He may not be a megastar or a tabloid staple, but for the past 13 years, Dulé Hill has been busy quietly pulling off a showbiz coup: appearing back-to-back in two uncommonly long-running and beloved TV series, first for seven seasons as Charlie Young on The West Wing and now as Burton "Gus" Guster on USA's quirky Psych, currently in its sixth year. When he does get a little time off, you won't find him sipping umbrella drinks poolside — Hill's spending his hiatus treading the boards in "Stick Fly" at NYC's Cort Theatre, where he offered us a backstage pass.
TV Guide Magazine: You started on Broadway when you were 10 and have been working steadily since — why didn't you turn out like Lindsay Lohan?
Hill: Having success early on in theater is different. And my parents did a great job of keeping me grounded. My dad said, "Out there, you may be 'The Tap Dance Kid,' but here, you still gotta do your chores."
TV Guide Magazine: Fun fact: Jon Bon Jovi went to your high school in Sayreville, New Jersey!
Hill: His brother Matt and I were in the same grade. Everyone had that rocker hair. Well, not me — I had a flattop. I met Jon a couple of years ago; I was at the Skybar in L.A. and someone said, "Jon Bon Jovi's over there." I said, "Where?" and then I rolled up on him.
TV Guide Magazine: Why spend your break doing Broadway? Don't you work enough?
Hill: Theater is where actors become their best. There's no filter, no "let's do it again."
TV Guide Magazine: Do you still get people coming up to you every day about The West Wing?
Hill: Pretty much — there's a lot of West Wing fans out there! People responded to Charlie because he was an Everyman.
TV Guide Magazine: After seven seasons of Aaron Sorkin's dialogue, does anything phase you?
Hill: Once you do Aaron Sorkin, you can do anybody. You can do Shakespeare. There's something very specific about his words. Psych's a little more fluent.
TV Guide Magazine: You've been married to actress/DJ Nicole Lyn since 2004. Do you have a meet-cute story?
Hill: We met at a party for about 15 minutes, and for three years I talked about it. I'd always say, "If I ever got a chance again, I know I would marry her." Then one day I walked through the door at an event, and Nicole's right there. It was a cinematic moment. Turns out we'd both moved to L.A. and lived less than a mile away from each other.
TV Guide Magazine: Had she been pining away for you, too?
Hill: No. [Laughs.] She did remember me, but she hadn't been saying, "I'm going to marry that guy!"
TV Guide Magazine: What's it like being apart so much?
Hill: I'm not going to lie and say it's a walk in the park. With me being in Vancouver [for Psych], and her DJ career — she's in L.A., New York and Miami a lot — it's challenging. I can't say I've figured it out, but we're hanging in there. Who's the design guy who says "Make it work"? We're Tim Gunn-ing it!
TV Guide Magazine: Psych is USA's longest-running current series. What's the goal?
Hill: We're two years from catching Monk. I don't want to pass Monk; I just want to catch up. We came in on Tony Shalhoub's coattails, so I want to keep holding onto them. I don't know if we'll ever get the Tony Shalhoub Emmys, though. That ship may have sailed already.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the trick to the longevity?
Hill: Psych is smart, but it's not heady. There aren't too many shows where a grandmother, a husband and wife and a grandchild can all watch together and laugh.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you keep from getting bored?
Hill: I know how to do Gus with my eyes closed, I really do, but I'm always trying to find new quirks, new pet peeves.
TV Guide Magazine: You've had some big-name guest stars. Any favorites?
Hill: William Shatner is way up there. We used to have a hard time getting people to come up [to Vancouver]; now we have William Shatner? Whenever a guest actor leaves, we all sing "Happy Birthday" — that's our send-off. We actually sound really good; there are harmonies and everything. I call it the Psych Crew Choir.
TV Guide Magazine: Have you and James Roday (Shawn) always clicked?
Hill: They cast James first, then they wanted us to do a chemistry read together. Before the test, James came to my house to work on the scene, which was pretty funny, because he already had the job. He always tells the story like he only realized afterward: "Wait, why am I at Dulé Hill's house?" We crack each other up — a lot of the jokes on screen started off screen.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the best terrible pickup line Gus has ever used?
Hill: The first one: "So, you hear about Pluto? That's messed up, right?" At the time, Pluto had just become not a planet. I love that line.
Psych airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on USA.