'Psych': Christopher Lloyd talks the show's 'Clue'-inspired episode
Great Scott! Psych has reached episode number 100!
And how better to celebrate the milestone for the oft-’80s-referencing, wacky USA Network show than to salute a wacky ’80s movie? Psych’s 100th episode, which airs tonight, fully embraces its Clue theme, complete with guest stars plucked right from the 1985 film: Lesley Ann Warren (Clue’s Miss Scarlet), Martin Mull (Colonel Mustard), and Christopher Lloyd (Professor Plum).
In Psych’s nod to the cult classic, Shawn and Gus are invited to a mysterious party at a historic Santa Barbara mansion. Not long after they arrive and meet their fellow guests, there’s a deadly crime to solve, and five suspects emerge: the Butler, the Groupie, the Manager, the Author, and the Host.
The Clue theme is a good fit for Psych, not just because the show has mystery-solving and crime-fighting at its core, but because the comedy of each is very similar: farcical, frenetic, somehow pulling off a combo of being both delightfully over-the-top and packed with some solid deadpanning.
The episode, titled “100 Clues,” features a slew of Clue references – including Shawn’s take on the one-plus-two-plus-one-plus-one banter – and also takes on the device that generated a lot of the film’s buzz upon its release: multiple endings. And this time, the audience has a say in how it ends. Fans can vote for one of five suspects online or via Twitter. The multiple endings experiment never really caught on for films after Clue, but TV networks are now finding that it’s a way to encourage live viewership. CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 similarly let viewers vote on the ending of a recent episode.
EW chatted with Christopher Lloyd to learn about his experience guest starring in the episode. Calling from New York, where he just began rehearsals for a revival of Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, Lloyd told us about slipping into Clue’s comedy again, about the play, and about a certain other beloved 1985 character of his who gets a few nods of his own in the episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Had you watched Psych before signing on for this guest role?
CHRISTOPHER LLOYD: No, before I did the show, I hadn’t seen it. But I love the show. It was a wonderful cast, and of course having the reunion with Martin Mull and Lesley Ann Warren was a real treat, kind of like doing a replay of the film. I don’t know if the occasion will come up again to be on the show, but I certainly would love to if it ever happens.
When you visited the world of Psych, did it feel like you were slipping into the same kind of comedy as Clue?
Yeah, it felt very much like it. It felt like doing the film again. It had a lot of the same energy. In the original film, we’re running all over the place, from the library to the kitchen to the parlor. There was that same kind of hectic urgency when we shot the episode. We were running all about the place, everybody terrified of who was going to get killed next and who killed who. It was great having that same energy.
This certainly isn’t the first time you’ve gotten to reunite on-screen with a former costar. Spin City had you on as a guest star alongside Michael J. Fox. An episode of Numb3rs got you back together with Judd Hirsch. How did the experience of a reunion with some of your Clue cast mates compare?
Well, when we did the film originally, I felt really, really special to have been part of the cast. It’s such an amazing group. It was a genuine ensemble. It’s such a talented group, and so distinctive, each of them. I didn’t know exactly who was going to be there when I showed up the first day [of shooting the Psych episode]. It was a good feeling amongst us because we all enjoyed doing the film.
When was the last time before shooting this episode that you’d seen Lesley Ann Warren and Martin Mull?
Martin and I did something together, but not recently. And Lesley Ann Warren I hadn’t seen since we wrapped [Clue].
Filming a project with multiple endings – what is that like for you as an actor, getting to explore different outcomes for your character?
It was pretty straightforward however each ending was staged or where the emphasis was. It was sort of immaterial which ending [the viewers] were going to choose because we just did each like the particular one we were shooting at the time was going to be the actual ending.
There are a couple nods in this episode to another stellar 1985 movie of yours, Back to the Future. You’ve gotten to reference Back to the Future a lot in various roles and even reprised the role of Doc Brown in things like ad campaigns and Robot Chicken. What do you do to make that character fresh and different each time?
If it’s written well and brought into the story in a way that makes sense and is sort of organic, I love doing it. It’s a lot of fun that way, kind of tongue-in-cheek. I just keep it subtle and go for it.
Tell me about the play you’re working on, Caucasian Chalk Circle.
I’m really excited about it. It’s an extraordinary play and a wonderful role, the role of Azdak. It’s fascinating because it has a kind of convoluted history in the writing of it. Even though it’s kind of a fantasy, it’s all about the wars and Marxism and Stalin – a period of time Brecht was trying to come to terms with… We have five weeks of rehearsal, which I love, and then at least a couple weeks of previews.
I haven’t seen the play before – is it a lot of dark comedy?
There’s a lot of irony. There’s a lot of dark comedy. Though some of the material in Caucasian Chalk Circle has a lot of charm to it, which people don’t usually think of when they think of Brecht. It’s very human and yet very political. I’m curious to see how the story connects with a contemporary audience, which I’m sure it will. There’s a lot that’s relatable for a modern audience.
Do you approach that type of ironic, dark comedy the same way as other comedic projects, or do you feel like it’s a whole different ballgame?
I think just playing the situation realistically and just doing what’s written is what works. You don’t have to dig up too much to make the comedy work. There’s a lot of absurd and ironic moments that are full of human errors and human weakness and strengths and clashes of temperament — that in itself can carry a lot of comedy. It’s there.
“100 Clues” will air on USA Network at 10 p.m. ET/PT tonight. Fans can vote for the suspects on Psych’s official website or on Twitter using the hashtags #PsychButlerDDit, #PsychGroupieDDit, #PsychManagerDDit, #PsychAuthorDDit and #PsychHostDDit. Viewers on both coasts will be updated on polling results via real-time on-air graphics. On the West Coast, the audience may see a different ending of their own choosing. Ultimately fans will be able to see two of three alternate endings online and On Demand the day after the telecast. The unaired third ending will be featured as bonus content on the season 7 DVD.
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