and any other show? It doesn’t have to be a USA show.

Dulé Hill:  Well, I’m still on the whole Monk train. I would love to have Tony Shaloub come and do an episode of Psych. Really, that’s my big – I wouldn’t mind that, and I wouldn’t mind either Zachary Levi. That would be cool. You know, he’s a cool dude, and I really could have fun hanging around. And I think big Chuck fans would enjoy seeing – the Chuck and the Psych fans would enjoy seeing Zach come and do an episode of Psych. So those are my two.

James Roday:  I think the one thing that we’re not allowed to do on Psych in terms of like a mandate creatively that probably will never change is anything that’s truly supernatural. Like, stuff can appear to be supernatural, but then there always ends up being an explanation.  So I think it would be fun to get dropped into like The Walking Dead or True Blood or something and have Shawn and Gus have to deal with something that truly can’t be explained.  And also, I think Gus would probably – he would probably warm up to the idea of vampires pretty quickly once he realized that – and they were interested in doing more than, you know, just talking to him.

Dulé Hill:        I think you’re right about that.  And of course he wouldn’t say that. He would have had Sookie in mind, so…

James Roday:  That’s right.

Dulé Hill:        You know Gus gets down with the vampires.

James Roday:  Gus and Sookie I think make a lot of sense, so…

Q:  Have they ever thought of doing like a Wacky Wednesday episode, where Shawn is Gus and Gus is Shawn, and would that be the most difficult acting that you’ve had to do, to try to play each other?

James Roday:  Well, we kind of stuck our big toe in the water. We probably tried it to early, but it was back in I think season two.

Dulé Hill:  Two, right.

James Roday:  And it was the episode where Gus’s uncle comes to town, and Gus has lied to his family and said that he’s the psychic in the duo. And so he kind of had to do his best Shawn impression. But it was a little undercooked, and Shawn didn’t have to do any kind of Gus impression, so – and it’s a fairly unmemorable episode, so maybe we can go back to the drawing board and give it a shot.

Dulé Hill:  It would be fun.

James Roday:  Yes. Nobody remembers that.  Yes, man, we’re putting it on the board.

Dulé Hill:  You heard it here first.

Q:  You both have very strong backgrounds in theater, TV, and film. What do you consider your favorite and why as far as the genres?

Dulé Hill:  For me, by far it’s theater. I feel like when I’m on stage I learn more. During a play every night, I learn more as an actor and I grow as an actor much faster I feel and more dynamically than I do in any other medium. But I do enjoy doing television and film.  So my ideal situation really would be to do a cable show for four months, be able to go do a film, then go do a play for another three months, and keep doing that cycle, you know, oh, every three years or something like that. I think I could do one medium – just one medium too long, you can very easily get stale and boring. If I had to choose, I would choose theater, as long as I can get my TV paycheck.

James Roday:  So eloquently laid out for you. I don’t even know how to follow that. But I would definitely agree. I mean, theater is the actor’s medium for sure. And you know, it’s sort of where you get to flex your muscles the most. It generally presents the most challenges. It’s the most dangerous. It’s the most fulfilling, and I think more than anything it just makes you a better actor on camera. So you know, if I could only do one, I guess it’s back to bartending and theater for me.

Dulé Hill:  If you could see the difference between me and Roday, he said it’s back to bartending and theater. I said as long as I can get my TV paycheck. That’s the difference between James and Dule.

Q:  So it’s been a while since Gus has had a real love interest. How long until he gets a steady romantic love interest?

Dulé Hill:  That’s a good question. I’m – I hope that I – and Roday might be able to answer it better, being that – actually, I think you’re here in New York, now, but when you go back to LA, you might be able to answer it better. I hope that this season, we’ll get a chance to see Gus be in some kind of relationship that lasts over an episode or two.  I wouldn’t want to see him being in a relationship all season. I wouldn’t – I don’t – just I think that would not be fun, but hopefully we’re going to see what it’s like when he’s in some kind of relationship over a short period of time, and not just one episode and – or swinging and striking out.

Q:  This is the year that Gus gets some good loving. And of all the girls that you’ve got to have a romantic relationship with so far, who’s been your favorite to work with?

Dulé Hill:  Well, that’s kind of a loaded question there, because I would have to go back to – “From Earth to Starbucks,” because that was my wife.  I’m no idiot. I’m no idiot.

James Roday:  It takes the fun out of it a little, seeing as how I pretty much have to say (Maggie), so there you go.

Dulé Hill:  But also too, because in that episode came the line, “Did you hear about Pluto?”…

James Roday:  That’s true.

Dulé Hill:  …which was not scripted, I don’t think. I think that was something that, you know, we just came up with on the day and dropped it in there and…

Q:  James, on the last time we did this, you said you had about five fantasy football teams, and I’m curious how they did. Did you take any championships?

James Roday:  I’m not going to lie. It was a down year for me. You know, in – with triumph comes tragedy, and that’s – I’ve won 20 titles in my time, and last year I think was some comeuppance for me, because I did not win a single title. And I actually missed the playoffs in two of my three biggest leagues, so it was a rough year.  It was a rebuilding year, but I’ll come back firing on all cylinders next season for sure.

Q:  Fantasy football would make a great concept for an episode.

James Roday:  For me it sure would. And I don’t know. I mean, I guess The League is still on – I don’t even know. I think maybe FX? Is that – does anyone know if I’m right about that? Anyway, it’s a whole show about guys that are in a fantasy football league, and it’s lasted a couple seasons, so there’s got to be an audience for it.

Q:  As good as Psych is does it ever bother you when you’re snubbed by the Emmys?

Dulé Hill:  I think we would be lying if we said no. You mean, I know, you always say you don’t care until you actually get a nomination. Then you’re like, “Oh, that’s the greatest organization ever!” I mean, it would be nice to be honored. I think we’ve had some – I think we’ve put together some really funny episodes and I think that we’ve consistently been a funny show.  We got a little bit of love by being added into, you know, some of the opening promo stuff that was going on for the Emmys this year. But it would be nice to get a little more Emmy love in some shape or form for the show. I think Psych is a very funny show and it deserves to be included among the best.

Q:  On this President’s Day, who your favorite presidents either real or fictional, and why?

Dulé Hill:  Oh, well, that’s very easy. Fictional wise, it’s our (President Josiah Bartlett), because I think he’s the ideal president. You know, he’s someone who thought about issues in a way, the pros and cons, and felt like he let his heart lead him, and really put the country first and doing what’s right, beyond doing what is – doing what the polls say.  And most politicians nowadays beyond what they say really do kind of lean towards polling. In terms of real, well I mean, it would have to be – that’s a toss-up. For me it would either be a toss-up between President Clinton and President Obama.  And I’ve been fans of both of theirs, so I can’t go too far back because I don’t really remember too many presidents before that. You know, I know Reagan and I know Clinton and I know both Bush presidents, and I know President Obama. So I would say Clinton and Obama, presidents, would be my two choices.

James Roday:  I was a Bill Clinton guy for sure. He was my man. And then fictionally I got to go with (Tiny Lister). I’m pretty sure he suited up – what was it, in The Fifth Element, I think?  I think so. He had an eye patch. That’s my on-screen president. No one’s touching him.

Q:  Psych has paid homage to a lot of great films and TV series’. Is there any favorite film or TV series of yours that you wish you could do as an episode?

James Roday:  Well, you know I got – I sort of got mine when we did Twin Peaks. That was my favorite show of all time, and that is an experience that I will never forget. So it’s going to be tough for anything to come close to that one, but we’ll keep rolling them out for sure. For sure.

Dulé Hill:        There it is.

James Roday and Dulé Hill Interview
“Shawn Spencer” and “Burton ‘Gus’ Guster”
Psych Returns Wednesday Night, February 29 at 10 EST on USA Network
February 20, 2012
Lena Lamoray


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