×

‘Psych’s’ James Roday, Dule Hill Savor Series’ Creative Freedom

USA show's lead duo forged a fast friendship

Before Dule Hill even tested for the role of Gus on Psych, he realized it wasn’t a typical TV series when James Roday, already cast as Shawn, came to his home to rehearse.

“I was taken aback that he would come all the way out to my house when he had the job,” Hill says.

That sense of camaraderie extended into and beyond the pilot, as cast and crew adopted a Little Show That Could mentality. And as it turned out, Psych could.

Buoyed by the buddy genre that has long driven some of the most popular movies and TV shows, USA Network’s Psych has thrived on the chemistry of Roday and Hill, along with the creative freedom initiated by creator-showrunner Steve Franks.

Produced by Universal Cable Prods., the cop dramedy about a faux psychic (Roday) and his best friend (Hill) solving cases for the Santa Barbara P.D. has been a USA mainstay, hitting the rare cable milestone of episode 100 in the current seventh season. Starting as a companion piece to Monk in 2006, the series (which also stars Maggie Lawson, Corbin Bernsen, Timothy Omundson and Kirsten Nelson) is not only a standalone success, it has become a launchpad for the network’s other original series.

“We were this tiny show on a network that was finding its footing,” Roday says. “Nobody knew what or who we were. We tagged ourselves as underdogs and thought the only way we’d be able to push this thing uphill was to do it all together. That was a good attitude to have out of the gates, but it stuck. Now we feel like the Rudy of basic cable.”

Today, Psych is USA’s longest-running current series. And now the show is on its way to setting a new record for the network.

“We still have half a season to go before we catch up to Monk,” Hill says. “But we’re chugging along.”

Roday — who also writes for the show and has directed several episodes — and Hill credit the network with giving Psych time and support to find its audience and creator Franks for carving out storytelling latitude and keeping Psych fresh.

Such freedom led to pineapples appearing in every episode and the popular Psych Out outtakes, such as Roday and Hill vamping Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror while shooting the pilot.

“It’s a great show with a unique voice and a fantastic, specific sense of comedy,” weighs in Jeff Wachtel, co-prexy of USA and Universal Cable Prods. co-head of original content. “It taps into a wonderful theme that will always be timely, the Peter Pan factor of a young man who won’t grow up.”

“At its heart, it’s about two best friends who are putting one over on the adults,” adds USA co-prexy Chris McCumber. “That’s why it is still the youngest-skewing — and getting younger — show on USA.”

“I think it comes down to the banter with Shawn and Gus,” says Lawson, who plays Shawn’s girlfriend, Juliet. “Fans usually quote a Gus nickname, which is funny but a mystery. It feels like a fun game we’re playing. It’s so nice to know they pay attention. … Between all of the characters and relationships, everything has grown in such an authentic way.”

Franks cites his father (a retired LAPD officer) as well as ’80s-era detective shows like Moonlighting and Simon & Simon as the inspiration for Psych.

“I thought it would be fun to apply my comic sensibility to a cop show,” says Franks, who was best known for co-writing Adam Sandler’sBig Daddy (1999) when he was pitching the concept.

Although season eight is yet to be officially scheduled for 2014, bridging the seasons will be the two-hour Psych: The Musical airing later this year. It’s a pet project of Franks, a musician who composed the series’ main title theme song.

“If you’re a fan of musicals, if you’re not a fan of musicals, this could be the musical for you,” Franks says about the upcoming special. “It’s comedic in its approach but soars to great heights. Everyone is talented, and there are touching, big surprises.”

Whether or not Psych continues beyond its next season, it’s been a joyous ride.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” Franks says. “I’ll keep doing it until they push me out the door.”

Adds Roday: “Our creative approach is to take big swings. We don’t always hit ’em out of the park. Sometimes we don’t even make it to first base … but it’s never because we don’t step up.”

More TV

  • Eric-Barmack-and-Laura-Fernández-Espeso

    Erik Barmack’s Wild Sheep, The Mediapro Studio Forge Production Alliance (EXCLUSIVE)

    MIAMI — In a coup for both parties, The Mediapro Studio has taken an equity stake in Wild Sheep Content, the new and forging Los Angeles-based content production company of Erik Barmack, the former Netflix executive who spearheaded the U.S. streaming giant’s game-changing drive into original non English-language productions around the globe, which is now [...]

  • Angelina Jolie

    Angelina Jolie to Produce BBC Show to Help Kids Spot Fake News

    Angelina Jolie and the BBC want to give young viewers real tools to stop fake news, Jolie will executive produce “BBC My World,” a program that explains the stories behind news and offers facts and information that helps kids over the age of 13 make up their own minds on pressing international issues. The series [...]

  • Pictured: Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard

    'Star Trek: Picard': TV Review

    “Star Trek: Picard,” the latest entry in an ever-regenerating franchise, eventually gets going. That it does so more tentatively than boldly may, at first, be a test of individual viewers’ loyalty to the “Trek” universe and to its most famous captain. “Picard’s” great asset is its title character — as played by Sir Patrick Stewart, [...]

  • NBC Sky World News Plots Summer

    NBC Sky World News Plots Summer Launch

    The company known for American news staples like “Today” and “Meet The Press” wants to create similar journalism landmarks for audiences around the world. NBCUniversal and Sky, both owned by parent Comcast Corp., will this summer launch NBC Sky World News, a news service aimed at English-speaking audiences around the globe. The company intends to [...]

  • 'Vikings': Katheryn Winnick on Directing the

    'Vikings’s' Katheryn Winnick Breaks Down Directing the 'Start of Bjorn's Downfall'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Valhalla Can Wait,” the eighth episode of the sixth season of “Vikings.” When “Vikings” creator Michael Hirst came to terms with killing off the fan-favorite Lagertha character, he knew he wanted to bring portrayer Katheryn Winnick back into the creative fold at least once more [...]

  • Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com 22/01/2020 -

    Tartikoff Honorees Call for Commitment to Diversity and Protection of Press Freedom

    MIAMI — Jeff Zucker didn’t mince words. “Nothing is as important than what I’m doing now,” the CNN Worldwide chief said of his long career in media as he was feted Wednesday night as one of five Brandon Tartikoff Award honorees. Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide and chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, sounded the [...]

  • Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay Urge Changes

    Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay Among Directors Urging Changes in DGA Parental Policies

    Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay, Reese Witherspoon and more than 40 other women directors are urging the Directors Guild of America to change its policies for new and expectant parents. The directors have co-signed a letter by documentary filmmaker Jessica Dimmock seeking an extension of the qualifying period for DGA health insurance coverage to 18 months [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content