When Psych was still on the air, there were two people creator Steve Franks always wanted to guest-star on the show: Chuck‘s Zachary Levi and rock icon David Bowie, who died in 2016. In fact, Z, the bad guy in Psych: The Musical, was written for Levi, who ended up not being able to participate because of Thor: The Dark World. So, when it came time to write Psych: The Movie with star James Roday, Franks used it as an opportunity to cross two things off his wish list — kind of.
In the upcoming two-hour holiday movie, Levi plays the villainous Thin White Duke, who shares a name with Bowie’s Station to Station-era persona. Obviously, this isn’t a coincidence.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the Thin White Duke period of Bowie. I feel like ‘Golden Years’ was the one gem out of that whole era, but a lot of it, he wanted to disavow himself. So, I thought it would be a fascinating era to explore,” says Franks.
Given the fact that Levi was playing a character inspired by Bowie, Franks and Roday wanted to go for broke in crafting Shawn (Roday) and Gus’ (Dulé Hill) latest foe. Armed with a significant amount of money at his disposal, the Thin White Duke is the most driven villain they’ve ever faced because he feels personally slighted by the boys and he wants to take it out on everyone around them: Juliet (Maggie Lawson), Karen (Kirsten Nelson), and Henry (Corbin Bernsen).
“I would put him more on scale with, like, a Batman villain,” says Roday, with Franks adding, “He’s not above anything to get what he wants. We’re gonna see him eliminate anybody who stands in his way.”
Says Hill, “He feels like he’s been betrayed and he’s really going out of his way to create hell for Team Psych…Normally over the years at Psych, a lot of our bad guys haven’t really been that good in terms of being bad guys. They were sloppy. This guy [is] pretty specific and prepared for his revenge, and I think the audience is going to get a real kick out of Shawn and Gus and the whole team having to come together like the Avengers to stop the onslaught of this bad guy.”
While the Thin White Duke might be the show’s most dangerous bad guy yet, that doesn’t mean he isn’t without his quirks. This is Psych after all.
“He’s just elegant and cool and out of control and weird and sloppy, all at the same time,” says Franks. “He’s just got all of these contradictory elements that you can’t figure out about him. He’s smooth in one moment and then slightly less smooth in the next.”
Apart from temporarily embracing the dark side in Heroes Reborn, Levi typically plays the good guy of a story; however, Roday and Hill say the Tangled star was more than up to the task of switching sides.
“We just sort of turned Zach loose and he came up with a bunch of ideas,” says Roday. “I think, especially, fans of both Psych and Chuck will be very pleased, because not only does it fit beautifully within the landscape of what we do on Psych, it’s also going to give you an opportunity to see Zach do something you’ve never seen him do before.”
Psych: The Movie debuts in December on USA Network.