A Candid Conversation with PSYCH Creator Steve Franks

As if the sixth season premier of PSYCH is not enough to get everyone excited, in a recent conference call with press, creator and executive producer Steve Franks provided a bit more insight into his dream PSYCH episodes and what he hopes for in the (cross-your fingers!) show’s seventh season.
James Roday alluded to the seasonal finale of Season 6 as having a big cliffhanger. If the series is not picked up for Season 7, would you conclude the show with a movie or something like that?
STEVE: It was sort of a natural.  When we’re finishing up the season finale, we had something big planned that we didn’t think work well enough and something we sort of saved. And as we looked at the way the story is developing, along the course we found like a really, really cool cliffhanger, and we ended up shooting that as our finale. So if we don’t get a Season 7, I think we could create a situation where fans would want a riot on Wall Street as well. So it was only after the fact that when I watched it, I’m like “Oh my God. There’s no way they can’t pick us up for a Season 7 now.” But I’m always thinking about the movie. And actually, when we go in to talk to the executives, I don’t know if it would be on the table. But I have not only a way we could do the movie, but I have sort of the world and the story of it. So I would want to do a Season 7 and a movie. That would make me happy. And I want to make sure if we do the movie, we all need to get on the same page. If we do the movie, I’d want it to be something that was in theaters, even if it’s a small run in theater and not just do a direct to video, like a double episode of the show. I’d want it to feel special. I’d want it to feel like it was something that was worthy of being in the theaters. I think we have something that’s really fun. Making the money and the schedule to work out is always a challenge with these things. But for me it’s like I come from features. I structure our show every week, like you’re seeing an hour-long summer popcorn movie. So I don’t think the leap to the big screen is that far for our show. And it would make this experience even greater than it’s been. So I’m going to be pushing for the movie in the off-season and I’ll be pushing for a Season 7. We’ll see if I get both.
Regarding the Hashtag Killer Game, how you feel the Internet has affected your show and your writing, and how does fan feedback impact the decisions you make about the show?
STEVE: As far as the Hashtag Killer thing, it’s incredible. I can’t believe the numbers of people. We’re shocked and amazed and excited. And at first it seemed like it was just, “Hey, here’s something that can get people to remember that you have your show — that you’re coming back because we’ve been gone for ten months.” But it really turned into something fun and that and the people inside that worked on it.  They did an incredible job of making it more than just a point-and-click game. Because when they first explained it to me, I’m like, “I don’t understand this at all. How are they going to talk to people?” And I didn’t understand the format of it. Through a lot of meetings, it soon became very clear, “Oh this just like our show, but it actually puts everybody in the middle of it.” And then I said, “Okay, well there’s no way we pull this off.” But I brazenly went along the ride. And slowly but surely, all the elements came together.  . . It’s amazing the response we’ve gotten. And I kind of wish that I didn’t know the solution to it so I could play too, because it seems like it’d be a lot of fun. So I’m challenging other television shows that I like to come up with their own game. In fact, I can’t wait for the PARENTHOOD Hashtag Killer Game. I think it’s going to be spectacular!
Can you talk about the status of the musical episode and why it didn’t make it into Season 6?
STEVE: I wanted to make sure I address it because I should have shut my mouth up last year about how the musical episode was imminent and coming along. The episode that we’re premiering with tomorrow was the first episode of the season, and my plan through my own ignorance was we shot it second, which was way back in March. And I was going to come back from Canada after we shot it in my office, close the door and work on nothing but the musical. Then in August, we were going to shoot the musical. Well, I came back from Canada, closed my door and immediately, people started opening it, asking me questions about all the other 15 episodes for the season. So it was one of the things where my day job was getting in the way of my dream job, which is to write and direct the musical. So I made slow, but not that great progress on it. And I finally, in about the end of May, realized I’m not anywhere close to having enough done for this. So I said, “You know what? I’m very brazenly overconfident about a Season 7. I’m going to push it into Season 7.”   It gave me an opportunity to then say, “Oh my God, now I have to come up with an episode to do in that slot,” which gave me the opportunity to do a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” episode and bring Despereaux back. So it was a win for me and probably a little bit frustrating for people waiting for musical. But now that I’m giving it the proper amount of time and attention, it’s going to be twice as good as first imagined.
Speaking of the “Raiders of Lost Ark” episode, can you give us a hint of what we’ll see when Pierre Despereaux reunites with Shawn and Gus?
STEVE: Every time Cary comes up, we know it’s going to be the most fun we’ve had during the season. And this one was just designed as — you know, there’s always been like a little action element to the Despereaux episodes. In the first one, it was the ski chase. And the second one, it was hanging the guy off the building and the Batman special effects things, and the shoot-out at the cabin. And this time, my goal was, “Let’s just get to those action pieces and let’s do more than we ever imagine this show could do.” So it is a thrill ride beyond anything that we’ve done. It’s really fun. It’s really fast and there’s some truly shocking moments in the show, along with some spectacular stunt pieces and Despereaux at his most fun, and Shawn cracking a whip and most importantly, me fulfilling all my childhood fantasies and getting to sort of riff on my favorite movie of all time.
Do you see an end to PSYCH or do you just kind of keep going as long as people want you to go? What are your thoughts on the future?
STEVE:  When we were doing the pilot, I am brazenly overconfident at all times and extraordinarily positive. But when we’re doing the pilot, all I kept saying is, “You know that this show is going for five years” and everybody is very superstitious on the set and they’re like, “Would you just shut up. Shut up. Stop saying that. Stop saying that.” And then when we got to Season 3, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, we’re going 7.” So the joke has become 7. So now if we go one more, I think I’m going to have to up the joke again because to me, it’s like, well these are two guys who really aren’t growing up. At some point, if they’re 45 years old, that joke isn’t funny anymore. But the show has just grown and so many great and unexpected ways and we’d never thought we sort of have the great dramatic drive that we get. And we never thought we’d be able to do the sort of cool, fun actionary things that we do as well. So the show is growing in so many different directions. For me, the second I feel like we’re just doing the exact same thing again, then I think we should get out while people still have good memories of the show. But at this point, I have so many things that I want to do. And I get as excited about doing an Indiana Jones episode as I do about a superhero episode, where Shawn goes undercover in an insane asylum. There’s so many fun worlds. And because of the definition of what the show is and what it can be, it’s not like we’re just going, “Okay, this week we’ll solve a kidnapping; this week we’ll solve a murder; this week we’ll do a hit and run.” It’s usually more about a sea lion or a polar bear and there are a lot of crazy variations of stories in the world with sort of the rules and parameters that we’ve set up. So I’ll do the show as long as they let us and as long as it’s fun, and as long as people like it.
Of all the characters that you’ve written, which character on the show do you think most resembles you in personality?
STEVE: Well, I always fee like I’m half of Shawn and half of Gus. I mean if you meet me, I talk like Shawn. And I sort of present that kind of unsounded overconfidence at all times and I’m usually about positive and I try not to stress about anything. And I do define my life about — I make all my decisions on what’s fun. But I’m also not a rule-breaker. So I’m always the guy that says, “Oh, my god. It says Do Not Enter, we should not go in there.” And so I have exactly half of Shawn and half of Gus in me. But I like to believe that I’m all Shawn. But I have the same insecurities and problems that Gus has. But outwardly, I’m Shawn. But they’re both really fun characters to write for. And the character that I actually most enjoy writing — because Shawn and Gus are always a given — but I love to write Lassiter stories. Just because it’s so outside of who I am and you sort of get to treat your minds to the craziest thoughts you could possibly have and then have that character embrace them as his mantra.
What would be the pinnacle episode of PSYCH to wrap it up for good when we finally have to say goodbye to it?
STEVE: I think I have something really good, and I think I have something that ties things together and brings us right back to the pilot in a great way. I think that a good ending to a show resolves the question that’s posed in the pilot. And I don’t know if I’m going to be the only one who loves it. But I have it, and I’ve never told anyone. So it has to stay in my head because Chris and Kelly, our other executive producers, are not great secret-keepers. But I have a great way that I’d like to do it. And I love when shows wrap themselves up that they they bring everybody back and they sort of tie up all the loose ends. And it would be really nice if we have the luxury of knowing what the end of the show is and to be able to work towards that.
How do you get all these amazing guest actors? Do you guys approach most of them or do any of them approach you about being on the show?
STEVE:  Every once in a while, we hear about some.  I have actually three lists. One of them is people we’ve heard are interested in doing our show. People we’ve heard that are fans of the show. And then we sometimes find out through Twitter or we find out through our casting director, Julie Ashton. And then sometimes, there’s a list of “people we’ll never get in a million years, but let’s just keep them on the list.” And that’s like David Bowie and people like that who don’t act much and all that. And then there’s also people that our casting director puts out in a breakdown for a character, and then we get the list of available actors. And then we’ll go to them and sometimes their schedule won’t work. They’re working on something else, or sometimes the dates won’t work or the time or maybe they don’t want to play the killer or they want to do something differently. But we keep a very well-documented list of people who’ve ever said when we asked them if they want to be on the show, “Oh I like that show. I watch it with my kids. Oh I like that show. My wife and I watch it,” and we make sure that we go back to them. And like a lot of the people – like Malcolm McDowell who’s in the premiere episode, he was originally going to be Yin last year, and the dates just didn’t work out. He had a wedding reception that night and we’re like, “You know what, Malcolm, we will get you back.” And fortunately for me, he happened to be in my episode and he was so good. He was so good in it. And Shatner who comes up later in the year, we’ve always wanted to have Shatner on the show. We call all the time and finally he was available. And we had a really wonderful idea and a great script, and he jumped at the chance. So it’s a lot of just keeping our ears to the ground. And as the show goes on, we know that we have to offer something to the actors. and our guarantee — this is what I said to Malcolm McDowell in the first day, I said, “This isn’t the most fun you’ve had at least?” And Malcolm McDowell — it’s hard to say this is the most fun you’ve ever had because Malcolm McDowell’s had a lot of fun –  so to me, I would say, “If this isn’t one of the most fun professional experiences you’ve ever had, then we’ve done our job wrong.” And we make sure we have a very open and fun engaging set, and that everyone is on the show has a blast. And we just say, “Tell your friends.” Whereas in Season 1 and Season 2, it was always like, “What? Which show? PSYCH? What is that? I’ve never heard of that?” Word has gotten around and so it’s a lot easier to get people. And for us, we treat them well. We give them great roles and that’s paid off. So it’s a multi-pronged approach. Paying attention, having people have heard of our show, making up our dream list of actors and having a great casting director who really thinks and really is creative and smart — and Julie Ashton is such a great person just to be around and she’s also kind of genius as a casting director.
Did you write the character for William Shatner, or did you develop that character with Shatner in mind?
STEVE: No, this is actually awesome question because we did not write this with Shatner in mind at all. In fact, we didn’t think he was available. And I think that his CBS show had just ended and became available, and it worked out completely for the best because we didn’t write a Shatner type character. I think if we’ve known it was Shatner when writing it, we would have written it differently. We would have written it like a William Shatner role and with all the sort of things that you’d get with William Shatner role. And because we’ve written it with a completely different thought in mind, it was such a great role for him because he’s completely different than you’d expect and surprising. And yet all the things you love about William Shatner are there. And it was serendipitous for us that we had no idea that he would be available. . . . By the end of the day, he was calling our producer/director Mel Damski — he had memorized the script before ever flying up there. He knew his lines and had a few tiny little things that he had questions about.  And we’ve never had somebody of his stature and worldwide fame come in and be so invested in it. And it really shows. It’s some of the best emotional scenes we’ve ever seen on the show, that came out with the Shatner stuff. And we’re just like dying for him to come back next year. Like how can we write him into every episode and would he do it?  . .  He is tireless and amazing, and it’s one of the best episodes of the show we’ve ever done. And I think it doesn’t air until like eighth episode, so you’ve got a couple of months to wait for it.
Dulé Hill mentioned that he wanted to do a WHITE COLLAR crossover. Is there any chance for any sort of crossover to happen with PSYCH and another USA Network show?
STEVE: That sounds like a totally great idea! The natural one that we should have done was MONK, when we were airing with MONK. But I think we do occupy sort of the same world. It’s up to me. I love that. I always love when they cross-pollinate shows. I would love to do that — WHITE COLLAR would be fun because when we were in New York  – we were trying to figure out how we could shoot like two days in New York and Shawn and Gus go to New York and maybe we could use the WHITE COLLAR crew or something like that. But doing a WHITE COLLAR crossover would be fun. That’s an interesting idea. I think we really should do that. Actually, I think I would like to do a BURN NOTICE one because then I could go to Miami, and I could go to Miami and we could blow stuff up. So we could jump in a car across the bridge. That would be fun. So I’m going to do between WHITE COLLAR and BURN NOTICE. I would love to do a crossover episode!
If you could pick any insane topic other than the musical, what world would Shawn and Gus delve into?
STEVE: Well, there’s still a handful. I keep a list, and I’ve gotten to do all of them. I’ve always said, “Okay, Shawn and Gus, go hunting for sharks. Shawn and Gus go to the aquarium. They go to the planetarium. They do Indiana Jones.”  That was another big one. “Kung Fu” was another thing that I really wanted to do. There’s a couple that I couldn’t figure out. And even since the pilot, I’ve always wanted to figure out how we could actually do a legitimate “Star Wars” type episode. But since they’re not in space and it’s not a long time ago in a galaxy very far away, I don’t know exactly how we pull that off perfectly. But sky has been the limit. We’ve been sort of able to go off on any tangent that we’ve wanted to. So I don’t know.  The shiny one is like a last minute addition. We actually had the “Clue” episode ready to go and the main actor in “Clue” suddenly became unavailable and I said, “Oh, I’ll do it next year.” And we had like a week to come up with a new episode and James is directing. So it’s one of those big deal things and I had an idea for something and I said, “Just do this. Just do that.” And they came back and they said, “Well how about this? What if Lassiter is in an apartment and it’s ‘The Shining’ apartment?” And it’s like every once in a while, you hear an idea and it’s like, “Oh my God, that’s it!” And we just pitch it around in the room and it came to life faster than any episode we’ve ever had. And I just watched it, the director’s cut this week. It’s really, really fun. But you won’t get to see it until like March of next year. I don’t know when they’re scheduling it. But it’s a way toward the end. But it’s super cool and it’s really fun. So we’ve really gotten to do it. The one thing that James always wants to do, and because of his love of horror movies, he always wants the resolution to be unexpected, so he goes, “Well what if the resolution to this story is it really is a demon?” And I’m like, “Well, we can’t do that because our show exists in a version of reality.” “But what if it was?” And so we always try to sort of draw the line and see how close we can get to making it the outrageous thing. The other fun one I always wanted to do was – and I don’t know how we do it — oh shoot, you know what, we probably will do it —  shouldn’t tell you what it is. I always wanted to do a surf competition. I have a great idea that revolves around a surf competition. But the problem is in Vancouver the waves are 11 inches high, at their highest. So there’s like no wave. So I don’t know how we could shoot the actual surf competition. We’d have to come down to LA and shoot a bunch of it. But the one thing that we haven’t got to do is — I wanted to do the movie. And that’s been the big thing for me. To do that we would have to go somewhere exotic to shoot a couple of days and then shoot the rest of it on our stages. So the big thing that I would really want to get over the hump this year and see if we can go and shoot a couple of days in an exotic American city. We were very close to going to Vegas like in Season 2, or it was in 2007 because I remember we were starting to explore the story and then the stock market crashed. So that option was immediately not available to us.
Can you talk about Corey Feldman’s brief appearance in the upcoming vampire episode?
STEVE: You know, what’s amazing about that is we didn’t know we were getting Corey until like a couple of days before the shoot.  So we brought him in. We had a great idea we wanted to do, but the script was a locked in and there was a very short amount of time. So we gave him a really fun reveal and a great fun. But that character could certainly come back, and Corey had a great time. He was only out for a day or two. But we got to go to dinner with him and it was a lot of fun.
What’s the likelihood of doing a Goonies episode?
STEVE: We have thought about the Goonies. In fact, the greatest adventure in the history of cable television was originally titled “Early Onset Goonies,” but then it became less about the Goonies. So it sort of a little bit like the Goonies, but not enough.
What would be your ultimate dream episode?
STEVE: There’s still a few things that we haven’t done. There’s a certain amount of people that we would like to get on the show — if we got Mick Jagger to be on the show, if we got David Bowie. All the people we dream of getting on the show are rock stars oddly enough. But you know what, the great thing about this show is we actually get to do our dream episode every week. And there’s almost always a way to pull it off. And our dream episode at this point would be doing the movie and having a full 90 minutes to open up a story and to be able to do big fun stunts and have all these great people on that we’d like. So our show is a non-stop carousel of wish-fulfillment — and we just want to keep it going. It’s only because of guys and girls that support our show and keep the word out that we have this great following that sticks with us after all these years. So we’re so happy just to be able to do the show and we hope that it makes people happy because it makes us happy, and that’s our gauge and that’s our barometer.
For more PSYCH adventures, be sure to tune in for its sixth season airing tonight at 10PM on USA Network. Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv

Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).

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