The final moments of 2017’s Psych: The Movie are literally explosive: Professional fake psychic Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and partner-in-crime-solving Burton Guster (Dulé Hill) watch their newly-christened San Francisco-based practice go up in laser-sniper-fire from whoever’s hot on the trail of Shawn’s brother-in-law Ewan O’Hara (John Cena). It might have seemed an obvious setup for an eventual second Psych movie, with the titular duo following in the wake of Ewan’s ex-Black-Ops adventures, but instead creator Steve Franks and Roday (who shares a co-writing credit on both movies) went for a quieter and more emotionally resonant angle in their followup.
It’s all in the title, which will tug at many a Psych-O’s heartstrings: Psych 2: Lassie Come Home. Mere weeks before shooting began on Psych: The Movie, cast member Timothy Omundson suffered a stroke that left him unable to reprise his role from the USA series, as stoic, by-the-book detective Carlton Lassiter, who by the end of the series had come to begrudgingly respect Shawn’s unorthodox methods. While Roday and Franks epically rewrote the screenplay in 48 hours in order to account for Omundson’s absence, fan favorite “Lassie” was still able to have a small yet vital role in the final product.
For the sequel, they had more time to work with where Omundson was at in terms of recovery, and wrote the stroke into Lassiter’s character arc: After being shot and left for dead, the detective wakes up in an eerie recovery clinic where he can’t stop seeing things—possibly ghosts, and definitely something criminal. This more contained story is no less thrilling, as the movie delightfully plays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s most suspenseful films.
Ahead of Psych 2’s July 15 premiere on NBC’s streaming service Peacock, Den of Geek got on Zoom (and cunningly placed a pineapple in the background) to chat with the series’ core threesome Roday, Hill, and Maggie Lawson (who plays detective Juliet O’Hara, Lassiter’s former partner and Shawn’s wife). The Psych 2 stars talk how character growth is drastically different for each of them, riffing on Hitchcock, and what they hope Psych-Os enjoy about Lassie Come Home.
DEN OF GEEK: James, was it always the intention for Psych 2 to be Lassiter’s story?
JAMES RODAY: One hundred percent yes. There was no way we were going to do a second movie unless we could bring back Lassiter and put him front and center. We also tagged in Psych alum Andy Berman to write this second movie as well, because nobody knows—he probably knows the show better than I do, frankly. But we really wanted as much love and reverence and history [and] nostalgia packed into this process as we could get. Because we knew that the Psych-Os were missing their Lassie, and we had to deliver him in a way that Psych-Os deserve.
Maggie and Dulé, what was your experience like getting to work with Tim again?
MAGGIE LAWSON: Emotional, magical, wonderful, inspiring. He’s such an inspiration; he’s so good in the movie, and I think for all of us—just watching him, his recovery and what he’s overcome and his spirit and all of that—has just been inspiring. For us, having [him in] the movie was emotional, but it was also celebrating him. We all love it when we’re together, but this one was even more special, having him back. I think for all of us, it’s a reminder to not take things for granted—to not take each other for granted, to not take days for granted. It was powerful.
DULÉ HILL: Having Tim back was really a checkpoint because, as much fun as we had doing the first movie, it just was not the same. Lassie in our story is such a big presence, but also Tim Omundson is such a big presence. Not on set with us [in 2017’s Psych: The Movie], it just was not the same, it was not Psych; it was something that was in the form of Psych, but it wasn’t fully Psych. So having the second movie too, with Tim being able to show back up on set and bring his whole entire presence into the process, was fulfilling. It was full of joy, full of love, full of appreciation. I cherished it.
Speaking of the set and the story, I loved how the movie riffed on Alfred Hitchcock’s films. The show has famously riffed on a number of iconic films, from Clue to The Hangover. What were you keeping in mind while shooting Psych 2, in terms of playing to the Hitchcockian vibe?
JR: Well, we knew we had something with Lassiter being confined essentially to a room, and more specifically even to a chair or bed, and so that of course makes you think Rear Window. It’s a wealth of material to riff on in terms of psychologically what’s real, what isn’t real, but the fact that we were able to bake it into a story that supported where Tim was in his comfort level, that was just a lucky coincidence. Because believe me, we were gonna do whatever felt right, whether it was Hitchcock or… That was gravy.
What’s great about the movies is that they stay in real time; they meet the characters where they’re at in their lives at that point. Can you speak to how Jules and Gus have gotten to grow and the point they’ve reached as characters for Psych 2?
DH: I think for Gus, he’s finally at a point where he’s in a serious long-term relationship—which is a first for Gus, ‘cause he has not been able to figure that out for a very long time. He is trying to be more responsible; at least, he’s attempting to be more responsible in his relationship dynamic with Selene, played by the lovely and beautiful Jazmyn Simon. And then of course with what comes [in the movie], I think it’s… it’s a ramp-up for Gus. He’s spent so long being in this place, and now life is taking him on a fast ride.
ML: One of the things I like seeing in this movie, and I don’t know if this is necessarily growth, is that Juliet’s getting a little comfortable in sneaking around a little bit and maybe hiding a few things from Shawn like he does with her. That’s fun and funny, and also shows confidence in that she’s moved into a head detective position and all of that. But also, I want to echo what Dulé was saying in where he’s going with Selene: I would also like to see where Juliet goes with Selene, because working with her in this movie… Jazmyn Simon is, hands down, one of the funniest people I have ever worked with, and I would give anything to see where they could possibly go in their duo of being the wives and girlfriends to Shawn and Gus.
According to the movie, you’re best friends now!
LAWSON: [laughs] Selene thinks so!
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home premieres on Peacock on July 15.