WHEN Psych returns for its fall run in December, viewers will be treated to a Twin Peaks-inspired episode scheduled to premiere on Wednesday, December 1st @ 10;00 p.m. EST. Entitled Dual Spires, the episode celebrates the 20th anniversary of the cult favorite with guest star casting that includes Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Ray Wise, Robyn Lively, Lenny Von Dohlen and Catherine Coulson. Series Star James Roday serves as co-writer along with Bill Callahan.
The episode kicks off with Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill) receiving a mysterious e-mail inviting them to the annual Cinnamon Festival in Dual Spires, a quirky Northern California town nearly invisible on the map. When they arrive the pair quickly find themselves embroiled in the mysterious death of local high school student Paula Merral. As Shawn and Gus unravel the many secrets of the town, they meet several local residents including town doctor/lawyer/veterinarian Donna Gooden (Sheryl Lee), Sheriff Andrew Jackson (Lenny Von Dohlen), proprietors of the local diner Robert and Michelle Barker (Dana Ashbrook and Robyn Lively), the mysterious Woman with Wood (Catherine Coulson) and enigmatic bookish beauty Maudette Hornsby (Sherilyn Fenn). The pool of suspects proves to be deeper than suspected as Shawn and Gus must work to figure out who killed Paula Merral. Ray Wise reprises his role from last season as Father Westley. Additionally, songstress Julee Cruise, who performed music during the original run of Twin Peaks,has signed on to perform the Psych theme Song for the episode.
A couple of weeks ago, Psych's James Roday and Dual Spires' guest-star Sheryl Lee spoke with myself and other journalists about the episode. The following is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy!
Sheryl, how did it feel when you walked onto the Psych set and saw a lot of your castmates from Twin Peaks?
SHERYL LEE - Well, I keep telling everyone it was s such an incredible gift that James and everyone involved with Psych gave us, because some of us hadn’t seen each other from Twin Peaks in years and years. And it’s such a wonderful group of people at Psych as well that it was truly, truly a gift. It’s hard to believe that 20 years have gone by, but to be able to see these people who have such a special place in my heart was really wonderful.
James, we know you’re a huge Twin Peaks fan, so what was it like to work with the real Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)?
JAMES RODAY - It was crazy good, you know? I think there are Twin Peaks fan boys out there who actually go to sleep and dream about what I got to do. It was remarkable., and like Sheryl said, it was like three experiences in one. It was the Twin Peaks cast getting to see each other for the first time after all these years and us getting to watch them. And they were getting emotional, which made us emotional. On top of everything else, it was the closest I’ll ever come to being in an episode of my favorite show, so it was ridiculous fun. Only in our line of work do we get to do something like this and call it work.
In addition to the Twin Peaks cast members, you also landed Julee Cruise to perform the Psych theme song. How did that come together?
JR - Well, we were sort of swinging for the fences across the boards with this episode and luckily we’ve set precedent with, you know, messing around with our theme song in previous episodes. So, it was really easy to say, “Let’s go after Julee and hope that she wants to get in on the fun,” and she did. It’s probably my favorite of the different renditions we’ve done of our theme songs. It’s pretty inspired. Kudos also goes to our composer, Adam Cohen, to whom we just sort of said, “Dude, come up with a Twin Peaks-inspired slowed down synthesized version of our song. Thanks. Bye.” And he had to do that, and then Julee came in and just nailed the vocals. So yes, we’re all pretty stoked about the theme song.
James, it was probably a little bit daunting to work with people who you’ve worshiped for so long, but how did you select the individuals who you would have participate in your Twin Peaks episode?
JR - A lot of it was the story that we came up with and then Dana Ashbrook is a very close friend of mine who I’ve known for many, many years. So, the sort of seed was, you know, that [jokingly] I wasn’t going to give Dana a choice. He was going to have to be in it no matter what, and then hopefully from there we could sort of spread the love and build an ensemble.
I couldn’t imagine doing a Twin Peaks tribute without Sheryl Lee or Sherilynn Fern. I felt like they were the two iconic faces that if we didn’t have we might as well not even try. So they were sort of always on the board as musts. You’ve got to have Laura Palmer [Sheryl Lee] as well as Audrey [Sherilyn Fenn].
We were lucky enough to have cast Ray Wise last season, so it was just a matter of figuring out how to get his character involved in the action, which we did. Then it was sort of like who do match up for these characters? And Lenny von Dohlen, I thought, was a really interesting way to go for the sheriff and Robyn Lively kind of represented a second season of Twin Peaks all by herself. We had always sort of planned on a cameo from Catherine Coulson as well. So again, the planets really kind of aligned for us on this and it came together really nicely.
How did you originally meet and become friends with Dana?
JR - I had moved from New York to L.A. to do a show on Fox that lasted for about ten minutes, but inside that ten minutes I met Dana. He came on and did an episode and I basically "stalked" him into becoming my friend. I’m not proud of it, but it was one of the boldest things I’ve ever done.
I saw his name on a call sheet and I went over and knocked his trailer door and I said, “Can I come in,” and he was like, “Yes, I guess,” and I just laid it all out. Luckily he didn’t get scared. I think he was actually flattered. And a couple weeks later he took me to the Playboy Mansion and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sheryl, in the commercial for this Psych episode we see that there is a dead body wrapped in plastic, à la your character of Laura Palmer. Was it sort of an out of body experience, maybe, to see someone positioned in the way that you had iconically been?
SL - Yes, that is the perfect way to describe it. I actually did feel as if I was out of my body that whole day. It was a very strange surreal feeling, mostly because, you know, it’s hard to understand how that much time went by that quickly and I remember that day, for me, as if it was yesterday.
There are a lot of things in the past 20 years I don’t remember, but that day 20 years ago laying on that beach in the freezing cold, I remember as if it was yesterday. And so it was very, very surreal and it touched me deeper than I expected it to. It sort of snuck up on me.
Sheryl, a lot of people have said over the years that the Psych set is just really, really unique. It’s just really fun and the cast as well as crew are all very warm and inviting. Can you tell us a little bit more about the experience of working with the Psych team?
SL - Oh, well, it is a fantastic group of people. They are so blessed and the wonderful thing about them is that they know how blessed they are to all get along so well and to have such beautiful respect for each other, and it’s one of the happiest crews that I’ve ever seen, too. They have so much care and respect for their actors because of the way that their actors care for and respect them, and it’s an absolute delight. It’s a fun set. There’s no hidden angst anywhere. I'm so grateful to have gotten to come and play with them.
James, Season five of Psych has been, I think, absolutely fantastic. Good job on that. Obviously the show has taken some pretty big steps in recent weeks. What can you tell us about the rest of the season and what we can expect.
JR - First off, thank you for your kind words. And then, secondly, you know, it's kind of compacted this little second half of season five that we have. We're blowing it out with the Twin Peaks episode, which for me is, I hate to throw around profundities, but it's easily the proudest I've ever been of any of our achievements on the show. So it's hard to even look past that. It's like, "This is it. This is what we're doing."
In addition to that, we also have a holiday episode coming up. We took a year off last year and didn't do a Christmas episode, so we came back with one this year that's pretty wild. It’s kind of like It’s a Wonderful Life on acid. Shawn gets a glimpse into what everyone’s lives would be like if he had never come back to Santa Barbara and we did some pretty crazy stuff there.
Ralph Macchio also swung in and did a very funny episode that was sort of us ripping on Police Academy. Then we close up shop with the finale of the Yin Yang serial killer trilogy, which I thought came together pretty nicely. Ally Sheedy’s back, and so is Jimmi Simpson, which is a testament to our writing staff for being able to come up with a way to bring back a character that’s dead. Mena Suvari came in as well and she was fantastic and all questions are answered and everything comes out in the wash.
So even though it’s a short season, I feel like it’s pretty packed with goodness, with richness, stuff that smells of deep rich mahogany.
And I guess speaking of smells and Twin Peaks, why a cinnamon festival?
JR - That’s a good question. We knew that we needed a way to get Shawn and Gus to this tiny little town, and I think it goes all the way back to the pilot where there was a mention of a cinnamon festival. So we kind of just piggybacked on the idea that Shawn and Gus go around to cinnamon festivals and have never missed one, and here’s one that they never knew existed.
So of course they were going to go, no matter how far away it was or how difficult it was to find. If there's a cinnamon festival out there to be experienced they were going. And it also gave us sort of a natural way to put our own spin on the cherry pie.
James, what was it about Twin Peaks that made you so obsessed with it from the time you were a young teenager?
JR - I was a strange, dark little dude, you know? I fell in love with horror movies at a very early age. I mean, somehow as a first grader I was able to convince my parents to let me go see stuff like American Werewolf in London in theaters.
So I was headed in that direction anyway and then I remember one night I think my parents were out at a function of some kind and I had just gotten cable in my room. It was a big deal and I saw Blue Velvet on, I think, HBO. And it blew my mind in a way that I don’t think childrens' minds are supposed to be blown, but then they probably shouldn’t be watching Blue Velvet.
But from that moment on I was sort of obsessed with David Lynch and then when he came to television [with Twin Peaks] there was no way I wasn’t going to watch. And, of course, he delivered everything that you would expect David Lynch to deliver and more.
Sheryl, are you still surprised that people have these feelings for a show, as you said, 20 years later, and that they still love it as much as they did back when it first aired?
SL - Well, you know, there’s two things that happen, I think, when people experience something, whether it’s a song or a television show or a film or a book, any piece of art, that they’re experiencing it for what it is. But then, it also connects them to a certain part of their life and whatever was going on at that time in their life.
So in that sense, no it doesn’t surprise me because I know for me I can be driving around and all of a sudden hear a song on the radio and, boom, I’m back at that time in my life. And the one thing that people tell me that they experienced so often with Twin Peaks is that it brought people together; that people were watching it together as a community and talking about it together at work. So I think when they think of the show, they’re also remembering that sense of community that they shared this thing with.
James, is there going to be a sixth season of Psych?
JR - Yes, we got our pickup a while back and we're pumped. So we'll take a little break here to recharge the batteries and then figure out how to knock out 16 more of these puppies.
What’s the most memorable moment for both of you from the filming of this Psych episode?
JR - Well, for me it’s very easy and I’m not just saying this because Sheryl is on the phone, but it was the moment, the precise moment that Sheryl’s character opens the plastic and reveals the dead girl. The juxtaposition of Laura Palmer looking at Laura Palmer, it was kind of mind-blowing. And a close second would be Sheryl’s character talking about the girl later in her office.
SL - That’s hard because there were so many moments that I loved and they were just different colors. The moment on the beach that James is speaking of was an emotional and very surreal moment for me. But then there were other moments that were just so fun and delightful and giggly and challenging. And just to be with all of those people. The cast of Psych is such an incredible group of people and then also all the people from Twin Peaks and being able to see them and work with them again and sit around on the set and have a coffee with them. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience all around.
James, what is it about Psych that you think draws such a large audience and why do you think they keep coming back for more?
JR - I think over the course of the first couple seasons, we were able to kind of negotiate a tone on our show that allowed us to really kind of stretch the parameters of what we may have thought we were going to be after the first season. In doing that, we’ve kind of become this hybrid show that can do almost anything we want and still put it in the box that keeps (it) an episode of Psych. So, I think we’re able to reach a much wider audience, and as long as we solve a case every week, we can do stuff like a tribute to Twin Peaks, a Jaws episode, a musical, or even an entire episode dedicated to John Hughes.
Sheryl, when did you realize that you wanted to become an actress, and how did you get into the business?
SL - I think it [acting] found me. I was in high school and had wanted to be a dancer or an artist. However, I tore my knee up in a tobogganing accident in Colorado and ended up on crutches for a while. I was getting very antsy and sort of ornery around the house because I wasn’t dancing, and my mom said, “Why don’t you try out for the school play?”
I had always been painfully shy and I said, “Absolutely not. I cannot speak in front of people. No way.” Then my English teacher also said, “Why don’t you try out for the play?” I thought, “All right, I’ll just try,” and I ended up being cast as the mother in The Bad Seed. I was 15 at the time, and I will never forget the first day of rehearsals. Auditioning was excruciating for me and it still is, but the first day of rehearsals it was that moment where I went, “Oh, this is it. This is what I’m supposed to.”
Sheryl, do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
SL - I did a scene in Winter’s Bone, which I’m very, very proud to be a part of a film that won the Sundance Award this year. Of course, I also have this episode of Psych as well a film that I think is coming out next year called The Fields with Sam Worthington and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, which was directed by Amy Mann.
Sheryl, when you started up with Twin Peaks and playing Laura Palmer, what were your expectations? Were you like, “Wow, this stuff is really weird and who’s going to get this,” or did you have a feeling that it would make an impact?
SL - You know, I had no expectations. At the time I was living in Seattle doing theater and wasn’t thinking at all about moving back to L.A. or doing film or TV or anything. Then I got a call that David Lynch had seen my headshot in a local casting office up there and had thought that I was this dead girl in this show that he was doing that was all very secretive.
So I was originally hired on Twin Peaks for just a few days worth of work as a corpse with a couple of flashbacks, and to be wrapped in plastic and thrown on the beach. That was for the pilot, which was shot in Washington. After we wrapped, they all left and went back down to Los Angeles. while I stayed up in Washington and, you know, kept pursuing theater.
And it wasn’t until months later that David called and said, “Would you like to come back on the show and move to LA?” Then all of a sudden my life took a very different quick turn. I had no experience in TV and no experience with the entertainment industry down there, so I had no expectations. I wish I’d had a handbook at the time to know how to get through all that craziness, but I didn’t. I was winging it.
Are there any challenges to playing a dead girl wrapped in plastic, aside from just being still and holding your breath?
SL - This is going to sound corny, but it really was an opportunity to sort of meditate on death, and I don’t mean that in a morbid way, but in an absolute way. I had studied a little bit of meditation at that time and knew that there was a possibility of sort of slowing the body down and slowing the breathing down along with the mind.
So for me, that was what all those scenes were about - an exercise and an exploration of that. Also, because I hadn't been on a set before, it was also a great opportunity to just be like a sponge and to soak all of that up was an incredible learning experience.
James, we know you had really high expectations for the Twin Peaks episode, so after four years in the making how well do you feel it lived up to expectations?
JR - I was really, really, really, really pleased. I mean, the only thing I wish I could do is that there’s about seven or eight minutes worth of this episode that you won’t be able to see unless you buy the Season 5 DVD. Other than that, I was pretty tickled.
I mean, we got the right director. I really struggled with the idea of not directing this episode because I knew I was going to be micro-managing and could I possibly hand it off to somebody else? However, as it turned out, Matt Shakman is every bit the Twin Peaks fan boy that I am. He even took it one step further by purchasing the secret Laura Palmer diary that Jennifer Lynch wrote and I believe he still has it in his possession. As soon as he told me that, I knew we were going to be fine. Again, except for the fact that there was too much good stuff and because we wanted it to breathe and kind of feel pacing-wise like a Twin Peaks episode, we just couldn’t keep it all in. Other than that, I love it.
How do you think viewers will react to the episode as either major fans or kind of sort of fans or people that vaguely remember it?
JR - I would say the die-hard Twin Peaks fans are in for about 48 minutes of pure bliss. I don’t think any of the winks or tributes will be lost on them and I think it’ll be wonderful. For those who were casual fans of Twin Peaks, you know, some of the bigger sort of homages might not be as familiar to them.
But it’s also just a really well-acted, well-crafted episode of our show, so even for people that are just Psych fans and may not know Twin Peaks at all, my hope is after watching this episode they will go seek it out. They will go buy the DVDs or find it online or all the different ways you can access material these days and have that experience for the first time.
James, what do you love most about playing Shawn?
JR - I guess the fact that the character really lends itself to improvising and changing within the context of the show and the fact that he’s got to be the same guy each week. I think the fun of the character is that no matter what they throw at us or what the world is or what the case is, Shawn never really has a plan and it’s always sort of jump first, ask questions later. And that’s a fun character to play because most of us are not like that in life because we can’t afford to be that way. There are consequences and ramifications and in the real world it doesn’t always go your way as often the case on a television show.
James, you really nailed the Twin Peaks element with a special Psych flavor, so can you talk about what it was like bringing the two together in some of the most challenging scenes to film?
JR - For me it was all about walking that fine line of being Psych, but never for one second mocking Twin Peaks. I mean, it was a love letter. It was always meant to be a love letter and it became that much more sort of pressure-filled when we added seven original cast members walking around. I found myself looking at them a lot and thinking, “Is this all right? Does this feel right? Are we doing it right?” The scene on the beach is a great example of where I was kind of quietly taking my queues from Sheryl. I figured if something had been wrong or if in any way we weren’t nailing the tone or were being disrespectful, I was really hoping that they would speak up and say, “You know what, this is no good.”
That was the big challenge for me, just sort of walking the line of like, “Yes, we still have to be our show, but most importantly, you know, we want to show how much we love this other show.” So, that was basically me for the whole shoot. I was sort of tone police making sure that we were accomplishing both of those things.
And the cast just knocked it out of the park. I mean, it was almost like there was a discussion that probably should have happened where we gathered everybody around and said, “Okay, this is what we’re doing. You can all feel confident and comfortable that we’re here for the right reason and this is just a giant love fest.” But we never actually formalized that, and yet there seemed to be sort of like an unspoken thing where everybody just kind of got it and boldly went for it.
Sheryl, how do you feel the Psych team did in capturing the true essence of Twin Peaks?
SL - I thought they did an amazing job. Over the years there have been little things here or there that I’ve been asked to do that were a little bit like stepping back into that Twin Peaks time and they didn’t feel right to me. They didn’t feel like it would have been done in a tone that felt authentic, and these guys at Psych did an incredible job of making it exactly what James said.
You know, we can laugh about it. Those of us who were on Twin Peaks can very easily make fun of it, but you know, we get along really well and we have a playful energy together and there’s sort of power in numbers. The more of us that are there, the more comfortable we all feel. We’ve worked together before, so we can get to those places really quickly. At the same time, though, we would be the first ones to say, “You know, something about that doesn’t feel right,” and as far as I know, none of us ever, ever had to say that here. Everybody at Psych did such a wonderful job of walking that balance.
As noted above, photos by Alan Zanuk and copyright of The USA Network, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!