'Psych' Star James Roday Calls 'Ambitious' Musical 'Most Epic Psych-Out Ever' (Q&A)
Psych is ready to for its musical spotlight.
Psych: The Musical, written and directed by creator Steve Franks, puts BFFs Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) at the center as they're tasked with tracking down escaped mad man, playwright Z (Rent's Anthony Rapp), who six years earlier was deemed criminally insane after locking a critic in a back room of the theater that he burned to the ground. Shawn and Gus are forced to consult with the one person Z confided in while in the institution, a dangerous villain from Shawn's past.
"The entire thing is basically a Psych-out," Roday jokingly tells The Hollywood Reporter, referencing the bloopers that air after each episode. "It's the most epic Psych-out of all time."
Roday talks to THR about the challenges of the musical's 14-day shoot, his favorite performance and reveals the moment he knew things were on track.
When was the first conversation you remember having about putting a Psych musical together?
Steve had been pitching aspects of the musical from season two. It was a matter of execution and how we were going to answer the question, why. Why does Psych need to do a musical episode and what are they going to do that's better or at least as good as other shows that have done musical episodes? That's kind of what took so long. We wanted to do something that felt appropriate to Psych, and appropriate to Steve, who's a musician and a songwriter. We started teasing it at Comic-Con [first in 2012 and then earlier this year] to make sure there was an appetite for it and I think it was pretty clear early on that yes, we have the greatest fans in the history of fandom -- to come out like "Hey guys we want to do an episode where we make lunch boxes," they would've thought that was awesome. We felt like we were in pretty good shape with the response if we could pull it off. Then it was our job to take our time and make sure we pulled it off. To Steve's credit, he could've jumped the gun and tried to do this two or three seasons earlier, but he wouldn't do it until he had it right and he knew exactly what it was in his head. It's his baby. It didn't come out until it was ready.
Shawn and Gus have had their musical moments over the course of the series. Did those ditties prepare you for the amount of singing you'd have to do in the special?
A little bit, sure, the fact that we had sort of sung silly on camera over the years. It definitely breaks the ice. Doing entire numbers with choreography was certainly a step up from anything we'd done before. But I don't think we were all that intimidated about the singing aspect of it for the exact reasons that you just mentioned. I don't think any of us necessarily consider ourselves singers but we know we can kind of sing our way through stuff. I don't think the expectation is that the Psych musical is going to be Rent, so I think as long as we didn't completely humiliate ourselves and it is funny and it is in the tone of what we do, we'd have a fighting chance of pulling it off.
How long did it take you to learn all the songs and record them in the studio?
That's the craziest part of the TV schedule. They gave us the blessing to go off and do this but only in the context of our normal season. It's not like we got extra rehearsal or development time or any of that. Steve basically locked himself of his office at the start of the season while we were shooting other episodes and had this ready in time for the two-episode block it took up. We spent one day recording in Los Angeles and we spent one-half of a Saturday working with the choreographer and downloading as much of the choreography as we could. And that was it. As far as shooting it goes, we only got 14 days, which is the exact time it would take to shoot two episodes. It was pretty ambitious.
Did you have a favorite song you got to perform?
I'm partial -- without giving too much away -- to the number that happens between Ally Sheedy's character Yang and the surprise guest singer that shows up to sing with her. That number just gets me every time I see it. It's bizarrely poignant and a little bit moving -- the culmination of the arc of that character. Also the way it's shot and the way they sound together, I have to confess it's my favorite song.