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Q&A Interview with PSYCH Stars Dulé Hill & James Roday and Creator Steve Franks About Series Finale

Mike Vicic - March 14, 2014




Yesterday, TV Tango participated in a conference call with PSYCH stars Dulé Hill and James Roday and series creator Steve Franks, who provided a behind-the-scenes peek of the final two episodes, revealed what mementos they took from the set, and reminisced about their favorite fan interactions, their best moments on set, and the Gus-Shawn relationship. We transcribed and edited the full phone call.



The penultimate episode of PSYCH, "A Nightmare on State Street," premieres on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on USA, just one week before the series finale, "The Break-Up." Immediately following the 67-minute finale, USA will air the PSYCH AFTER PSHOW, a one-hour live special featuring never-before-seen footage, favorite clips and an audience Q&A with the entire cast -- James Roday, Dulé Hill, Corbin Bernsen, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, and Kirsten Nelson -- and show creator Steve Franks. The moderated discussion, hosted by Kevin Pereira, will take place in front of a studio audience in Los Angeles.



Mira Sorvino as Besty in "A Nightmare on State Street"

Question: It was exciting to have a ROMY & MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, of sorts.

Steve Franks: We were very excited. Thank you.

Dulé Hill: If anybody's wondering, I'm currently eating waffles right now, with maple syrup. If anybody's wondering. I know that's what was on your mind.

James Roday: Thank you for sharing that with the group.

Dulé Hill: Anytime. Anytime.

Steve Franks: Dulé, you're eating waffles at 2:10 in the afternoon?

Dulé Hill: At 2:10 in the afternoon -- with maple syrup.

Steve Franks: You know what? You can't be bound by time when you eat waffles. I love that about you.

Question: Can you talk a little bit about the final day of shooting PSYCH?

Steve Franks: The last day of principal photography was the last day of the "A Nightmare on State Street" episode [airing March 19], and it was an awesome night, because it was James [Roday] at the helm. Early on in the process, he decided he wanted to be directing the last night that we shot. It was a bittersweet night. At the same time, it was an all-night shoot. It was this amazing night where we had so many of us dressed up as zombies. It was more joyous than sad, because we had sort of a thousand goodbyes at that point, as crew and actors had their last day. It wasn't as if there were a lot of tears, but it was sort of a great celebration of all the crazy things we had done. Perhaps, the craziest thing we had done was that night. James, I think that gives you an opening to expand.

James Roday: It's a bit of a blur for me, because I was completely inebriated before we even started shooting. [Laughing] I think it was a little bit easier on the pallet that we ended with everybody in full zombie makeup and contact lenses and flesh dripping off their faces. It was also ridiculous and a little bit surreal. It prevented us from getting too sentimental in the moment, I think, because everybody looked like they were dead.

Dulé Hill: And also, the fact that it was 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning -- I don't know what time it was that we actually finished --  there wasn't too much room for emotions. As Steve said, we had said goodbye so many times. When we finished our show, we always sang happy birthday -- whether it was guest cast or anybody -- so as people left for the final time, we sang a million and one "Happy Birthdays". I believe we sang one for show when Roday yelled cut on the last shot. We just sang "Happy Birthday" to PSYCH. Then Roday and I went to the camera truck, and that was where we had a little toast -- a little drink or two. And that was it.

James Roday: We had already said goodbye to Maggie and Corbin and Tim and Kirsten and half of our crew that went on to start working on other things, so a lot of the harder stuff was sort of finished. It was just a celebratory 3 o'clock in the morning kind of thing.

Dulé Hill: Was it the green screen that we shot last? The last shot was a green-screen shot.

James Roday: We had to grab a shot from the day before that we did again, so the final thing that was ever shot -- in the eight-year run of PSYCH as a series -- was Dulé in front of a green screen screaming. That was it. That's how we wrapped it up.

Dulé Hill: That's how it ended.

Dule Hill and James Roday in the series finale, "The Break-Up."

Question: What do you hope fans take away from the eight seasons of PSYCH?

Dulé Hill: That there was a lot of laughs. It was a show they could get together with their family. It was a lot of laughs, and it strengthened relationships -- whether it was with family or new relationships. I know a lot of Psych-os who actually became friends because of the show. So I hope that would be the legacy of the show: long-lasting relationships.

Steve Franks: I always felt the show was created as a reaction to what was on television. It's seems to me, my goal was always to make you feel a little better about yourself and the world when you finished watching an episode of PSYCH than you did when you started, which you don't often get when you're watching an episode of DUCK DYNASTY or LAW & ORDER: SVU or whatever the latest incarnation is. For me, I always wanted to make, in a small way, the world a tiny bit of a better place through our little hour that we came on and jumped into people's lives for a little time. To me, I hope it's one of those things that makes people happy and continues to make them happy. The best letters we ever get are the ones where people talk about how they were down in the dumps -- maybe going through a tough time in their life -- and this show somehow got them together. This show, through no real intention of our own, somehow became this thing that families watched together. We thought of it as a show for people our age, and we found out that people much younger -- and people older than us -- gravitated toward us. It's very strange when we get people who say, "We watch this show with our kids." Then we think back to some of the jokes we put in, and then get a little nervous. It's one of those things that I hope it did bring people closer together and feel better about everything that's going on in their world.

James Roday: The only thing I can add to any of that is just that I feel that the right people came together at the exact right time on the exact right network, and it kind of resulted in a show that played by its own rules. We kind of got to do whatever we wanted. We were a show that took you wherever we wanted to take you from week to week. It was a rare experience, where I think we were able to leave it all out on the field, and we had the support of our studio and our network, combined with the blessing of them maybe not entirely understanding what we were doing, which I think would often work to our advantage. As a result, we kind of got to make a show on our own terms, which is incredibly rare, and we got to do it for eight years. That's extraordinary.

Anna King with the cast of PSYCH. Credit: Humor Heals the Heart: The Anna King Project

Question: What have been some of your favorite moments that fans have shared with you?

James Roday: My favorite moments were always with our Make-a-Wish kids' visits up to Vancouver on set. It always kind of blew my mind -- it was beyond humbling -- that they would choose the set of PSYCH to fulfill their wish. And then on top of that, all of them were just the most precious, beautiful, little human beings, who would come up with their families and friends -- and sometimes their extended families. Basically, the smiles -- the looks on their faces -- and the fact that for one day, in an othwerise troubled existence, these innocent children facing so much adversity -- the struggles and illnesses that they're facing -- [for whom] we got to make one of those days a little bit brighter. Just a snapshot of each of those days was sort of the most fulfilling fan anything for me, that's for sure.

Dulé Hill: I would definitely agree with that. That, by far, exceeded anything else. All the fan interaction, in general, has been really mind-blowing. The fact that people really engaged us to the level that they have -- whether it was in Vancouver or at Comic-Con or meeting somebody on the street -- they were always pleasant and really just genuinely happy. The fact that what you do has that kind of effect on people.

Steve Franks: There's really this great, amazing girl who really touched all of us. Her name is Anna King. She's on the heart-transplant list, and she took herself off the heart-transplant list to come to the set in Vancouver. You have to stay a certain amount of mileage from your hospital to wait for it [the donated heart]. The fact that they were willing to take that chance and to see how much this show [meant to hear]. Her parents said it was more for her health to come to our set than to be on the list for three days. This girl has this amazing thing -- the Anna King Project she calls it -- that James actually wore a bracelet that she made during much of last season. Those kinds of things, you can't beat that with anything else. It's just an amazing thing, and I think we would sometimes have more than one Make-a-Wish coming through on each day, because, I don't know, maybe we sort of touched people in that way. We always wanted to be welcoming and available for stuff like that.

Dule Hill, Kirsten Nelson, James Roday, and Maggie Lawson in the series finale, "The Break-Up."

Question: I loved the final episode. [USA Network distributed screeners of the final episode to many journalists.]

Dulé Hill: The final episode? I thought that this was Season 8. We're not doing a Season 9? [obviously joking]

Steve Franks: Dulé, we'll talk after, but I have some worrisome news for you.

Dulé Hill: Oh, my gosh!

Question: What did USA Network President Chris McCumber mean when he said, "I don't believe we've heard the last of Shawn and Gus?"

Steve Franks: I have wondered myself what the hell that meant. I was like, "What are you talking about? Shouldn't someone inform me, of all people, what the heck that means?" For us, we knew at the beginning of Season 8 that this was going to be last one. You could see we were sort of winding everything down. We had this very strange thing where we weren't allowed to acknowledge that. I guess there's a master plan for everything. To me, it's like I never stopped wanting to make a version of this show, and I've always kept it very much out there that I would love to make a movie above all else. We could talk about other variations. You know, we're all of on different projects, and we're all very excited about what we're doing now. Like James said, it's a magical time that came with the right people in the right situation, and we were sort of given the keys to the car and no roadmap, so we were able to do almost everything that we wanted to do. You don't want to give up those kind of opportunities. We loved doing this show. I think we've all acknowledged at some point that if there's a movie or something else -- obviously, I don't think it would be like a full-time series again -- that most of us would jump at that and we'd be really excited to sort of get back in this world. I don't think I'm ever going to have as much fun doing anything else as I had doing this. To answer your question, I have no idea what the hell that meant, but I'll take it.

Dulé Hill: Echoing what Steve said, I think we're all hoping that Chris meant that we'll do some kind of film or something, because we've enjoyed working with each other and we enjoy the fans. There's always stories to tell in the PSYCH world. We hope that there is something beyond our series finale on March 26th.

Dule Hill and James Roday in the series finale, "The Break-Up."

Question: What is the thing that you miss most making the show?

Dulé Hill: For me, it's the camaraderie. I've really enjoyed working with everybody. There are very few times where you just enjoy going to work and spending 13 or 14 hours a day with people and not get sick of them. I laughed every day that I showed up. No matter what was going on in my life, it was always place where there was an emotional release and I had a good time, and I looked forward to going to work. I'm going to miss, obviously the cast -- like Roday and Tim and Maggie -- and the times that Steve would come up with the writers from L.A. and the crew, too. I really loved working with the crew. I had such a wonderful time, and we just laughed every day and all day -- and that's what I'm going to miss the most.

Steve Franks: I probably have a list too long to go on. Besides all the things that Dulé mentioned, I think being on the set -- the action of having a script start out. I'm going to miss being on the van scouting locations, because we're always trying to do some kind of crazy new world. And the day we start prep, it never feels like we'll be able to pull off whatever world we're trying to dive in that day. But, perhaps, the most all, I'm going to miss the Blenz Milk Chocolate Mocha that I would get every morning before...

Dulé Hill: Oh, yeah!

Steve Franks: ...because you don't have it in the United States and I'm urging the Blenz company to please expand south and particularly into California.

Dulé Hill: That's Blenz with a 'z' for all you non-Vancouverites.

Steve Franks: Also, I'm going to miss the edamame at Joey on Burrard -- it has sort of this sort great szechuan sauce that's really fantastic. I think between the Blenz and the edamame, those two are really going to be hard to beat. And also the camaraderie and the relationships. But mostly the Blenz, and then the edamame, then the camaraderie, and then the scouting.

James Roday: They covered it so well, I echo what Dulé said for sure. If I got a little more specific, I would just focus in on the laughter. For eight years, there was at least one moment a day where I laughed so hard that it became unpleasant. That's a tough thing to find in life with any kind of consistency. But we made each other laugh to the point of vomiting sometimes, and we did it with a wonderful group of people we had great affection for. In some cases, I truly do believe that laughter is the best medicine, and we had the best medicine for eight years. Now, it's back to popping pills -- that's what everybody does.

Ally Sheedy and Dule Hill in PSYCH: THE MUSICAL.

Question: Was there one thing you wish you could've done before the show ended?

Steve Franks: I don't think there's one; I think there's like ten of them.

James Roday: I would've loved to have completed the BREAKFAST CLUB set. I can say it out loud now and stop being sly about it. I feel like Emilio [Estevez] is the one who got away from us, and it wasn't for lack of trying. We really did come at it from every angle we could think of, but we just couldn't make it happen. That's a hole I wish we could have filled.

Steve Franks: To me, storywise, at the beginning of every year, I would come in with 16-25 different arenas that I wanted to play in. The one that was on the list every year that we never cracked -- and we wasted so much time trying -- was time travel. I was really bummed we never cracked it, because we could never come up with a satisfying time-travel story without actually having Shawn or Gus travel through time, which we were sure the network was going to balk at. They let us get away with a lot, but having Gus suddenly come up and being in THE ROAD WARRIOR? That was one we could never make happen, and it was never going to happen. That was the big one we left on the table.

Dulé Hill: I don't understand why we couldn't do a BOOGIE NIGHTS remake.

James Roday: I teased it. I teased it like three times in a row, but I just could not get any traction. No love on the BOOGIE NIGHTS episode.

Steve Franks: We have six year olds watching the show, and that's exactly the sort of situation I get into. I'd like to personally apologize for "This is my partner, Fellatio Del Toro." That was my joke. [Laughing] Sometimes it gets late in the day and you're doing what you call "punch" on the script. Then, it seems really funny, and when it's on TV and you're watching the show with your children, you think back to that day, shake your head a little bit, and just hope that nobody was paying attention.

Question: Can you pick out a Shawn and Gus moment that sticks out in your memory?

Dulé Hill: For me, it always goes back to "American Duos" when we got to dress up as Roland Orzabal and Michael Jackson. It was surreal anyway being on stage, singing that song. We had people in the audience who were directed to scream at us, but still they were screaming at us like we were rock stars. And then John Landis was in the wings, behind the monitor, directing us. What's really interesting is that [bit] started off camera and made its way to screen. I remember at the end of the season before that, it was late night and Roday and I would joke around doing "Shout" as if Michael Jackson and Roland Orzabal did it, and it became an episode. That always stuck out for me. That's also when I feel like PSYCH really found its legs so that we could go anywhere. I think that was Season 2, and that's when you realize that this is going to be a really funny show. If we've done this, then we can do anything.

James Roday: There's so many for me, it's hard to choose one, but I'll give you sort of a dichotomy...

Dulé Hill: There can only be one.

James Roday: ..for me, there was always this dichotomy of this friendship where, on the one hand, they would die for each other, but in any given episode one would leave the other alone facing the perils of death and run as quickly as he could in the opposite direction. I think those two elements are what made that friendship so special, because you had both. You had, "OK. We're going to sit here and argue over who gets poisoned first" so that the other one doesn't have to watch the other one die. But in the same friendship, hear a loud noise, take off running, and "You're on your own, man." It worked. It always worked -- both sides of that. I do think, just to put a finer point on it, that conversation in the final Yin/Yang episode, where they're both tied up and Robocop is about to stick us, and we literally take the time to bicker over who wants to die first, because neither of us want to see the other one go. That does, sort of, tell you everything you need to know about these two.

Steve Franks: Since those two guys hit on the essential moments, for me it was the moment I wanted to write from beginning, and it's the moment where the guys finally have a fist fight. It's in the "Indiana Shawn" episode when Gus realizes that Shawn has stolen his dagger. I was always working toward "I want these guys to fight each other at some point." To me, it was the encapsulation again of what James says about this relationship, because their fight is the most ridiculous thing that you've ever seen. It was so fun to shoot. You could watch 25 seconds of that and know everything you need to know about [their relationship during] the eight years on the show.

James Roday: Gus brought a [funeral] program to a knife fight.

Dulé Hill: You wanna bumble wit the bee, hahh? [Laughter, followed by Dulé making buzzing noises.]

Dule Hill and James Roday in the series finale, "The Break-Up."

Question: What other projects do you have coming up?

Dulé Hill: I'm here in New York. I'm doing a show on Broadway [Warren Carlyle's After Midnight] right now, and I think I'll be doing it for a few more months. Then we will see what comes next.

Steve Franks: I'm actually writing something that, once again, like the end of PSYCH, I'm not allowed to announce yet. I don't know why, but I can't.

James Roday: I'm kind of in the same boat. I've written something that I'm not allowed to announce, although when I am allowed to announced it, I feel like it's going to be a little anticlimactic, to be honest. I made my first film last year [Gravy], the same year we finished PSYCH, which was sort of a big year of things I had been working on for a really long time, ending at the same time. I'm out there trying to sell the film and hopefully find a home for the movie so that people can see it. PSYCH fans, especially the ones who are 17 years old or older, will enjoy it. Dulé may, or may not, appear briefly, but memorably, in the film. I don't know. I can't remember. It was a while back that we shot. That's sort of consuming a lot of my time these days. Independent filmmaking is a grind, for sure. The only thing harder than getting the movie made is getting somebody to care about it once it's finished. That's where a lot of my energy is these days.

Question: Did you keep any mementos from the set?

Dulé Hill: I may, or may not, have taken my Burton Guster nameplate from the Psych office. I may, or may not, have taken the newspaper article from "Spellingg Bee" that was up in the Psych office. And I may, or may not, have taken a piece of the rim from the destroyed Blueberry. I may, or may not, have taken those things.

Steve Franks: I wanted only one thing: the dagger that they fought over in the "Indiana Shawn" episode. It ended up being sent to me. Unfortunately, they didn't send me the one that had the key carved out of it, so I actually have this dangerous, sharp, rusty dagger that's now in my house somewhere, but it's spectacular. It was one of the only things that I really wanted to keep from the set, but I'm very happy to keep it.

James Roday: I did take my nameplate. It was the one that matched Gus's. They sat on our desk for all eight years. They kind of represented the whole Psych side of the show. The only other thing that I had always planned on taking -- but somehow managed to botch, and I don't know how; all I know is that I don't have it -- is the original Winky Cutto, the frog whose eyes popped out when you squeezed him. I tagged him. I knew he was still there. I focused in. I was myopic that last week, and I somehow managed not to come back to America with him. So that's a bummer, huh?

Steve Franks: Yeah, I think someone swiped that.

James Roday: Yeah, I think that's what happened, but my heart is filled with so much love that I'm not going to sit here and start pointing fingers and making accusations now. I won't do it.

Steve Franks: Well, I know I don't have it, but I know our last day -- and this is a bonus tidbit for everybody -- in the Psych office that we shot was in the episode that comes next week [March 19], "A Nightmare on State Street," which is hands down the craziest thing we've done on the show. The Psych office is boarded up and overrun with zombies, and there were a lot of people in there as the thing was, basically, completely demolished. I have a feeling Winky Cutto walked away on that day.

James Roday: Yeah, it's highly possible.

Dulé Hill: I think Mira Sorvino took it. [Laughter]