Talkin’ With … ‘Psych’ Star James Roday

Talkin’ With … ‘Psych’ Star James Roday

TGIF, and the best reason for settling in on the couch on Friday nights is USA Network’s Psych, the always fun crime comedy with a great cast, great guest stars and an endearing obsession with referencing nearly every bit of pop culture that unfolded in the ’80s.

That obsession has made fans obsessed with catching every little detail of the clever series – from the running pineapple gags to the wacky character nicknames – which is one of the many things Psych star James Roday talked about when I had the chance to chat with him recently.

He also dishes on upcoming episodes – including one where his Shawn Spencer meets the too-perfect ex-boyfriend of his sorta love interest Juliet (played by Roday’s real-life girlfriend Maggie Lawson) – how much fun it is to work with co-stars like Dule Hill, who tops his wish list for Psych guest stars, the possibility of a Psych crossover episode (Psych/Chuck, anyone?) and how he and the Psych crew really feel about the similarly-themed CBS hit The Mentalist.

Hey James, thanks for making time to chat today.
It is my pleasure.

So where are you now? Are you still filming on season four in Vancouver?
We absolutely are. We will be here for another couple months, but we’re past the half-way mark. We’re shooting number 11 out of 16.

Is that the episode where we meet Juliet’s brother?
No, that’s (episode) nine. The one we’re filming now is where we meet Juliet’s college boyfriend, her ex-boyfriend, from back in the day.

That sounds like a fun little bit of love triangle stirring, with Shawn and Juliet.
Yeah yeah, it should be good. There’s an interesting hook to it, and the case is pretty interesting, and we bring him back in an unusual way.

And is Juliet’s ex at all like Shawn?
He’s not. He’s a completely, completely different kind of guy, and doesn’t really have any sort of glaring weaknesses or chinks in the armor for Shawn to go after, which frustrates him. He’s just a really good sort of earnest, slice of American pie kind of guy. Shawn just can’t figure out how to break him down, so there’s an interesting little dynamic there.

Sounds like a great episode.
Yeah, it should be good. (Psych creator) Steve Franks is directing it, and Maggie (Lawson, who plays Juliet) has all kinds of new fun stuff to play. We see her in a flash back from when she was in college.

I think one of the things that most endears the show to fans is that it looks like the cast is having so much fun making it. Is that true?
Yes. I would even go as far as to say we’re having even more fun (now), just because we’re that much more comfortable doing what we do, and there’s not quite as much pressure on us to succeed as there was when we were sort of starting out. We’re kind of established now and we know who our audience is, so it’s just us messing around, coming up with inventive ways every week to keep them laughing. It’s good … we have a great vibe on the set now, and I think it’s probably better than it’s ever been.

Does it help you bond as a cast that you’re filming in Vancouver, away from the craziness of Hollywood and studio interference?
Absolutely, we’re sort of in a little bubble up here. We don’t really know anybody but each other, and executives really don’t want have to get on a plane to come and visit your set so … there’s a little bit of the inmates running the asylum through our show, which I think we’ve handled responsibly. It’s weird. Like when we came back to the states – I say ‘the states’ now because I’ve spent half the year in Canada and that’s what they call it – but like when we went back for Comic Con not too long ago, and it was a real sort of eye-opening experience. We’re not used to being around our fans and seeing up-close-and-personal the kind of response that we get for the show. And, we knew we had fans, but we were a little worried going to Comic Con … it was kind of a big venue they were putting our panel in, and it could be embarrassing if, you know, only 100 people show up. So we were all sort blown away by the response. The place was jam-packed – it was standing room only – and it was sort of a nice reminder that, oh yeah, wow, we’re this cool show that people really dig. And I think sometimes we lose that being up here in Vancouver.

It must also be a plus though that you don’t have to deal with paparazzi as much as you would if you were in Los Angeles.
For sure. I mean, right now, we’re sort of being followed around by paparazzi just because Twilight is shooting here at the same time. So everybody is being followed around by the paparazzi, but then they realize that we’re not the Twilight people and we see the disappointment on their faces and then they leave us alone.

You mentioned Comic Con – that was the first time there for the Psych cast and crew, right? Was it overwhelming?
It was the first time, and it was a blast. All of us, I mean we were sort of in and out quickly because we were on a tight schedule, but I’d actually love to go back with a little more time and experience the whole thing. The energy was great, and we had a great time mingling with the fans.

Were you surprised at just how devoted the Psych fans are? They really notice every little detail in the show.
We sort of expected that (Comic Con) would have the most fanatical version of it, that it would be the enhanced fanmanship. But I still didn’t really expect people to be walking around dressed like giant pineapples, and they were. They were just full-blown fans, and all of them have caught all the in-jokes and the running gags that we always think like, maybe 10 people are appreciating. It was really, really cool. I felt like a Jonas brother for an hour. Hopefully they’ll invite us back next year.

Speaking of the pineapples, are you getting weird pineapple things from fans? Recipes in the mail, or actual pineapples?
Haha, yeah. A lot of people send fan mail adorned with various pineapple accessories and insignias. It definitely sort of became a trademark for our show, and it’s just so bizarre that it happened the way that it did. We always joke around about how it would have been if a different piece of fruit, in the pilot, had been on top of Gus’ refrigerator. Like, what if it had been a coconut? Then our trademark would be a coconut. Or a dragon fruit or a lychee? Whatever was up there, if I had grabbed it instead, that’s where we would be right now.

Well, at least the pineapple is a pretty fruit.
It’s beautiful, and it seems to be a naturally welcoming fruit. I couldn’t have picked a better fruit if I wanted to, which of course I didn’t, because I didn’t have anything to do with it.

Fans love the nicknames Shawn gives Gus. What’s the one that’s quoted back to you most often?
I think it would have to be Lavender Gooms. And Dule loves that, because it’s actually the name of his great aunt. So it’s a double score – people dug it and it’s also a shout out to one of his family members.

The show’s also known and loved for all the great pop culture references, particularly ’80s references. Is everyone in the cast and crew a big pop culture junkie?
Some of us more so than others. The writers, definitely, because it certainly starts with them. Me, I’m just full of all this information. As for Dule, I would say 60 percent of the time he doesn’t know what he’s referencing, but he can mix it up and sell it, because he’s just that good. And Steve Franks, he’s the king of it all. He puts me to shame. The stuff that guy can spit out, especially when it comes to music. He’s impressive … like, not only does he know the album name, he knows every song on it, when it was released … he can actually tell you the tracks in the order they appeared on the album, and that’s for like two decades worth of music.

Psych gets so many great guest stars, especially the really great character actors. Who’s on your wish list of people you really want to have on the show?
Yes, we really have lucked out with guests. We still really want to have Martin Sheen on the show, and sort of reunite him and Dule after all the years they worked together on The West Wing. It’s sort of been a work in progress trying to figure out what that character is he would play and what he would be interested in doing, but there is a dialogue happening, and I feel pretty good about the chances of it happening, probably next season. We’ve also been chasing David Bowie forever … he’s definitely my dream guest star. And I’m not giving up. I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it happen, but we’re certainly not going to stop trying.

What about the possibility of a crossover episode with another show? Monk would have been great, though now that it’s ending, probably too late. Psych would be a great match-up with a show like Chuck, though …
Yeah, definitely. I mean, Chuck is an NBC universal show, too, so that’s something that could happen. Monk, like you said, Monk would be the obvious one, but I think we sort of all kind of slacked on that and missed the boat. And then, as far USA Network goes, I’m a huge Mary McCormack fan, so whether it makes comic sense or not, it would be fun to do an episode with In Plain Sight.

When I first heard the description of The Mentalist, my reaction, like a lot of Psych fan reactions, I’m sure, was ‘Hey, that’s just like Psych!’ Can I assume from the jokes that have popped up last season and this season that the Psych gang agrees?
Haha, well, there are certainly enough similarities that we got our ears kind of perked up, but, for me it’s sort of like if you go back through the history of television, everything that you’ve ever loved is probably completely derivative of at least 30 other shows. So that’s sort of the way it’s been in our industry, and I just hope everybody can sort of have a good time with this. Because we’re certainly not going after The Mentalist. You know, anytime you can find the level of success, with both audiences and critics adoring you, the way that they have, it’s like, hats off, congratulations. We just have the type of show where we can get away with those kinds of jokes. So we’re going to for a little while. And, hopefully, you know, The Mentalist folks will be laughing all the way to the Emmy awards.

Have you gotten any reaction from The Mentalist crew about the jokes on Psych?
Um, we have not. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not even aware that we exist. But if they fired back in some sort of clever way, I would love that. I would love to see a very sort of subtle response on their show. I think that would be great.

Dealing with the logistics of the different networks and studios would be a nightmare, but a Psych crossover with The Mentalist could be really fun.
And which theme song would you play?

Oh, the Psych theme song, of course. You can never replace the Psych theme song.
That’s true. Very true.

    • Michelle said at October 25, 2009 at 8:55 pm
    • Reply

    😀 a psych/mentalist crossover would be amazing

    • Geena said at May 4, 2010 at 9:49 am
    • Reply

    Psych is a mind-blowing show, and I absolutely love love love James Roday. Those paps are messed up in the head if they think people don’t want to see pix of the Psych cast. But then again, I want them to have their privacy. Psych is awesome!!!

    • Eden said at July 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm
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    Yeah I agree Mentalist with Psych team to catch a criminal that neither of them could get but combined and seeing how Patrick doesn’t like psychics it would be hilarious show cause Shaun’s powers and both of them are equally smart would make for a great cross over if only it could happen.

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