'Psych' creator Steve Franks and star James Roday preview the zany holiday reunion
Over the course of its eight-season run, Psych became known for its loving parodies of movies and TV series. But for the upcoming holiday film Psych: The Movie — which sees psychic detectives Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill) reunite with the rest of the gang to match wits with the vengeful Thin White Duke (Zachary Levi, in a hilarious against-type role) — Roday and creator Steve Franks, who co-wrote the movie together, went back to basics.
“This is not a tribute,” Roday tells EW. “This is not a wink. If anything, it’s an homage to the original concept of the bromance that fueled Psych for all of those years.”
Loaded with countless callbacks, zany high jinks, and heartfelt cameos (Timothy Omundson!), this sweet pineapple of a movie invites fans to this tumultuous year to suck it — well, at least for a night.
“I’m hoping, if nothing else, that it is just 90 minutes of feeling good about the world and feeling good about yourself and just laughing and having a great time,” says Franks.
Below, Franks opens up about the writing process for the movie and previews what’s going on in Team Psych’s life when the film opens.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After watching Psych: The Movie, my coworker and I both remarked how this was the perfect distraction from 2017. Was that something you were aiming to do when you guys wrote the film?
STEVE FRANKS: Absolutely! It was sort of a function of the series as well. I originally created this show thinking things were too dark in 2005. It’s a warm comfortable place. It’s a nice pair of pajamas to go in. It’s one of those things of, when else do you see something where you’re just inclined to smile and laugh? If you’re not smiling or laughing, I’m hoping you’re grinning at some point, because yeah, it’s supposed to make you feel good and it’s a celebration of friendship and brotherhood and having each others’ backs. Not only did it become more and more important as the writing process went on, but we really want our world and the Psych world to sort of indicate, “The world’s not that bad. There’s great things there. We’re all not that different.” I’m hoping, if nothing else, that it is just 90 minutes of feeling good about the world and feeling good about yourself and just laughing and having a great time.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did the movie come about? Did the story come first or did USA and Universal reach out about revisting it this year?
The funny thing is ever since we decided to wrap up the show in the eighth season, I had always said I wanted to do six movies. So, I made it clear from there that I wanted to be able to transition us into the movies. Even as soon as the Comic-Con after we had aired our finale, [current NBCUniversal International Studios president] Jeff Wachtel had called me up and said, “We gotta get the band back together.” You know, the first year was too soon. The second year we couldn’t make the availabilities happen. Then, I just figured this would be the call that Jeff and I have every year and we’d talk about how great it would be to get together. Finally, last summer I was on a driving trip and Jeff called me while I was in Hershey, Pennsylvania, learning about chocolate nibs at the Hershey Factory and he says, “Let’s do it this year!” I said, “I’m always in.” By the time I got home, business affairs was on the message machine saying they wanted to make a deal. It was fantastic! It was something I was ready to do and prepared to do and excited to do right from the start. I was just waiting for that moment when everybody would be available to do it.
What was the process like coming up with the story?
It was pretty easy to get back in the mindset of the characters, because it’s such a fun thing to write. Finding an organic way to get everybody back together was pretty easy, but I felt like when we wrote the finale, it’s so hard to write a finale for a show, especially one that’s been on for eight years, because it’s not necessarily your show. It belongs to you and the fans and the actors and all of that. So, you have to find a way that you’re gonna make A) yourself happy and B) all of the fans happy. The fact that I wrote a finale that I really felt summed up the show in the right way and tied it up in such a nice clean way, to then go three years later and say, “Let’s untie all that stuff and open it up again” was scarier than writing the finale, because you want it to be as good. I specifically wanted this to be better than anything we’d done. I wanted to take all of the things we’d done before and blow them up and make them bigger. It became easier because James and I wrote it together. So, it wasn’t just me sitting in a room going, “What am I going to do?” It’s James and I sitting down and going through all of the scenes and me pitching him, “I have this and I have that,” and then hearing his reaction to it and working from there.
James previously told me that you guys were at a bar working on the script on election night. What was it like to write with the election in the background?
Well, they were both comical and absurd. The entire election in itself was one of the strangest experiences we’ll all go through with all of the things that happened right from the beginning. It’s really funny because neither one of us writes at home. I like to write on trains or sometimes at Disneyland. I like to write in places that have a different kind of atmosphere, so a train is the perfect place for me to write because outside the window it’s always changing. James only likes to write in bars for some reason. So, we split the difference. We wrote in a whole handful of restaurants that were bars and it was always weird when it was empty and quiet because if we got excited about an idea, suddenly we started talking loudly or laughing or building on a bit and going crazy and trying to top one another. So, it’s nice to have a nice loud space to write in.
But the night of the election, we thought, “Okay the election will be over in like a half hour and we can really get some work done.” Then as it unfolded, it was so strange because nobody expected what happened to happen, or we didn’t expect what happened to happen. It was like, “Wow, we’re not going to get any work done tonight. We’re watching this compelling piece of television tonight.” I don’t think it slowed us down, but I don’t think we got much work done that night.
The movie picks up in real time after the finale. How have Shawn, Gus, and Juliet [Maggie Lawson] grown in that time?
Well, I think the greatest thing is that when you start the movie, it truly feels like Shawn has regressed, and then we’ll find that Shawn actually has a wisdom in his actions that I’m hoping is unexpected, that we find partway through the movie. At the same time, the question of, was there a wedding that we never saw that happened? That feels like it would rob the fans of something. So, we wanted to feel like, what is Shawn’s timetable for anything? His timetable is whatever feels natural. So, it felt okay to then say, “Well, the wedding hasn’t happened. They’re still together. Perhaps their wheels are spinning right now, and not necessarily just because it hasn’t happened, because Juliet is clearly also in the place where she’s not pushing anything. They’re comfortable and happy with what’s going in their world, but time has marched on and they’re not in their 20s anymore and their 30s are disappearing.” At some point, you need to either make a decision for your future or move on to a new path. So, it was important Shawn had the same wide-eyed enthusiasm that he always had and that his worldview remains the same, but that there’s something deeper going on that we’ll find out with him.
Juliet has since ascended to the place that Lassiter always hoped she would. Her job skills are beyond anything that she ever had in the show, but she’s also made some tough choices in her job that Lassiter certainly wouldn’t disapprove of, but that Young Juliet would’ve never done.
Gus, of course, he has the fun backstory. You know, he came to town, moved up to be with friends, to live the wild and free life, and it lasted for approximately a week. He went back to what he needed to do. So, it’s a fun way to move [our characters] down the field a little bit but to create a similar dynamic to what they’ve had before, but Gus is getting to the point in his life where he sadly could end up alone and that’s not something that’s okay for him. So, he has to make quite a few sacrifices as well in sort of what his expectation of a romantic relationship is to get to the place he wants to be.
Did you always intend for this to be a Christmas movie?
We found out it was going to be a holiday movie a couple weeks before we got the green light. So, it was never designed to be a holiday movie, but the funny thing is there was a built-in running gag that actually begs the question of, what is a holiday movie. Is Die Hard a holiday movie? Is Gremlins a holiday movie? The funny thing was we had sort of a built-in element there. They sort of mentioned we might want to air this around the holidays and it wasn’t until right before we got the green light that they said, “Hey, we definitely need to add more Christmas to it.” We went through, added Christmas trees and Christmas decorations and people shopping for Christmas gifts. There’s no Santa Claus or reindeer involved with the story.
Psych: The Movie — which also stars Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen, and Kurt Fuller — premieres Thursday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network.