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August 29, 2015

In the Limelight: James Roday

by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 7th 2008 11:07AM
James RodayThe other day was actor James Roday's birthday; on April 4, he turned 32. For the Texas born star of Psych, life is quite nice right now. Psych is coming back for a third season on USA this summer, and starting the other night, episodes from season two will be showcased on NBC. Oh, and he's dating Maggie Lawson, a.k.a. O'Hara, his co-star on the show.

There's a fine line between charming and obnoxious, amusing and annoying, cute and cloying, funny and trying too hard. James Roday veers close to the line. He's a daredevil of a comic actor, daring to be almost too much to take. But like other actors of his ilk, he succeeds in flying close to the sun, but never burning his wings. Like Jim Carrey or Robin Williams, James Roday is willing to push the comic envelope. So far, he's proved to me that watching him is always interesting, arresting and fun. While he may never reach the box office glory of Carrey or cop an Oscar like Williams, he's definitely going to be a TV star for today, tomorrow and down the road.

Gallery: James Roday

PsychJames RodayPsych Gus and ShawnCast of Miss MatchJames RodayJames Roday in First YearsJames RodayDule Hill and James RodayJames Roday and Corbin BernsenJames RodayJames Roday

Before Psych, James Roday was in three short-lived, barely seen TV shows. He wasn't the star; he was in support. But he was in good company. There were other very good actors in those failed shows: Ryan Caulfield: Year One included Roselyn Sanchez; First Years had MacKenzie Astin, and in Get Real was a girl named Anne Hathaway. Yes, that Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada). James got more to do in Miss Match with Alicia Silverstone, but the show was still only good enough for a season. Roday was a guy with something; he just needed the right project to show his stuff.

That's what he has now on Psych. A detective-mystery-buddy comedy sitcom with drama, Psych must have looked like anything but a sure thing on paper. One advantage it did have, besides the savvy casting that included Dule Hill, Corbin Bernsen and Timothy Omundson, was being on USA. Being on cable, the show was given a chance to find an audience. Roday told TV Guide in 2007, "I'm not sure if it's totally because we're on a cable show, or the right guy created the right show, but... I think we have a little more room to breathe on a cable show. You don't have to come out of the gates bringing in 'X millions of viewers.' You actually get a chance to find your legs, which never happens on a network. The dynamic is a little easier going, a little looser. You can actually put your focus on the creative stuff rather than numbers."

Interestingly enough, Roday nearly gave up on TV before saying yes to Psych. "I wasn't really looking to do television at all, coming off my third massive failure on television out of three," he told the Chicago Tribune. Another actor, Michael Rispoli, who was in Ryan Caulfield with James and would later play Jackie Aprile Sr. on The Sopranos, gave him some sage advice after picking up on Roday's surly attitude. "He said, 'You know, you never talk to anybody, you never smile and you have this chip on your shoulder, and I know it because I had it about 25 years ago. The best advice I can give you is get rid of it and be lucky that you're a working actor. Drop the 'actor' and be appreciative.'"

The creator behind Psych is Steve Franks, and according to Roday, the two of them click. "There is a special collaboration that's happening in this show between myself and Steve. I can tell you categorically that I've never had this much freedom as an actor," he said in TV Guide. "There's a ton of trust involved and I find myself week-to-week presented with a very unique opportunity of shaping the work that we're doing, as opposed to just making a script funny. It's really been a blessing and, I have to say, it really doesn't happen very often in television."

On Psych, the chemistry between Roday and Dule Hill is the kind of thing that looks easy, but you know it's not. If it was simple, we'd see other actors paired up this successfully. Dule Hill, always sure and a plus on The West Wing, is completely different on Psych, and the reason why is James Roday. The two play off each other like a comedy team that's been at it for years. Sometimes actors just play well off each other. With Roday and Hill, it's evident. They make Shawn and Gus the kind of friends you'd invite to a party. When he was asked why the a straight-laced guy like Gus puts up with a loose cannon like Shawn, Roday explained in TV Guide, "It's not about putting up with one another. It's about knowing each other so well that things that might annoy someone from the outside don't annoy you anymore."

In addition to acting on Psych, Roday has worked on film behind the scenes. He's written a few Psych episodes, including Black and Tan in which Shawn and Gus pretended to be models, named respectively, Black and Tan. Roday was also an assistant director on Wim Wenders' 2006 film Don't Come Knocking, starring Jessica Lange and Sam Shepherd. He wrote the screenplay for Skinwalkers in 2007, a horror film about werewolves. His most recent effort was as director of Gravy, another creature feature. He was also in the Dukes of Hazzard movie ('nuff said about that). All in all, James Roday is someone to keep an eye on. He's fun to watch.

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mj green

Psych is awesome. You never know what to expect; the theme sung in Spanish! Shawn and Gus make a perfect team. Oh, heck, the whole show is great. This, with Monk, make for a wonderful evening.

April 07 2008 at 8:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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