Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Psych's James Roday and Steve Franks—Our Pop Culture Heroes

Photo by Alan Zenuk/USA Network

Psych is now three weeks into Season 5 and we've already seen a Kung Fu episode and a tap dancing episode. Pop culture junkies like us tune in to Psych just to see what obscure references they'll put in each week's episodes. And in an interview with series creator Steve Franks and star James Roday, our pop culture heroes, was no different. Right from the get go, they were spewing out pop culture tidbits from Clouseau to Tears for Fears. Read on to see what they had to say about Axe body spray, going boneless, Twin Peaks, and more, and tune in to Psych Wednesday nights on USA Network at 10:00 PM.

Q: How the Juliet relationship is going to change now that your father is in the police station?

JAMES: You know what, I’m wisely and sagely yielding all Juliet questions to Steve Franks. Because he’s the only one that knows what’s going to happen or what he’s got going on in the gigantic brain of his. And I’d also like to kick things off by saying we’re doing a lot of these calls and we enjoy them but it’s always been a little difficult for Steve because he’s naturally a large Frenchman with a very thick French accent and he’s always had to do these calls covering the accent.

He has to work very, very hard to sound American so that you guys can hear him in a clear and distinct way and I think it would be fun if just once, one time, on one call, for one question, we let him speak in his normal voice. And I propose he answer this question as himself. I think it’s only fair I should do this.

STEVE: This is me getting myself in trouble because I’ve been discussing in the pre-call how I wanted to do the entire call with a thick French accent and James is calling me out on it right now. Yeah. You know what, I feel we have limited time so I’m going to save the French accent for the end and let’s just say it’s Clouseau-caliber.

So to answer your question and to get something done because I have a feeling James and I are going to be off the cuff for most of this. Henry being in the police station is changing Shawn in a lot of different ways that don’t necessarily directly affect his relationship with Juliet but Henry is there to sort of push Shawn to be the cop he’s always wanted to.

And Shawn then is forced to up his game a little bit so it’s like the most direct forcing of Shawn to grow up that we’ve done. And we’ve always said that the Shawn and Juliet development is all about Shawn being ready for Juliet and we think he’s getting really close. So there’s going to be movement in all those directions this year. And I know we’ve dog paddled around it for quite a while but we’re going to stop the dog paddling and actually start floating slowly with the current.

JAMES: He also starts using deodorant this year. Isn’t that right.

STEVE: Well, that’s the season finale. James throws in an Axe body spray reference. We’ve never scripted one but they seem to pop in. So I think Shawn has actually always had good, healthy hygiene. Right.

JAMES: It’s because Axe is magic in aerosol form.

Q: What can you tell us about the storylines going on this season with Gus and Lassiter?

STEVE: They’re actually doing absolutely nothing the whole season. They’re just kind of there. The great thing is there’s probably one of my favorite Lassiter episodes happens early. I think we’re airing it second and it’s Lassiter and Gus actually team up on a certain case and it's… our tap-dancing episode where you get to see Dule actually do the thing that he was first famous for.

And Dule actually starts taking a tap class and Lassiter, because… he’s been going to a therapist and has been trying to find some ways to manage his anger ends up tagging along and it starts to open up Lassiter’s head a little bit. The two of them end up teaming up on a case and Shawn becomes insanely jealous of course and he’s been putting down Juliet.

So we team up Lassiter and Gus and it’s really fun to see those two guys together and see what the other half of our two teams do… and how they treat each other. So I think that’s our… tent pole moment for Lassiter and Gus in the first half.

Otherwise, other than that, it’s Gus wants a girlfriend. He needs a girlfriend. I don’t know if he’s getting one right away but he’s certainly going to have a date… not too far off. And Lassiter’s just dealing with… Juliet taking a short leave after being hung off the building in the end episode. And so Lassiter is taking over himself and he gets a little chance to be free as a cop and we’ll see how that positively and negatively affects him.

Q: Do you see a lot of what happened at the end of last year with the Yin and Yang thing affecting Shawn this season?

JAMES: Well I think what we’re trying to play the idea that Yin affected everybody. You want to play up [that] so that the gravity of what that experience was, the fact that we live in Santa Barbara and that it was pretty heavy stuff, and so they can inform everybody’s little journey as we head towards finishing it which will also be this season… Shawn is reevaluating his life and how he lives it and if he needs to make some changes. And the Yin thing is sort of a catalyst for that, as well as for Juliet, and for Gus, too.

One of my favorite moments of the series is at the very end… when Gus is on the phone and it’s shot from way up above where he looks really small and he’s on the phone and he just realized, "Wow, Gus the pharmaceutical salesman has really come a long way." I’ll bet he didn’t have this in his head four years ago.

So it’s affected everybody as much as it can on a silly, breezy, irreverent comedy whodunit.

Q: James, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done so far this year?

JAMES: I just participated fully in a Kung Fu battle. Steve directed a premier and I went at it with some highly trained marshal artists, in the marshal art’s studio and I got my butt kicked but it was fun. And I actually did it myself as opposed to giggling with Steve and watching my stuntmen do it. So that was the closest thing to crazy. And you know what, I don’t get that crazy anymore man. I’m getting older... I chose my battles a little more carefully these days.

STEVE: James, I just watched you racing against Adam Rodriguez in Henry’s supped up truck… I saw the cut last night. And it is so funny. We have a Fast and the Furious episode coming up.

JAMES: That’s pretty funny.

STEVE: Shooting James with our team of Kung Fu stunt guys was one of the great singular pleasures of my life. It was really, really fun and so funny. And yeah, They worked out an entire routine and James ran through the whole thing himself and he’s swinging on punching bags and picking up weapons and… we shot Kung Fu stuff over two days and we had one afternoon where there were actually five memorable sight gags that all could make our main titles and it was just one of the best times ever and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard as all the silly, great falls and all the things that we did jumping into fences. I can’t wait for people to see the premiere.

Q: James, any good, inspired Gus nicknames that pop into your head from this season?

JAMES: We just knocked out In the Ho Tips. He who cometh in peace.

STEVE: That was pretty funny.

JAMES: I tend to sort of let them go after we do them so that I can be surprised by them again when I hear them when they air but I can tell you that we’ve done at least one in every episode so far and there will be some winners. There’ll be some tens–there’ll be some nines and there might be one four. But we haven’t done the four yet.

Q: Steve, when he started whipping out the Gus nicknames, was your response "what the hell’s he doing" or "that’s great"?

STEVE: I think the first one was in the Speaking Out, Forever Hold Your Peace; the second episode we shot. And I think even in the Hotel Room. And this was, I can’t even remember but it was scripted as something else and I was like, "What the heck was that?" But it was actually kind of appropriate to the setting. And then it was really funny. And we didn’t catch on until the middle or the end of the first season that it was something that we should actually use to mine territory.

We have one or two bits that tend to sort of float to the top each year. We call them floaters. No we don’t. That would be the worse name for that.

JAMES: We name our bits after turds. You’re right on point.

STEVE: But that was was Gus Don’t Be A–which is my favorite. When I go up and direct it with him, when I’m writing an episode, I turn around my side, which is the day’s script, and just sit there and just start jotting them down and sometimes we have like twelve or fifteen to choose from.

Q: A favorite Shawn and Gus moment of all time, is when Shawn went boneless. Was that scripted or was that made upon the spot?

JAMES: That was a Steve Franks special… don't go boneless and then you said to figure out what don’t go boneless meant and my take on it was just, what kids do when they don’t want to leave someplace or they don’t want to do something and they just go completely limp. I figured it was some version of that since Steve does have children of his own and it just looks really funny when a grown man does it.

STEVE: And I’m basing it on those people that do the sit ins, whether it’s at the logging company or at the nuclear power plant and the cops come to arrest them and they all go limp. And I was trying to figure out what the term for that would be and then boneless just seemed so funny. And what really struck me as funny about it is the fact that when Gus says, "Don’t you dare go boneless," it’s a term that Shawn immediately would know and has utilized in his life.

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. So the fact that boneless is nothing more different than striking a pose. I have to tell you that overhead shot of him being drugged down the hallway after going boneless is one of my favorite moments of this show and of television altogether.

Q: What '80s references are both of you looking forward to this season?

STEVE: I think I know exactly which one we are. We are going to bring on the living embodiment of an '80s reference. Actually we’re shooting it this week. And we’re actually going to have Curt Smith from Tears for Fears not only mentioned on the show as he has been numerous times. He’s actually going to be on the show as himself and rerecording the theme song, which I think is the one I’m looking forward the most.

JAMES: Ditto. Ditto. Echo and put it in the box.

STEVE: My other favorite ones are you’ll see multiple, multiple Karate Kid references in the Kung Fu episode. Some that will slide by 99% of the audience. Actually not multiple, multiple. Maybe just a handful. But my favorite reference is one that James added from Karate Kid Two during the big finale fight scene.

JAMES: We also pay homage to Carl Weathers in his episode very subtly and very quickly. If you’re not paying attention, you might miss it. He’s in the scene though. That’s your hint.

Q: James you've said you're a Twin Peaks fan will there ever be a Twin Peaks inspired episode of Psych?

JAMES: We’ve had a Twin Peaks episode on sort of simmering like a fine Italian sauce… so we decided to go ahead and move onto the front burner this season and it’s happening. I have these terribly high expectations for our Twin Peaks episode and I will do everything I can to deliver something that will be both gratifying for diehard fans, casual fans and even people who are completely unfamiliar with the series, we promise to deliver a good mystery and an episode with plenty of laughs so that they don’t feel left out.

For a slideshow Psych Season 5, visit

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For other interviews with USA stars check out:
Willie Garson Interview: All About Mozzie and White Collar
Peter Gallagher Talks About his New Show, Covert Affairs
Saffron Burrows Talks About Her First Year on Law & Order: CI

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