Tavis: (Laughs) Television series rarely survive eight years in the ratings battlefield, but “Psych” has done just that. In fact, the series helped to put the once-fledgling USA Network on the map.
This week, however, the show will wrap – say it ain’t so, say it ain’t so. It wraps its run. Joining me now, the two men most responsible for the success of the series, James Roday and Dulé Hill. Let’s take a look first at a scene from the farewell episode of “Psych,” with guest star Mira Sorvino.
Tavis: (Laughter) Eight years, Dulé.
Dulé Hill: Eight years. It’s been a great journey.
Tavis: That’s a long run, man.
James Roday: Are you just looking at Dulé? I’m just -
Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter)
Roday: What does that mean?
Tavis: We’re starting; James is starting in over here already. (Laughter)
Roday: Eight years, Dulé. Tell me about it.
Tavis: Let me do that again. (Laughter) Let me do that again.
Roday: No, just let’s talk about it.
Tavis: Let’s do that again. (Laughter)
Tavis: Eight years, James.
Hill: Why you look at him? (Laughter)
Hill: Why you looking at him?
Roday: It was a good run, Tavis.
Tavis: I can see this is -
Hill: It’s like I don’t even exist.
Roday: It was a good run.
Tavis: So it’s like this all the time, huh?
Hill: You know what I’m saying? (Laughter)
Tavis: Yeah. What do you guys going to do when you’re not around each other every day?
Roday: I don’t know, probably -
Hill: We text a lot. We do that.
Roday: Yeah, that’s true. It’s going to be tough. I think we’re going to have to stay in touch. We became fixtures in each other’s lives, like -
Hill: For eight years.
Roday: – like blankets that, like Linus’s blanket.
Hill: That’s like going to high school and going to college with one of your best friends. That’s a long time to spend.
Tavis: That is a long time, yeah.
Hill: But on top of that you take every class together.
Hill: And you study together.
Roday: And you study together, yeah.
Hill: You know what I mean?
Tavis: Let me just get serious for half a second. I know with you guys it won’t last longer than half a second. But what does it mean to be on this journey with somebody? It’s really just – it’s the two of you. It’s not even like it’s a – there’s a whole cast here, of course, but the two of you are the stars here. You guys have been like this (crosses fingers) for eight years of your life.
Roday: Yeah. It’s basically like being in a romantic relationship without any of the sort of perks. (Laughter)
Tavis: Yeah. Without any of the romance, huh?
Roday: Yeah. (Laughter) But the same things happen. Like you start finishing each other’s sentences, you start knowing, like, the other person’s habits. Like you know what they eat, you know what they drink, you know where they’re going to be.
Tavis: What’s that word, what’s that word – bromance.
Hill: Bromance. Yeah.
Roday: Bromance, yeah.
Tavis: Bromance, yeah.
Hill: “Psych” really was as bromance on camera and off camera.
Hill: From the beginning, we connected over our love for ’80s songs, and it just springboarded from there.
Roday: Yeah, I got so much closer than I ever thought I would to a Jamaican. (Laughter)
Hill: He probably knows more about Jamaica now than I do.
Roday: Yeah, it’s true.
Tavis: What’s great about this too, let’s give some credit to the network, you guys helped, as I said, helped put the network on the map, and so you deserve great credit for that.
The flip side of that coin, though, is that the network did something that most networks don’t do these days, which is give the show time to find its audience.
Roday: Right. That’s true.
Tavis: Say a word about that.
Hill: When I first read the script I thought it was an hilarious script and it could be a fun show, if, the big if was if the network gave it a chance to find its legs. I’m very thankful that USA did that. Because most times, if you don’t hit right away (motions).
Roday: I’ve been saying for years it was really just, it was, the planets aligned. Like it needed to be USA, it needed to be 2006, it needed to be us, it needed to be the rest of the cast, it needed to be Steve Franks, it needed to be Vancouver, so that we were kind of up there in a bubble doing our own thing, and nobody was really meddling.
All those elements kind of had to be in place for this – would you do me a solid and pass me that middle mug, Dulé? Thank you so much. (Laughter)
Tavis: I knew that was coming. I knew that was coming. (Laughter)
Roday: But yeah, you know what, it, and that’s why I think it’s so rare. It’s like all those things kind of have to be in place to go on the journey that we went on.
Hill: It was lightning striking in a bottle.
Tavis: I think there’s something there, James. I’ve never been to Vancouver, but there is something, to your point, I think, about being able to go there and to focus on the work. How much has Vancouver been a character in this success story?
Hill: Well, I would say that one thing about the show is it wasn’t airing in Vancouver, which was a good thing also, because it allowed us really just to go to work. We had nothing else to do besides hang out with each other and go back home.
Roday: We were pretty anonymous. Dulé would get some looks because he was a brother, not because people knew who he was. (Laughter)
Hill: “What are you doing here?” (Laughter)
Roday: It was just people were always surprised. But other than that, no, we moved about, we did our thing, nobody bothered us. It was great.
Tavis: The other thing that fans of – there are so many things, but one of the other things, I should say, that fans of this show appreciate – Sasheen, our producer, as well as -
Roday: She’s a Psycho.
Tavis: Yeah, she is. You said that. (Laughter)
Roday: In a good way.
Hill: Psychos are the best. Psychos are the best.
Tavis: Psycho, the good way.
Roday: Self-proclaimed. That’s right, girl. (Laughter)
Tavis: A shout-out for Sasheen Artis as a self-proclaimed Psycho. What we were talking about before the show, though, was the episodes, the themes, especially the music stuff, you guys didn’t just do a series every week for eight years, but you got a chance to have some fun doing some pretty wild, outrageous, crazy stuff.
Roday: Yeah, once we sort of go tour sea legs under us, we kind of discovered that as long as we killed somebody every week and pinned it on (laughter) somebody by the end of the show, we could go wherever we wanted, we could tap into any world we wanted.
We could bring up guest stars that we admired from the time we were kids. Like it kind of turned into a buffet of who do we want to work with and what do we want to do, as long as we solve a murder every week.
Hill: And we make sure we point the finger at the wrong guy first.
Tavis: That’s right up your alley, though, Dulé, the singing, the dancing -
Hill: Oh, yeah. Well really, one of our early shows was “American Duos.” I think that really represented when we started to really find our legs and say this is what the show can be.
We really can do whatever we want to do. That started from at the end of the first season Roday and I being off camera, just cracking each other up, 2:00 in the morning on set.
Roday: We had come up with our version of Tears for Fears’ song “Shout,” if it had been a Tears for Fears, like Michael Jackson mashup.
Roday: And we almost wasted it on a psych-out in season one, which are these fun little things that we do, like, during the credits. But for whatever reason, we didn’t do it and then we were able to plug it into that episode with the full-fledged production value, him dressed as Michael, me dressed as Roland -
Hill: John Landis directing.
Hill: Moonwalking, with the crowd yelling at you.
Roday: So that was a happy accident, but that was one of the sort of bigger sort of broader swings that we had taken. And when it worked, or at least as far as we were concerned it worked, it kind of gave us the push that we needed to be like oh, well, what else can we try?
Hill: What else can we do?
Tavis: I’ll take your phrase, James – a “happy accident.” How much of what we actually saw over these eight years started with you guys acting foolishly -
Roday: A fool?
Tavis: – yeah, off camera, and the writers were somehow convinced to -
Hill: I think a lot of it did. I think a lot of the interactions you saw between Shawn and Gus was stuff that would happen off camera.
But that’s what makes the writers so brilliant, is they would see certain things we’d drop into one episode, and then they would take it and run with it. For example, when the whole “Come on, son,” was just me sitting in my trailer one day watching Ed Lover on line and cracking up.
I called Roday over to the dressing room, to my trailer. He was cracking up, and we had to go film a scene. The next thing I know he’s going, “Come on, son.” And I say, “Don’t go Ed Lover on me.”
Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter)
Hill: That started a whole “Come on, son.” Next thing you know, Ed Lover’s showing up on two episodes of the show, yeah.
Tavis: On the show, yeah.
Roday: Playing himself, and then coming back and playing a bailiff. Like, yeah.
Tavis: When you’re in this moment, you’ve got this eight-year run, everything’s working, you’re grateful to be working on a show that’s a hit show, on a network that supports the show.
Do you ever think about the future in terms of typecast? Do I want to stay in this thing so long that it puts me in a box where I think I can’t’ get out of it? Or is that never a concern?
Roday: I don’t know. Are you worried that you’re only going to be able to play Black characters moving forward? (Laughter)
Hill: Yeah, I am. I’m a little concerned I’m always going to be playing a Black guy, you know what I’m saying?
Tavis: A Black character, yeah. (Laughter)
Hill: But the good thing for me is I came from a long-running TV show, so it was -
Tavis: Sure, you’ve done this twice, right.
Hill: Flipping the script. Also, being on USA, it’s not like we were on, we’re getting 22 million viewers. It was big for cable but not in terms of network television.
So I don’t think I’m, I’m not really that concerned about being typecast. And (unintelligible).
Roday: We were a cult show, so as long as our hardcore Psychos are willing to accept us as other people, I think it stands to reason that a whole lot of other people might be discovering us for the first time.
Hill: As long as I stay out of Blueberry’s or Toyota Echos I think I’ll be all right.
Tavis: Speaking of cult following, James, what do you think, and I’ll ask Dulé the same question, what do you think, in retrospect, the viewer connected to that made them stick with you guys for eight years? What was it about it you think that worked for the viewer?
Obviously you guys had fun, but the viewers obviously had a good time.
Roday: I think Steve Franks, who was the creator of our show and deserves a ton of credit as well, tapped into something with the idea of taking a procedural show, because a lot of people love their “Law & Order” and their “CSIs,” and turning it so that yeah, you get that element, but you also get to laugh. You also get to have fun.
I think we came along at a time when the country needed to laugh. That’s what we did. Once we realized that we were doing something and that people were responding to it, I think we just kept trying harder and harder and harder.
I think people maybe started laughing harder and harder and harder.
Hill: For myself I would say look at the TV landscape right now. It’s very specific. Even though there’s more channels, it’s either a show where someone’s head is being chopped off and blood is spewing out, or it’s a procedural, or it’s a kid’s show.
Roday: Or people are having sex in Roman times.
Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter)
Hill: We look back on the ’80s on our show, we look back on the ’80s fondly, and back then, you could sit down with a family, your grandmother, your mother, your father, and your brother could sit down and watch a TV show, and you all would laugh.
Roday: That’s true.
Hill: There’s not a lot of that on TV right now.
Roday: It’s crazy how many times people have pulled us aside and said, “You know what, yours is the only show that I can sit in the same room with 16-year-old and, like, connect over. Then as soon as it’s over, he goes back to his room.”
Hill: Then go back to watching Roman sex scenes.
Tavis: Is that the greatest compliment?
Hill: I think so.
Roday: I think it is, yeah.
Hill: Bringing families together through what you do, I think that’s, yeah, that’s a really (unintelligible).
Tavis: You saved America.
Roday: It was pretty (unintelligible).
Hill: We saved America.
Tavis: “Psych” saved America.
Hill: We, “Psych,” saved America. That’s the tag line.
Tavis: “Psych” saved America, that’s it. (Laughter)
Hill: “Sucker to the end.” (Laughter)
Tavis: So James, what’s next?
Roday: I made a film this past year that it took me the entire run of “Psych” to make. I was sort of doing the show and then sort of peddling this movie, and I finally got it done, and Dulé actually appears in the film.
Roday: The name of the film is “Gravy,” and it’s at the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival in New York City on April 1st.
Roday: That’ll be the first time that anybody can see it, and excited about that.
Tavis: Gonna get me some “Gravy.”
Tavis: All right.
Roday: Put it all over everything.
Hill: All over everything.
Tavis: I’m coming to New York in a couple weeks to see you.
Hill: Yeah, I’ll be on Broadway still, “After Midnight.”
Hill: Knocking it out there with the jazz and Lincoln Center All-Stars, singing some Cab Calloway and those kind of things.
Roday: It is an absolutely delightful show.
Tavis: I’m anxious to see it.
Roday: You’ll start smiling immediately, and you will not stop till the lights come up.
Tavis: I’m looking forward to it. And if I don’t, I want my money back.
Hill: No problem, no problem, no problem. Roday will send it to you.
Tavis: Yeah, James will.
Hill: You know what I’m saying? (Laughter)
Tavis: You put that out there, didn’t, he put it out there, yeah.
Roday: Do me a solid and put that mug over there in the middle? (Laughter) Thanks, man. (Laughter)
Tavis: Just one last shot on the way out. “Psych” (unintelligible) on the USA Network for eight seasons, and what a run, what a ride it has been. James, congratulations, man -
Roday: Thank you, man. Thanks for having us on, Tavis.
Tavis: – on a wonderful run. My pleasure. Dulé -
Tavis: – good to see you as always.
Hill: Same here.
Tavis: Congrats. I’ll see you soon.
Hill: See you in a couple weeks.
Tavis: Yeah. And I’ll see you in “Gravy.”
Roday: You will.
Tavis: There you go. That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith.
“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.
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