Dulé Hill was incredibly fun to interview during a recent set visit on the set of Psych. Dulé plays Burton (Gus) Guster, best friend and partner to Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and the Psych (fake psychic) Detective Agency. And Dulé may not be as geeky as Gus, but he and Roday certainly have an amazing chemistry.
The chemistry between you and James is fantastic.
Dulé: It’s also been a work in progress, too. I think if you watch from the pilot to now, the show is—the show has grown.
Gus doesn’t throw up as much. You know, as individuals, like myself and Roday and all the actors, we’re, I guess, becoming more comfortable with our characters, and moulding them more and, finding new things about them. So it’s been a work in progress, which is why I like doing series television, though, because you’re not stuck with just, “This is it.” If you’re blessed to have a show that runs a long time, you can continually keep working on it. That’s what’s fun about it.
It seems as if Gus is becoming more of an equal partner to Shawn.
DuléYou could be right about that. I mean that’s more of a writer’s question… Steve had always said he had planned to do that as the show went on, that they’d be more equal partners. And he would be less of a sidekick.
I feel like now, it’s been, obviously – Shawn Spencer is the main guy, but I do feel that it’s a two-hander. I feel that we play off each other a lot, and that kind of gets through.
How do you feel about your comedic role between Shawn and Lassiter?
Dulé:Honestly, I think it’s just a fluid machine. I mean, we’re all just trying to make the best joke, make the joke work, so there’s no real thing about, “Hey, you’re the straight man, I’m the funny guy,” you know. It’s just like, “Look, what works?” So if there has to be a straight man for a bit to work, he’ll do it. You know, if Tim has to do it, or Maggie has to do it, I have to do it, we’re just trying to make people laugh.
What were the buddy shows you watched growing up?
Dulé: I watched Miami Vice. I watched that. I watched Starsky and Hutch. I don’t know if it was a buddy thing, but I did watch TJ Hooker. That wasn’t a buddy thing, but it was a cop drama. Let me see. I met Stoney Jackson. I never watched his show, but I did meet Stoney Jackson from The Insiders. That was a buddy show back in the ’80s. You know what I mean? And I think those are the ones, I think.
How was it working again with Freddy Prinze Jr.?
Dulé: Great. Yeah, great. I mean, Freddy came up, because he’s a friend of mine. When a role came up, I gave him a call. He said he was down to come. And it’s always good to work with your friends. We’ve been friends since She’s All That, so, I mean, this is the first time since She’s All That we’ve been able to actually work together.
It was good hanging out with him, and it was good seeing him do something different, also. I mean, this is different, obviously, from the stuff he was doing back during She’s All That time. It’s different than what he was doing on 24. You know, and I think Freddy’s a very good actor, so I was glad to, you know, have him come up and do something just outside of what people normally see him do.
Next time Freddy comes, he can tap dance or something like that. He can tap, though. Freddy can tap. I don’t know if he still does now, but years ago, I used to dance at his house all the time.
Gus has a lot of varied interests, like, with spelling bee and the tapping dancing. Anything else you’d like to have Gus do?
Dulé: Wow. Yeah? Besides dating? Yeah. That’s kind of like a little running bit on the show now. Like, Gus just hardly gets any. Yeah, so maybe dating. That would be nice. A little more of that. The writers always do great jobs of bringing stuff up. That’s what I like about the characters, there’s nothing that’s off limits. Gus could be into anything, you know. So maybe paintball. Maybe do a paintball episode or something like that.
What makes Shawn and Gus’ relationship work so well?
Dulé: They’re like two different sides of the puzzle. You know, I think they complete each other.
I think they balance each other off. I think Shawn without Gus would be too far in the extreme of being wild and crazy, and I think Gus would be too far in the extreme of being closeted and just going to work, going home, not doing anything. So I think they kind of both challenge each other to step outside of their comfort zones.
Have you had a favorite guest star on the show so far?
Dulé: A favorite guest star? It’s probably who was up last. Every week, we have such wonderful people. Phylicia Rashad, I mean, that was great. That was great. And there’s so many people. Having Carl Weathers up here was cool, too. You know, everybody. I mean, like I said, we’ve been really blessed on this show to have such wonderful guest actors come through. Every week, there’s somebody who’s exciting. George Takei was cool when he came.
And if you think about it over the five years, it’s like, wow, we’ve had a lot of people. And our first season, before we really got on the air, it was hard to get people to come up. They were like, “What? No, I’m not coming up.” So it’s getting a lot easier now. So that’s one of the joys of being on the air for so long. But we’re thankful every time somebody comes up. We’re thankful it happened. And everyone comes out and likes to play. They like to have fun. They always say, “This is, like, the best week I’ve had in a long time on the set.”
Did Gus’ “I hear that” come from you?
Dulé: Yes. Yes, that does happen a lot. You know, a lot of things that we do off camera makes their way into the show. “I hear that” is definitely a Dule-ism.
Yeah. And, like, “You know that’s right.” I got that because one day, my brother and my friend Tiffany were talking and laughing about how cats used to say that back in the day. I was like, “You know what? I’m going to take that and use that, too.” So now you hear Gus say, “You know that’s right.” What else?
… And then the high-pitched, “I don’t know.” That was me off-camera one day, talking to an AD, just playing around, just acting the fool, and I said it like that. And I was like, “Oh, yeah. I’m going to start doing that, too. Watch. I’m going to get that in the show.”
Does the ad-libbing ever kind of get out of hand between you and James?
Dulé: I don’t think it ever – I mean, if it does get out of hand, then, you know, Steve, Chris, or Kelly will cut it. So, they give us free reign to kind of just see where it goes, and they make it work in the end. And you have to be willing to try stuff. You have to be willing to fail. So sometimes, I guess, I would say it gets out of hand. But if you don’t, then you don’t find the stuff that works, also. But I think at this point, we have a pretty good barometer of what space we should be in.
The summer finale of Psych airs Wednesday, Sept 8 at 10/9c on USA Network.
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