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James Roday and Dulé Hill – Psych Out

PSYCH -- Pictured: (l-r) James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Burton "Gus" Guster -- USA Network Photo: Matthias Clamer

PSYCH — Pictured: (l-r) James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Burton “Gus” Guster — USA Network Photo: Matthias Clamer

James Roday and Dulé Hill

Psych Out

by Jay S. Jacobs

On cable, the USA Network has mined a specialty ore on TV, becoming the home for light-hearted and humorous detective dramas.

One of the most popular of these has been Psych – starring James Roday (The Dukes of Hazzard) and Dulé Hill (The West Wing) as a man who fakes being a psychic to help police solve crimes and his long suffering best friend.

A week before the fourth season of Psych was ready to debut; PopEntertainment was amongst a group of web sites who were able to discuss the series with stars James Roday and Dulé Hill.

I know that you’ve both played very different characters in other things.  I know that Mr. Roday had actually played alongside to Maggie Lawson in Fear Itself and Mr. Dulé you had a wonderful part on West Wing for a while.  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?

Dulé 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.

How about you, Mr. Roday?

James Roday: Well, first of all I just want to thank you for reminding me that I did in fact appear in Fear Itself; I often forget that.  Secondly, 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.

PSYCH -- Pictured: James Roday as Shawn Spencer -- USA Network Photo: Matthias Clamer

PSYCH — Pictured: James Roday as Shawn Spencer — USA Network Photo: Matthias Clamer

This is for both of you; the show is known a lot for its kind of fast-paced banter between your characters Shawn and Gus.  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 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.

Dulé 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.  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.

Dulé Hill: I guess for myself it’s not any real template that I came in to with a preconceived notion about like in terms of a previous detective team.  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.

PSYCH -- Pictured: Dule Hill as Burton "Gus" Guster -- USA Network Photo: Matthias Clamer

PSYCH — Pictured: Dule Hill as Burton “Gus” Guster — USA Network Photo: Matthias Clamer

I just want to say the premise of the premiere episode made me smile, because I’m in Vancouver.  I just wanted to know what was behind the decision to actually feature Van city in the episode?

Dulé 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.

Dulé 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.

Dulé 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 have to say that I really enjoyed the first episode, and I particularly loved the Thomas Crown/Remington Steele reference and laughed pretty hard about that one, mostly because the other day I was on Hulu and I actually watched an episode of Remington Steele.  So it just kind of made me laugh. 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?

James Roday: Well, my answer is one in the same.  I would have given anything to be on Twin Peaks, and if we last another season we will be doing a Twin Peaks episode.  So there you go.

Really.  That would be interesting to see.  Dulé?

Dulé Hill: I guess for myself if I could have been a Cosby kid.

Cosby kid.

Dulé 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.

Maggie Lawson, Timothy Omundson, James Roday and Dulé Hill in "Psych."

Maggie Lawson, Timothy Omundson, James Roday and Dulé Hill in “Psych.”

If you 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.

Dulé 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?

Dulé Hill: Yes.

James Roday: Absolutely.

Dulé 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.

Dulé Hill: I guess a little teaser too 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.

PSYCH -- "Extradition BC" Episode 4002 -- Pictured: (l-r) James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Gus Guster -- USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk

PSYCH — “Extradition BC” Episode 4002 — Pictured: (l-r) James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Gus Guster — USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk

I wanted to talk about some of the 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.

My question is do you guys have a favorite episode to film or that you think is the best episode you guys have done so far?

James 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.

Dulé 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.  But for myself it would still have to go back to “American Duos.”  I just can’t help it, I just loved dressing up as Michael Jackson and being able to do a moonwalk, have John Landis direct me while I’m dressed up as Michael Jackson in “Thriller.”  And there was a crowd there, too, so you can’t really beat that.  You can’t really beat that.  That’s one of my all time favorite experiences on Psych.

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 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.

Dulé 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.

Dulé Hill: American Werewolf in London homage.

James Roday: 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.

PSYCH -- "Shawn Takes A Shot In The Dark" Episode 4003 -- Pictured: (l-r) John Hawkes as Rollins, James Roday as Shawn Spencer -- USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk

PSYCH — “Shawn Takes A Shot In The Dark” Episode 4003 — Pictured: (l-r) John Hawkes as Rollins, James Roday as Shawn Spencer — USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk

To kind of follow-up on some previous questions, how many of the pop culture references come from you, including the Chad Michael Murray reference?

Dulé Hill: I would say about 99.9% of them do not come from me.  Maybe if there’s something in the ‘70s that might be something that I came with, but most of the ‘80s references I have no idea what I’m talking about.  It’s not until after I film it that I turn around and say, “Okay, now what was that about?”

James Roday: Who were the twins that you knew that I had never heard of in “Tuesday the 17th”?

Dulé Hill: The twins?  Oh, the Mowli Twins.

James Roday: The Mowli twins.  That was your 0.01% man.

Dulé Hill: That and what’s the other one?  I don’t even know if it made it to air, the Gil Scott Heron.

James Roday: Oh, that was.  That made it two.  That made it two.

Dulé Hill: Gil Scott Heron.  That’s my two for the year.

James Roday: Yes.  Most of them come from the writers and then I throw in my fair share as well.  Chad Michael Murray became the target of some early jabbing for us after I saw some interview where it was like a behind the scenes of House of Wax and he was wearing a wife beater.  It was just a real serious interview, and I got such a kick out of it that we had to have some fun at his expense.  Hopefully he’s a good-natured guy with a sense of humor.

How does becoming co-producers affect your roles on the show?

Dulé 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.

PSYCH -- "Extradition BC" Episode 4002 -- Pictured: (l-r) Maggie Lawson as Juliet O'Hara, Dule Hill as Gus Guster -- USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk

PSYCH — “Extradition BC” Episode 4002 — Pictured: (l-r) Maggie Lawson as Juliet O’Hara, Dule Hill as Gus Guster — USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk

This year they released two books for Psych and your characters and everything, and I was wondering if you were to ever read those yourselves and you could come up with your own kind of merchandise what would you like to see?

Dulé Hill: Well I would read it if I had one and if I knew there was one that was out.

James Roday: I was going to say it’s good to know that there are books out.  I didn’t know that.

Dulé Hill: Maybe I’ll try to read it one day on the set.

James Roday: Merchandise.

Dulé Hill: I would have to say a video game.  I love video games anyway, so a Psych video game somehow that I could play on Xbox or Wii would be great.

James Roday: I have to say I think the idea of a talking bobblehead was pretty solid, and someone actually came up with already and did it.  I love the idea of little Shawn and Gus bobbleheads.

Dulé Hill: Which, by the way, I have my President Obama bobblehead also.  So when I get my Psych bobbleheads it will be Shaun, Gus, and President Barack Obama bobbleheads sitting on my counter.

James Roday: I might give you Ichiro Suzuki bobblehead just so that you can add it and it would be a quartet.

Dulé Hill: Sounds good.

For the record, Without a Clue is one of my favorite movies of all time.

James Roday: Good man.  Good man.

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?

Dulé 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.  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 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.

What’s the one question that you both wish someone would ask you that no one has ever asked you?

Dulé Hill: I guess I would say that question you just asked me.  It would be just a reoccurring cycle just would keep going around, because then my response would be the question you just asked me if you would ask me the question again.

James Roday: Wow.  That’s a tough one.  That’s a good one.  I love talking about my fellow cast mates, because I think they’re all geniuses and I think they’re all so talented.  So anything that allows me the opportunity to go off ranting about them and watching them work and what a joy it is for me to sort of sit back if I’m writing or directing and sort of watch them do their thing is a great question that I feel like I don’t get asked enough.  But that’s it; that’s the best that I can give you.

Which one of you is the most like your character on the series or are you completely different?

James Roday: I think we’re both pretty different.  I do.  I think that’s one of the things that is really cool about our show is that we have as much fun as we do, A, and B, we get to play characters that are pretty different from our real life personas.

Dulé Hill: But actually going back to someone’s previous question about useless information I would say that Roday is more like Gus in that area, especially with film trivia, ‘80s trivia.  He and Steve Franks can lift off songs on an album.  I guess—

James Roday: I have the trunk of useless knowledge.

Dulé Hill: Yes.

James Roday and Dulé Hill in "Psych."

James Roday and Dulé Hill in “Psych.”

You guys have such great chemistry on the show.  Does that come naturally?

Dulé 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 wo