James Roday’s latest directing and writing adventure, “Treehouse,” will premiere March 1 on Hulu. Featuring an ensemble cast of accomplished women in their own right, “Treehouse” explores the injustices and struggles of women, set in the realm of horror, Roday’s favorite genre. Actor Jimmi Simpson has a leading role in the film, as his character travels to a family vacation home, unaware of the monstrosity that awaits him. The project is part of the “Into the Dark” horror anthology series, in conjunction with Blumhouse Television. In a recent interview with Roday, he expressed his hope that "the film will be received as openly as it was made."
When did you start writing the script for “Treehouse?”
The idea was laying around for years, and when the opportunity presented itself. We dusted it off and actually wrote it in record time. We had about a month to both write a script and start prepping the movie so that we could shoot it before I had to go to Vancouver to start season one of “A Million Little Things.” It was a pretty crazy endeavour, and I don’t know if anyone outside of Blumhouse is crazy enough to do stuff like that. I’m very thankful that the one studio who will take a wild swing like green lighting a movie over the phone and putting it into prep the next day was the studio that called.
It took a lot of work to get “Gravy,” your first horror film, off the ground, and then to get this movie approved over a phone call, that had to be surreal.
So ridiculous the extremes that exist in this business, but yes, that’s the perfect microcosm of how insane filmmaking can be. It’s eight years to get the first one made and a 45-minute phone call to get the second one. [laughs]
Where did the inspiration for this script come from?
It was definitely influenced by listening to my lady friends over the years share experiences, talk about injustices, stuff they had experienced in the workplace, and just basically being a woman on a day-to-day basis. ... And I thought maybe there was a cool way to make a horror film that also addressed this issue at the same time. Julianna Guill, one of my besties, was the sounding board for a lot of the initial story-breaking of that movie. We got it two-thirds of the way down the field, and we couldn’t figure out how the movie should end. That’s why it got set aside for a while.
In the interim, some major movements were born, MeToo and Time’s Up happened between us starting to talk about this movie and this opportunity presenting itself. … I know that’s a huge part of why we were able to get this done so quickly and get it green lit so quickly, is because it was so timely.
What issues does this film explore?
It’s about the systemic normalization of inappropriate male behavior, since the beginning of time, really, and how we’ve gotten where we are and what we can actually do about it. That’s the backbone of the movie. It’s by no means an indictment of all men. The spectrum of reaction to that Gillette ad that came out a couple of months ago was so truly shocking to me. I found it fascinating how differently people could interpret the same thing. We’re all watching the same ad. It seemed so obvious what the intentions were, to me. There were six other people that saw it six different ways. I think this movie will probably fall into a category like that. We as filmmakers certainly had an intention, and we definitely had a message we wanted to put out there. How it’s received is anybody’s guess, especially with this issue. I’m happy to put it out there. If nothing else, this is a conversation that needs to keep getting louder, frankly, and I know will continue to get louder. To just participate in it is a start, for us as artists. I’m ready to put it out there, for sure.
Did you have particular people in mind that you wanted to play the roles you had written?
Jimmi (Simpson) and Julianna (Guill) were in before we even started writing. The rest of the cast came together closer to when it was finished. Those characters became the women that we ended up casting, and they made them their own. I think it was less of writing with people in mind and more of, ‘Hey, here’s this blueprint. You’re so good, take this and make it yours.’ Which is what happened, across the board. Then Sophia Del Pizzo is Jimmi’s special lady friend, so that was an opportunity for them to get to work together, which was very exciting.
Did a particular character take on a new life once you saw them step into their role?
The ladies, especially. Jimmi and I talked Peter (his character) to death before we started. We were on the same page about exactly what we wanted out of this guy and what the approach was going to be. When you see the movie, you’ll understand why it was really important. The ladies all made these characters their own. Shaunette Wilson put a spin on Marie, Stephanie Beatriz definitely did her Stephanie thing with Elaina and brought comedy to a role that may not jump off the page. Nancy Charles, who plays Agnes, gave that character color that I never would’ve imagined until I saw her do it. Michael Weston is probably not what anybody had in their head when they were reading the script, and yet, I can’t imagine anybody else but him playing this character now.
I really do think that this cast elevated these characters across the board and made them their own. When there’s room for that to happen and you have incredible actors, that’s a win as a writer/director. You can sit back and really watch magic happen. … That’s just the best.
Are you in the film?
I am not. I did not even Hitchcock myself into this one. There’s a grand total of zero Roday.
I do have a couple of fan questions. The first one is from Kathy. She asked, ‘With this movie shedding a light on the MeToo movement, was there a moment that sparked the drive to do this, or was it an overall sense of it’s past time for survivors to be seen?
I think that’s probably the latter, except that we were feeling it even before MeToo happened. Once it happened, everything just felt louder in our brains and felt more urgent. We felt like the time is definitely now. It was knowing that we should do something and having that evolve to, ‘Oh, we’re going to do it now.’
The other question is not related to the movie, but Sharon wanted to know how you prepare for an emotional scene, and how do you decompress afterwards?
The truth is, I’m not a good enough actor to be able to go into a corner and have a process and know that it’s going to work. It’s always a little off the cuff. You just try to be as present as humanly possibly in the scene and try to lean into the words as much as you possibly can. Sometimes it comes, and that’s great. It makes it so much easier, and sometimes it just doesn’t, and that’s what they call acting.
You’ve definitely had to do some emotional scenes in “A Million Little Things.”
Nobody has gotten off free from the emotion on that show. Part of it is just being surrounded by really great actors and being in scenes with them and watching them do their stuff. That certainly helps. For me, I’ve admittedly had to do the least, and I certainly feel lucky in that regard. When somebody like Stephanie Szostak (Delilah) is essentially crying everyday and I have to do it twice in a season, I better be able to pull my weight. [laughs] The pressure is definitely on.
Do you have any other horror films or scripts in the works?
I’ve got three different ideas that we’re kicking around and trying to figure out which one we’re most excited about. We don’t want to waste too much time, because we’ve got one coming out on Friday. The best time to have the next one ready is when you’ve actually got something people are talking about. We’ve got to get on the horse and pick one and get moving. The good news is Todd [Harthan] and I write pretty fast.
How many writing partners do you have?
On “Psych” I wrote with just about everybody. It was just a function of how that show worked. By the end, I don’t think there was a single writer I hadn’t teamed up with. For movies, it’s always been Todd. It’s the one thing we know we can come together and do, even if we’re both off on different shows. … It helps keep us connected, it helps keep the creative juices flowing. It’s a great thing we know we can always come back to.
We’re all excited “A Million Little Things” was renewed, and the second “Psych” movie is coming up. What can you reveal so far about it?
Everybody is really excited, and front and center is the return of Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson). That’s what this movie is really about. That’s the one thing I can promise we will deliver to all of you Psych-O’s is some sweet, sweet, sweet Tim Omundson. It will be good for the soul.
Do you have any other news you want to share or anything else you have on your plate right now?
This has been good. It’s been a pretty full plate. I’m happy to get “Treehouse” out there. I’m happy that we got some Lassie coming back. “A Million Little Things” has been a great experience, and I’m very thankful to all the people that have decided to tune in and watch us. With the finale being tonight, it’s got a lot of payoff, which I think the fans have earned. I’m excited to see what people think and how it lands with our fans. It’s been an exciting week.
A full casting list for “Treehouse”, provided by Roday, includes Jimmi Simpson, Mary McCormack, Shaunette Renee Wilson, Maggie Lawson, Stephanie Beatriz, Julianna Guill, Michael Weston, Amanda Walsh, Sutton Foster, Cass Bugge, Sophia Del Pizzo, Nancy Linehan Charles, Kylie Rogers and Cyrina Fiallo.
Some photos via Julianna Guill and Jimmi Simpson.
"Treehouse" premieres on Hulu March 1
James Roday, Gordo the peacock, Jimmi Simpson and Sophia Del Pizzo on the set of "Treehouse"
Jimmi Simpson in "Treehouse"
Some of the ladies of "Treehouse": Shaunette Wilson, Mary McCormack, Julianna Guill, Sophia Del Pizzo and Stephanie Beatriz
Maggie Lawson in "Treehouse"
An image from "Treehouse"
James Roday on the set of "Treehouse"
Stephanie Beatriz, Sophia Del Pizzo, Julianna Guill and James Roday at a screening for "Treehouse"
James Roday recently discussed Psych: The Movie, airing this Thursday. For the first time since March 2014, the gang will be back together in San Francisco this week to battle a villain who has targeted one of their own. Aside from Psych: The Movie, Roday has other projects up his sleeves, and is continuing his passion to advocate for animal rights.
Q. You and Steve wrote the script for Psych: The Movie. What are some classic themes that you knew should be included in the movie?
A. I would say Steve had about 60 percent of this movie in his head before we even sat down to start talking about it. The first 10 to 12 minutes of the movie he had already shot by shot crafted in his brain. It was something he had wanted to do and had in his head for at least a year. … One thing we did talk about was wanting to celebrate the classic spirit of Psych and what sort of birthed it as a show, those early season episodes where it was just Shawn and Gus thrust into a ridiculous situation.
It's probably a little bit of a departure from some of the stuff that we were doing later in the series, because frankly we ran out of ideas and were just paying homage to all our favorite movies. We wanted to return to where we started the show at, and I think the fans will hopefully appreciate that, because we know we can always wink at things and do tributes and stuff like that. We really challenged ourselves to go back to the beginning and write something in line with what Psych came out of the gates as.
Q. Those are the things that fans have held onto all this time, too.
A. Yeah. You're going to get all the things that you've come to love about the show, in terms of the little catchphrases. All that stuff is there, it's just less dependent on source material, which we got really cute with towards to end. [laughs]
Q. Shawn proposed to Juliet (Maggie Lawson) in the finale. Going into the movie, how do you balance Shawn's immaturity while also showing some character growth?
A. You'll see when the movie happens that we handled it in a way that once the dust settles and the smoke clears, Shawn's immaturity may be easier to understand than you might have thought. I would say we probably leaned a little more into the character growth side of things than the immaturity part. Of course, it always looks like immaturity, but we sort of spin it this time just so that you really do see some forward movement.
Q. Was it difficult for you and Maggie to channel that chemistry again after being away for a few years?
A. I would say that it applies to all of us across the board. It took a couple of scenes for all of us to slip back into those skins and find those rhythms and get ourselves up to speed, but it did not take very long. Once it was back, it was back pretty comfortably, and it was almost like we had never left. Obviously, there was one incredibly key piece missing, (Timothy Omundson, Lassiter), which did make things a little bizarre, but as far as Shawn/Gus, Shawn/Juliet, that stuff came back pretty quickly.
Q. What are some changes we're going to see between Shawn and Gus? I know they have a new office, and, of course, they're in San Francisco now. They've got some new challenges they're having to face.
A. Yeah. Brand new city, new business plan, new office. Shawn, of course, is being irresponsible with their finances, so Gus is back to having to support the two of them, and also still looking for that special someone. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Q. Shawn told everyone — in a matter of words — at the end of the series that he really isn't psychic. Is that still an unspoken truth when we pick up with the movie?
A. That's an interesting question that we really didn't ask ourselves, that I don't think we asked ourselves, ever, [laughs] when we were making this movie. I guess we don't shine that bright of a light on the psychic detective work and how that transitions into their lives in San Francisco in the way that we are accustomed to seeing him operate in Santa Barbara. This movie quickly becomes a reason for the band to get back together, and somebody or something is coming after one of us. It's less about Shawn using his fake psychic powers and more about getting the job done. In the future, if there is a future with these, it's probably something that we should address at some point with a little more clarity in terms of just how much of a psychic detective Shawn is now that he's in San Francisco. He's certainly still marketing himself as such. We just maybe don't get as much of that element in this particular offering.
Q. Are there any behind the scenes moments that you would like to share?
A. Having our collection of guest stars back, each time one of them came it was sort of like a different blast from the past and a different set of memories, because we had so much fun with each of them.
Every couple of days there was a new, fun gift on set. Not having Tim there was strange, and anything we could do to offset that feeling that we were missing something was very welcome. Having a constant stream of familiar faces come through really helped warm things up.
Q. Did you feel uncomfortable doing the movie without Tim or was it just something you already had scheduled and had to do contractually? (Shortly before filming, Omundson suffered a stroke.)
A. It really became something that we could all rally behind, and it became a cause that we're going to do this for Tim. It was a difficult decision in that it happened so suddenly and so close to when we were supposed to start that we honestly didn't know what to do, initially. We didn't know if it was the right thing to move forward, even though a bunch of money had already been spent, and the movie was prepped and basically ready to go. It was a really strange couple of days where some very difficult conversations had to be had. Ultimately, we said, "Hey, if there's any way, shape, or form that Tim might be able to appear in this movie somewhere down the line, then we have to do this. We have to write him a scene and hope and pray that he'll be able to step in and be a part of this movie." We just tried to will that into existence. Everybody put their energy in, and lo and behold, that's exactly what happened. It was nothing short of a miracle.
Q. I have an idea of how it will play out, and I think it's going to be really beautiful for people to see.
A. It's going to be awesome, because never before and probably never again will it be so unbelievably wonderful to see that mug on a television screen and know that he's OK. To me, that was worth making the movie alone.
Q. In promotional pictures, I saw where you were paying tribute to singer Christina Grimmie. For people that don't know her, can you explain the significance of that? (Grimmie was tragically killed by a gunman after she performed a show in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016. She competed on The Voice.)
A. Christina was a Psych-O. She and her best friend, Sarah, were very vocal on social media about how much they love Psych. The Voice, especially back in the day, was a big guilty pleasure for Maggie and I. We thought it was really cool that there was someone on The Voice who was also a big Psych fan, so we all managed to connect via social media. It was just cool to support her and sort of see how her career was going, and she also seemed to do everything the right way. She had a really finely tuned value system, and I think what she was promoting, in addition to good music, was just being a really good person. We were all taken with that, and what happened to her is unthinkable.
Her best friend, Sarah, had been in touch a couple of times about stuff that they were doing with the foundation that her family started and music she had recorded before she was killed, and we always try to be as supportive as we can. This seemed like an opportunity where we can really use the platform of Psych to help their cause and also to honor her in a way that will last forever. We were lucky to be able to do it, and they're really good people who are trying to help other people who have gone through or are going through what they went through. What happened is awful, but they're trying to turn it into something that people can benefit from.
Q. I understand the movie is dedicated to another person that we lost this year, Terry Goldman. Can you speak to how you knew him and why it was so important to dedicate the movie in his honor? (Goldman served for many years as the Senior Director of Social Media and Digital Marketing for USA Network, which airs Psych.)
A. Oh yeah. Terry was such a fan, not only of the show but of us, and helping us understand what social media was and how it related to what we do, me especially, because I was definitely way behind the rest of the cast when it came to Twitter and Instagram and how those are tools. I was just scared of all of them, and Terry really was the vessel through which I became more comfortable and ultimately agreed to even start using social media. Beyond that, he was a calming force when we would do press stuff.
He was a friend and just someone who really helped me bridge the gap from guy who was off and overwhelmed by those types of situations to guy who got better at it. He also never stopped being a fan of the show. He knew the show as well as we did, and he also loved interacting with the fans. He was a real asset to everything that we did, and he was a good dude with a good, gigantic heart, and dedicating the movie to him is the least we could do. To me, it was a no-brainer, because he was a member of our family, and we lost him way, way too soon.
Q. Transitioning to something lighter, what are some other projects you've been working on that you can tell people about?
A. I've made some movies, and who knows where these things will end or if they ever find their way into a theater or screening platform. I do have a couple of those in the can. Pushing Dead finally got sold, and I think it's going to get a little theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles, so that's exciting. I did a little movie called the Untitled Hollywood Hills Project on purpose, the way that some scripts go out without titles, that's actually the title of the movie. It's a strange little thriller, tiny little budget, made, written, and directed by a young actor named Rhys Wakefield, probably best known for his creepy role as the kid outside the door in the first ThePurge. Nick Cannon is also in the movie, and it's sort of an indictment of Hollywood and how ridiculous it is to try to get a movie made. It was interesting.
Not too long ago, I finished a movie called TheBuddy Games that Josh Duhamel wrote and directed. It was his first time stepping behind the camera. It put together a very funny group of dudes, and it's pretty raunchy. It's a buddy comedy. I think we all had way more fun than maybe we even anticipated, and I know he's almost finished editing. They'll be some sort of cut of that one soon.
I just directed an episode of The Resident, which is a new show that's coming on Fox in January. It's a medical drama with a very dark hook. I'll probably do one more of those before it's all said and done, and then, who knows.
Q. You're a busy guy.
A. I try, I try, because I find that not being busy is not great for me.
Q. Is there something you would like to say about your continued involvement with animal rights? I know that's a big passion of yours.
A. It's tough because there are so many worthy causes these days and a finite amount of energy. It's tough to throw yourself into all of them, but I've always felt very strongly about this one, and I've always felt a very strong connection to elephants since I was a kid. That's why that's mine, and I'll keep screaming it at the top of my lungs and doing everything I can from my tiny little bump. I'm also trying to carve out some time to get over to Thailand and actually do some work in the field and put my body where my mouth is and be more active, as opposed to just doing it from behind a phone or a social media platform.
Q. I certainly appreciate all you do and that you use your platform to get the word out.
A. There's really no point in having a platform otherwise. It's great to use social media as a promotional tool, but it's also an opportunity to use your platform to start and engage in dialogue and do some good. If you've got 100,000 or 2 million people paying attention to you, seize the moment, seize the opportunity to do something meaningful, to start a conversation, to open a dialogue, to bring people together. That, to me, is the point of having a platform.
------------ Roday can be found on Twitter and Instagram, @JamesRoday. Psych: The Movie will air on Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. ET.
*Interview by Nicole Smith. Photo credit: USA Network, Spoiler TV, Maggie Lawson and James Roday.
James Roday and Steve Franks on the set of Psych: The Movie.
Back row, guest star Zachary Levi, Maggie Lawson, Steve Franks, Kurt Fuller and Kirsten Nelson. Front row, Dule Hill and James Roday.
James Roday and Dule Hill in Psych: The Movie.
James Roday preparing for a scene in Psych: The Movie.
In Psych: The Movie, Roday pays tribute to Christina Grimmie.
James Roday and Maggie Lawson with Terry Goldman.
A photo from the set of The Buddy Games. Roday is pictured, far right.
Maggie Lawson spoke candidly about returning to film Psych: The Movie, airing this Thursday, and her new Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, Christmas Encore, airing this Saturday. Aside from acting, Lawson talks about her animal rescue, The Tiger Frances Foundation, and how their mission is continuing to expand.
Q. What's a general synopsis of your new Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Christmas Encore, and what challenges is your character facing?
A. My character is an actress who has been debating whether or not she should continue to follow her dream, because it hasn't been going so well — or possibly take another opportunity to get a steady job. An opportunity comes along at a local theatre who's doing her favorite play, A Christmas Carol, and it turns out the director of this play is someone that she has a little bit of a past with. He's become a total celebrity now. It's a complicated past that they have, and they get thrown into this world again of working together and trying to save a theatre at Christmastime. There's something magical about the time of year and the play. There's also the possibility of trying to save whatever romantic possibilities they had leftover from back in the day.
Q. I saw the pictures from the movie, and it looks like a really sweet story.
A. Any story about actors trying to save a theatre is going to be close to my heart. There is that sweetness to it, for sure.
Q. Shifting gears to Psych: The Movie, on the first day you returned to set was there a sense of nervousness stepping back into the role of Juliet?
A. Naturally, there was some nervousness because I was so excited. I was nervous about stepping back into the energy of the character, and I was a little bit rusty. I remember it was well into our first day that Steve came over and he was like, 'You're in the groove now.' In my head, I was like, 'Oh my God, we've already been shooting for almost a day, and I'm just now in the groove?' [laughs] He was right. There's this energy to Psych, and we've all been away for a little while. It was really surreal to walk on set, because getting into the character was one thing, but seeing all the faces, it felt like no time had passed. It was really beautiful.
For me, the hardest thing was Tim [Omundson, Lassiter] not being there everyday. That was hard, but because there was such a spirit of him that was so alive in us doing this, he was with us everyday. There was something kind of beautiful and touching about it. We all were there as a family to make this thing happen, and the first day of shooting I had a scene with Tim that he couldn't be there for, but I shot my side of it. It's my favorite scene in the movie, so I got to shoot that on day one. … It was a big scene for me, and the whole cast stayed for it. We sent Tim a bunch of pictures. It was really special.
Q. Juliet is head detective in San Francisco, which is such a power role for women. Did you feel a certain sense of responsibility in that?
A. I just feel lucky that I get to be on a show that has women, Kirsten [Nelson, Chief Vick] included, in powerful positions, and they're not afraid to write to that. What I really love, too, is how as the show evolved and our characters evolved, they wrote to that. One of my favorite things about the movie is, during the series, Kirsten and I didn't have a lot of scenes together, and we have a lot more together in this movie. I was excited by that. I was excited to join her and have this strong female voice in the midst of all the other stuff that's going on. I love as head detective and the chief in San Francisco that we get to be the anchor and the decision makers, and we get to rangle all the boys. That was really, really fun. Some of the scenes and conversations that you'll see when you see the movie are not just about solving the crime, but they're about more women topics that we didn't talk about during the series. It's really cool, and I really love the presence of that in the movie and on the show, but I think there's a little more of a sparkle to it in this movie. I love that, especially for the future possibility of doing more of these.
Q. You and Kirsten seem close off set too.
A. I always say this. She is a goddess. She is a force. She is so smart and so talented. One of my favorite episodes of Psych, she directed so gracefully and beautifully ("Psych Odyssey"). I love her, and I feel so lucky to know her. I love that we get to be the women in this group together. It's a blessing.
[Maggie discussed another favorite episode of hers from the series.]
In "An Evening With Mr. Yang," where I collapse in Tim's arms after being tied to the clock tower, that is a Roday special. That episode was so powerful. James is such a good director, and he obviously knew the show so well, and they would write to our characters in a way that we had to show these different sides. During the shooting of that scene, I will never forget it, but there is a Band of Horses song that plays at the end of that episode, and James did this really great thing that let us all emotionally get into it. He played the music. We go in to shoot the scene, and I remember we were on top of a clock tower. I was really tied to the top of a clock tower in Vancouver, and the mat was like 10 feet below. It was so crazy. We shot it at sunset, and it was absolutely beautiful. Emotionally I was trying to get into it, and James was like, 'Don't worry, I'm going to play the song.' The second he played the song, it just all took over and the emotion of it. We were so present in it. It was just great. It was such a huge moment for our characters, Tim and I.
Q. Do you think fans will be satisfied with Shawn and Juliet's relationship in the movie?
A. I do. I hope so. I don't know what they're expecting or what they're looking for, but I can say that the relationship is progressing. I think, character wise, where we end up will hopefully make sense.
Q. Are there any romantic moments fans can look forward to or is there still a comedic focus?
A. It's a lot of comedy, but we go real time, so three years have passed. We're older and naturally there is a depth to the relationship that maybe wasn't there in the series. To say it's romantic, I don't know, but it's definitely a little more mature, because we're more mature. With that comes its own set of complications. We've all naturally matured even though Shawn and Gus are still Shawn and Gus. [laughs] There's going to be a natural maturity that has happened that I think plays out really well.
Q. You recently had your first Tiger Frances Foundation fundraiser. How did that go and do you plan to have another one in the future? (The Tiger Frances Foundation is a nonprofit animal rescue founded by Lawson and her friend, Jude McVay.)
A. We're looking so forward to having an official fundraiser, hopefully in the spring or summer of next year. We're really lucky in that our Love on Paws program is expanding quickly, and we thought it might be a good idea to have a fundraiser to get the word out with people here and our friends. With this being our first one, we learned a lot. I think it's prepared us very nicely to have a big fundraiser in the spring or summer. We work with kids and we work with animals, so we want to have a fundraiser that can incorporate kids and animals. This was a beautiful coming together of friends, people who had donated their time and spaces, and it was so lovely. We realized we do have this family of support, and it was a bit of a thank you to them. ... We're expanding, and we need help. We're hoping by the spring and summer when we're actually fulfilling our partnerships with Love on Paws and we're launching our app that we can host the larger fundraiser.
We're so grateful for the support from all of you — Psych-O's and our friends and family here. Spreading the word about us, whether it's on social media, telling people about us, the Amazon wish list stuff, all that warms our hearts so much. We want to include everybody in our fundraiser next year, because we have so many lovely supporters, and we want to celebrate Tiger Frances with all of you. We're going to figure out a way to do that here.
The Tiger Frances Foundation receives a special mention in Psych: The Movie. Q. Do you have any other projects that you've been working on that you want to share?
A. On the Tiger Frances side, we're still expanding the Love On Paws program. We have recently rescued more animals that we're going to make a part of that program, so I have a lot of focus on Tiger Frances right now. We're growing and expanding our board. I'm really excited about this, I'm really proud of this, and I feel so strongly about what the program does in terms of healing with kids. Now we're working with Good Shepherd, and they are a shelter that houses women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. We want to expand the program with the elderly even.
I did a couple of episodes of the Santa Clarita Diet, which was really, really fun. I did that with Joel McHale, who I worked with on The Great Indoors, as well. We had a really good time. That will be out on Netflix.
The movie I did for Netflix, Spivak, I believe they're looking at a Valentine's release. I won't say it's just a romantic comedy, but it does have a romantic comedy vibe to it. I had a great time working on that. I can't wait to see it myself, and I can't wait for it to be shared. It was one of the nicest groups of people I've worked with.
------------- Lawson says she is working on another special project, which she hopes to share with her fans next year. She can be found on Twitter, @maggielawson, and on Instagram, @magslawslawson. Psych: The Movie will air Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. ET, and Christmas Encore will air on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel Dec. 9, at 9 p.m. ET.
Actor/director James Roday has directed a new project as perverse as it is brilliant.
Syfy's new series Blood Drive takes viewers on a provocative, gruesome journey in a fictional, futuristic world where cars are powered by human blood.
Roday, a self-proclaimed horror aficionado, will direct the next two episodes of the series, and says he was sought to be involved in the x-rated project — one of the first of its kind to appear on a cable network.
"If memory serves, showrunner John Hlavin reached out first. He's an old pal. He just turned 130," Roday said jokingly Wednesday, "and then I met with producing director Dave Straiton and creator James Roland, the bearded brain from which all this bedlam and debauchery was sprouted. I was also endorsed by Todd Harthan, my partner in cannibalism."
Roday added, "The truth is, the whole thing was presented to me as the craziest endeavor I would ever sign up to be a part of. It was incredibly ambitious, with no time or money, and oh, by the way, it's being filmed in Africa, and we don't know how SyFy is going to be able air half of what's on the page, but we're shooting it anyway. Obviously, I was in."
Much like Blood Drive, Roday and Harthan's film, Gravy, was a delicate blend of comedy and horror…and a cannibalistic blood bath ensued. Roday said he had creative freedom in directing episodes three and four of Blood Drive, titled "Steel City Nightfall" and "In the Crimson Halls of Kane Hill," respectively.
"I was in a great spot. Straiton was directing the first two episodes and had to set the tone for the series. He had been there hiring the crew and trying to get this thing off the ground and, naturally, had his hands full. Roland was busy building little garden gnomes out of stolen dreams and death smells," Roday said. "I was sort of given the keys to episodes three and four with hopes that I could deliver something that didn't suck. I'm not so sure it was freedom by design as much as freedom by necessity, but it worked out great for me because I was able to blow my schnauz all over the material, which was already super juicy and covered in viscus."
"By happenstance I was also around when they cast Alan Ritchson (Arthur) and Christina Ochoa (Grace), so I had the advantage of already being familiar with both of them. By familiar, I mean we all cut each other and made blood war paint. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I had an absolutely balls on fire production designer who I called Next Level and an All Pro costume designer who both stepped up and fulfilled several of the items on my x-rated wish list," Roday said. "The stuff we did with Christopher (Thomas Dominique) and Aki (Marama Corlett) was a real collaboration that I was honored to be a part of. Those two were absolutely fearless and put a lot of trust in me. The result, as you'll see, only works because of that fearlessness. And for those paying attention, there's a Some Kind of Wonderful tribute in episode three. Because, well, I just can't help myself sometimes."
Aside from vulgarity and gore, there's a deeper message in Blood Drive.
"I think it's easy to dismiss Blood Drive as a celebration of exploitation cinema, not that there's anything wrong with that. But I know for a fact that there was more than just that knifing its way through Jimmy Roland's frontal lobe when he created this dystopian wasteland future-past," he said. "He's exploring gender politics, socioeconomic pitfalls, and the deregulation of just about everything else. It's about as timely as it gets. It just so happens that he's using a very specific set of water (blood) colors to paint with. It's fun, it's yucky, it's subversive, and anvil-y. It's all of that, plus full frontal male nudity. I mean, c'mon."
Once Roday was finished filming in September of last year, he had the opportunity to make a special visit in South Africa.
"I went to Port Elizabeth on the outskirts of Kruger National Park and spent three days with three rescued male elephants who remain my heroes," he said. "I watched them swim and horse around in a pond. We walked together, ate together, and I read them bedtime stories. Such fascinating, glorious creatures … with whom I share a spirit."
One of Roday's passions is advocating to end the ivory trade, which results in the death of thousands of elephants each year. He asks that everyone visit www.lastdaysofivory.com for more information on supporting the mission to end the deadly practice.
Roday has most recently been filming Psych: The Movie in Vancouver, Canada.
"It's a love letter to our wonderful fans, and hopefully they enjoy it half as much as we did making it. I've also got what I think will be the next film I direct starting to come together, and it's a nasty little rattlesnake with pretty eyes," he said.
Psych: The Movie will air in December, starring a number of Psych alums. The movie is said to pick up three years after Shawn's engagement to Juliet (Maggie Lawson), and Shawn and Gus (Dulé Hill) will find themselves tracking a villain (played by Zachary Levi), who is targeting one of their own. Psych cast members Timothy Omundson, Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen and Kurt Fuller will also star. Roday and Psych creator Steve Franks wrote the movie script.
Roday said he would describe the film in two words: SUCK IT.
Blood Drive airs tonight on Syfy at 10/9c, featuring Roday's first episode to direct for the series. His second episode will air next Wednesday. He can be found on Twitter, @JamesRoday.
Photo credits: James Roday, Syfy, and Christina Ochoa.
Christina Ochoa (Grace) from Syfy's "Blood Drive."
James Roday with the cast of "Blood Drive."
Roday with the "Blood Drive" family.
Roday at Kruger National Park in South Africa.
"Psych: The Movie" will air this December on USA Network.
Whether she's flying to Vancouver to shoot a movie or staying close to home to foster love through her animal rescue, Lawson's name is making headlines for all the right reasons.
Tonight, fans will have the opportunity to catch Lawson in her first Hallmark movie, My Favorite Wedding. She says the script immediately caught her eye because it was written by her Psych co-star's (Kirsten Nelson) husband. She also loved that Psych Director Mel Damski was directing the feature film for Hallmark.
Connections aside, she felt the script was genuine.
"I liked the banter," Lawson said. "I thought the back and forth between the lead characters was smart and funny. I like that it is genuinely a romantic comedy. As you know, I like comedy. ... I think we will have done our job if Hallmark fans take two hours off from life and enjoy the movie."
In the film, Lawson plays Tess, who is busy planning her best friend's wedding. Tess soon has to work closely with the groom's best friend, Michael, portrayed by actor Paul Greene, and the two soon develop a connection, against all odds.
My Favorite Wedding was filmed in Vancouver, Canada, and despite some rainy days, Lawson said their shooting locations were spectacular.
"We shot mostly outside of Vancouver at this beautiful golf course. The sunsets were breathtaking, when we could see them. It was raining sideways a lot of the shoot," Lawson said. "I tend to like locations that happen to be near a Starbucks the most." (Lawson has never been a stranger about her love for coffee and all things Starbucks.)
Aside from My Favorite Wedding, fans will soon be able to enjoy her recent role on The Ranch. Lawson said she did a seven episode run on the Netflix series.
The show features That '70s Show stars Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, and is set on a Colorado ranch. Despite the southern accents of all the main characters, Lawson said she didn't get to draw from her southern roots of Louisville, Kentucky, for the role.
"The accents on the show are great, but my character doesn't have one, so I was a little bummed I didn't get to use my Kentucky accent," Lawson said.
She did, however, enjoy her character's moments of free spirit.
"There is a scene, I think it's in my second episode, where I go to visit Rooster (Danny Masterson) in the saloon, and I drink a little too much and go off about something. It was fun to play drunk and angry. I don't know what that says about me though," Lawson said with a laugh. "There is a line at the end of that scene that I had a hard time getting through without laughing."
When Lawson steps away from the spotlight, she can be found making a difference in the lives of animals and people in her community through her animal rescue, The Tiger Frances Foundation (TTFF). Since she founded the rescue with her friend, Jude McVay, in 2013, they have rescued a number of animals in need, from dogs to an iguana, and they started a program close to their heart, Love on Paws.
Through Love on Paws, Lawson and McVay connect their rescued animals with children and adults to develop meaningful, healing bonds. Aside from their work with School on Wheels, a program that tutors homeless youth from Los Angeles' Skid Row, TTFF recently announced their partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and they are launching a special app called Furry Gurus to help raise money to expand their efforts.
"I can reveal that the app is really fun. It might help you answer some difficult questions, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to TTFF," Lawson said.
The app will be released in the coming months.
Lawson also has an ongoing relationship with DogTV, which provides educational programming for dog owners and programs scientifically designed for a dog's viewing pleasure. DogTV's newest project, The Adoption Show, features dogs from across the United States in need on adoption, and Lawson is currently hosting the episodes, which air each Friday.
From day one of discovering DogTV, Lawson said she knew it was a special project.
"My friend, Rebecca, told me that she had discovered a channel on DirecTV called DogTV. It was TV scientifically designed for dogs, to keep them comfy when you are away from them. Naturally, I was all for this," she said. "I noticed that it was very peaceful to leave on in the background all day, and there were times that my dogs would pop up and listen for a while or interact with what was happening on the TV."
Lawson said she thought using rescue dogs on DogTV's programming was a great idea, so she reached out to the concept's creator, Ron Levi.
"We hit it off immediately on the phone, and I started working with DogTV, hosting Dogstar for them. Ron started using rescues on DogTV, and that led to The Adoption Show. He asked me to host, and of course, I said yes," she said. "They are doing great things at DogTV, and the fact that they have partnered with Comcast now and this adoption show is going wide is huge. We are hoping to find lots of animals homes. Every week dogs up for adoption will be featured from different areas of the United States. This is wonderful because it gives everyone the opportunity to get to know a dog a little better and get to know more about fostering, and rescue in general. I am really excited, honored to be a part of this."
Lawson's most recent work is a love letter to fans of the USA Network series Psych. After four years since the beloved series went off air, the actors reunited last month in Canada to film Psych: The Movie, which will air this December. Lawson played Detective Juliet O'Hara on the series.
While none of the plot has been revealed, the cast shared moments from shooting to illustrate the movie will not lean far from Psych's traditional shenanigans.
Fans did learn that Psych actor Timothy Omundson (Detective Carlton Lassiter on the series) suffered a stroke, prior to shooting. Lawson said that Omundson will soon shoot his scenes for the movie in Los Angeles, following his recovery. She said it was difficult to film in Canada without her Psych partner, but she's eager to reunite with him on-screen soon.
"He is rehabbing the shit out of it. He is a warrior, a true warrior," she said.
Lawson said it didn't take long to channel Juliet's fiery, yet grounded personality again when filming for the movie commenced.
"I was really rusty the first day," Lawson said laughing. "It took me a minute to lock in, as [creator] Steve Franks would say, but we got there."
"As far as the movie and old times? Other than missing the shit out of Tim, yes, it was a really wonderful reunion," she said. We are all good friends anyway, so we see each other, but to be playing the characters and stepping into that space again, it felt a little like coming home."
My Favorite Wedding will air tonight on the Hallmark Channel at 9/8c. Maggie Lawson can be found on Twitter, @maggielawson. For more information about The Tiger Frances Foundation, visit www.tigerfrances.org.
Photo credit: Maggie Lawson, Hallmark Channel, DogTV and The Tiger Frances Foundation.
Maggie Lawson plays Tess in the new Hallmark movie, "My Favorite Wedding."
Maggie Lawson (Tess) and Paul Greene (Michael) in "My Favorite Wedding."
Lawson and Greene during a scene for "My Favorite Wedding."
The Tiger Frances Foundation's new app, Furry Gurus. Lawson's late dog, Tristen, is the face of the app.
Maggie Lawson is currently hosting DogTV's "The Adoption Show."
Maggie Lawson and Ron Levi discussing DogTV's "The Adoption Show."
Maggie Lawson with "Psych" cast members Kirsten Nelson, James Roday, Dulé Hill and creator Steve Franks.
Elizabeth Jett has been working as a costume designer since the early '90s, and is still fulfilling her childhood dream to create, tell a story, and be an innovator in a competitive industry. While born in Missouri, Jett says she grew up on the eastern end of Long Island, New York and drew sketches at a young age.
"Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. … I was always drawing," she said.
After graduating high school, Jett attended the Parsons School of Design in New York to pursue a career in fashion design, but she quickly discovered traditional classroom instruction limited her creativity.
"It was too confining for me," Jett said. "It was too narrow a job description for me, because I'm interested in all kinds of design and storytelling."
Jett branched out and spent two years in the Europe fashion scene before returning to New York to work as a fashion stylist. She styled photography shoots that appeared in magazines, and Jett said the opportunity gave her a chance to tell a story — one of her favorite aspects of fashion design.
The up and coming fashion designer was soon, however, ready for a change.
"I've always loved movies, and I was getting bored with fashion — more fashion people than fashion — and I had the opportunity to get on a movie that was actually shooting in Fayetteville, Arkansas," she said.
When Jett made the trip to Arkansas to work as the film's art director, she didn't expect to meet her future husband. Billy Jett was the production designer for the project, and their relationship quickly blossomed. Elizabeth found herself moving with Billy to Los Angeles shortly after filming, and they married the following year. Later, Elizabeth almost gave birth to their daughter, Sarah, on a movie set.
After the move to Los Angeles, Jett started working on independent films, which she loves more than high budget projects.
"I mostly did low budget features, which I prefer. I think they're a lot more collaborative. … There's so much more creative input. You can contribute to everything," she said. "I've done a lot of radically different stuff. My earliest jobs were Sci-Fi, monster movies. … Those were kids TV shows, but there was a huge element of Sci-Fi and monster work in those."
She continued, "I would say my favorite job I ever did was when Billy Crystal used to host the Oscars. I would design costumes for the short films they did in the beginning. Those were really fun. I did four or five years of those."
Jett most recently worked as a costume designer for the film Ride, now in post-production. Ludacris and Sasha Alexander star in the film.
"That was a really terrific movie. It was a great script based on a real life story," Jett said.
Animal rescue is also a passion of Jett's, and she works as the operations manager for a Los Angeles based animal rescue nonprofit, The Tiger Frances Foundation. The rescue was founded by Maggie Lawson and Elizabeth's sister, Jude McVay.
"We work very well together, the three of us, and we all have contributions to it," Jett said. "I feel really lucky that Jude included me and brought me on to Tiger Frances, and Maggie is fabulous."
McVay said she is thankful to have her sister's assistance with The Tiger Frances Foundation.
"Elizabeth keeps us on task at TTFF. She follows up and follows through on everything for us. We'd be lost without her," McVay said. Jett says she doesn't do as much costume design work as she used to, and has chosen to focus more on writing and filmmaking.
"I've always been interesting in storytelling, and I'm also a voracious reader, so I just always knew I wanted to do my own stories," she said. "I've optioned a couple of books, and I have a couple of scripts of my own. I'm developing some projects and pitching them. It's a long road. It's hard to switch gears. It's hard not being 20 years old and( trying to start a new career in Los Angeles, but I'm not discouraged by that, because I think people are always open to good ideas."
Written by Nicole Smith Photos by Elizabeth Jett and Maggie Lawson
One of Elizabeth's drawings
Another western drawing from Elizabeth's collection
Elizabeth at a Tiger Frances visit to School on Wheels in Los Angeles
Sketch artist Candice Langham has been making waves across social media by showcasing her sketch art, which has received accolades from fans of her work and celebrities alike, but there was a time when she put away the sketch pad and almost stopped drawing her avant-garde interpretations.
On a typical day, you may find Candice Langham at her job as a wafer fabrication specialist, building microchips for computers; however, after working 12-hour shifts, Langham finds comfort in pulling out charcoal and sketching faces from the world around her — or her dreams.
When I was a kid, I suffered a lot from nightmares. … I would draw them to kind of get it out of my head," Langham said. "I was always really imaginative as a kid."
Langham describes her current style as "grunge art," saying she uses colored charcoal pencils to add pops of color to her predominantly black and white drawings.
There was a time when someone close to Langham discouraged her from pursuing art as a potential career choice. Another person criticized her artistic technique. Feeling defeated, she tucked her sketches away.
"I got really depressed, and I kind of just put away the drawings, put them in a memory box, and I didn't draw for a long time," she said.
After a friend encouraged Langham to join Twitter earlier this year, she started sketching the actors from her favorite television shows. Taking the plunge, she decided to publicly share her work and anxiously waited on a response, whether it be affirming or discouraging.
It wasn't long until her sketches of the Rosewood cast were quickly noticed and praised by the actors themselves. Langham says one of the most memorable comments she has received is from Domenick Lombardozzi, a cast member of Rosewood.
"He said I made him look cooler than he ever looked," Langham said with a laugh.
Once she finished a series of Rosewood sketches, Langham framed her art and sent it to the writers of the show. She says she was in shock when the writers later posed with her gift and shared a photo to thank Langham for her work.
"Most recently, doing fan art for Rosewood, I found a style that for the first time I Iooked at a piece, I didn't want to change anything about it," she said. "It was a way to thank them, because I've found a style that really suits me. … They were really encouraging, the whole cast was really encouraging."
She added, "I geeked out, like you wouldn't believe, when I saw Todd Harthan [Rosewood creator] and Andy Berman [Rosewood writer] holding my drawings."
Langham also drew fan art of Houdini & Doyle, and she says Michael Weston (Houdini), shared positive feedback that encouraged her to keep pursuing her artistic dreams.
"I guess the stars don't realize how much just liking a photo [can mean]. If they like it or say anything, or retweet it, to me, that's the biggest compliment you can give. Simply liking any tweet, I think, is just really encouraging," she said.
Aside from drawing, Langham also garnered praise on social media for organizing a fundraiser to benefit The Tiger Frances Foundation, a pet rescue based in California and founded by Jude McVay and Psych star Maggie Lawson. Due to her efforts, over $1,500 was raised for the rescue through fan donations, and Langham worked overtime to purchase Psych t-shirts to give away as an incentive for people to contribute to the cause.
Due to the financial expense of owning a pet, Langham doesn't have one of her own, but she says she was encouraged by the work of TTFF and wanted to give back in some way. She says the response from fans and their generosity to the rescue through monetary support made all the organizing worthwhile.
"It really is a testament to the fandom and how great they were in really getting behind it," she said. "I love to see people doing good and for everyone to come together for such a good cause."
Langham says she wants to continue sketching, and she encourages anyone pursuing their dreams to learn from those who are critical but to never stop doing something they love.
"It's just always been a part of me," Langham said of her desire to sketch. "I take all the comments that are given to me, negative or positive, and look at it as a way to grow. … I want people to feel like they're important, and as long as they're doing something that they love, they should have confidence in it." ------------------------------- Candice Langham can be found on Twitter by searching @waitforfistbump.