By Rick Bentley
The actors are having a great time making up their characters’ history.
Wait a minute. A vision is becoming clear. Yes. Yes. Got it. James Roday and Dule Hill, the actors who play the detective buddies on the USA Network series “Psych” are on the telephone. They want to promote the third season opener (10 p.m. Friday on USA Network).
Sure, this was prearranged. But that’s the whole idea behind the series. Roday plays a faux psychic who fools people into believing he has special powers when all he has are good instincts.
Another vision is becoming clear. The actors will talk about what it means to play characters who are supposed to have such a long history of being best friends.
“We get to sort of invent that history as we go along and make new memories every week. Unless we run for 30 years, we’re always going to be way ahead of the game in terms of being able to come up with new stuff,” Roday says. “I think it gets more fun for us as we go along because we’re also clear on what this relationship is and how it fits into the show.”
Hill says the onscreen friendship works because the actors get along so well when the cameras aren’t rolling.
On the cable series, the pair often go undercover to be the unofficial aids to the Santa Barbara Police Department. That leads to a psychic moment: The actors would like to have episodes this year involving trap prancing. No wait. Make that tap dancing. And a sports theme would go over big.
Before Hill landed the role of Charlie Young on “West Wing,” he appeared in numerous stage productions. He was the understudy for Savion Glover in “The Tap Dance Kid” on Broadway. And Roday was an athlete while growing up in Texas.
“I have a sneaking suspicion that Dule would be pretty open to the idea of doing some undercover tap dancing work if we could figure out a way to do it in a really cool, sort of smart way,” Roday says as expected. “For me it’s all about sports. I grew up as a jock as a kid and I’m jonesing for an episode were I get to throw a football or a baseball, or hit a baseball, or play soccer, or do something.”
Roday began his career studying theater at New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing. Before the USA Network series, he appeared in the films “Don’t Come Knocking” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
The final image is one of the actors’ being asked about what they like about their characters. That’s no mystical stretch. Actors are always asked that question.
Hill likes how Gus is kind of neurotic and how he rationalizes the most absurd things until they make perfect sense.
“I guess I like how he stands up to Shawn. But also like how he allows Shawn to bring him to try and do things that he wouldn’t normally do on his own,” Hill says.
Roday has always been envious of people like Shawn.
“Shawn is very, very different than me in the way that he is able to sort of footloose and fancy-free in the way of life without ever making a plan. It’s definitely a quality that I admire,” Roday says.
Both characters will get a little extra stimulus this year. Cybill Shepherd joins the cast to play the mother of Roday’s character. No one can predict where that addition will lead the show.