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Psych’s James Roday and Dulé Hill on Christmas movies and TV revivals, including their own

Dulé Hill and James Roday in Psych: The Movie (Photo: Alan Zenuk/NBCUniversal)

Break out the pineapples and Peanuts dance—the Psych detective agency has a new case. Three years after the series finale of USA’s blue-skies dramedy, James Roday and Dulé Hill are reteaming as best friends turned police consultants who were always a step (or three) ahead of their clients. In Psych: The Movie, Shawn (Roday) and Gus (Hill) have resettled in San Francisco, having followed Juliet (Maggie Lawson) and Chief Vick’s (Kirsten Nelson) lead. But while trying to set up fake-psychic shop in the Bay area, one of the team is targeted, sparking a whole new whodunnit. They’re joined by plenty of familiar faces, including Ralph Macchio, John Cena, and Jimmi Simpson, as well as newcomers Zachary Levi, who plays a David Bowie-inspired villain, and Jazmyn Simon, who helps make Psych history.

The A.V. Club spoke with Roday and Hill ahead of the December 7 premiere of the Psych movie to talk onscreen romance, revivals, and Red Ryder BB guns.


Dulé Hill

The A.V. Club: It’s been about three and a half years since the show ended. What do you think is its legacy?

Dulé Hill: It’s been great in the years since. It just amazes me how, the love that the “Psych-Os” have given us, has actually grown since the show went off the air. Normally, after a show’s been off the air, it would wane, and people would move onto something else. But it feels like the Psych-Os have passed on their love of the show to their younger siblings and friends. It’s like a domino effect. It just seems to have grown. It’s humbling. I’m so glad and thankful that they embrace the show as they have.

AVC: Is there anything you were able to do for this movie that you weren’t able to do on the show?


DH: I was able to grow my facial hair. [laughs]

AVC: Was that an issue when you were taping the show?

DH: It wasn’t an issue necessarily. I mean, early on the choice was made on the show for Gus to be clean-shaven, and it just didn’t feel right back then for Gus to have facial hair. But with the break, and he moved to a new city, and he’s trying to reinvent himself. He’s grown and matured a little bit, and it just felt right. And also, I was filming Suits at the time, and my character has facial hair. So that kind of informed Gus having facial hair.


I’ve seen the full movie, and it just makes sense. The beard looks right on Gus, who’s trying to grow into himself more.

Jazmyn Simon and Dulé Hill in Psych: The Movie (Photo: Alan Zenuk/NBCUniversal)

AVC: The other big development is that Gus finally has a girlfriend.

DH: I was getting ready to say that. That’s the main thing that we never got a chance to really make happen with Gus during the eight seasons of the show. He was always failing at love. And with Jazmyn [Simon]—my [real-life] fiancée—I think there’s definitely a love connection made there between Gus and Selene. If we get a chance to do more movies, I’m interested in seeing what happens with their dynamic.


AVC: How much has the dynamic between Shawn and Gus changed, now that they’re living in a new city and both in relationships, for a change?

DH: Well, we see the beginning of those changes in this movie. Gus falls in love in the course of the movie, so it’s really just an origin story for his relationship with Selene. But my guess is that it would bring them closer together. It’s just adding another person to the party. We’ve already seen that with Shawn and Juliet. So now it’ll be Shawn, Gus, Juliet, Selene, and whoever else. It’s really just adding to the equation. It’s like that cartoon, that was kind of like Transformers, but they came together to build one big robot.


AVC: Voltron?

DH: Yeah, Voltron. Shawn and Gus, when we add their partners, it’s just like forming Voltron.


AVC: Have you guys talked about ideas for future movies? Your showrunner Steve Franks has teased going the distance like the Fast And Furious franchise.

DH: Steve is the one who has it all in his head. I can’t say that I know exactly what we’ll be doing next. I know it will be something brilliant, and something that will stand out in the world. Maybe some other high level adventures. But I wouldn’t be so bold as to try to figure out what’s inside the brilliant mind of Steve Franks.


AVC: Psych: The Movie joins the grand tradition of movies set during Christmas that aren’t necessarily Christmas movies. What’s your favorite movie this time of year?

DH: A Christmas Story. I watch that every holiday. Every time.

AVC: Are you looking forward to the live musical version starring Maya Rudolph?

DH: I will definitely be watching it. Definitely. I saw the stage musical a couple of years ago Dan Lauria, from The Wonder Years. He was great in it. I went and saw it, and he owned it. I grew up watching it, and it’s very funny. Hopefully, Psych [The Movie] will be like that. Hopefully, for this generation, Psych will be like that, where it never gets old so you watch it around the holidays and still laugh like you did. That’s how I feel watching A Christmas Story—even though I know what’s coming, I still laugh. So that’s my hope.


AVC: Is there a particular guest star in the movie who you were really looking forward to working with?

DH: That’s an easy one. Jazmyn Simon. Because on Ballers—season three was the first time we had a scene together. You know, we’ve been on the same show, but we’d never had the chance to work together. But even the scene, it wasn’t really a scene about myself and Jazmyn. But in Psych: The Movie, we had a chance to really play off each other on camera, and I was really looking forward to it. It met all my expectations and above.


AVC: The Psych revival was obviously high on your list—where does a West Wing revival rank?

DH: It’s funny, because a couple years ago, I thought “The show has been done. We should leave it as is.” But in this day and age, what we have going on, I would love to hear what Aaron Sorkin has to say about it. I want to see him put pen to paper. If Aaron Sorkin was writing it, I’d be all over it. I think it’d be a very powerful piece to have out there right now. Not necessarily a long running show, but maybe six episodes—you know, a limited series. I think Aaron would have a lot to say, and so would [Hill’s character] Charlie and President Bartlet and Toby and… everybody would have a lot to say. I would look forward to doing that, because of where we are as a nation and a world as a whole.

James Roday

The A.V. Club: You’re a big fan of Twin Peaks, so how did you feel about having the Psych revival happen in the same year as Twin Peaks: The Return?


James Roday: A happy accident, but I’m honored, honored to play second fiddle to the greatest show, probably in history, being revived.

AVC: What are your thoughts on the reboot or revival trend of the last year?

JR: I think it’s a case-by-case thing. I haven’t watched every show that’s been rebooted or that’s been brought back whether it’s been re-unionized. I know that they’ve landed with varying degrees of success. I think for us, it was never about a model. It was always about, do our fans want it and if they do, we’re going to give it to them because we love them and they’re the reason that we had such an incredible experience for eight years. So, I kind of sort or put it inside of a bubble really and make it really simple of like, if the demand is there, then we’ll always step up to do it because that was the relationship we had with our fans. That’s sort of my take on it and yeah, I’m sticking to it. You can’t force me into another take.

AVC: The interest is obviously there for both the cast and fans, so what is the plan going forward? Are you at all interested in a limited series?


JR: No, I don’t think so. I feel like we always sort of held ourselves to the highest standard imaginable. It’s impossible to make 22 or 16 great episodes every year. It doesn’t matter who you are or how talented of a group you have. So for us, I think the notion of being able to come together once every year or two and tell one story is something that feels manageable and like we can really step up and knock it out of the park. And I think that’s what our fans deserve from us and I think that seems like the best way to move forward to me. If you hear differently from Steve Franks, then we might have to get together and talk about that, but I feel like that’s sort of the right move for this show, so that anytime we deliver something, the fans can count on it being as good as it used to be.

AVC: What was the most important element for you to bring from the show to the film? 


JR: Well, Psych was so many different things and they evolved in so many different ways over the years, and towards the end there, we were barely solving mysteries anymore. We were just paying homage to our favorite movies, television shows, and bringing through as many ’80s icons as we possibly could. So it’s easy to sort of forget what brought all those awesome fans together in the first place and that’s sort of the meat and potatoes of Psych, which is Shawn and Gus, that relationship and being thrust into a ridiculous situation and being best friends.

And so when we came together to figure out what this movie was going to be, Steve and I were definitely on the same page of like, “Hey, let’s not have this be too much of a departure.” This isn’t episode seven of season eight, right? This is the “thanking of.” This is the love letter. This is from us to the fans and therefore, it should sort of be everything that they loved most about our show. So, in many ways it’s a throwback to the earlier years of Psych and those capers that sort of put us on the map. So that was definitely important to us.

AVC: And you had already played with feature length with Psych: The Musical. Was there anything you learned in making that that you avoided for the movie or was there something that made you think, “We definitely have to do that again?”


JR: Well, Psych: The Musical was the reason we knew we could do it in the amount of time that we had and the amount of money that we had to work with. It was a great precedent for us because we knew how fast we needed to move and we knew what the scope was and when we could afford to give something a little bit of extra time and when we just had to haul ass because basically you’re being given the same time it would take to make two episodes of your show to make what you want to feel like more of an event. You want it to feel like a movie, but you don’t really have the time to do that.

So, I think we borrowed a few pages out of Psych: The Musical just in terms of knowing where to put focus and where not to put focus so that we could really spend time with the sequences that we wanted to sort of amp up and make feel like, “Hey, this is bigger than just an episode of Psych on steroids.” With action sequences and stuff like that. But without Psych: The Musical, I’m not sure we would have had nearly as much confidence once we sort of saw how much time we were going to have to make this thing.


AVC: Have you and Steve Franks started pitching ideas to each other for other movies?

JR: Yeah, Steve probably has 10 Psych movies swirling around in his beautiful board. I think this is a show that sort of lends itself to making a special or movie about any holiday that you pull out of a hat. And as a business model for the network and the studio, I think anytime you can plug something in as part of a holiday, regardless of what that holiday is, it makes it a little easier to market and to spread the word. So, they want Psych to be holiday-themed specials moving forward. I think we could step up to the plate with that. Halloween feels like an obvious one to me just because we had so much fun over the years with our spooky episodes. So if this one does well, I wouldn’t be shocked if the next one they came to us with was, “Hey, do you guys want to do a Halloween special?” Which I think we would jump up and say yes with much vigor.

James Roday in Psych: The Movie (Photo: Alan Zenuk/NBCUniversal)

AVC: Your movie does raise one of our favorite pop culture subjects—Christmas movies that aren’t really about Christmas. Do you have one?


JR: I would say Gremlins, Die Hard, and Black Christmas are all pretty good Christmas movies that aren’t really about Christmas.

AVC: How about a favorite conventional Christmas movie?

JR: A Christmas Story for my generation is kind of the standard there.

AVC: That was Dulé’s answer, too.

JR: It’s so deeply rooted in our bones and it transports you to the first time you saw it… There’s so many scenes in that movie that sort of help define early Christmases for me. I’m also a huge fan of the Griswolds, so Christmas Vacation is up there for me as well.


AVC: Was there a moment in the making of the film where you just immediately felt at home?

JR: It all came back pretty quickly once we were all on the same set and looked around and saw two-thirds of our old crew and their sweet mugs. The chemistry and the rhythm and all that stuff came back pretty fast. I think the moment that was sort of weighing over us and hanging over us that was more important than anything was whether or not we were going to be able to get Timothy Omundson [who had a stroke earlier this year] into the movie. It didn’t feel complete without him and when were able to do that—seeing his face on that screen and knowing that he was a part of it kind of just, it kind of brought closure to the whole reason that we did it in the first place and the energy that we had on that set and his spirit and what that did for us making it through the film. I would say singularly, that’s probably the most important moment in the movie for me, just because how much the fans love him and how much we love him.

AVC: By the end of Psych: The Movie, how much has Shawn really grown?

JR: There’s a bit of misdirection early on, where it seems like we’ve caught up with Shawn and he’s kind of lost as he ever was. But I think in Shawn’s head and in Shawn talk, he is trying to do his version of the right thing and he’s just kind of giving it a face and the face is this ring. And so I think while from the outside it may look once again like Shawn is avoiding responsibility and he hasn’t grown that much at all, I think in his head he sort of feels it and sees it differently and hopefully by the end of the movie, you’ll sort of see that while it’s always going to be somewhat emotionally arrested, he gets to have a plan at least, which shows growth, which shows marginal growth.


AVC: Dulé also suggested that the character’s arc is by no means complete, that what happens here is just a jumping-off point for future films.

JR: Absolutely. You can’t close the book on that because whether we get to make more movies or not, it’s really important to all of us to sort of represent that the Psych world never ends. The adventures never end. Shawn and Gus’ friendship never ends, so that even if we don’t get to experience them visually and viscerally ever again, you know that in an alternate Psych universe, nothing is ever quite what it seems and they’ll never actually slow down because there will always be an adventure to be had. So, we tried to sort of end all this movie that way and I suspect any movie we make in the future will always sort of end similarly so that you never feel like the book is closed.


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