With PSYCH returning for the 2nd half of its 6th season, life could not be rosier for stars Dule Hill and James Roday who are having the time of their lives playing Shawn Spencer and Burton “Gus” Guster, the fake psychic detectives who are constantly delivering laughs while solving wacky mystery cases. In a recent conference call with press, James and Dule shared what is next in the world of Shawn and Gus and what other shenanigans they find themselves embroiled in.
The banter between Shawn and Gus seems so natural. Is any of that improvised?
JAMES: Yes, we’ve got a nice balance of scripted stuff and improvisation since the very beginning. I think it’s part of what sparks the show and keeps things lively for Dule and I, and luckily we’ve been doing it long enough that we can generally make it sound like it belongs in the scene.
There’ve been a lot of parodies and tributes done on PSYCH so far. Are there any other ones coming up in the future that we should be looking for?
DULE: Well, James Roday has directed one, I think airing second. Maybe you might want to fill them in on what that is, there, James.
JAMES: Thanks for bringing that up, man. We’ve got an episode called “Here’s Lassie” up second, which is our tribute to “The Shining,” not so much the book, more the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation of the book, and that turned out pretty well. I think the highlight is easily Dule Hill’s impression of Shelley Duvall. Everyone can look forward to that.
DULE: Okay. Yes, Gus Duvall is in the house!
JAMES: Gus gets his Duvall on in a big way.
DULE: Yes, I see an opening too, I guess as an homage to the Indiana Jones series.
JAMES: Yes, that’s true. That’s absolutely true. And then we also send up THE BACHELOR.
DULE: Oh, that’s right.
JAMES: That comes later in the season. So we do our version of the reality looking for love thing. And then we close down the season with a little nod to “Chinatown,” which we call “Santa Barbara Town.” So you’ve got some tributes to look forward to coming up.
The show just turned into just a ginormous success. What do you attribute that, if it’s the writing, the acting, the fans?
DULE: I would say it’s a “perfect storm.” I mean, I think it has to do with the writing. I think it has to do with the acting. I think it has to do with the fans. I think it has to do with the network. It has to do with the studio, the crew. I think it’s everybody. You know, creating a hit television show, it’s not easy, and there’s no perfect science to making it happen, so when it does, you just kind of enjoy the ride. I think for us to sit back and to attribute it to any one thing would be very presumptuous of us. I feel like, ‘and we know what the answer is?’ Like I said, it’s just all these great things coming together, and people seem to enjoy it, and we have fun. I think nobody takes themselves too seriously, and I think that helps the process.
JAMES: And MONK was sort of a great shepherd for us. The truth is MONK managed to stick around long enough for us to kind of find our sea-legs and get really comfortable doing what we were doing, so by the time that they did call it a series for MONK, we were sort of confident in our own skin and ready to spread our wings. So they kind of timed that out really nicely for us as well.
DULE: You know, and I think like the support of the fans, especially like when we do our fan appreciation days — like we did our college tour and things like that — I think allowed the studio and the network to see how much they enjoyed what we do, which also allows us to have more freedom to have more fun.
JAMES: Right, and we get everything that keeps kind of playing into each other. So thank you to the fans!
DULE: Oh, yes. Thank you to Tony Shaloub.
You guys mentioned in a prior interview that there had been more talk about a musical episode in season seven. Have you heard anything more? Is it still a go?
JAMES: You know what? The only person that can answer that question is Steve Franks. I’m pleading the fifth from now on. I’m not promising anything because it’s all on his shoulders. And I’ll say this: if he wants to do it we’ll do it, and that’s all we got. That’s all we got. It’s all on Steve Franks.
DULE: I think on the conference call with Steve Franks, about 20 people were asking the same question about a musical.
JAMES: You know, to Steve’s credit, I think obviously we’re all very excited by the possibility of doing a musical. But knowing that it’s not unprecedented and that other shows have done it, I can tell you it’s very important to him that we not just do it, but that we do it incredibly well. And I think he just doesn’t want to short-change the fans or our show by delivering anything less than you know, a home run. And I’m not entirely sure if we’ve figured out what the home run is. So until that happens, it’s just a big question mark.
In the upcoming Indiana Jones episode, there’s another Shawn and Gus fight, which are always fun. If you think the two of them had to have a fight where someone has to declare a winner, who would win and why?
DULE: I think what would happen, one of us would declare a winner, and then we probably would start fighting over who the winner is. So it’d be like this little black hole that we’d go into where we’d continue to fight over new things. And then someone would say, ‘fine, you win,’ and then we would start fighting over who won — like I said, ‘you win,’ and he would say, ‘No, you won.’ You know what I’m saying? It would just keep going back and forth.
JAMES: It would be tough, because I don’t think either of their pain thresholds are very high, and I also don’t think they have it in them to truly hurt the other person. So I think it would come down to semantics and debate as opposed to one man standing over the other
Shawn hasn’t been hiding any secret kung-fu moves or anything from his four classes, has he?
JAMES: Shawn would like to think that he has unlimited moves from any number of disciplines, but I think we all know the truth, which is that when danger is near, those guys run as quickly as they possibly can in the other direction.
How often do people in the streets or anywhere come up to you or the writers and suggest new nicknames for you to use on the show? And how do you come up with those nicknames?
JAMES: Well, in the very beginning, I was just pulling them out of my behind to make Dule laugh, mostly and then they really caught on, so with our writing staff. And now there is never any shortage of options for Gus’s nicknames, along with alternatives in every episode. I do think the fans have embraced it as well, and send in suggestions, and we hear those sometimes too. It’s been sort of a fun give-and-take that if you’d told me back in the first season that it would become what it was, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. But it’s been a good time.
Can you both talk about filming the upcoming horror episode based on “The Shining,” and what element that was brought into the episode scared you the most?
JAMES: I can tell you that we got pretty lucky with the set of twins that we found I think initially we were going to go with sort of more traditionally and closer to what you have in the original movie. And then they had come in and auditioned for a different episode, and I think it was Steve’s episode and he remembered them, and he was like, ‘you have to watch this!’ And we watched the audition, and it was like, ‘oh my gosh. We’re going to do this instead,’ which was better because it allowed us to sort of put our own little spin on it. But they were I thought pretty effectively creepy. They were lovely ladies, and a hoot to have around, but I thought it was just as creepy as the little girls in the movie quite frankly.
DULE: Yes, and the little boy too. The little boy breaking his little pinky, that was pretty spooky for me, especially when we’re down there in the laundry room and he comes by the window. That was pretty spooky.
JAMES: Little kids and twins, man. You can’t go wrong with those, you know what I mean?
DULE: Two of the scariest things in the world.
How much fun was it to get to work with Cary Elwes again?
DULE: Well, it’s always fun working with Cary Elwes. He’s such a delight to work with. He’s a great guy, brings so much fun energy to the set. And being that he came back around for the third time, you start to really be familiar with people. But we had a blast. I mean, it was a wonderful experience, and if we have a chance to work with him again, we’ll look forward to that too.
JAMES: Yes, Cary’s the real deal. I would actually that’s probably my favorite of the Despereaux episodes. It was really a good time.
It seemed to be like a little bit more of an action adventure episode rather than a mystery kind of who-dun-it thing.
JAMES: Yes, but by design, I think that was sort of Steve’s take on this one, was to go sort of Spielberg adventure, swinging from things and running and blowing up boats and to jam 50% more action in than we have in the past.
Any other big name stars that we can tell people to look for? I know you’ve got Jaleel White coming back.
DULE: Jaleel White, Mekhi Phifer, Lou Gossett Jr., Wayne Brady, Greg Grunberg…
JAMES: Anthony Anderson. . . . And Bill [Shatner] pops in again.
DULE: That’s right.
JAMES: The Shat comes back for a little something-something.
DULE: That’s something. I mean, I think people come to our show and they enjoy just from what they hear, that they don’t really have much fun on a lot of other shows, and everyone who comes has a good time for a week. They enjoy being up there, and I think word has started to spread through the town that it’s a fun place to come and work, and to give actors a chance to come and play something interesting and different and have a week in Vancouver where we get a chance to laugh, laugh a lot. And we can laugh a lot!
The random pop culture reference that you just sneak into a random conversation. Do you guys come up with those as you go, or do you have one and try to find a way to get it in there that you really want to mention?
JAMES: I think it’s a little bit of everything, I think.
JAMES: I think for one, between me and Steve and the rest of our writing staff, it’s a pretty deep “well of obscurity” and with each opportunity we get to come back we’ve got a list of ones that we haven’t gotten to yet. And then in addition to that, we’ll come up with stuff in the moment based on a song we’ve been singing in between takes. And we kind of jam all those in as well. It’s a pretty fantastic format, our show, because it kind of lends itself to doing just about anything you’d want and getting away with it.
How would you characterize what’s going on with Gus and Shawn at this point in their lives? And are we going to see more of these sort of realizations come upon them?
DULE: I think you have to. I mean, I think we’ve been on the air for six years, going into our seventh. And you know, it would be false for us not to. I mean, the fact is they are trying to hold onto the past and to be never growing up. But the fact is they are growing up. And as you see with Shawn and getting more serious with Juliet, and even Gus trying to find his own significant other and things like that, I think that’s going to be the arc of the characters. Otherwise I think it’d just be getting boring if we kept doing the same exact thing as season one.
What kind of crossover do you want to see with PSYCH and any other show?
DULE: Well, I’m still on the whole MONK train. I would love to have Tony Shaloub come and do an episode of PSYCH. Really, I wouldn’t mind that, and I wouldn’t mind either Zachary Levi. That would be cool. You know, he’s a cool dude, and I really could have fun hanging around. And I think CHUCK and the PSYCH fans would enjoy seeing Zach come and do an episode of PSYCH. So those are my two.
JAMES: I think the one thing that we’re not allowed to do on PSYCH in terms of like a mandate creatively that probably will never change is anything that’s truly supernatural. Like, stuff can appear to be supernatural, but then there always ends up being an explanation. So I think it would be fun to get dropped into like THE WALKING DEAD or TRUE BLOOD or something and have Shawn and Gus have to deal with something that truly can’t be explained. And also, I think Gus, he would probably warm up to the idea of vampires pretty quickly once he realized that they were interested in doing more than just talking to him.
DULE: I think you’re right about that. And of course he wouldn’t say that. He would have had Sookie in mind, so you know Gus gets down with the vampires.
JAMES: Gus and Sookie, I think make a lot of sense.
It’s been a while since Gus has had a real love interest. How long until he gets a steady romantic love interest?
DULE: That’s a good question. I hope — and Roday might be able to answer it better — I hope that this season, we’ll get a chance to see Gus be in some kind of relationship that lasts over an episode or two. I wouldn’t want to see him being in a relationship all season. I just I think that would not be fun, but hopefully we’re going to see what it’s like when he’s in some kind of relationship over a short period of time, and not just one episode and/or swinging and striking out.
Does it ever bother you when the show is snubbed by the Emmys?
DULE: I think we would be lying if we said no. You mean, I know, you always say you don’t care until you actually get a nomination. Then you’re like, “Oh, that’s the greatest organization ever!” I mean, it would be nice to be honored. I think we’ve put together some really funny episodes and I think that we’ve consistently been a funny show. We got a little bit of love by being added into some of the opening promo stuff that was going on for the Emmys this year. But it would be nice to get a little more Emmy love in some shape or form for the show. I think PSYCH is a very funny show and it deserves to be included among the best.
PSYCH has paid homage to a lot of great films and TV series’. Is there any favorite film or TV series of yours that you wish you could do as an episode?
DULE: “What’s Happening Now”? I don’t know. I don’t know. Let me think.
JAMES: Well, you know I sort of got mine when we did TWIN PEAKS. That was my favorite show of all time, and that is an experience that I will never forget. So it’s going to be tough for anything to come close to that one, but we’ll keep rolling them out for sure. For sure.
In the episode coming up, Shawn has to deal with mortality. What do you imagine that would be the most likely way that Shawn and Gus kick-the-bucket?
JAMES: Shawn has joked on several occasions that Gus will somehow inadvertently be the cause of his own death. I think Steve’s thrown that joke in like two or three times over the years, like Gus is going to accidentally walk into traffic or something and have no one to blame but himself. I don’t know, it’s a good question. I mean, I don’t know if these guys have given a lot of thought to mortality. They’re kind of stuck in the past.
DULE: In denial. In the past, and in denial.
JAMES: And clinging to the idea of not growing up, so I think Shawn is probably convinced that he’ll never die, and I think Gus probably just doesn’t like thinking about it.
DULE: Right. He doesn’t want to be putting any choice to talking about that.
You guys talked a little bit last Fall before this season debuted about a “Clue” themed episode. Is there any word on that project?
JAMES: That I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence it is still happening. The reason that we were unable to do it in season six was sort of a perfect storm of scheduling issues with some of the pieces of talent that I think we could all agree you have to have on board if you’re going to do a “Clue” episode. So we basically just put a pin in it and pushed it to season seven, if there was going to be a season seven, and now that there is one, I can say here with confidence, barring some unforeseen glitch, you’re going to get your clue episode next up.
DULE: There it is.
To see more of the mixed-up files of PSYCH, be sure to tune in for its Winter Season when it returns with seven new episodes on Wednesday, February 29th at 10PM on USA Network.