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.