Posts Tagged ‘Sendhil Ramamurthy’

Heroes’ Jack Coleman – Noah’s Arc

May 3, 2010

Jack Coleman as Heroes' Noah Bennet. Photo copyright of NBC

Heroes‘ Noah Bennet (a.k.a. Horn-Rimmed Glasses or H.R.G.) seemed to have it all – a comfortable home, a loving wife and children, and a steady job with Primatech Paper Co. Most people, however, had no idea he was living a double life and that Noah’s actual work involved tracking down and imprisoning evolved humans for a mysterious organization known as The Company. 

His daughter, and an evolved human, Claire, eventually finds out her father’s secret, and in the show’s third year, Noah’s wife Sandra and son Lyle discover that he is now doing the same type of work for the U.S. government. Sandra decides to leave Noah, who, at the end of the season, helps “kill” one of the most dangerous evolved humans ever, Sylar, or so he thinks. 

In the season four opener Orientation, he is asked to once again help get rid of Sylar, who is, in fact, still alive, but Noah refuses. Meanwhile, his own life is in danger from Tracy Strauss, who uses her ability to control and freeze water to try to drown him in his car. That scene turned out to be quite a memorable start to the season for actor Jack Coleman, who plays Noah. 

Noah and Tracy Strauss (Ali Larter) - unlikely allies. Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of NBC

“I did another interview where I mentioned that the [fourth] season starts as well as ends in a flood for Noah, so there is a nice symmetry to it all for me and my character,” muses Coleman. “That scene in Orientation got my attention as soon as I read the description of it in the script, which was something like, ‘H.R.G. gets into his car, turns on the ignition and the car is flooded with water up to and then over his head, then cut to commercial.’ 

“I thought, “Is H.R.G. going to live? It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.’ They [the show’s producers] had already told me that this scene was coming, and the actual shooting of it was a lot of fun as well as challenging and one of those things you get to do on a show like Heroes that’s just really cool. They had these big hoses coming into the car vents, and literally on the cue of my turning on the ignition, the water gushed into the car. It came in with such force that it knocked my glasses off, and in 10 or 15 seconds the car interior was filled with water. 

“So it was very intense, but a blast. They took good care of me, too, and I was never in any danger.” 

Almost being drowned is just a small part of Noah’s life being turned upside-down at the start of Heroes‘ fourth year. Now living alone, his wife divorcing hm and his daughter Claire (Hayden Panettiere) trying to start a new life for herself  at college, this onetime “company man” has reached a personal as well as professional crossroads. Noah begins to reevaluate what is and what is no longer important to him, including his involvement with evolved humans. This was a side of his character that Coleman enjoyed having the chance to explore. 

Noah's life begins to take some unexpected turns in "Orientation." Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

“I liked the idea of redemption and H.R.G. taking stock of his life and deciding that all the time he’s been bagging and tagging [evolved humans], he hasn’t really helped others very much,” says the actor. “I was curious to see where that would go and I think it’s kind of cool that by the end of the season he does get to help other people without shooting them or in any way harming them. 

“As for Noah’s and Sandra’s divorce, again, I’d heard that that would be happening, and I was surprised that it was essentially a fait accompli when the season starts. I thought it was going to unravel as we went along, but basically it had unraveled and the writers had done that pretty well last year where Sandra could no longer trust Noah. You get to a point where you stop giving someone another chance, and she had reached that point with Noah, and understandably so. 

“I always liked the family unit and I loved working with Ashley Crow [Sandra Bennet]. I think it made a certain amount of sense just in terms of mixing things up from season to season and focusing on a guy like Noah, who thought he was doing all this for his family and to protect them. When, however, you take that family away, you get to see who he really is and the soul-searching that my character has to do. I think that’s what’s been different this year for me. 

Noah and Sandra Bennet (Ashley Crow). Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

“At the beginning of the season, Noah found himself in a fairly quiet, reflective, contemplative place. He was trying to figure out if all the years of rationalizing why he has been doing all this really added up to anything meaningful. And I think he finally realized that it did not. A leopard can’t change its spots and Noah is who he is, but at least there’s room in him for growth and self-examination, which I enjoyed having the chance to do this season.” 

Despite Tracy’s (Ali Larter) efforts to drown him, Noah is saved by Danko (Zeljko Ivanek), a former senior government agent who he worked with when hunting evolved humans. Noah and Tracy later meet, and she tells him that he is one of the former “Company” employees who she has vowed to kill. He then does something, though, that changes her mind about him, so much so that the two join forces to save another evolved human named Jeremy Greer (Mark L. Young) in the season four episode Strange Attractors

“I liked that early on there was a very wary but slowly building friendship between Tracy and Noah,” says Coleman. “Obviously she was very suspicious of my character, and because she had the ability to kill him at any time, he was wary of her as well. In Orientation, Noah saves Tracy from Danko with some help from Jimmy Jean-Louis’ character of The Haitian, who erases Danko’s memory of Tracy so that he is no longer chasing after her. 

Danko (Zeljko Ivanek) and H.R.G. in the episode "An Invisible Thread." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

“About three episodes into season four, things between Tracy and Noah begin to thaw, to the point where he calls on her to go with him to this town to try to save this kid, Jeremy. The episodes leading up to that were pretty dark as well as a little disturbing, and Mark Young, who played Jeremy, was great in the role. I just remember there being some very intense scenes, several of which we shot at night in that town. Prior to this I hadn’t worked much with Ali Larter, and I enjoyed getting to do that.” 

In the Heroes‘ fourth season episode Ink, Noah is surprised to find that Claire’s college roommate Gretchen (Madeline Zima) knows about her regenerative powers. When he suggests that The Haitian erase Gretchen’s memory of this, she refuses, telling Noah that she will handle it. Claire longs to lead a normal life out in the open, so much so that she considers an offer by Samuel Sullivan (Robert Knepper), the leader of a travelling carnival, to join his group of evolved humans. Unbeknownst to Claire, he has an ulterior motive, but Noah is looking out for his daughter and resolves to bring Samuel down. 

“It was interesting to watch the way that Samuel woos Claire to come join his carnival and find a new family and be able to live openly,” notes Coleman. “That was all very appealing to her, but then you realize that he’s not telling the whole truth. Samuel comes out and says, ‘It’s not really Claire that I’m after,’ and I think that’s when he’d made up his mind to make my character the fall guy in the grand plan that he has. 

Noah Bennet and his daughter Claire (Hayden Panettiere), an unstoppable father/daughter team! Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of NBC

“Noah already has this reputation of hunting ‘specials’ [evolved humans], so in the episode The Art of Deception, Samuel sends Eli [Todd Stashwick] up into the hills above the carnival and has him shooting at his own kind, which he blames on my character. As a result, all of Samuel’s people coalesce around him, and it suddenly becomes apparent that this was his intention all along – to lure H.R.G. to the carnival and set him up as his straw man in order to rally the troops all around him. 

Art of Deception was directed by S J Clarkson, this wonderful English director who we’ve worked with now a couple of times. It was almost all night shoots and it was hard on everybody because we were outside and it was getting cold and there was a ton of rain. So it was a tough one to shoot, but our director did a great job. I thought that Lydia’s [Dawn Olivieri] death was nicely handled and I loved the kiss that Samuel gives her. In doing so, he lets her know that he’s orchestrated this whole thing. It’s a macabre scene because as she lies there dying, Samuel is essentially telling Lydia that he’s been deceiving her. There is some sadness to it, too, and a really good set-up for the next couple of episodes.” 

Claire discovers a great deal about her father’s past, including his reason for agreeing to work for The Company, in the penultimate season four episode The Wall. This story also has Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) and Sylar (Zachary Quinto) trapped in a telepathic world of Matt Parkman’s (Greg Grunberg) making. 

Noah, Claire and Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) in "Upon This Rock." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

“Allan Arkush directed The Wall, and he was a director as well as executive producer on Heroes for the first three seasons,” says Coleman. “He directed [season one’s] Company Man, among other episodes, and Allan came back to direct this one. So it was a pleasure to work with him again, and I got to do all the flashback scenes where I was a little nervous about looking like David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider,” jokes the actor, “but those scenes ended up being both appropriate and looking good. 

“Flashback scenes like that are always challenging because you’re supposed to look 28 years old again, and that isn’t always easy. We shot everything in black and white and I got to work with Eric Roberts [Thompson], which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then we had all the scenes in the House of Mirrors where Damian [Harry Perry] shows Claire all these bits of Noah’s past. This is Samuel’s last ditch effort to bring her over to his side, which, of course, fails. 

“I also thought the scenes in The Wall with Zach and Milo were really good. It’s impressive any time you have downtown Los Angeles or any downtown metropolis vacated except for the last two people on Earth. When I first read the script I wasn’t sure whether or not all that passage of time was going to come across and if you’d really get a sense that these guys felt like they’ve been trapped in this world forever. All that played out incredibly well and Zach and Milo did some terrific stuff together.” 

Things will never quite be the same for Claire and her father as they enter a "Brave New World." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

Towards the end of The Wall, Samuel traps Noah and Claire in a trailer and uses his ability to manipulate geological materials to sink it deep below the Earth. Although Claire’s lungs will regenerate over and over, Noah will eventually suffocate and die. Lucky for them, Tracy comes to their rescue in Heroes‘ fourth season finale Brave New World

“One of my strongest memories from that episode is the flooding that you see come our way,” recalls Coleman. “As I said before, there’s the symmetry of almost perishing by water at Tracy’s hands in the season opener, and then being saved by water at Tracy’s hands in the season finale. The thing that sticks with me the most, though, are all my scenes with Hayden in the souvenir trailer, which is supposedly buried 40 feet blow the Earth’s surface. The two of us spent several days working in this little trailer on a gimble; it was dark, dusty and dirty, but we had some really amazing scenes, and Hayden is just so good in them.” 

When Heroes debuted, H.R.G. appeared on the surface to be one of the bad guys, and while the show’s writers as well as Coleman could have easily focused on that, they instead chose to dig deeper. “One of the true joys of playing this character is that he is multifaceted, and there’s been a lot of development with him,” says the actor. “Noah was a true believer when we first met him. He was a company man and sold on The Company’s mission and what he was doing. He could justify anything and took a great deal of pleasure in his sometimes dirty work. 

Noah calls on Tracy Strauss for help at the end of Heroes' fourth season. Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of NBC

“As time went on, my character began to question The Company and what it was up to and what it was going to do. Then, however, by the first season episode Company Man, you see it all really pivot. You suddenly know for sure that Noah has actually been trying to hide and protect his daughter rather than harvesting her or whatever other theories people out there had, because no one was quite sure what his intentions were. At that point, though, I think you realize without a doubt that Bennet really does love his daughter as well as his family and is trying to keep them safe. 

“Then he goes on the mission to try to bring The Company down, and that leads into the second season and all that betrayal at the hands of Suresh [Sendhil Ramamurthy],” continues Coleman. “So Noah goes from true believer in The Company’s work, to trying to bring it down, and then just doing his best to keep a low profile and out of sight. In season three, he’s essentially forced into doing all this work for The Company to keep it off his family’s back. They try teaming Noah up with Sylar and do all these other kind of crazy things that bring him back to his old hunting days, but he’s doing it under duress in order to keep his family safe. So you see him kind of careening back and forth between family man to secret agent to man without a country where he’s on the lam and he can’t trust anyone. 

“And in season four, again, he takes stock of everything and tries to figure out whether or not what he’s done has amounted to much. Noah comes to the conclusion that it hasn’t. As I said, it’s hard for the leopard to change his spots. There are parts of my character that will always be Machiavellian. He’s always going to have claws and fangs and remain a dangerous person. But I think that Noah has gone from being a man with very little conscience, to someone with a conscience who actually tries his best to help people.” 

Noah and Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) in the episode "1961." Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of NBC

There has been no official word yet if Heroes will return for a fifth season this fall, but if all goes well and it is renewed, what are Coleman’s hopes not only for his character but also the series as a whole? 

“That’s a good question, and a tough one,” he says. “I’m not entirely sure that I could tell you where I’d like Noah to go and where I want the series to go. I don’t have a pat answer and would have to think long and hard about that. 

“I do think that the series is in its comfort zone or sweet spot if you will, when it keeps its focus squarely on characters and relationships and have the story develop from there. Keeping our characters consistent, which we got back to this season, and seeing them making their decisions justifiable and understandable is, again, extremely important. And I think they’ve done a very good job of that this year. We’re probably going to need a new big bad, and you see at the end of this season’s finale that Claire leaves little doubt as to who and what she is. The episode is called Brave New World, and so what happens in this brave new world when she essentially outs herself along with everybody else who has these powers. It’s pretty fertile ground for storytelling, and I’ll leave that up to those with the word processors.” 

Reluctant "co-workers" Sylar (Zachary Quinto) and H.R.G. in season three's "Angels and Demons." Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of NBC

Heroes is just the latest entry in Coleman’s long and varied list of acting credits. Longtime fans will remember him as Steven Carrington in the hit ABC nighttime soap Dynasty. Other work includes roles in such series as Nip/Tuck, CSI: Miami, Without a Trace and Entourage as well as a number of made-for-TV movies and feature films. The actor has managed to maintain an ongoing presence in front of audiences over the years, which is not as easy at it sounds. 

“This industry is tough and it’s getting tougher, and as you get older it gets a million times tougher,” explains Coleman. “The availability of jobs and the outlook for continued employment is far greater if you are in your twenties or thirties then it is when you’re in your fifties. So the fact that Heroes and such a great character like Noah came along at a time in my career where I could have easily just gone out to pasture is incredibly rewarding. It’s also been a show that I’ve really enjoyed doing and with people who I enjoy working with. 

“When these unexpected things come out of nowhere, you say to yourself, ‘Wow, it can happen again,’ and it can happen at a time when you least expect it. The thing is, though, you need to really keep working at it and kind of refuse to go away. I think it was Woody Allen who said, ‘Ninety percent of it [acting] is just showing up.’ So persistence has a great payoff, and being able to keep a career vibrant and viable at a time when it’s very easy for it to dry up is one of the great joys of this industry.” 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, photos by Adam Taylor, Trae Patton, Justin Lubin or Chris Haston and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Heroes’ James Kyson Lee – Lightning Man

February 7, 2010

James Kyson Lee as Ando Masahasi on Heroes. Photo copyright of NBC

It was almost four years ago that Ando Masahashi was spending five days a week earning a living working as a computer programmer at Yamagato Industries in Tokyo, Japan. That was before his best friend and fellow employee, Hiro Nakamura, discovered that he had the power to manipulate time and space. Since then, Ando’s life has never been quite the same. In season one of Heroes, he and Hiro risk their lives to help stop the destruction of New York City. In the show’s second year, Ando is stuck back at work and on the sidelines, trying to assist Hiro in his time-travelling battle against a villain with the power of rapid cellular regeneration. 

When season three opens, Ando is back on the front lines with Hiro and together they search for a missing genetic modification formula that can give ordinary humans special abilities. In the episode Duel, Ando injects himself with the formula, convinced that he will gain Hiro’s power of space-time manipulation. Instead, he acquires the ability to “super-charge” the powers of other heroes, which manifests itself in concentrated blasts of energy or “red lightning.” Hiro’s onetime sidekick is now a fully fledged superhero in his own right, much to the delight of actor James Kyson Lee, who plays Ando. 

“Ando’s powers were actually revealed to us in the flash-forward during the first episode of last season [The Second Coming],” recalls Lee. “In that story, we saw a vision of the future where my character is battling Hiro [Masi Oka] and Ando blasts him with this red lightning. From there, they [the show’s writers] took several episodes to really develop Ando’s story line to the point where he had to inject himself with the formula in order to save Hiro. 

There is never a dull moment for Hiro (Masi Oka) and Ando as they try to help save the world. Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

“I love that the writers spent the time to integrate that into my character’s story line in a believable way. Also, it was circumstances that sort of drove him to do what he did, as opposed to all of a sudden, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, he’s got a power. And I also like that they didn’t overuse Ando’s ability last year and it’s the same this [fourth] season. We’ve seen him using his power very sporadically. Ando reserves it for crucial situations, like when they have to break out of somewhere, or when he had to fight special agents or the S.W.A.T. team, and that leaves a lot of room for him to continue learning to master his ability.” 

At the start of Heroes‘ fourth season, Ando is still working at Yamagato Industries and engaged to Hiro’s eldest sister, Kimiko (Saemi Nakamura), who works with him as well. Ando and Hiro have also started their own business, Dial A Hero, and their first client is a little girl whose cat is stuck on a roof. As the season unfolds, Hiro continues to travel back and forth through time on various self-appointed missions. In Upon This Rock, the police bring him to Ando’s office; Hiro has been missing for six weeks and is speaking in a weird manner. It is also revealed that Hiro has a brain tumor that is slowly killing him, and if Ando hopes to save his friend, he must decipher the clues hidden in Hiro’s words. 

“Hiro’s parents are no longer alive, so his sister and Ando are the only family that he has left. Because of that, my character is, in a way, becoming his guardian,” explains Lee. “Part of the reason why Ando opened up the Dial A Hero service with Hiro is so that his friend could continue with his adventure and that the two of them could still help other people. It’s reached a point where Ando feels more and more responsible for Hiro now that he’s been stricken with a brain tumor. 

Ando and Hiro admire their Dial A Hero sign! Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

“I think this season has really been about these two friends becoming partners in crime or a dynamic duo, and that started last year when Hiro lost his power and turned back into a 10-year-old, so Ando had to take charge. They had been going back and forth as far as who was the leader and who was the follower. But then Ando and Hiro reached an agreement that they were partners, and because of their different abilities they’re able to complement each other. This year, Ando is carrying more of an emotional burden with the possibility of losing his best friend and someone who’s become like a brother to him. 

“Because of all this, the past few episodes have been especially fun and interesting for these two characters. First of all, when Hiro turned up after being missing for six weeks [in the aforementioned Upon This Rock], he was only able to speak using comic book references. That was a neat homage from the writers to the Sci-Fi and comic book fans who have been watching Heroes from the very beginning. It was fun [as Ando] to play Sherlock Holmes and try to decode Hiro’s messages and solve the riddles in order to then put the pieces all together. 

“There was also the episode [Close to You], where we [Ando, Hiro and Mohinder Suresh, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy] broke out of the mental hospital. Putting Suresh with Ando and Hiro felt a bit like The Three Stooges meets [the feature film] One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” jokes the actor. “I think the show needs the right amount of action/drama as well as comedy in order to truly flourish, and this episode is a great example of that. It was fun to be pushed around in the wheelchair, and also to pull off the sequence where Ando has to switch out the pills that are meant for Suresh. It was exciting for him to be part of a rescue mission, and fun for me as an actor to shoot those scenes.” 

Hiro follows closely behind as Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) takes Ando for a ride in "Close To You." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

Ando uses his ability to break Hiro and Suresh out of the mental hospital. Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

In Pass/Fail, Ando rushes Hiro, who has collapsed, to the hospital where the doctors perform emergency surgery on his tumor. While lying unconscious on the operating table and fighting for his life, Hiro has a dream in which he is put on trial by some very familiar faces, including his father, Kaito Nakamura (George Takei) and Adam Monroe (David Anders). Also present is Ando, who is serving in a very important capacity. 

“In this episode we saw some things that we’d never seen before on the show, including re-creating the courtroom scene in the Burnt Toast Diner, which the fans are very familiar with,” says Lee. “A great deal happens in this story, starting at Noah Bennet’s [Jack Coleman] apartment to going to the hospital and the whole [dream] sequence at the end where Hiro has to face the light at the end of the tunnel. In-between all that, Ando is encouraging him from the real world where he’s watching Hiro struggle through the operation. 

“There were a lot of [story] arcs to be played out, and I really loved being part of the dream sequence where Ando has to act as Hiro’s defense lawyer. So I had the opportunity to do my best impression of Atticus Finch [Gregory Peck’s character in To Kill a Mockingbird] and see if I could get him out of this jam. This episode and the one before it, Close to You, were very satisfying for me as an actor.” 

Ando takes a trip through Hiro's subsconscious in "Pass/Fail." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

Ando and Hiro are among those heroes who go up against Samuel Sullivan (Robert Knepper) in Heroes‘ fourth season finale, Brave New World. The carnival leader has spent most of his energy this season trying to entice other evolved humans over to his side in the hopes of bringing a fantasy world to life. “The interesting thing about Samuel is that he has this father-like quality where he’s constantly welcoming episode into his carnival family,” notes Lee. “In some ways that seems quite warm and generous. However, we’ve slowly found out that not only is Samuel doing this to amplify his own powers, but also because of a delusional vision he has to create a new society where people like him are the norm.” 

“So we definitely want to find Samuel and try to stop him from pursuing that path of destruction. Along the way, there will be some big revelations about some of the characters that we know and their histories. I think the season finale will be a nice way to wrap up some of the story lines as well as transition into the next volume of Heroes, which is tentatively titled Brave New World.” 

With his character having taken the step from average human to evolved human, Lee is curious to see what hopefully lies ahead for Ando. “I would like to see him develop more into a warrior,” he says. “I’m pretty athletic in real life, so I think there are a lot of elements there that we can play with and that would serve my character well. 

Ando and Hiro take on a new heroic challenge in "Brave New World." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

“I’d also love for Ando to be taken under the tutelage of someone like Noah or the Claude [Christopher Eccleston] figure that Peter [Milo Ventimiglia] had in the first season. I think my character has the ability to learn; he’s one of those characters that you’re able to sort of mold and bend in different directions. Ando might just be the character that’s gone through the most change from the beginning of the show to now, but in that time we really haven’t seen any of his family or revealed much about his background and history. So that leaves a lot still left to explore and more stories we can delve into.” 

Besides his work on Heroes, Lee recently finished shooting the film How To Make Love to a Woman, a romantic comedy in which the actor plays one half of three couples featured throughout the movie. “That film should be coming out later this year,” says the actor. “Another movie I did, which is supposed to be released around April 20th, is called Necrosis. It’s about six friends who go off camping and get trapped at a location where the Donner tragedy took place back in the 1800s. If you’re into the psychological thriller/horror genre, that’s something you should probably check out.” 

Looking back at his past four seasons on Heroes, has the time gone by quickly for Lee? “In some ways, yes,” muses the actor. “It’s hard for me to believe that it was over three-and-a-half years ago when we all got together to film the pilot and this new concept that we weren’t exactly sure where it was going to go. So the time has flown by, but so much has happened, too. And I love that Heroes has been a very good example of a new generation TV series that has really embraced the fans as well as a new media platform that it is being presented on. 

“Times are changing very fast. I was recently in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show and it’s amazing how the ways in which we watch media has changed, even in the last four years. People are watching Heroes not only on their TVs, but also on their computers, iPods, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, TiVo, you name it. That means the audience is larger than ever, but now it’s sort of scattered throughout different platforms. As a result, the traditional Nielsen ratings don’t really apply any more, so you have to find ways to provide content and connect to the viewer. And our show has done a terrific job of that through its graphic novels, webisodes and many of the official websites that are connected to the program. A lot of the cast is on Twitter and Facebook, too, and we really embrace the fans and communities in this new platform.” 

You can follow James Kyson Lee @ twitter.com/jameskysonlee. 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, photos by Chris Haston or Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Psych’s James Roday And Dule Hill – Psychic Hotline

August 19, 2009
USA Network's crime-fighting "odd couple" - James Roday and Dule Hill as Shawn Spencer and Burton "Gus" Guster on Psych. Photo copyright of The USA Network

USA Network's crime-fighting "odd couple" - Dule Hill and James Roday as Burton "Gus" Guster and Shawn Spencer on Psych. Photo copyright of USA Network

Three years ago, the art of detection took on a whole new meaning when Shawn Spencer and Burton “Gus” Guster arrived on the scene as the USA Network’s crime-solving dynamic duo in the hit TV drama/comedy Pysch. The series follows the adventures of a young police consultant, Shawn Spencer (James Roday), who solves crimes with powers of observation so acute that the precinct detectives think he’s a psychic – or at least that’s what he lets them believe. Shawn is joined by his best friend and reluctant sidekick, Gus (Dule Hill), and his disapproving father and former police officer Henry (Corbin Bernsen), who, ironically, was the one who honed his son’s observational skills as a child. While Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson), head of the Santa Barbara Police Department, and SBPD Detective Carlton “Lassie” Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) cannot dispute Shawn’s and Gus’s results when it comes to helping catch the bad guys, Lassiter has strong doubts about Shawn’s psychic claims. Meanwhile, there is a bit of romantic tension between the “psychic” and Lassiter’s partner, SBPD Junior Detective Juliet “Jules” O’Hara (Maggie Lawson).

Season four of the popular series began airing on August 7th, 2009 in its regular Friday night time-slot of 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m CT. The action intensifies this season as the crime fighting team of Shawn and Gus save an old western town from a corporate take-over which ends with an old-fashioned showdown, outwit a notorious international art thief, and prove an exorcism may not be the only way to exorcise a demon. On the personal side, Shawn and his girlfriend Abigail’s (Rachael Leigh Cook) relationship grows, and Shawn has to adjust to being in a relationship. Fourth season guest-stars include Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Twister), James Brolin (Catch Me If You Can, Hotel) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes).

At the end of July, myself and several other journalists had the opportunity to speak with both James Roday and Dule Hill via conference call to discuss the fourth season of Psych as well as the series in general and other topics. An edited version of that Q & A session follows.

What do you feel was the secret behind what I thought was an exceptionally good third season, and how do you keep that momentum going into the fourth season?

JAMES RODAY – Well, for me, I felt like season three was sort of a tale of two seasons, really. I thought we especially heated up in the second half of the season, which makes it a little easier to keep up the momentum because I kind of felt like we were riding a high going into the hiatus. And with the last batch of episodes we shot, everyone was feeling confident and good and didn’t want to stop. As a result, I think that has yielded some pretty strong stuff at the beginning of season four.

James, what was your reaction to Shawn walking away from Juliette, and how often will we see Rachel Leigh Cook this year?

JR – Maggie Lawson, the actress who plays Juliette, did such a wonderful job in that scene. I watch it sort of as a fan of the show and feel for her character as well as Shawn, but, you know, that relationship is like a marathon. I think that everyone gets that and knows that there’s going to be a lot of going in circles and missed timing as well as hurdles that have to be cleared in order for something to ever actually happen. And this season, Rachel Leigh Cook’s character of Abigail is one of those curve balls. We’ll be seeing her sporadically over the course of the entire season.

And Dule, how about you? When does your characer get a little bit of romance?

DULE HILL I think it will probably happen during the second half of season four. It’s been a long time in coming, so Gus has a little pent-up energy, and I think he’ll get to take care of that later on this season.

Dule, you have such great comic timing. Is it something you’ve worked at or feel comes natural to you?

DH – I think it comes more naturally to me. I mean, generally I’m someone who likes to have fun, make jokes and act a fool, so I guess it’s something that just comes easy. But then also working with someone like James and the rest of the cast, you kind of, I guess, improv on the day, like I do as a person. It has to do, too, with James and the other great writers on the show who write all this fun stuff we do. I’ve learned a great deal as well since season one, and I think my timing has gotten better since then.

James, you write a number of episodes – how you you come up with the concepts for them?

JR – I usually just pick a genre of movie that I feel like saluting and then go off and come up with something that I can sort of pay homage to. That’s the great thing about our show; we’ve sort of created a landscape for Psych where we’re kind of allowed to go off and give shout-outs to movies and genres that we love. So if you look back at my episodes specifically, that’s pretty much what I do. I just sort of decide that I want to do a slasher episode or maybe a werewolf one, and Psych is one of those very unique shows on TV where somehow all those things can work.

Shawn comes up with some creative nicknames for Dule’s character; how does that idea come about? Are we going to be seeing some other names this season?

DH – Always. There will be an endless list of new names for Gus.

JR – It’s part of the permanent fabric of the show. It started off as just an improvisation all the way back in the first episode after the pilot, I believe, and it just really caught on with everybody in the writers’ room and on-set. Everyone is in on the joke now, so, yes, there will be plenty of new names.

How important is the mystery element of the show to the both of you as well as everyone else involved in the show? I mean, would you sacrifice a few good jokes to have the mystery plot really work, or is it just first and foremost to make the show funny?

JR – I think there are a couple of different camps on that one, and I think we’d probably fall into the camp of, no, never sacrifice a good joke to make the mystery better. And then there are people at our network and one of our executive producers, in particular, who would probably disagree and say that you can always spare comedy on this show and that we need to have good cases. But I don’t know. We had kind of an eye-opening experience at Comic Con where we got to come face-to-face with some of our fans, and I feel like the majority of them are tuning in to watch us act like fools as opposed to solving a mystery.

DH – I mean, I think there should be a balance. I feel that the show is first and foremost a comedy, and people tune in to laugh every week. But I also think you have to have that balance because if you don’t then it’s possible to have a bit of overkill if, for example, you have a joke on top of a joke on top of a joke on top of a joke. So that’s always the challenge with this show, making people laugh but also keeping them engaged in what’s going on and taking them along on a journey.

The bantering you guys do on the show is so great. Is that always directly from the script, or is there some room for you guys to ad-lib a little bit?

DH – There’s definitely room to ab-lib, so the simple answer would be no, it’s not all directly from the script. I’d say most of the ad-libbing comes from James. Then it’s me just keeping up with him at that point and we see where it goes from there.

JR – We’re pretty lucky in that we have a long leash on our show. There’s a lot of room to sort of play around and maneuver, and sometimes that’s how we find our best stuff, and other times how we find our worst stuff.

You mentioned Comic Con – were you surprised by any of the people that are fans of the show or overwhelmed by the crazy amounts of nerdiness going on down there?

DH – I wasn’t necessarily surprised at the type of fans. We have such a wide variety of fans for the show that if someone says that they’re a fan, it doesn’t really surprise me. I guess what surprised me the most at Comic Con was the fact that there must have been 4,200 to 4,500 people in the room that we spoke in, and I was very flattered by that.

JR – It was definitely overwhelming, and it was also great to, again, be face-to-face with our fans. We shoot up in Vancouver and it kind of puts us in a bubble sometimes, so to be able to come down [to Comic Con] and sort of hang with them and mingle with them a little bit and feel the love was great, and we were really blown away by it.

James, looking at season four, how do you feel your character has further grown and developed, and are there any new acting challenges that have accompanied that for you?

JR – I think Shawn and Gus are both works in progress. I mean, they’re both sort of overgrown kids, but I think Shawn is trying to be in a relationship, and that’s new. The idea of him maturing but not really maturing is kind of a high-wire act, but we do our best to continue to peel back the layers of these guys. We have one episode coming up that actually gets pretty serious. My character is shot and that was interesting. I was separated from the rest of the cast for the first time because of the way the story is told, our characters are broken up into three groups. So we each got to work with members of the cast that we don’t necessarily always work with, and that was different and challenging. It’s really saying something when you’re in season four of a show and can still come up with something story-wise that hasn’t been done before.

What surprises can fans expect this season? Is there a big one that they would be blown away by?

DH – There is a big, big one.

JR – We have a pretty big guest-star surprise up our sleeves, but viewers will have to wait a little bit because I don’t think it’ll come around until the winter and the second half of the season.

Growing up, were there any comedians that stood out to you and influenced you to go into comedy at point or another?

DH – For me, it would be Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin. I love Steve Martin, Joe Piscopo and the whole Saturday Night Live crew. I love laughing and making people laugh, so it would be all those people who make me laugh, too.

JR – I would add Chevy Chas to that list and, for me personally, Val Kilmer in Top Secret! and Real Genius.

Being big stars yourselves, are there people you still get star struck about or would like to meet?

JR – I get star struck anytime I meet performers who I grew up watching and appreciating. I mean, it’s still incredibly surreal to me that a long time ago I was a kid in San Antonio watching movies, and now I’m working with some of the people that are in those movies. I don’t think it will ever stop being surreal on some level. And I also get tongue-tied and freaked out when I meet athletes, too. We’re so lucky to be able to do what we’re doing, and then on top of that, to find yourself in situations where you’re meeting people that you sort of looked up to and were inspired by, is special. So yes, I will always be star struck and it will always be a little bit weird, but it’s also fantastic.

DH – Most of the time I’m pretty laid back and cool with meeting people. The only person that I think I’d really geek out over is Joe Montana. It’s kind of random, I know, but if I could meet Joe Montana and he could throw me one football pass, I would be over the moon.