Written and directed by show creator/executive producer Steve Franks, Psych: The Musical is the spectacular two-hour musical special that fans have been waiting years for. It is a musical extravaganza that will have everyone’s favorite faux psychic, Shawn (James Roday), his best friend, Gus (Dulé Hill), and the Santa Barbara Police Department’s finest all kicking up their heels and singing 14 original songs.
During this recent interview to promote the December 15th premiere, co-stars James Roday and Dulé Hill, along with executive producer Steve Franks, talked about the biggest challenges in pulling off such a huge undertaking, whose singing talent was most surprising, how they convinced the network to let them do this episode, the most difficult number to pull off, which of the cast did more of a spoken word performance instead of actual singing, their favorite number, and whether the music will be available for download. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are spoilers.
DULE HILL: For me, it was writing. I wrote all those songs out of my brain. My name is Dulé Hill, and I wrote every song. It really was a hard thing to do. No, you know I’m lying.
STEVE FRANKS: For me, doubling all of Dulé’s dancing in the close-ups was really hard because I haven’t tapped for very long. But, it was worth it. It was great! It was like one of those great body switching movies, and we really enjoyed it. We learned a lot about ourselves, by switching bodies for a very short period.
JAMES RODAY: I think my neatest trick was being in Hawaii the entire time while my stunt double did the entire thing. Nobody said a word. Nobody questioned it, for one second. I don’t know.
FRANKS: I can’t begin to tell you how many takes we did of these enormous dance pieces that went up and down stairs, and were jumping and leaping. It was very, very difficult to lip-synch pretty flawlessly throughout the whole course of the thing while hitting all the steps. I can’t begin to tell you how tired I imagined they were, watching them. And not only were they willing to do another take, often times I’d yell, “Cut!,” and they would just immediately say, “Let’s do another one!” I just can’t imagine the physical peak that these guys must be in.
RODAY: Well, after all the work that Steve did just to get us there, there was no way that we weren’t going to step up to deliver the goods. I think he wrote 37 original songs, which he narrowed down to 21, and then down to 12. He wrote the whole thing. He conceived it. He composed it with Adam Cohen, and he directed it. It was a gargantuan, Herculean task that he took on. So, in some ways, when you think about it, Dulé and I had the easy job of just bringing it to life.
HILL: And we didn’t have any extra time. That’s what made it so daunting. I think if we’d gotten an extra five days, then maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so big for us. But, the fact that we were doing a two-hour movie special, with music and new songs by Steve Franks, and everything was done in the same timeframe as it takes us to do a normal episode, which we already have trouble making anyway, that was daunting.
FRANKS: And it wasn’t like the rest of the episode was a bunch of them standing around in the Psych office and having conversations. There were chases through the woods and there was this enormous fight with a hanging scene. It was a big episode, even if you didn’t put the musical numbers into it. We had already shot 13 episodes. We were at the end of our run. Usually, everybody’s running on fumes, anyway. Across the board, everyone was really running on adrenaline. We still don’t know how we finished it.
HILL: For me, I would vote for Tim Omundson. He has an amazing baritone voice. All jokes aside, he really is a wonderful singer. I always knew that Tim could sing, but I was really impressed with the tone of his voice and how much of a pure singer he is. I would love to see him actually go and do another musical, in film, on TV or on stage, because I just think he’s that good.
RODAY: Yes, I totally agree with that. And I was also really proud of Kurt Fuller, who claimed to be tone deaf and, right up until the last second, wasn’t even going to sing his song. He was going to lip-synch it to another man’s voice. It was going to be like a gag. But at the last second, he decided to shed his inhibitions and give it a shot, and I think he sounds great. I can’t imagine that song not being performed by him, and piping in another voice. It just would not have been the same. So, credit to a non-singer for stepping up and going for it.
It’s really incredible to see the level of support you guys have from your fans. How much did that really help you guys, in bringing this idea to fruition and really selling it to the network?
FRANKS: I think we did something really smart. Before we had a concept or anything locked in, we went ahead and made a big announcement that it was going to happen, which forced everybody’s hand, most importantly our own. We announced it at Comic-Con, in front of a big crowd, with the President of the studio there, knowing there was no turning back, at that point. And so, we were able to drum up our own social media support from the stage of Comic-Con. Unfortunately, we probably should’ve had more details worked out before we did it, but I think it worked out great. Our fan base supported us when we did Twin Peaks. They supported us when we did Clue. This really seemed safe, compared to many of the things we’d done in the past.
When you first had the idea of doing a musical, what was the reaction among the cast and crew?
FRANKS: I know that the crew was really looking forward to it, and I just wanted to see James and Dulé sing while the cameras were rolling because they were constantly singing when the cameras weren’t rolling. So, it was an itch that needed to be scratched. It was the pinnacle of the show for me.
HILL: We were excited to do it, but it was daunting because we’re a basic cable show. We don’t have all of this extra cash flowing around. We always fit within our budget, and I didn’t know how we were going to do it. And then, when I heard that we were doing original songs, and weren’t going to Glee it up, I was like, “I don’t know how we’re going to do this.” It was a little daunting, but I was definitely game for it. I said, “You know what? We’re Psych. We always swing for the fences. Let’s go for it!”
RODAY: Steve has been so generous with letting us, and especially me, and some of the other writers have the autonomy to do crazy things to his show, over the years. It’s his baby. This is his crown jewel. This is his legacy. If every other episode of Psych somehow got destroyed or locked away in a vault, and the only thing that stayed was the Psych musical, I think he could still feel pretty good about it. It was just a no-brainer. He could’ve told me to jump off of a building. I was Denzel Washington in Glory. I was going to pick up the flag, no matter what and no matter how crazy or daunting it sounded. No matter how many nay-sayers or concerns there were, I was going to pick up pom-poms. If we went down, we were going to go down together. That was my mentality.
Which was the most difficult number to do?
RODAY: I’d say it was probably the opening number, just because there were so many elements involved. The numbers got smaller as they went along, but that first one was huge, with all kinds of back-up dancers and choreography and timing issues, and the lip-synching, at the same time. That definitely felt like the biggest challenge for me. Luckily, we knocked it out on the first day. After we did that, it gave us all a little bit of a boost, like, “Hey, we just knocked out the monster. We’re going to be good.”
Does every single regular cast member sing and dance in the musical episode?
HILL: Most sing. One of us does spoken word.
RODAY: Yes, there was one cast member who got off without having to carry a tune.
FRANKS: And that was Corbin Bernsen. I found out, after the fact, that he really wanted to participate, so that’s really on me. I’d asked him if he could sing, when I was putting it together, and he said he could talk-sing, and I thought that meant, “Okay, I really won’t sing.” But, it turns out that he really wanted to talk sing. So, that was my bad and my failure. Now, I’m on the hook to write another musical, just so I can cast Corbin Bernsen in it to do a talk-singing part.
Did any of the cast members have to do any special preparations, as far as getting in shape for the dancing, or taking voice lessons?
HILL: We probably should’ve, but we didn’t have the time to.
RODAY: We should’ve done a lot of prep for this thing, and we just didn’t have the luxury of doing it. We met with the choreographer for half of a Saturday, and he ran us through every number. It was like, “Okay guys, you’re all going to remember that, right?” That was it. That’s what we got. And then, when we got on set, it was like, “Oh, some of this sort of feels familiar,” but there was definitely a lot of on-the-spot regurgitation. It somehow came together, and I’m very proud of everyone.
Which is your favorite number from the episode?
FRANKS: I love them all in big ways, but there’s a special place in my heart for the song that Jimmi Simpson sings to Ally Sheedy, as she’s being carted off into the afterlife, just because that song and that scene encapsulates everything that our show is about. It’s ridiculous and it’s heartbreaking, at the same time. It has all the emotions that we hope to play on the show. It’s probably my favorite thing that I’ve ever gotten to shoot on the show. James actually stayed, after he was done shooting, to watch us shoot that, and I turned to him after the first take and said, “When I think back to this show in 50 years, this is probably the night I’m going to remember.”
RODAY: That’s my answer, too. I always feel a little weird about it because Steve wrote all of these incredible songs and big numbers that we’re all in, but my personal favorite is the quiet send-off between two guest stars. It’s really poignant for me. Steve nailed it. It’s Psych ridiculous, with this undercurrent of, “Why am I touched by this? I have no business being touched by this.” But I think it works to great effect, and it’s my favorite, as well.
HILL: When that piece was being filmed, I believe I was at home on my couch, watching TV, or in my trailer sleeping, so I don’t have anything to say about how poignant it was to see it being filmed. But for me, it was actually the opening number of the musical, “Under Santa Barbara Skies”, because I feel like Steve did a great job of capturing exactly what this show is, in those first few minutes. If you’ve never seen an episode of Psych, and you watch that musical number and listen to the words and see what’s happening on the screen, you get the whole picture of what Psych is. I thought that was a pretty brilliant stroke, right there, to be able to do that and launch us off into this musical episode.
Will this music be available for sale?
FRANKS: Yes. We’ve just mastered the soundtrack. It’s going to be a digital soundtrack. I’m not 100% sure if this is correct, but we’re hoping to have it released on iTunes, a few hours after the New York premiere. And I have to say that it’s my favorite album, of all time.
Psych: The Musical airs on USA Network on Sunday, December 15th.