It’s in Psych‘s DNA and it’s theme song: “I’m not inclined to resign to maturity.” Fake psychic detective Shawn Spencer (James Roday Rodriguez, who recently announced that he is now using his birth name) and, to a lesser extent, Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill) represent the dream of arrested development, hanging out in their clubhouse together, wearing disguises, and leaning into references to their favorite bits of pop culture while smart-assing and charming their way out of trouble. This while living that Scooby-Doo life of solving crimes and getting into goofy adventures. It’s a formula that works even as the characters cross into the age where it’d be more appropriate for them to know a lot more about golf and mutual funds, but adulthood comes for us all.
In Psych 2: Lassie Come Home (which is available to stream now on Peacock), we see an attempt to thread a needle with a high degree of difficulty. Psych is returning home (in both setting and feel), trying to live up to the ethos of the show and these characters, and also showing some sprinkles of maturity with an eye toward what might come next. Something that’s a particularly interesting question considering that the film now finds itself positioned as a key release tied to the launch of a new streaming service. But as Hill tells us, “there’s always room for an encore.”
Below, we talk about that with him and Roday Rodriguez, how things stay the same and how they evolve organically in the new film, the vital return of Timothy Omundson (who missed the last Psych movie while recovering from a stroke), and why the time is not quite right to look back on or sum up the show below.
How has your relationship to these characters changed over the years since the show ended?
James Roday Rodriguez: It’s a good question. I think when we were in the bubble of eight seasons [filming the show], you kind of just get in the groove, and you’re doing the work. It feels right and you don’t really stop and do a lot of analysis. I think once the show ended and we had some space and some distance, it allowed us a real opportunity. Maybe, for the first time, we really thought about, “Wait a second, what should these dudes be? What do we want these guys to look and feel like as they get older, when real-time has passed and you haven’t seen them for a while?” And that was kind of cool because it wasn’t something that I think we did a lot of when we were making the show as a series. So, like Shawn being married. Gus having a girlfriend and a new job. And being able to think about that stuff with some distance allowed us to essentially come back and do everything exactly the same way that we have been. [Laughs]
Hill: [Laughs] Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better. The thing I think that’s been so beautiful about Psych is that it’s all been organic. I mean, the fact that we started on this basic cable network that had some hits, but it wasn’t what it is now. We grew with the network, we grew with the audience, we grew with each other. And it was all organic. We didn’t know that we were going to have a fan base that was going to stay with us for over a decade. We didn’t know we were going to do eight seasons. And even when we did the first movie, we didn’t know that we were going to do a second one. So I think we kind of, we all just continued to respect each other, love each other, enjoy each other’s company. Support each other in our creativity. We try to give the fans what we feel that they would like, and they give us their feedback in return and keep building on it. So as long as that fellowship is always there, then the characters just grow and evolve organically. I don’t think there really is too much of, “Well, we got to hit this note now. We got to hit this note.” We just allowed it to grow as it is.
Roday Rodriguez: Yeah, the only thing I would add to that is we’ve also been lucky enough to have a studio and a network that, for the most part, just stands back and says, “Do what you do, guys and girls!” Which has been incredible. You don’t often get to experience that, but we’ve been experiencing it for quite some time. I think we’re probably a little spoiled because of that.
You had a really satisfying finale for the show. When you do a movie like this, do you think, “Okay, we want to end this in a place where if we don’t come back for another one, it feels complete?”
Roday Rodriguez: We sit down and talk about story when we’re writing this thing, but I think the only rule that we try to follow is, let’s make sure we end it in a place where you can believe that these characters who you’ve supported and invested in for so long are still out there living their lives. If we can check that box every time we get back together, then I think we feel pretty good. Then we can focus more on doing what we do within the body of a movie or a special and making people laugh. I think that’s the only rule that we’ve ever discussed openly. Which we did in the series finale, as you mentioned, and which, I think we did again in the first movie, and I hope we’ve done again with this movie.
Hill: We always leave a little slight door for encores. So just in case the audience keeps it flowing, we’ll come back. There’s room for an encore. There’s always room for an encore.
When you’re trying to think about where you guys have been and where you want to go, do you rewatch or refamiliarize yourself with what you’ve already done? Or is it just there already?
I would say for myself, it’s just there. Once I get together with James and the rest of the cast, and I see all the crew. We fall into our old jokes, the rhythm comes back after say one take, and there it is. We played the characters for so long. I mean, we were there for eight years together every day, all day for months at a time. That, to a certain extent, Gus has become a part of myself and vice versa. It’s not that hard to, I guess, conjure him back up and say, “Okay, we have some more stories to tell.”
And James, you, of course, watched 12 episodes a day, right?
Roday Rodriguez: Yeah, man, I didn’t even watch the show when we were making it. [Laughs] What I’ll say is this. It is a bit of a puzzle. I think there’s a recipe to what we do. And we’ve always known that. And the one thing that I’ll add is when we made the first movie, we were missing a very huge piece of that puzzle without Tim [Omundson]. And that did feel different to me. And it did take me a little bit longer to find the same groove and start clicking. And this time having him back, it came back much quicker. It felt much more like it was meant to feel, and it felt a lot better. So I will say that if you take out a major ingredient, it doesn’t feel exactly the same for sure. And then, just to echo what Dulé said, [we did this for] so many days in a row for so long. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say again, doing a job as an actor where like… we didn’t even have to run stuff by each other before takes. Like, it wasn’t even like, “Yo, I’m going to try this, get ready.” There was no discussion. We were just acting and reacting, like two professional wrestlers who don’t even need to go over the match. Like, it was crazy. And that to me was what was so special about it.
There’s been a trend, especially with COVID and the lockdowns, of people going back and revisiting shows and doing podcasts. You see it with Scrubs, and Zach Braff and Donald Faison. And with The Office and Jenna Fischer. I’m curious if you guys have ever thought about doing something like that.
Hill: We haven’t discussed ever doing anything like that. I think if it were, it would be very fun to have that be led by [series creator] Steve Franks because he has a million and one stories. There have been so many folks that have come through. I think it would actually be a fun thing to do. The difference, I will say, between The Office, or Scrubs, or even The West Wing rewatches that go through a podcast is that our world is still evolving. That would be my only thing at this point. So whenever we get to the point, and if Steve Franks has his way, after the sixth movie, then maybe we do something like that. But I don’t know. I mean, what do you think James?
Roday Rodriguez: I agree. I think what we have to offer our fans is that we’re still making content for them. And we’re all still very much a part of this universe together. And to me, I think podcasts often feel like in memoriams. Like, “Hey, let’s not forget about this.” And, and I think for us, we’re still slinging it. And we have a very interactive relationship with our fans, especially on social media. We talk to them all the time, so if we were to do something like that, I agree, it would probably be worth saving it for later, when we can’t necessarily promise them that they’re ever going to see us get together and do our thing again.
So the next apocalypse. You save it for the next time.
Roday Rodriguez: Correct.
Hill: Right. The next one. Right, exactly.
Roday Rodriguez: Yeah, well, we’re about to shut down again, so it’ll be next week.
‘Psych 2: Lassie Come Home’ is available to stream now on Peacock.