‘Psych 3: This Is Gus’ streaming on Peacock Nov. 18
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
It’s the most underrated coupling on TV’s most underrated franchise that has made “Psych” special.
And it almost didn’t happen.
When Maggie Lawson (Juliet O’Hara) auditioned to join the series in season one, she wasn’t screen-tested with the person she would spend the most time with in eight seasons: Timothy Omundson (Carlton Lassiter). The showrunners simply didn’t foresee the two Santa Barbara Police Department partners working as well as they did.
They instead opted to focus on the property’s main duo, James Roday Rodriguez’s fake psychic Shawn Spencer, and his best friend/pharmaceutical salesman, Dulé Hill’s Burton “Gus” Guster.
As originally scripted and teased, Jules and Shawn would become romantically involved, while Lassiter would be the foil.
As the show found favor with fans, however, the writers allowed the story room to grow in different directions. Organically, as Lawson and Omundson became real-life friends, their on-screen chemistry got better and better – eventually turning into an integral part of what made “Psych” shine.
Now, there’s no denying the talent of the top two “Psych” stars. Juxtapose what Roday Rodriguez does here with what he’s doing on drama “A Million Little Things,” or contrast Hill’s comedic chops with his work on the groundbreaking “The West Wing”: It’s evident these are brilliant actors.
But it’s Lawson’s keen skill at pulling heart-strings and Omundson’s ability to humanize that made a funny show touching. Their aptitude to tackle on-screen challenges in such a way that we’re literally rooting for them with giant foam fingers brought depth to what otherwise could’ve been superficially entertaining.
As such, whenever this foursome gets together, the result is delicious flavor.
So, when “Psych” ended its run on the USA Network in 2014, fans said, “Come on, son.” They pitched their pineapples at Peacock, which quickly set forth to continue the franchise with (what we hope is an endless string of) standalone films.
“Psych: The Movie” debuted in 2017, posing the question: Can Shawn settle down and commit to Jules? He did, of course, and Shules wed amid creator Steve Frank’s typical brand of shenanigans. Prior to that, the Scooby Gang partnered with returning guest stars John Cena and Ralph Macchio while fending off villains Zachary Levi, Charlotte Flair and Mena Suvari.
“Psych 2: Lassie Come Home” followed in 2020 with a focus on Omundson who, in real life, endured a devastating stroke that all but kept him out of the first installment.
Lassiter takes a bevy of bullets and is left for dead. His recovery is the basis for the story – and a testament to Omundson’s will to get better.
Also, Shawn finds a pregnancy test and fears he’s about to become a father, but – surprise – it’s not Juliet who’s expecting, but Gus’ girlfriend, Selene (Hill’s real-life wife Jazmyn Simon). She pops the question (Gus accepts) before casually stating she’s already married.
When “Psych” returns Nov. 18 for part 3, “This Is Gus,” the man who has gone by many names – Bud, Silly-Pants Jackson, T.T. Showbiz, Ghee Buttersnaps, Jazz Hands – must come to grips with his most important moniker: Dad. … Oh, and there’s that small matter of finding Selene’s husband and getting them divorced.
BTS chatted with Lawson and Omundson, who explained why “Psych” remains relevant now into a second decade; what makes their partnership special; and how Omundson is inspiring fellow stroke survivors. An edited Q&A follows.
Wait for it.
Wait for it.
Waaaaiiiitttt foorrrrrr iiiiiiiittt!
From left, Jazmyn Simon as Selene and Maggie Lawson as Juliet. (Peacock photo by James Dittiger)
Q: So, Maggie, I went back and I looked: You and I have been talking about “Psych” for 12 years. Twelve years – and, of course, for good reason.
Maggie Lawson: That’s so crazy.
Q: It is crazy. But at the same time, it continues to be one of the most creative, imaginative properties on television, in my estimation. But that's my estimation. Why do you suppose “Psych” still resonates with fans after all these years?
Maggie Lawson: I just got chills when you said that. Thank you for saying that. I feel the same way about it. And being a part of it, even, I can sort of see what our writers have done to have our characters sort of grow as we grow as well.
But you know, I think early on, there was such a love between all of us. It was so fun. I remember Steve, in the early days, saying he had like a no a-hole policy (laughs). He made sure every single person involved was just game and excited and good people. And I think that love – and how much we all enjoyed working together – just came across. So, while we have these cases, and there are stories, and there is character growth and development and all of that, at the end of the day, we all love doing it.
And I think – at least I hope – that is what our fan base has (said), is that they wanted to come hang out with us as well. It was, and remains, I feel like a kind of a joyful show that, for the most part, is light and it doesn't take itself too seriously. And I think it was just fun; and I think people watching – or at least I hope – felt the love we all feel for each other. And that has only grown and continues.
And so, with our little family – our little “Psych” family – I feel like, over time, we gained this massive other family in our fans, the “Psych-Os.” So now they're a part of it – and they're the reason we're still here. It just all kind of grew. Now it just feels like one big thing. I think that is sort of how it started, and I think where it is now is has so much to just do with that.
And, of course, like what you were saying, imaginative. I think our writers have done such a good job from day one, exploring and growing with all of us. It was so collaborative from day one, like hearing our ideas and incorporating that into the show. And now as we get older, we're dealing with other topics and more personal topics.
Which is one of the things I love about this movie, that I feel is different from the series and the first couple, is that we usually have a case or something as the way into the story, the movie. And in this one, I feel like it comes from a personal angle. And so, naturally, the movie has a little more of that about it; a little more emotion. Even with that, we're all maturing, as we'll say, and getting older. I feel like the writing, the characters, the subject – all of that is, as well.
And we've all been through so much together at this point. I think you can kind of feel that in this movie, in three. I think in two, as well, especially with Tim coming back. But I think this is the movie that I'm so excited for you to see it, just because I feel like we’ve grown.
Q: I think there's no doubt about that. And like I said, we started to see that in the second movie. Certainly, there's more personal themes and, like you said, in real life you guys have had some things that you've gone through.
But at the same time, we are talking about Shawn and Gus here, and so we know there's going to be shenanigans.
Maggie Lawson: (Laughs) When I talk about we've grown, what James and Dulé are doing in this movie, on a comedy level – look, I said it before, I mean, they're both geniuses; and I feel like I'm always kind of in awe of them. But I feel like in this movie, in particular, they have taken things to another level. Both of them. You’ll see, I think, what I'm talking about when you see it. I didn't know they had this next gear, but they have it. And so, even with all of the emotion that is running through it – which is probably why – it makes the comedy that much more rich, almost, because there's this whole personal and kind of emotional side of things that's going on as well. But they play it so, so well. Even shooting it, and now I’ve seen it, and I'm like, they never cease to amaze me.
Q: How are Shawn and Jules?
Maggie Lawson: Shawn and Jules are great. You know, there's the whole storyline in the second movie that sort of sends Shawn looking at himself and the possibilities of what his next steps might be with me. And I think when we get into this movie, like the other relationships, I think there is this maturity.
One of the things I love, actually, that we explore that we haven't as much, I would say, in the past, is the female dynamic, the friendship. Jazmyn coming in now, and the three of us kind of go off on our own. We kind of have our own little adventure in this, as well, and get into some personal stuff between us.
With Shawn and Jules, there's just an ease to them, like even just getting to now, maturity-wise, and the way that they kind of talk to each other, and the openness they have with each other. And there's a moment in this that we see that, as well, where there is a – I don't know – a maturity that's sort of required from both of them to talk about something. And I feel like we explore that really, really well.
So, I would say, along with everything else, they're growing – and they're great. They just continue to be really solid and great.
Q: You talked about the chemistry among all of the cast members and the creatives behind the scenes. I'm wondering about your relationship with Tim, because it really seems like you guys have forged a lasting friendship. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Tim, and what makes him a special human being.
Maggie Lawson: (Laughs) How much time do you have? Tim is my family. I mean, we all are, but it's funny, because I've been thinking so much back on “Psych” and even the early days lately. You know, it's interesting because my initial read when I read for the show was with James – like chemistry read and all of that. But it's really Juliet and Lassiter who are – literally – partners for so much of the show. … There were many episodes … that we got to explore our characters, and their love and respect for each other.
But, post-“Psych,” Tim is – there's no one like him. I am in complete awe of him. Obviously, since the show, and in some movies, a lot has happened. Watching someone who I already loved and admired so much – who was just my friend, my family – go through and then kind of come out of the experience he had with having the stroke a few years ago, the way he did it – his spirit, his strength, and his ability in all of it to keep his sense of humor and his care for other people – I keep calling him a warrior. I don't even know if there's a word. He is a warrior. … I just don't know anyone like him. I find myself still just in absolute awe of who he is, and his spirit and his strength.
I talk to him almost every day. And he's such an amazing dad. He's such an amazing husband. He's such an amazing human. I honestly can't say enough – and I don't feel like I'm even doing him justice. He's just something else. I’m so happy for him and so proud of him to be working so much lately. And doing “This Is Us,” and he just did something else I think was announced today, a “New Amsterdam” episode. He's so good in the movie. He's unbelievable.
Timothy Omundson as Carlton Lassiter. (Peacock photo by James Dittiger)
Q: Every time I see you on screen, or in social media, or at a wedding with Bruce Campbell – which is weird, but whatever – you look like you're just crushing it. You just look better and better every time I see you. How are you doing?
Timothy Omundson: (Laughs) That's super kind of you to say, and I'm really glad to hear that. I'm improving. I mean, recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. So, I'm doing much better than I was. There's still a long way to go in my recovery, but I'm certainly getting there.
It's been a really amazing thing, getting the opportunity to do “Psych” again. And it certainly hasn't been an easy return. But I feel like, each time I do, it gets a little more like who I used to be, even slightly.
Q: We actually had our first chat back in 2013. Why do you think this franchise continues to be relevant into a second decade?
Timothy Omundson: Ha! A second decade.
Q: And not just relevant, but I would argue improving as you go from series to movie, and from movie to movie.
Timothy Omundson: Thank you. I would not disagree with you.
I think the audience feels like they are part of the family. We always say, certainly on Twitter the hashtag #PsychFamily; and a lot of shows have sort of their family tags. But with our group, it really is particularly special. And it's real – we are a family. After all these years, we know each other so well. And we are kind of each other's chosen family in a lot of ways. We know each other's kids; we take care of each other's dogs. It's really a unique experience. And I think the audience sees that and feels like they're one of us. They're a cousin, in a way.
The thing I overwhelmingly hear from people is, “It looks like you guys were having so much fun when you work together.” I always say that’s because we were. What you saw was what was really happening – or that feeling you got of us having so much fun together was absolutely genuine. And it's continued – it’s even grown. That's the amazing thing is how much it's grown.
We did a scene in the third movie – it was the first time we'd all been together in a scene for I can't remember how many years. … It just was such an extraordinary feeling to have all of us in the same room, sitting at the same table together. And just making each other laugh and being back to that same old original feeling of fun and joy that we get from each other.
Q: I would imagine that that's the case – and of course we were sorry to not have you be a bigger part of the first movie. But if we go back to the second movie, what did it mean to you to be so prominently featured? What was it like to play that character again and sort of be able to make a triumphant return?
Timothy Omundson: It was such an incredible gift that James and Steve gave me. I mean, everybody who is behind that movie. I can't even describe the gift they gave me, to be able to come back to my family and my friends, get back into the shoes of that character, was amazing.
The first movie I was so limited; my injury was still so fresh. It felt like I can barely get words out. I look at a picture of Maggie and I from that day on set, and I don't even recognize myself. So, to be able to come back – and for those guys to write, really, Lassiter’s recovery journey to mirror my recovery journey so much, is just an extraordinary thing, really.
Each of the movies really mirrors where I'm at. For No. 2 to have the improvements – two was really difficult in that I got back to set and … you don't know what you don't know until you’re suddenly in it. You go, “Oh, no, I don’t know how to do this anymore.” I had a difficulty remembering my lines – that I never had before. I used to have like almost a photographic (memory). I could look at my lines once and just have them in my brain. And I quickly and tragically realized on set that that wasn't the case anymore. And the lines in our show, the jokes, change so quickly.
So, it was almost hard to keep up in a lot of ways. But, because I had that cast with me – and a lot of our original crew showed up as well for both movies – I could not have felt more wrapped in love. And I knew if I was going to fall, that they were there to pick me out.
My first day on the second movie was a little clunky. Steve and James came into my hotel room that night, so we could run the scenes for the next day's work. We had to figure out the new jokes we were going to add right then and there. So, by the time I got to set that next morning, I was really firing on all cylinders. (Laughs) Steve said, “Whatever you had for breakfast this morning, eat it again tomorrow – and every day for the movie.” But it was only because those guys were there to really just prop me up and drill it, and get it into my head.
I had a thing where I just innately knew where every camera was. I had a great sense of camera and where my angles were. One my deficits is I have a bit of a blind spot on the left side. Walking into a room – walking into any new spaces – is a little bit discombobulating. So, to walk on set and not identify where the cameras were like I always used to, is a really strange thing. This all became a work in progress.
It was much improved on this last movie, on three. … I mean, I'm not back entirely. It's gonna be a long road still for that. But I really did feel like, at the end of this movie, I just could feel the physical improvements. Because I've been doing physical therapy now for four years. It was one of the first times on set where I felt like I wasn't walking around in a suit of armor. And there's a scene between James and Dulé and I in a car, which is pretty emotional. And to be able to get back to that, and still sort of feel like I can act again and play emotions again, was a huge relief to me.
Vocally, I'm not where I was. And I don't have the same control over my voice as I once did, which is difficult for an actor. Another thing with a right brain injury, one of the things that really gets affected can be empathy – which is kind of an actor's most important tool. So, I'm still trying to figure out how to work with the new body and the new brain. But I felt like, this movie, I was so set up for success by everybody that I felt like it was much improved.
Like I said before, it's amazing to have these three movies someday to look back on for me and my kids to go, “Oh, this is where I was,” and to be able to mark the improvement. And for any stroke survivor to be able to look at somebody who's been through it, and see the possibilities of improvements, is a pretty big deal.
Q: Lassiter went through some pretty intense things in the second movie. Where do we find him in the third movie? What is his mindset? How is he viewing a return back to the force?
Timothy Omundson: Well, that's it in a nutshell. And I'm so glad that they wrote this in, because Lassiter’s mindset really mirrors my mindset, and a lot of stroke survivors’ mindsets. After a catastrophic injury like this, the great question is, “Well, what now?” And you go through a bit of an existential crisis. I mean, I have personally in a way, with how much can I act? And how much can I go back to the thing I used to love? And Lassiter was also really dealing with how can he get back to the force and do that.
There's a really great friendship blooming between Lassiter and Henry (Corbin Bernsen). Lassiter is able to confide in Henry, because he admires him so much as a cop. He's not sure how much he can continue, and what he wants to be, and how much he can do. So, he's on a journey of discovery of how much of a cop he can still be – which is much like the same journey I’m on as an actor, trying to figure out how much of an actor I can still be.
Q: It really seems like you and Maggie have forged this unique, real-life friendship. What can you tell me about her, and what makes your relationship so special?
Timothy Omundson: She's just an incredible human being, is what it comes down to. And she's really grown into one of my closest friends.
And it's funny – we were talking the other day about this. It was interesting, when she first tested for the show, she had a chemistry test with James for the Shawn and Juliet characters, obviously. She said it's surprising that she didn't have a character test with me. But I thought, at the time, that Lassiter-O’Hara relationship wasn't written into the show. It just sort of came about as her and my friendship grew. And this relationship between these two characters, their friendship grew. That’s when they really started writing that bond. I think that bond wasn’t really on the page, it was just, as we acted scenes, just because we were so close, I think it just sort of naturally fell into those slots of their friendship mirroring our friendship. Or our characters’ friendship mirroring our real-life friendship.
Not to mention, she's just one hell of an actress. I would say that – and it’s not just me, but many of us in the cast say that – when Maggie joined the show after the pilot, it was like the missing piece of sunshine finally came in. She just filled this void we didn't realize we were missing. And she's such a ray of sunshine, and light, and positivity that, when she joined the cast, it was like, “Oh, this was the puzzle piece we were missing. Now we know.”
Q: I'm just so impressed with your recovery, and the roles you've taken on, and what you've brought to each one.
Timothy Omundson: Thank you for shining a light on my recovery and the process, because I think it really does (help). One of the things I'm very aware of is every time I show up on TV, whether I'm playing a stroke survivor, or even just me, I know it does mean something to the stroke survivor community. And I take that very seriously and importantly. So, I'm grateful for every opportunity I have to shine a light on recovery – and the possibilities.
•Maggie Lawson and Timothy Omundson just debuted a new podcast, “The Psychologists Are In,” which is a “Psych” rewatch. Listen now here.
When a story has as much delicious flavor as “Psych,” it doesn’t end. It just takes on a new name. Sort of like Gus. Burton Trout, that is. I mean, Magic Head; err, make that All the Pips In One. He is preparing to be a father in “Psych 3: This Is Gus.” Pictured, from left, are Dulé Hill and Jazmyn Simon (Selene) (Peacock photo by James Dittiger)