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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Interview with Psych’s James Roday and Dule Hill

Psych fans, the wait is over. The show returns this Friday at 10 p.m. on USA.


To celebrate the occasion, I chatted with the show’s stars, James Roday and Dule Hill, yesterday, as part of a conference call with several journalists throughout the country.

Here is the fun interview, full of “juicy” delicious show details. And yes, that is a reference to the ongoing pineapple joke on the show that the boys finally explain.
They also discuss all those ‘80s references you love, the romance of Shawn and Juliet, and the chemistry or “bromance” of Shawn and Gus. Please note that the transcript, provided by NBC, has been edited in places for clarity and length.

I’ve seen this Friday’s episode, and it’s good stuff, Tubers. Kerry Washington guest stars as Gus’ wife. Yes, I said wife. It’s as good as you’re imagining.

For those of you who’ve written asking, the show will begin airing this season’s episodes on NBC in March. No date has been released yet for the debut. I’ll let you know, as soon as I get the 411.
Without further adieu, the boys of Psych.

Jennifer Biller: Hey guys, love the show. It’s so funny.

Dule Hill: Thank you.

James Roday: Thanks!

Jennifer Biller: My readers love all the ‘80s references. (The recent Short Circuit one had me rolling,) and they want to know if those moments are scripted or ad-libbed?

Dule Hill: I think it’s a mixture of both. I mean, I think they write some stuff and then other stuff will come up later, mostly between Roday and any other ‘80s freak that we have on the show. That’s where it’ll come from most of the time.

James Roday: Yeah. I mean, we’ve sort of created a landscape for this show that is very sort of ‘80s friendly, from the way we talk and the music that we add, to the guest actors that we bring on. So, anytime something even sort of makes sense, we’re certainly encouraged to give it a shot. So, there’s tons more that you’ve actually never seen because we spew them out at an alarming rate.

Jennifer Biller: Please put them on the DVD. I think they would love that.

James Roday: You got it.

Jennifer Biller: Dule, will we get to see any of your incredible dancing skills in future episodes?

Dule Hill: I think we’re moving closer to it. I think it will happen at some point. It’s what I would like to do.

Jennifer Biller: Fantastic. James, the relationship with your father (on the show), Corbin Bernsen is one of my favorite parts of the show. Will we get to see more details, perhaps, about why their relationship is what it is?

James Roday: Yes. There’s some stuff coming up that I think - that’ll shed some light on that, and then there’s a big bopper of a cliffhanger that you can look forward to at the end of the sixth episode. So yeah, we’re definitely doing some of that stuff.

Q: So what’s up with the pineapple rubbing joke?

Dule Hill: That actually started from the pilot, because in the pilot episode in my apartment when Shawn came to wake me up and I went back to my room I guess to get ready, there just by chance was a pineapple on top of a refrigerator on the set. And Roday, doing what he does, just kind of took the pineapple and asked me if I wanted him to cut it up. And ever since then…

James Roday: It really has gotten bigger than I think any of us ever imagined that it would.

Dule Hill: Well the improv that Roday did, it stayed with us.

James Roday: And ironically, it was in and out of that pilot like three or four times. Like it got cut and then it got put back in. It got cut; it got put back in. I mean, it barely survived. And now it’s like a staple of what we do - very amusing.

Q: I understand you also have had a bunch of jokes about Chad Michael Murray. What’s up with that?

James Roday: You know, I’ve never actually met Chad Michael Murray…

Dule Hill: Neither have I.

James Roday: I don’t really have anything against him. To me, he puts out an image and he sort of puts himself out there in a way that’s very easy to make fun of. And, you know what? It’s an easy target, I admit it. But we have fun doing it, that’s all I can say.

Dule Hill: It’s just childish games that we play.

Q: On the show you sort of have these pretty keen observational skills. As a result of the show, have your observational skills gotten better, outside of filming, just everyday life?

Dule Hill: Well let me answer that one.

James Roday: Yeah. Go, Dule.
Dule Hill: I can answer for him and say no. There’s been many times that Roday has driven me to work in the morning, and his skills have not gotten better because there’s many times I’ve had to call out and be like, “There’s a red light right there. You better watch out for that cop over there. So…

James Roday: Yeah. You know what? I think I thought that they we were going to. I just thought there would be like a natural byproduct of… doing the show, but it didn’t really - it hasn’t worked out like that.

Q: I was really glad to hear that you guys are going to get a run on NBC. I was wondering what your reaction was to that and what you think it might mean for the regular show?

James Roday: Well, Dule and I together paid the WGA upwards of $150,000 not to resolve their issues so that we could get a run on NBC. That was the first thing we did. (Awkward pause) That’s a joke. That’s not true.

Dule Hill: Yeah, he is joking. It’s true.

James Roday: But it is, you know, it’s one of those little pieces of silver lining that can happen from a work stoppage, which is strange and unpredictable. I’m totally excited about it. And the fact that we will hopefully be exposed to a larger audience is exactly what this show needs. We have some very, very loyal fans but I feel like it’s a tight little group and we’d love to see that group get bigger.

Q: (For Dule) Are there any of Gus’s talents that you share in your life – the super smeller, for example or the exceptional spelling, or the extensive knowledge of pharmaceuticals??

Dule Hill: I think I have all of those abilities when I have a laptop in front of me. So, I can spell great when I have spell check, and I know any pharmaceutical thing you want to know, as long as I have Google right next to me.

James Roday: I can definitely vouch for his ability to say big words. He’s a master of that.

Q: Super smeller? Have you got a super smeller?

Dule Hill: No, I don’t think so. I don’t have the smelling capabilities of Burton Guster.

Q: In preparing for the role, did you hang with any real psychics and sort of get, you know, tips from them as to how to, you know, how to act on the show?

Dule Hill: Well being that my character is not a psychic…I did not.

James Roday: Way back before we shot the pilot, I did a little bit of research and I met with a few psychics, you know, just to sort of get an idea of like what happens to them, physically, when they have episodes that I could sort of have a reference point of where to go, if there was anything cool that I could feel. I made sure that I told them I was playing a real psychic so that they didn’t get offended. Nobody called me out on it. So that might say something about the level of their authenticity. But since then, I’ve sort of been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ll be honest with you. I sort of store that away and then let it go.

Q: How did you get Kerry Washington for “There’s Something About Mira?” And can the fans look forward to any Shawn/Juliet interaction the next episodes?

Dule Hill: Okay. Well for Kerry, she’s a friend of mine that I’ve known for years back, from back in New York. And when the role came up, I thought that would be a fun role for her to do. I thought she would enjoy it. And I called her and asked her to come bless us with her talent and she said, “Sure.”

James Roday: Shawn and Juliet - I think it’s possible that we created - I think we created some anticipation with that last moment in the first half of the season that we might not be able to deliver on. So don’t get too excited because, you know, I think there’s still plenty of sexual tension there. But I would be lying if I said we’d take another step in that direction.

Q: You guys have obviously very good chemistry on this show. What is the secret to that?

James Roday: The secret to good chemistry… I’ve had not great chemistry with other actors on other shows, so I think you just have to get lucky initially. You just sort of have to mesh with somebody, so that you’re not having to work at it. And then if you get lucky, then my guess would be that this secret of maintaining good chemistry is just not getting laded.

Dule Hill: That’s what Roday likes to call LL.

James Roday: Yeah.

Q: Dule, getting back to Kerry Washington, what can you tell us about that backstory, as far as Gus being married?

Dule Hill: It was a time where I guess Gus was tired of always living by the rules and decided to take a walk on the wild side, for one night, until he woke up the next morning and realized what he had done. And then kind of pulled himself back in - reigned himself back in.

Q: What’s your favorite episode so far for each of you?

Dule Hill: For me it would be “American Duos.” I just really loved dressing up as Michael Jackson. That was just a childhood dream come

James Roday: I think very selfishly, and perhaps unselfishly, I would go with “Scary Sherry” Season one. (Editor’s note: the episode he wrote) Just because it was actually quite moving to watch everybody come together and bust their butts to make that episode happen for the show, but also for me because it was sort of a departure from what we had done up to that point. And everybody really rallied. And it was a great experience. I was very thankful. That will always have a soft spot for me.

Q: James, I know you’ve written some episodes of the show. Do you have plans to do more of that in the future? And what’s that like writing for a show that you star in?

James Roday: Yeah, I think I will keep doing it. I have a good time with it. It was weird - the first time out it was weird, just because there were so many dynamics at play. You know, I didn’t know exactly how everybody was going to take, you know, my doing my first episode. But everybody was so awesome. My fellow cast mates were great. The crew was so supportive. As soon as I knew that everything was going to be cool, then it just became really fun. And now I like doing it, and I’ll probably do a couple a season.

Q: James, on this Psych Season One DVD set, there’s film of your audition, as I’m sure you know. And it seems like you got Shawn Spencer right from the get-go. Is that the way it was for you? You read the script and you just got the guy immediately?

James Roday: Well, I certainly got what my take on the guy was going to be. You know, there was a really good chance that everybody else involved weren’t going to be on the same page. But, that’s definitely the dice that you roll. But, for me it was worth, you know, going for it and letting them know if you give me this role, you’re going to get something in this arena, so you need to be okay with that. Otherwise, this is not a good match. And, it turned out that it was cool. But it could have gone the other way, and then you’d be watching some other dude.

Q: How has the success of this show changed your life in ways large and small, and ways good and bad, if at all?

James Roday: Well for me, it’s been all good. I enjoy working, so first, it’s nice to have a job and know that you still have a job. That just sort of lends itself to a happier lifestyle, I think, regardless of what you do for a living. And then being approached by fans - our fans are so great because every time I get stopped by somebody, it’s always really specific to the show, and they’re really enthusiastic about the show. And they just want to talk about the show or tell me how much they love the show, you know, as opposed to random people stopping you and saying, “Don’t I recognize you from somewhere?” We have the greatest fans, so we’re constantly being motivated to keep doing good work, because they’re out there in all shapes and sizes, and all different ages. In the matter of one day in a mall, I’ll be stopped by 12-year-old girls and a 58-year-old man. And it’s amazing to me the net that we’ve sort of cast with this show. That’s really motivating. That really makes me feel like we’re doing something that has some value, and it makes me want to keep doing it, and do it even better. So it’s been a very, very positive experience for me.

Q: Dule, did you get Gus immediately or were you having to try and figure out how to bounce him off of James, or what? How did that work out for you?

Dule Hill: I think for me, the process was a little more - well, for both of us really, but the process is evolving. I think I had an idea of who Gus is. And look at the pilot and look at him now, I think you’ll see a growth in the character.

Q: He’s goofier now.

Dule Hill: Because I actually walked in the room and said okay, this is exactly who he is. I guess I was trying to figure out all the aspects of him. And I still am. I’m still trying to, evolve the character and find out different things about him. So no, I didn’t get him right away. (Unintelligible).

Q: Dule. You were great on West Wing and you’re even more amazing on Psych, so do you prefer drama to comedy? And how hard was it for you to make that change into the new show?

Dule Hill: I like balancing it out personally. I mean, after doing seven years of the drama, to be able to do some comedy with expressions… I was tired of - not really tired of, but I didn’t want to go and do another show where I had to dig deep and, you know, deal with a lot of my personal issues of bringing stuff out. Making the transition wasn’t that hard to me because most of the time I’m more of a lighthearted kind of person anyway. I like to crack jokes and have a good time. And this show is a blast. I mean, working with this cast is amazing. So from day one I knew I was going to have a good time. From the cast itself to Steve, you know, writing the episodes and all that, I’ve had a blast. So it was very easy.

Q: On the Psych Outs (that air at the end of the shows) you guys have a lot of fun doing a little bit of improv, and I’m sure you guys do a ton on the show throughout. So does the script change a lot because you guys are kind of adding your own stuff? And who is more into doing the improv?

Dule Hill: Oh, Roday is definitely more the improver. I kind of feed off of Roday. It’s the kind of thing where I keep a ship going in the right direction, that way Roday can do all of his - everything he does, you know what I mean?

James Roday: Yeah. We have a pretty good deal with our writers. I mean, they sort of get what we do on the show and appreciate it. And we sort of set boundaries, and they know that as long as we tell their story and make sure that we hit all the major points. And they give us a lot of room to sort of have fun, keep things fresh, and make it our own. You know, it’s definitely trial by fire. It’s not like all of my improvisation is gold. But I would say 90% of it is.

Q: Did you say that you two guys commute to work together?

Dule Hill: Sometimes we have, yeah, because in Vancouver, when my wife needs the car I will call Roday and say hey, can you give me a ride

Q: (Following up) I just find that unusual. I mean, Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd never drove to work together. I think it’s interesting that you guys do. Does it create a different kind of situation? You guys get to talk together on the way to work and the way home from work, and stuff like that?

Dule Hill: Yeah. I believe, sometimes it allows us to catch up on what’s going on, just talk about different issues that may be going on with the show and, like, come up with a game plan of how we are going to navigate certain orders. And sometimes it’s just a matter of, you know, I get to sleep while he’s driving.

Q: When James was talking about how fans react to him, what have you noticed is the difference? I mean, you had such a different set of fans for “West Wing” than you do for “Psych.” What’s the difference in - from those two shows, the likelihood that people will recognize you and come up and talk to you?

Dule Hill: I think Roday hit it on the nose when he said you can be walking down the street or walk through a mall somewhere, or an airport, and there’ll be a 12-year-old girl. And ten feet later, it’ll be a 58-year-old man. That didn’t really happen too much on West Wing. There definitely weren’t a lot of children watching or even teens watching West Wing that often. So I think it’s just the variety of the audience, what I see the difference is.

Q: How many episodes are in this second part (of the season that begin airing on Friday?) And were they all written and filmed? Do you have them all written - all the ones written that you’d planned on written before the strike?

Dule Hill: Yeah. I believe there were six. Roday?

James Roday: Yeah, there’s six left and they’re all finished and have been for awhile.

Q: Dule. You’re talking about the evolution of Gus, and it’s clear his one-night walk on the wild side is certainly one evolution. When you first saw him and saw how straight arrow he was at first, was that one of your hopes - that this guy would gradually start to wave off and do some interesting things?

Dule Hill: Definitely. And I think the (writers) were on the same page initially also that where the character was written in the pilot, isn’t necessarily where he was going to stay, because he was, from the pilot episode, definitely very straight-laced. I think we’ve kind of not necessarily loosened him up some, but at least it’s started to allow him to have more fun, more fun in who is. And I think you’ll continue to see it go that way.

Q: Dule, I was wondering when you first started portraying Gus, how much of Charlie did you bring over from the West Wing, do you think?

Dule Hill: None. Yeah, I don’t think I brought any of Charlie over there. Because they were different. Gus didn’t have all the history that Charlie had in terms of his mom being killed and working with this co-worker who died in a car accident. I mean, Charlie had a lot of baggage. No, I didn’t bring anything over because it was just two different shows - two different shows, two different characters. And being - one being a comedy and one being a drama - definitely helped draw the line how I would approach things with Shawn was completely different than how I would approach things with President Bartlet or any of the other characters on that show.

James Roday: Not that Shawn doesn’t have the gravitas of President Bartlet. He does, it’s just a different approach, is all. So from the beginning, that takes it in two completely different directions.

Q: Did you have any input into the animated thing - The Big Adventures of Little Shawn and Gus?

James Roday: I didn’t man. We were just as surprised as you guys were when we heard they were doing that. But they’re funny little looking dudes, man. Running around, having adventures, you know, animated and what not. They just - they’re sort of like - they’re in their own little world over there in marketing and with Web site stuff. And they keep us on our toes. We get surprised a lot by them actually.

Q: Have you guys seen them all (The Big Adventures of Little Shawn and Gus?)

Dule Hill: I have not seen any of them. Nope, I actually forgot about it until we came - until I started to see it come back up.

Q: Is there a point anywhere down the line where Shawn will be discovered to be a complete fake, or will you guys bring in more people into your inner circle so they’ll know that this is real?

James Roday: I think the answer to that question lies almost exclusively in how long the show runs. I think we’ll try to get away with not doing that for as long as possible. And so we’re all sort of sitting at the table going, you know, we’ve clearly hit a wall. It’s time to either shut it down, bring someone into the inner circle, you know, show that he’s a fake or bring a child onto the show because that’s what happens when you hit walls. One of those four things has to occur. I think we’ve sort of found the formula that works for our show and now that we know what it is, I mean, me personally, I’d like to spend at least another full season just having fun with it, now that we don’t have to worry about what it is anymore - you know, doing as much silly stuff as we can come up with. We’ll take a look at it again after Season Three, you know, see what needs to be done. I mean, I would much rather learn more about the characters. I mean, from their lives and sort of start questioning in that direction, than do something like plot-driven. So we’ll see.

Q: Can you talk some more about what we’ll be seeing in the second half of the season from the show - what adventures you and Gus are up to?

Dule Hill: It’s always so hard when you’ve filmed them like six months ago. Well, you know, we had an episode where obviously I get married or have been married, and my ex-wife comes back in the picture. Then we have the episode where we become fashion models, which was written by Roday and Steve Franks

James Roday: There’s a couple episodes that involve us and like people over 60 that kind of blend together for me. It’s sort of like Psych meets Cocoon Part 1 and Psych meets Cocoon Part 2. And then there’s a big finale that involves a mummy.

Q: It seems like Lassiter has mellowed, like in the first season he was just more determined to prove that Shawn was a phony, and he hasn’t seemed to be doing that. What’s going on with Lassiter?

James Roday: I think we went down a more sort of character driven path with him the last season and a half or so. We’ve sort of peeled back a couple of his layers, and I think that was really good for the show because, while you’ll never lose him as, you know, the coyote to Shawn’s roadrunner, and while that’s important to have in place, you want to get to know him as more than that. And I think Season One, we really sort of just jammed it down viewers’ throats (that) hey, this guy is really, really wired tightly and he can’t stand Shawn Spencer. And it’s like all right, we got that. We get that he’s going to be in the foil. What else do you got? And so we sort of tried to peel back a few layers of Lassiter’s character. And now that you’ve sort of seen some more colors from him, I think we can go back to having him be more of an ass, and it’s okay because he’s not just that anymore.

Q: If you could change anything about what’s been going on, on the show up until now, what would it be? Anything?

Dule Hill: I probably would have Gus get more love interests, which I think he will see happen. You know what I mean, because why not?

James Roday: That’s a tough one. We’ve been pretty damn lucky with this show. But, I guess if I had to pick something I would just say that we would have started pushing the boundaries of what we can do on this show a little earlier, because I feel like we are starting to do that now. I was itching to start doing crazy stuff, like Episode Three. But it’s a process and we’re getting there.

Q: Back when you guys did the promotional campaign with Monk, it made me want to see if there could be like a Psych/Monk crossover. Is that at all a possibility that you guys might think about?

Dule Hill: I think it’s possible That’d have to go to the-powers-that-be to kind of work it out, I think. I would love to do it and be sure that Tony would be interested in doing it. It’d be fun. I would love to see how the three characters would interact with each other.

James Roday: Yeah. We’ve had a lot of fun with Tony the few times we’ve got to hang with him. The clock’s ticking, though. I mean, if we’re going to do that, I think we need to do it pretty quick. So, you know, float that out there. Go tell everybody that you want to see it happen.

Q: I’m sure you guys are aware of all the fan fictions that have surfaced about the show over the past. Do you guys read any of that and does it affect the writing of the show?

James Roday: Fan fiction - what is that exactly?

(Follow up) : Oh…a lot of the fans on the Internet will write their own extensions to the stories, alternate plots, typically love affairs between Shawn and Gus… That kind of thing.

Dule Hill: I think the first part of the question, saying that you are aware of it - that was the part that was off because I was not aware of it. I’m not (unintelligible)…

James Roday: That’s great, though.

Dule Hill: I think it’s great, yeah. So I guess that kind of answers your question because… Maybe some of the writers might know. Tell them to keep on doing it. We may need ideas very soon.

James Roday: Yeah, we might be running cold before we think we are.

Q: Did you guys ever kick around the idea of having a reoccurring villain, other than Lassiter, who is more of like you said “the foil” - but more of a darker villain, if you will?

James Roday: I think just recently we have. I mean, the idea of doing stuff that’s not as episodic. It’s not as sort of standalone has been a tough - sort of a tough bubble to burst, so far. But now that we’re going into a third season and, you know, our numbers have sort of held steady, it’s definitely like the obvious question; Can we start doing stuff like that? Can we do story points that last for longer than an episodes, characters that come back? We are planning on bringing a couple people back in the third season, which will be our first official recurring characters from past episodes. Neither of them were villainous. But, you know, we’re definitely taking steps in that direction. I think it would be fun. I think something like that would only add, you know, a layer to the show that we don’t already have. So I’m certainly for it, just a lot of other people have to be convinced before something like that can happen.

Q: Do you want to talk about what you’re doing now and where you’re going, and what’s happening in your career?

Dule Hill: Well right now I’m sitting in my pajamas having a cup of tea. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m on break. I’m really enjoying my break after the last year of doing a play last year. This year really felt that I needed a rest. I just came back from Jamaica, spending two weeks out there, and I’m going back there again in about a week to hang out again. I’m just taking it easy right now.

James Roday: Well I wasn’t performing in the play, but I just finished producing a play here in Los Angeles that just about killed me. If you know anything about producing theater in Los Angeles, it’s one of the most thankless, and arguably, stupid things that you can do. But I did it and I’m really glad I did it. And I’m exhausted, and I’m definitely going to take some time off now, and maybe do a little traveling, clear the head, get the juices flowing again. You know, hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can start thinking about Psych.

8 comments:

Kara said...

Great interview. Thanks for posting it!

Rae said...

Awww, great interview Jen!! I'm jealous that you got to talk to James! I can't wait for new episodes.

PS: Love the new layout! (It's probably not new but I'm a bit behind on my reading.)

tube talk girl said...

Thank you, Rae! Good to see ya!

It's a work in progress. Not quite done yet. I have to add links, etc. back in!

weevilswobble said...

Dule, dancing. Yes!!! Thank you, Jen for asking that question.

"Bring on da noise; bring on da funk!"

Nick said...

I didn't know James had written "Scary Sherri." I'm gonna have to get the DVDs so I can watch it again.

Julie said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!
Psych is my Friday night escape and I love James and Dule. They are so funny together. Pretty cool that they carpool sometimes! Al Gore will love them.

steph in la said...

Awesome interview. These guys are a hoot.

I can't wait to see Gus and his "wife."

big shots said...

I can't get the image of them carpooling out of my mind. Wouldn't you like to ride with them one morning!

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