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.