ScreenTime – PSYCH’s James Roday Exclusive Interview

Welcome to ScreenTime!

I recently had the chance to put James Roday, star of USA‘s PSYCH, through the ScreenTime ringer, and to be brutally honest… he was just brilliant.  PSYCH is returning on August 7th for its fourth season, and now is the time to catch up if you’ve missed out on this unique combination of investigation and comedy.  The first two seasons are out on DVD already, and the third is set to hit on July 21st.  More importantly, James (cuz we’re tight now) is getting a lot of buzz for the upcoming Emmy nominations, and frankly I think he deserves it.

USA - P/C Gavin Bond
USA – P/C Gavin Bond

For the hopelessly unfamiliar, PSYCH has James Roday’s (we fell out) character pretending to be a psychic in order to help out the police with investigations.  That’s a role that could have gone badly just on that description, but also add in the fact that the character is something of an “always on” cracker of the wise, and it’s hard to imagine the theory not falling into the abyss.  Pulling off such a character in a way that delivers smart, funny, and intensely likable is something that hasn’t been managed well since Hawkeye.

Below I’ll include a Hulu player that will pull the latest videos available, and as is often the case on ScreenTime you can win a great shirt from muzeclothing.com by leaving a comment.

Here we go!

1. PSYCH is a very particular brand of comedy, would you say that it represents a style of comedy you’re a fan of?  What would be some of your favorite comedies?

James first mentioned that PSYCH definitely is a “niche” comedy, and that he feels blessed to have been able to shape the comedy of the show.  I rather take that as a “yes” on the fan question, and after talking to him for him about twenty minutes that becomes pretty apparent.  If you’ve watched the show and thought you wanted to hang out with Shawn, you wouldn’t be that far off… or something.

As for shows, he mentioned Flight of the Conchords and Family Guy as shows that, when they get it right, they get it really right.  Pulling the ideas together in a sense, James mentioned Will Ferrell as pulling off things no one else is getting away with, and (I think we were going toward) pushing the comedy envelope.

2. Do you have any favorite actors that you try to draw inspiration from for the role?

James had a very quick and interesting (because it was so quick) answer to this one.  “Val Kilmer circa ’86-’95, before he…,” there was more to that quote, but I think I’m going to leave it to your imagination.  He specifically mentioned Real Genius (and how could he not?), as a comedy and character that worked well as inspiration.  He also mentioned Sam Rockwell as an actor with an ability to deliver a role while also delivering Sam Rockwell.  James went on to mention several actors that have really become the well that everyone draws from – Madeline Kahn and Gene Wilder of specific note.  He also put W.C. Fields on the table as being a point in the history of comedy where the lightbulb really went off, and a certain avenue of comedy really came together.  It was a place where comedy could use and feature glibness… and then you’d slip on a banana peel.

3. Are there any films you love that you think might give people a good idea of who you are, or are really representative of your tastes?

The answer, like a bullet, was A Clockwork Orange, which James says is for him “the perfect film.”  He went on to say that fans of the show might understand that, because you can see the somewhat darker skew in the episodes he has written/directed.  For those familiar with the show – James wrote – An Evening with Mr. Yang, Tuesday the 17th, Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion, American Duos, and Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast.  He also directed Tuesday the 17th.

 

USA P/C Alan Zenuk
USA P/C Alan Zenuk

4. If someone only knows you from being a fan of PSYCH, what shows might they be surprised to know you watch regularly?

It must noted here that James was quick to “half-blame” these shows on his girlfriend (who has a lovely in the background of the phone voice, by the way).  Those answers were American Idol and The Biggest Loser, which James figures people might not expect him to not only watch, but never miss an episode.  These shows were distinct from shows like Mad Men, which people probably would expect, and Twin Peaks, which James cited as his favorite show.  However, the real meat of this question turned out to be that, had we a couple of beers in hand, and were we at the local pub instead of (I suspect) sitting in our respective kitchens, we might have gone on for quite some time on the merits of Sports Night.

5. If you could create your next role, TV or Film, and the project could be anything except comedy, what would it be?

James was quick to point out that his instinct would be to move away from comedy even without the qualification.  That noted, he seemed very much solidified in the idea of portraying a villain, but to hear him say it made me think that he perhaps meant Villain… possibly with an exclamation point.  Something that would allow him to do dastardly things, he pointed out, someone with a broken moral compass.  It ultimately came down to his wanting to do, “My Joker,” but he immediately added that his Joker is in a $1.6 million indie that never gets distributed.

 

USA P/C Matthias Clamer
USA P/C Matthias Clamer

6. What are the three best films you’ve seen most recently, whether in the theater or not?

The first one was easy – Let the Right One In.  After a bit of hesitation, James was able to come up with Frost/Nixon.  A third answer just wasn’t coming to mind, and it was at this point that James started cheating.  Asking “Off Camera” what they’d seen recently that was good, he shortly came back with Tell No One.

-It was at this point that I started looking for information on the internet.  I fairly adamantly don’t want to know who is dating who, or anything remotely in that realm, but James’ girlfriend had made two appearances already, and I figured I might as well see what was what.  Yes, I am not in the loop about some things.  It turns out I am hopelessly bad at investigating such things too.  IMDb.com says that he is dating PSYCH co-star Maggie Lawson, and since no one has bothered to correct them, I’m going with that.  On the other hand, as no one said anything to me like, “Clearly you would like to do a combo-PSYCH interview…,” or similar, I have to wonder.-

7. Let’s say you can suddenly add a new character to PSYCH, and you can have anyone you want play that part, who do you want and what’s the role?

James was pretty quick with Sam Rockwell, and he was pretty quick with the role as well.  Sam would play a guy impersonating James’ character, who is even more of a fake, and is going around one-upping events.  In a multi-episode arc melding along with the weekly investigation, the two are now battling for chief-fake-psychic, and Santa Barbara just isn’t big enough for the both of them.

Which, I have to say, is just genius.

8. In the upcoming week of television, you’re only allowed to watch two things, what are they?

SportsCenter was practically immediate, though James was quick to catch himself and wonder if that was also cheating, because it’s on more than once a week.  In the end, he decided it was simply a matter of finding the loophole.  With somewhat less conviction, he added Flight of the Conchords as his second choice.

9. Best Film Ever?

Now, we had to play with that question a bit, because we’d already gone around with it.  After a bit of back and forth, we ultimately came up with being stuck on an island and A Clockwork Orange just isn’t available.  James settled on An American Werewolf in London, and if you haven’t gotten to know James by now, you just aren’t trying.

He also gave me the inside scoop that you are possibly hearing here first, and that is that there… and I quote… “may or may not be a werewolf episode in the upcoming season of PSYCH.”

Many thanks to Mr. Roday for his time.  He is, as near as I can ferret out, every bit as cool a fellow as you’d be led to believe by watching the show.

Check out some videos below, be sure to watch on August 7th, leave a comment to win the shirt pictured below (click the image for info, winner chosen August 7th), and fill out your Emmy votes appropriately.

 

Are You Screening?

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Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and co-host of the Are You Screening? podcast with co-host Shane Leonard. He has been writing film reviews for over 20 years, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He has been member of the Critics Choice Awards for well over a decade.

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