One of TV's most appealing new sleuths is fake psychic Shawn Spencer of USA's Psych (Fridays at 10 pm/ET). The tongue-in-cheek cases of James Roday's boyish, temple-tapping Sherlock have rapidly become a Friday-night mainstay on the cabler, which has already renewed the series for a second season. Roday talked with us about "faking it" and much more.
TV Guide: Shawn is a really charming and noble con man. Does conning people come naturally to you?
James Roday: I'm going to have to say no. I try to live my life with the "honesty is the best policy" philosophy.
TV Guide: Are you a free spirit like Shawn?
Roday: I wish there were more of Shawn in me. I have a lot of respect for people who live from moment to moment and go places on a whim.
TV Guide: Why does Shawn even bother to pretend to be a psychic when he has such acute observational skills?
Roday: He suffers a little bit from foot-in-mouth disease. He sees this "opportunity in the moment" with the police and rather than sort of come clean now, he's challenged by the whole charade: "For how long can I possibly keep this up?" I think that's the kind of stuff that drives him. A lot of people wonder about that, saying the premise is kind of thin and what's the point. But I honestly think he's aware of how thin it is, and that's what's exciting for him. It's like a game.
TV Guide: Have you ever visited a psychic?
Roday: I visited a couple before we shot the pilot. I wanted them to describe what their visions entailed, so that when someone asks if I was pulling all this out of my ass, I could say that I met with a few psychics and they say that sometimes their temperature rises and they convulse. I figure anything they said, I could take and run with.
TV Guide: You have great chemistry with Dulé Hill, who plays Shawn's pal Gus. How would you describe their bond?
Roday: It's unbreakable. It's one of those friendships that make people who don't have one ask, "Why does Gus put up with Shawn?" It's not about putting up with one another. It's about knowing each other so well that things that might annoy someone from the outside don't annoy you anymore. [See TVGuide.com's recent Q&A with Dulé Hill.]
TV Guide: Do you ever look at Corbin Bernsen and think "I'm playing the son of Arnie Becker from L.A. Law?"
Roday: I look at Corbin and think all kinds of crazy [stuff]. But every once in a while it does hit me. There was an episode we [did] where Dan Lauria from The Wonder Years was our guest star, Joanna Kerns from Growing Pains was directing, and Corbin, of course, plays my dad. It was like, "Wait a second, this is like what I grew up watching after school." It was definitely a pinch-yourself moment. These actors defined my evening viewing experience when I was a younger person, and here they were all together on the same set. It was a little surreal.
TV Guide: You've had roles on network series like NBC's Miss Match and First Years. What is the difference between doing a network show and a cable show?
Roday: I can tell you categorically that I've never had this much freedom as an actor. There is a special collaboration that's happening in this show between myself and Steve Franks, the creator. There's a ton of trust involved and I find myself week-to-week presented with a very unique opportunity of shaping the work that we're doing, as opposed to just making a script funny. It's really been a blessing and, I have to say, it really doesn't happen very often in television. I'm not sure if it's totally because we're on a cable show, or the right guy created the right show, but... I think we have a little more room to breathe on a cable show. You don't have to come out of the gates bringing in "X millions of viewers." You actually get a chance to find your legs, which never happens on a network. The dynamic is a little easier going, a little looser. You can actually put your focus on the creative stuff rather than numbers.
TV Guide: Like USA's Monk, comedy is as much a part of Psych as the mystery. Is there a crossover episode in the works? Any notable guest stars coming up?
Roday: It's been talked about a couple of times. A crossover with Monk, and a crossover with the WWE Raw guys. I think both of those are in various stages of development. I would welcome a crossover episode, because the few opportunities I've had to work with Mr. [Tony] Shalhoub have been awesome. But we've got a couple of good guest stars coming. We brought in Mercedes Reuhl for our Season 1 finale [airing Mar. 2], which John Landis directed.
TV Guide: Outside of Psych you also cowrote Skinwalkers, a film about werewolves, starring Jason Behr, Elias Koteas and Sarah Carter (Shark). Are you interested in pursuing the horror genre further?
Roday: I do enjoy it. It's one of those lessons in filmmaking where you start with this pure idealism of what your script should be, and then 75 people get their hands on it and you're watching it at the end of the day thinking, "What happened?" But as far as where my interests lie as a writer, I do tend to keep skewing back into that genre. Probably not forever, but right now it seems like the most fun to me.
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