Psych Interview: Tim Omundson

As part of Pop Culture Zoo’s behind-the-scenes visit to the Psych, we roamed the Santa Barbara sets (in Vancouver) and saw an explosive live shoot. But we also got to talk to the Psych cast, and find out what’s in store for Season 5.  In honor of Psych’s Summer Finale  – airing Wednesday — we’re posting edited transcripts of the interviews. Today we’ve got Lassiter himself, Tim Omundson:

Tim Omundson must have one of the hardest jobs in television.  When he’s in character, playing hard-assed, gun-obsessed Detective Carlton Lassiter on Psych, he’s not permitted to even crack a smile at Shawn and Gus’ wisecracks, or join in on any of the ad-libbing fun  that happens while the cameras are rolling. It’s probably even harder to refrain from shenanigans because Omundson is a pretty hilarious guy —  something that might be a surprise to anyone who didn’t see his bonding moment with Juliet over Grease in ‘A Very Juliet Episode.’

But don’t feel bad for Omundson. During our interview with him, he talked about all the cool stuff Psych has allowed him to do (two words: face wig), as well as his diverse resume. (Think you recognize him from something other than Psych? Try Xena: Warrior Princess, Judging Amy, Deadwood or Luck of the Irish.)

Panel:  I hear that you’re the first person on set to break character…

Tim: First of all, that’s a ****ing lie. There’s no children in the room, right?

Panel: No, just reporters. Lots of reporters.

Tim: I wish it were true — It is absolutely true. What was the second part of the question?

Panel: Who makes it hardest to keep a straight face?

Tim: James, normally. I mean, Dulé knocks me out, but I just find him so funny and our—we have the same twisted sense of humor, which you wouldn’t necessarily get from last year. But me, he just cracks me up. I just find him hilarious. Dulé, not so much. (I’m kidding.)

No, you see it’s just—and it’s tough, because Lassiter has no sense of humor and never cracks a smile, really. There’s no leeway for Lassiter to at all enjoy what Shawn does, but on the inside—that’s why I always say I’m the best actor on the show, because I’m constantly covering wanting to giggle like a girl.

There are a few moments where Lassiter, or Lassiter’s sense of humor likes to come out. It tends to be tensely inappropriate times, and he’s always pleased as punch with himself. We did something in ‘Scary Sherry’, that never made it to air, that just delighted James to no end, where Lassiter says some quip and then is so pleased, he just gets this big Cheshire Cat grin. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it, and that just—that’s something that James always liked, so I’ll throw this one in.

Panel: I was going to ask if the sense of humor on the set is—like, does the show—is it different on every show or every set?

Tim: Oh, it’s as unique as the individuals that you’re in the room with. We just kind of got lightning in a bottle on this show where it’s like you have this group of actors, all of whom, especially me, are really funny.

And I always say we have very different senses of humor. We find different things funny, but I think we come from the same foundation of funny, if that makes any sense. And we all we all appreciate the same kinds of humor.

I think Maggie would like a little less crass humor. There are a lot of boys on this set. We try and keep it in line and not let it get too blue, but every now and then, we’ll forget Maggie’s there. You’re talking…she’ll just walk up and go, “A lot of boys on this set. A lot of boys,” and then walk away. James will do something that could never possibly make it to air, and she’ll just go, “That’s my boyfriend.”

So yeah, it’s certainly the funniest set I’ve ever been on. But then, when I did Judging Amy, which was not a show full of yucks unless you like child abuse, it got to the point where Tyne Daly and I worked so closely, got to know each other so well. And after, you know, 70 episodes and the subject matter being so deadly serious, we just tried to figure out how to make each other laugh.

Panel: Well, I do have a question about one of your older shows, and this is a two-part, geeky question. Considering you used to play Eli [on Xena: Warrior Princess], and now you’re playing Lassiter, I can’t really remember if there has been an episode where Lassiter has gone and become this uber-peaceful character, but is there a possibility of Lassiter kind of breaking out of the extreme violence.

Tim: I actually—I think I pitched one time that—I don’t know, it’s after a therapy session, Lassiter becomes very Zen. I just think it would funny to seem him play that, where he’s just so, “Everything’s all cool, man.  Everything’s okay,” and then slowly Shawnster’s chipping away at him. By the end of the episode, he’s shot three people in the face. That would be really fun for me to play. I don’t know if they’re going to do that.

Panel: I’d love to see the shot in the face. I don’t think that would go, but—

Tim: No. No, they can’t really do it. But it’s like you—I get to play—this is why this job is so great, because most of the time, you do a TV show and what you do in the pilot is essentially what you’re going to do for however many years and episodes it’s on the air. It’s going to be the same show with different guest stars coming in because, as the mandate goes, “The audience wants to tune in and see the same thing.” To a degree, I understand. But we can get away with so much more on this particular television show where we can do a Yin. You know, we can do Lassiter’s silly tap dancing. We can do, you know, ‘Tuesday the 17th’ where it was some of the most dramatic stuff I’ve ever gotten to play, period, and it was on Psych. So it’s really—I feel amazingly fortunate, as an actor, that it just constantly is staying fresh and goofy.

Even the way we shoot the show. This episode [‘One, Maybe, Two, Ways Out] right now, [director Mel Damski] is going for a much—the camera work is going to be different.

You’re going to look—if you really are into the show, you kind of look at it and go, “That one’s shot differently,” because we can—we let the script inform what’s going on, where a lot of shows, it’s this way, these are the shots we use, these are the angles we use. You do not deviate.

Panel: All right. And if I could slide in another question, well, I guess I would say, also, just—we’ve seen kind of Lassiter being frustrated in his social life. So I would like to see, maybe, a little bit more of Lassiter possibly dating…

Tim: I would, too. Maggie has pitched, many times, that she signs him up on, and becomes his sort of—his love guide of trying to get him into that.  I mean, we’ve touched on that a little bit. There hasn’t really been any Lassiter relationship stuff since the break-up of his marriage, which is okay. I mean, Maggie has sort of become his surrogate—well, not social life, but she’s really the only other human being he speaks to, I think. You know, other than the guy who clocks him in at the gun range.

So it—you know, we got to see a little bit of it in—which one? In, I think, ’A Very Juliet Episode’, where he becomes her love counsellor with the—you know, the Grease stuff. And I loved playing that, because then that came out of nowhere for him to be the one that she goes to, and you see this weird sensitive side, just these non-sequiturs like, “Wait, who was that that just—oh, that was Lassiter?”

And then kind of never touched on it again. So we’ll see what happens.

Panel: Now, here’s a different one for you. Luck of the Irish. Are you surprised you still have so many younger fans who [are not] watching Psych. They play it on the Disney Channel all the time, still.

Tim: And I get about 35 cents every time it airs now, so that’s great. I don’t know if you were at Comic-Con, but I got a question about that at Comic-Con.

And what I should have also said is, “You still know who I am, right?” And the great thing about that—those people were, you know, 9, 10, 12, 13, and they’re now 19, 20, 21, 22. It’s like that. My audience has sort of grown with me in a way, which is, I think, really cool that—here’s these kids who were kids when they saw it, and now they’re young adults. Or they’re the parents who—they had little kids at the time, and now they’re watching this, and they’re 30 instead of 20. And, you know, we—apparently, we all grow old, and it’s nice that I sort of have this … when you see shows as a kid, and they get stuck on the back of your hard drive, and you can never get them out, whether you want to or not, and you don’t necessarily realize they’re there until something else sparks it. And so I think a lot of people go, “I know him from somewhere.” Then they go, “It’s Seamus freaking McTiernan.” So that’s really cool.

Panel: I have a question. You mentioned a couple of times about pitching things.  Do you feel like there’s lots of, I guess, input from the actors on the show about the direction of certain episodes?

Tim: More—to a degree, but that degree is more so than any other show I’ve ever been on. I mean, Steve Franks called me after season one. He’s like, “What else do you want to do?” I’m like, “Dude, you’ve already had me on a horse in Civil War.

Panel: I love that episode. The face beard.

Tim: My face wig.

Panel: The face wig was awesome.

Tim: I’m trying to think of some other great things I got to do, especially season one where I kind of—we didn’t know what the show was going to be yet, and so suddenly I’d get an episode where I’m in Civil War regalia…. “You’ve had me on a horse with a sword. You’ve had me in an Old-Western-timey shoot-out. No, there’s nothing else to do. What ever you—I’m good. Whatever else you come up with.

Panel:  Now, what’s your favorite thing you’ve done as Lassiter?

Tim: There’s too many to list. There really are. And, again, because it’s so varied, it’s such a wide spectrum of things I’ve gotten to play. Like, you know, you play this tight-ass cop like, you know, supercop. He’s supercop. Like I said, you don’t think you’re ever going to get to do anything else within that show, but I’ve gotten to do so much other stuff. One episode, it’s pure goofy, silly. One episode, it’s bad-ass action… And another it’s—you know, it’s just drama. You know, I can’t think of any one episode that’s been my favorite because they all sort of become my favorite, and then I read the next one and that becomes my favorite, and I read the next one.

You know, I can’t tell you which is the best—like, there’s no way we can top season two, and then we do season three. Like, there’s—forget it. We’re done.  We’ve jumped the shark. It’s going down.” Holy shit, this is the best season ever.” And it doesn’t normally work that way. It goes the other way. The writing—you know, you tend to shed writers, certainly after, like, five episodes in a season, all the original writers are gone on any other show. Not this. It’s like they’re all sticking around, they’re all still having fun. They’re all still able to really be creative, and the characters are still growing. It just doesn’t normally happen that way. It’s one of the greatest gigs on TV.

Panel: Maggie commented on the relationship between Lassiter and—

Tim: First of all, Maggie’s a liar, whatever she says.

Panel: She said you were awesome. But she made a comment about when she—at the end of last season, when Juliet has her breakdown, that she was really happy that Lassiter was the one that was there for her, and not Shawn.  And the comment I wrote down was that the characters had earned this.

Tim: And we—that’s a phrase we used while shooting that. Like, because [you could have got Shawn]. That would have been really easy. But for—the hard thing is for that asshole from season one, Lassiter, to be the guy who comes in and sort of takes care of her. That was real—that was one of the most satisfying moments to get to play.

Anyway, that was a really—that was a, you know, a beautiful day at work. And the song that played over that montage was a beautiful song [Band of Horses’ “I Go to the Barn Because I Like the”].

And they played that on set while it’s going on, which is—it was just a really lovely, emotional, sweet, sweet day. Yeah. And whoever would have thought if you watch, you know, season one that those two characters would be safe enough with each other to go there. It was great. Plus, it’s like, you know, that’s what happens with cops, and that’s what happens with partners and people, you know, in real life, so I’m glad they addressed that. I wish they’d address it more.

Panel: Now, we’ve seen Juliet go undercover. Are we ever going to see Lassiter go undercover, and as what?

Tim: I think Lassiter should go undercover as a drug lord. You know, I keep saying that, well, I’m raring to go. They—I think they feel that Lassiter—they’ve written in that Lassiter had a few bad experiences undercover. Perhaps he lost his temper and blew his cover. But the second this show is over, I grow a beard. I always do, because I get bored with what I look like. So I’ll grow this massive beard and grow my hair out. My rule is, pretty much, I won’t cut it until someone pays me to cut it. So if—or my wife threatens to take the kids. So depending on how good my hiatus is going, I could have a pretty long beard. And I keep saying, “I will come back for season one with a beard down to here, if you want.” And I always thought it would be a great time to—we’ll just do, like, one scene of him just post—you know, doing a sort of narc. And then we’ll, you know, shave it off.  They haven’t taken me up on it yet.

[Hopefully it goes without saying, but PCZ is grateful for the chance to be part of the set visit. We’re also thankful for the transcribed interviews and photos from the set, as well the opportunity to hang out with other writers from really cool outlets. Thanks for a great day, guys. -RI]