The two stars of the hit USA Network series talk about the fourth season
One the USA Network's hit series is coming back with their unique brand of detective work in Psych, which will air its fourth season premiere on Friday, August 7 at 10 PM ET on the USA Network. The two stars of the show, James Roday and Dule Hill recently held a conference call to discuss the new season, and here's what they had to say.
I know that you've both played very different characters in other things, so how do you feel now about playing comedy? Do you enjoy it better; do you like doing horror or drama more? How does it feel?
Dule Hill: I actually enjoy comedy; it's a lot of fun. After doing seven years of drama on West Wing to be able to come and work with Roday and the rest of the cast has been a blast. It's something different, especially working with Roday where he likes to improv a lot it challenges me to work on different muscles that I haven't used before.
James Roday: I would say I've actually done a lot more comedy than I've done drama. It's weird the way that worked out, because when I came out of theater school I took myself way too seriously, so it's kind of ironic that I ended up sort of going down the comedy path. But I think what makes this role special compared to some of the other stuff that I've done is just the fact that I've had the opportunity to live with it so long and sort of watch it sort of grow and nurture it, not unlike you nurture a plant. And working with a great group and an unbelievable cast and sort of having the freedom to do what we do on the show sort of sets it apart from any role that I've played, comedy or drama. It's just been a special ride. It's been a special ride.
The show is known a lot for its kind of fast-paced banter between your characters Shawn and Gus. And so what I want to know is how much sort of say do you guys get in what goes on in the dialog, particularly between the humorous segments and something like the nicknames that Shawn makes up for Gus? What goes on with those types of moments?
James 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 dialogue. 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.
Dule 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.
What detectives, in real life or in fiction, have been an influence for the characters?
James 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.
Dule 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.
I just wanted to know what was behind the decision to actually feature Vancouver in the episode?
Dule Hill: I think it's that we work in Vancouver. We've been working-
James Roday: Yes, it was an opportunity to finally not worry about everything that was in the background of all of our shots. We actually could play the locations for the actual locations, and make believe stickers and Canadian flags all those things were good. And it was actually a lot of fun; I'm glad we've lasted long enough to do one to do that. It was fun.
Dule Hill: And we finally didn't have to move our palm trees with this; we could leave the palm trees-
James Roday: That's right, our three movable palm trees got an episode off.
Dule Hill: Right. They were tired, you know what I mean; the palm trees were tired. With every episode they were ...
James Roday: We gave them a much-deserved break.
I really enjoy the pop culture references that you make in the series, and I just wondered if you could be in any television show of the past which would it be? Or if you could spoof a show as an episode what would it be?
Dule Hill: I guess for myself if I could have been a Cosby kid.
Dule Hill: Yes, of course. If I could have been on Cosby that would have been great for me. And I guess if we could spoof any show I would say maybe Fame; I could be Leroy.
If you could investigate anybody who would it be?
Dule Hill: If I could investigate anybody who would it be?
James Roday: I think I might have to just really roll up my sleeves and investigate Monica Bellucci and just make sure that she's living her life along the straight and narrow, she's not cutting any corners in life, in her work; just really get in there and make sure that she's on the up and up.
Dule Hill: And from my side I would investigate Halle Bear, who is also Halle Berry.
James Roday: That's it; this is classy stuff you're getting from us today.
It just seems like you have a blast; the show is so fun to watch. And I was wondering if the show is as much fun to shoot as it is to watch?
Dule Hill: Yes.
James Roday: Absolutely.
Dule 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.
James Roday: And we don't pay royalties for it. It's free; we can sing Happy Birthday for free.
At Comic Con you kind of teased that Twin Peaks would be this season. Is that not true?
James Roday: That is not true, unfortunately. I think that something got lost in the translation there. This season has sort of been locked for a while; there are no unaccounted for episodes. That was us teasing with the hoax that if some of our executives were in the audience it was like a hint, hint listen to how bad everybody wants this. You have to keep us on the air. It's a promise; it's definitely a promise that if there's a season five Twin Peaks will definitely happen.
Dule Hill: I guess a little teaser to Twin Peaks would be Ray Wise doing our show this year. A little prelude.
James Roday: That's true. It's a Twin Peaks prelude.
I wanted to talk about some of the telltale references. I actually thought it was really funny the jokes that you made about The Mentalist in the premiere. When that show started were you guys like going, "Hmm, that sounds familiar," and was it sort of fun to sort of point that out on screen?
James Roday: It was. No one is off limits when it comes to us, including ourselves. We've made fun of our own sort of resumes on this show. As long as they have a sense of humor over there I would think that they would be sort of flattered and get a kick out of it. Obviously, it's not malicious in any, but it's what we do on our show and if you're going to go make a bigger show that's kind of like our show and get four times as many viewers and Emmy nominations then you should expect to hear about it when our show airs.
I was going to ask you if you had any things that you could tell us about this upcoming season, whatever you feel free to share either overall or specifics about what we can expect this season.
James 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.
Dule Hill: Exorcism episode.
James 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.
Dule Hill:An American Werewolf in London homage.
James Roday: That's right, a little love letter to An 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.
My question is how does becoming co-producers affect your roles on the show?
Dule Hill: I don't know what Roday thinks, but from my side I don't think it really changes that much. I think from the beginning of the show the dynamic has pretty much been what it is. Maybe say from Roday's side he may write a few more episodes, but he was already writing episodes anyway. From my side I would think it's more of a title; it hasn't really changed the actual working dynamic that much. Maybe a little bit changes, but nothing too major.
James Roday: Yes. I think, like Dulé said, the dynamic was sort of set from the first season. Because none of our producers are up in Vancouver with us it was just sort of a necessary thing that we take on a little more responsibility to help the show sort of run smoothly. They finally decided to throw us a title for it.
Now look I was wondering if you, James, had visited any actual Psychics in order to watch and observe them in action? And if you, Dulé, being an encyclopedia of useless knowledge that oddly becomes useful every week, is it anything like the way your brain works in real life?
Dule Hill: Well from my side no; I try not to fill up my brain cells with useless information. So most of the time I'm pretty much just learning it as it comes in the scripts.
James Roday: And for me 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.
I was wondering you guys have such great chemistry on the show does that come naturally?
Dule 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.
James Roday: I agree with all of that.
I think there's a danger in comedy when you go across a number of seasons that you could become predictable or stale. How do you guys keep this show so fresh?
James 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.
Dule 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.
James Roday: Absolutely.
American Duos has to be my favorite episode. What was it like working with Tim Curry and the rest of the guest stars?
Dule Hill: Oh, wow, it was great. First of all, just the fact that Roday and Tim Curry went into a little back and forth saying, "No." You couldn't really beat that. You're working with a comic genius, a great actor, along with Gina Gershon too, it was great. And then having John Landis direct, as I said before, for myself it was one of the all time great moments for me on Psych.
James Roday: It was a blast of an episode and it was cast perfectly. It was just one of those things where all the pieces came together and you just sort of sat back and pinched yourself a little bit, because you're like I can't believe this is A, happening, and B, like episode one of season two. So the planets definitely aligned on that one.
I was wondering in the new episode you work with Cary Elwes. What was that like and were there any Dread Pirate Roberts jokes going on?
James 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.
So in season three we got to see a lot more of the serious side of the characters. Are we going to get more of that in season four?
Dule Hill: Definitely.
James Roday: Yes, a little bit. You don't ever want to go too far in that direction, because I think people have plenty of shows that they watch to watch people be serious. I think at the end of the day it's always going to be important for us to mostly deliver what has made us successful, but there will definitely be episodes this year where you see us flip our serious switches. Gus has a serious jackal switch where it's still a jackal but it's a serious jackal.
Dule Hill: Yes. That will have to make its way out some time this year.
What has it been like to be on USA Network, and I was wondering if you think kind of there's any big differences being on cable? And also, kind of related to that, do you guys ever feel like you're kind of in friendly competition with newer series, other multiple of detective, spy, comedy series?
Dule Hill: From my side I think it's great on USA. They really take the time to nurture their shows, they give you the chance to grow, and they give you the freedom to try different things. I would say everyone over there at USA, Jeff Wachtel, Bonnie Hammer, they all are very brilliant at what they do and they know what works. They know what works for their network and their track record proves it. In terms of like feeling in competition I myself don't. I always feel that your journey is your journey and what's good for one is good for all. If the network is doing well then it's great for all of us, so if they have a show that comes and premiers well great; that makes us that much more stronger. As long as we can hold down our spot then I think we can keep going along for a good ...
James Roday: Yes. I think what we do is fairly unique on Psych, and we just have to keep doing that because that's what got us where we are. So you can't really worry about any other show, whether it's on USA or not. You have to stay true to yourselves and hope that people keep watching, and in the meantime just be, like Dulé said, just be happy for the family because it seems like everything they churn out right now turns to gold.
Now that you've had your first experience at Comic Con how was it for you guys? I know it was great for us fans to see you, but how did you enjoy Comic Con?
Dule 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.
James 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.
So what I want to know is if people haven't started watching Psych yet why should they tune in now?
Dule 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.
James 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.
I'm going to go back to the American Werewolf episode. You wrote that, James. Right?
James Roday: Yes. I co-wrote that with my best friend Todd Harthan.
Can you talk more about it and is John Landis directing?
James Roday: The original plan was to have Landis direct it for obvious reasons. He is off directing a feature in England right now. So we got the incomparable Andrew Bernstein to step in in his place, who did a fantastic job, who Dulé has known since his West Wing days. It's not unlike Tuesday the 17th; it's an episode that needs to sort of stand on its own feet, but will definitely have moments where we're winking and nodding and proclaiming our love for the original. But it has its own little story and its own little twists and turns. Just having David Naughton on set was enough for me, because I got to pick his brain for the better part of a week and ended up getting a signed picture of him mid-transformation with the elongated torso reaching up at me. That's getting framed and going on a wall.
I just wanted to know with your vast knowledge about show biz basically and obviously you've done some work on writing before, would you guys think about anything in the future that you would like to possibly write or direct? Maybe a new version of Twin Peaks, knock on wood?
Dule Hill: Well in terms of writing, I think in the future you will see me writing something called Nothing; it will be a blank piece of paper with nothing written on it, because I have no ambition to write so that's not going to be happening. I'll leave all that up to James Roday.
James Roday: Yes. I feel like this have been an invaluable sort of experience for me, because I've managed to kind of cut my teeth doing all of the things that I do aspire to do. Hopefully by the time this show has a long and successful run I'll have sort of banked enough stuff to sort of go out there and get myself another gig writing or directing. I can tell you that when we do the Twin Peaks episode it will probably either be myself or Steve Franks directing, and the two of us will certainly write it because I don't think anyone else knows half as much about that show as we do. So I don't think we would feel comfortable handing it off, unless David Lynch wanted to come in and direct, in which case we'd make an exception.
I was wondering you've had a ton of fantastic guest stars. Who would you like to see on the show and who do you think they would play?
James 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.
Dule 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.
James 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.
Dule Hill: I think David Bowie could play Mr. Guster in season five.
James Roday: He could.
Dule Hill: There you go-because we change my dad all the time. Like dude, your daddy is David Bowie. ... is not showing.
James Roday: That would be fantastic.
You can catch all the laughs of the new fourth season of Psych when it premieres on Friday, August 7 at 10 PM ET on the USA Network.