On next week’s mid-season finale of Psych [USA Network, Tuesday, December 14th,10/9C], Shawn and Maggie’s plan to have a nice, quiet spa weekend – and taking their relationship to the level – is derailed by a couple of grifters and a Mafia-related murder.
Jason Priestly plays Clive, one of the grifters, and talked with reporters/bloggers about the experience.
Hi, it’s such a pleasure to speak with you.
Jason Priestley: Oh, thanks.
I was just wondering, what is it about the show or about the part that made you want to be a part of Psych?
Priestley: Well, you know, I’ve always been a fan of the show, oddly enough. I started watching Psych back in the first season. Actually, I have a close friend who’s actually – my children’s godmother is actually a controller at NBC Universal and she is the controller who controls Psych.
So I’ve known about, you know, I knew about the show from its inception and I started watching it and because I saw a very early version of the pilot and I really enjoyed the show from, you know, from that very early version of the pilot that I was able to get through very nefarious channels that I, you know, can’t really talk about because I’m sure that, you know, copyright police will come kicking through my door and take me away in handcuffs. But I, you know, so I’ve always liked the show and I’ve always been a fan of it.
So when they called me up and asked me if I wanted to do this episode, you know, and they explained the episode to me and what it was going to be and then they told me that Jennifer Finnigan was going to be playing, you know, the other ha- you know, my partner in this episode, I was even more excited by that because Jennifer and I have been very good friends for a very long time and I’ve been a big fan of her work. And, you know, just on a personal level, her and I have been very good friends for a long time. So it was a wonderful confluence of things that made this a lot of fun for me and something that I was very happy and very eager to be a part of.
Any chance there’ll be a 90210 reference on the show?
Priestley: No, there were no 90210 references on the show. I tend, you know, at this point in my life and, you know, that project is so quickly disappearing in the rearview mirror of my life, I tend not to – I tend to reference that as infrequently as possible.
And who do you think was – what do you think was the most challenging aspect of being on the show? I mean, was it dealing with Roday being so goofy and Dule’s cracking you up?
Priestley: It was – yes, well, you know, all I did, you know, in all of – all of mine and Jennifer’s stuff was with Roday and Maggie Lawson. And then with Tony Hale as well. So we – it was really just the five of us. And yes, it’s, you know, I mean, the hardest part of working with James is, you know, is keeping a straight face because he is a very, very funny man and so there are challenges inherent within that. But it’s – he’s a, you know, him and Maggie are both very professional and, you know, and very prepared.
And, you know, really – you really have to show up on that set with all your material prepared and ready to go because, you know, as is – as it is in television, you know, everything moves very quickly and you need to, you know, you need to hit your marks and get it right and be able to hit the funny in the first few takes because we got a lot of work to do, you know. So it’s – but it was a lot of fun, you know. Those guys are very professional and we had a lot of laughs.
Can you talk about – a bit about where you drew your inspiration to play an eccentric character like Clive?
Priestley: An eccentric character. Well, he was, I mean, you know, Clive was, you know, Clive’s a, you know, Clive’s a rogue and Clive’s a conman and, you know, the real thing, you know, the real thing with Clive was, you know, the, you know, the overriding thing with Clive was – it was that old saying I never met a conman I didn’t like, you know, so I just sort of really took that to heart and made sure that Clive was as charming as charming could be.
And that’s really – that was really the big thing that – that was really the big thing that me and Jennifer made sure that the two of us were, you know, were the very gregarious, loquacious couple that were very entertaining and kept every, you know, kept everybody laughing while we were reaching into their back pockets and stealing their wallets, you know.
And that was really the thing that we really worked and really, really wanted to keep, you know, just keep every, you know, keep together, you know, keep everybody looking over here while we were, you know, stealing their stuff over there.
Can you describe what you find interesting about the humor in Psych and how it complements your own sense of humor?
Priestley: Sure. Well, I mean, you know, the, you know, the humor, you – the humor and the way that they use humor in the storytelling in Psych is they – is sort of, you know, it’s the very modern type of humor that I think we use a lot. We utilize it a lot in storytelling nowadays.
It’s not – and it’s sort of what has led to the death of the sitcom really because it’s not – it’s no longer, you know, you know, set up, set up, punch line, set up, set up, punch line is not, you know, audiences are too sophisticated for that and audiences want more out of their humor and they don’t like to have it spoon fed to them like that anymore and they want more than – they want more to be – than to be told when to laugh by a laugh track.
And I think that Psych has been very, as a television show, has been very successful in that genre, especially being a one hour show. It’s been very successful. And it was one of the earl- you know, you know, now it’s, you know, in its sixth year. I mean, it was kind of an early pioneer of that one hour, you know, come- sort of that one hour comedy, you know, dramedy genre which is now – which has a lot of traction now in the television business.
And they’ve been very successful in it. You know, it’s got, you know, it has a lot of comedy and a little – and, you know, a little bit of action and, you know, it’s a buddy show and, you know, it’s got a little romance now, you know, and it’s been very successful in crossing a lot of genres. And I think that audiences are – audiences are very savvy now and audiences demand more out of their television and I think that, like I said, you know, Psych has been very successful in crossing all of those genres.
And being Canadian and filming in Vancouver, what’s it like filming from home?
Priestley: You know, and it was – it was fantastic coming back to Vancouver. And it, you know, it’s always nice for me coming back to Vancouver and shooting there. And actually this episode, you know, we shot a lot of it up in Whistler and it was nice to go up there and be up there and be back in the town where I learned how to ski. It was nice. We had…
Oh, you only just learned how to ski?
Priestley: No, no, no. (Unintelligible), I mean…
You only just learned how to ski?
Priestley: No, no. Back in the town where I learned how to ski 35 years ago.
Oh where you learned. Okay.
Priestley: Where I learned how to ski. Man, if I just learned how to ski, I’d – they’d…
Oh, I know…
Priestley: …take my Canadian passport…
Cox: …I was going to say, you’re not from here.
Priestley: …away. Yes, no kidding. It was – no, it was nice to – and I – and it was – it’s always nice to come back home, you know. I love Vancouver. It’s a great city and I love being back there. And I, you know, I’d be lying if I said that, you know, the fact that Psych shoots in Vancouver and it was a – just another opportunity to come back home wasn’t anoth- yet another reason for me to do the show.
So I know you said that most of your screen time is with Shawn and Jules…
…but is there any other character on the show that you perhaps would have liked to see your character, Clive, have more scenes with?
Priestley: Well, I mean, you know, I like – I mean, it would, you know, it would have been fun to have some – it would have been fun to have some stuff with, you know, with Dule or with Corbin Bernsen. You know, Corbin and I have been friends for years. I could have had some stuff with Timothy. You know, Timothy, I’ve, you know, I put Timothy in a Movie of the Week that I directed about ten years ago, so it would have been fun to get to work with him again because I haven’t worked with him since then.
You know, so, I mean, I, you know, I have a lot of – I have a lot of connections to a lot of the actors on the cast of that show. So we, I mean, it would have been fun to work with all of them because I know them all, but James and Maggie, you know, I have a, you know, Maggie and I worked together on Tru Calling, too, so it was, you know, it was nice to reconnect with Maggie as well.
So it just, you know, it was just great to be on the show and be there with all those peop- you know, it was really, it was – it’s funny when you get to be an actor of my age and having been around this business for so long, you know, when I walk on sets like when I walked on the set of Psych, I knew pretty much everybody on the set. It was strange. So I – it was kind of like walking onto, you know, it was kind of like just walking onto – it was just kind of like – it was kind of like walking onto, you know, it was kind of like being at work, you know, and just showing, you know, you know what I mean. It was like, you know, hey man, oh hey, where were you. It, you know, it was very – it wasn’t like walking onto a new show, you know what I mean. It was very nice. It was a very – it was a nice set to work on. I – it was a good place to be.
Great. And USA is known for their characters and Psych does a fantastic job of establishing really fleshed out characters no matter how long they may be on the show.
So, you know, especially as a conman, for you what would you say are the most endearing characteristics and the most troubling characteristics of Clive?
Priestley: The most troubling and the most – the most troubling and the most what?
Priestley: And the most endearing.
If there was supposed to be.
Priestley: And the most troubling. Well, the most, I mean, it, you know, the most endearing characteristics of Clive, you know, Clive and – Clive is def- is very much in love with his wife and they are very much a couple and they are very much in love with each other. And that’s very endearing and it’s very cute. But the most troubling part of it is that, you know, at the end of the day, they are sociopaths. And, you know, they will – they do want to steal everything that you have. So that, you know, I, you know, you – but you got to take the good with the bad, you know what I mean.
Right. Right. And, you know, it’s hard to tell when James and Dule are being serious or joking around sometimes, but they did say once that they send off their guest stars with a rendition of happy birthday. Did you get that lovely goodbye?
Priestley: You know what, I did not get that lovely goodbye and I think that I’m kind of upset about that.
I would be too.
Priestley: Yes. I feel kind of ripped off. But now in their defense, they were not together when… when we left the show. So maybe that’s the reason why.
So was it nice to come back and do TV again? Is that something that you miss doing on a regular basis? Or is it nice just to guest star and be able to walk away and go back to a not hectic life?
Priestley: Well, actually, I do TV all the time. I do a – I have a show that I do in Canada called Call Me Fitz…
Priestley: …and so I do, you know, I’m on TV quite regularly. So for me it’s not like it’s anything that I’ve stepped away from. So it’s – but this show was, you know, I was – I just happened to have a hole in my schedule when I went to Vancouver to do this show. I had just come off of – I just – I directed a lot this year before I went to go do Psych and I ju- and I had a hole in my – I had just gotten done directing Haven and I had, you know, and I had just a couple weeks in my schedule and I was able to go to Vancouver to do this.
And it was nice to go back to acting after directing for so long this year. That part of it was really fun for me because I’d been – I spent so much time behind the camera earlier this year that it was really nice to get back in front of the camera and not have to worry about every little thing on the set and just worry about myself, you know.
Yes. Yes. Okay. That’s great. So you enjoyed your time there.
Priestley: I did, yes. Very much.
Just getting to be one of the boys then.
Priestley: Yes. It was nice. It was nice. It was very nice. It was, you know, like I said, it was, you know, being, you know, being from Vancouver and, you know, working so much in Canada and, you know, I seem to work a lot in Canada these days, you know, I knew pretty much – I knew almost everybody on the set, so it was a very familiar set to me. So it was a very easy set to just walk onto and be very comfortable.
And not to mention, I, you know, I knew most of the actors, you know, sort of with the exception of James Roday who I met for the first time and but, you know, we became very friendly, very quickly and it was a lot of fun. We had a great time.
Great. Well, thank you. And now if they did a Despereaux thing and you guys broke out of jail, would you come back to do Psych again?
Priestley: Oh, I – absolutely. Yes. I certainly would. I had a great time on the show. It was a lot of fun.
I also watched the episode last night and I thought you held your own with Roday. The cake sharing scene was particularly hilarious.
Priestley: Good, man. Right on.
You had a little bromance going on with Roday, huh?
Priestley: Oh, you know, yes, we did. We had a little – we had a thing going on. You know, don’t judge us. Don’t judge us, man.
No, no judgment. It was funny to watch. So you had mentioned Call Me Fitz…
…before and I think it’s interesting that sort of you mentioned Clive as very sociopathic and shall we say morally complex and so is your character of Fitz on Call Me Fitz, so…
…are you drawn to those particular types of characters that, like, have moral complexity, but are also very charming?
Priestley: Well, yes. Yes, I think I, I mean, those types of characters, as an actor, provide more challenges and they also provide more opportunity – more opportunities because they are more complex. You know, characters who tend to be more altruistic tend to also be more boring, to be perfectly frank.
Priestley: So it’s, you know, characters that are more complex are just more interesting and more challenging and more fun to play, to be honest.
Yes. No, that makes total sense.
So in terms of – you mentioned obviously that you’re filming a lot in Canada and Call Me Fitz is really only visible in Canada, does sort of the lack of visibility for your American fans that you’ve garnered through 90210, does that factor into your decision to do these guest spots on popular American shows?
Priestley: Well, I – yes, yes and no. I mean, you know, Call Me Fitz, you know, you can find Call Me Fitz down here. It’s, you know, we’re on the AUDIENCE network down here on DIRECTV, which is, you know, sort of hit or miss. But it, you know, we are available…
Priestley: …on iTunes and on Netflix and, you know, we, you know, we seem to live in a multiplatform world these days – so, you know, you can, you know, you can find these things if you look just a little bit, you know. But, you know, I think that, yes, I – what I – I, you know, certainly – certainly doing – I, you know, I think when it comes to doing a guest spots on shows, I think you just have to do guest spots on shows that you like and shows that – I, you know, I think that that’s what it comes down to because that’s really the only bellwether that matters…
Priestley: …is your own taste, you know. I think that – I think that’s really what it boils down to. And, you know, so that’s what I do.
Yes. Do you have any guest spots lined up or are you pretty much still on the directing track and it’s only Call Me Fitz?
Priestley: Well, you know, we just finished shooting our third season of Fitz and I just got back here to LA literally a week ago, so I’m just, you know, just – I just got back here. And it’s, you know, it’s the holidays now. And I’m going skiing on the weekend, so I’m, you know, I’ll figure it out when the holidays are over.
I was thinking, you’re doing a Fitz, Clive, you did Chris Brody, Grant Wilby, Cousin Blake, Jake Harper, so far away from the goodie – the good Brandon Walsh.
How would you describe this journey as an actor of yours?
Priestley: Well, I’m – I think it’s the journey that most actors take. You know, you’re always looking for new challenges and you’re always looking for different characters to play to challenge yourself. You know, as an actor to continually play the same character over and over and over again would be – it would be boring and it would, you know, that’s not why you pursue a life – the, you know, the life of an actor.
You know, the reason to become an actor is so that you can play all – a myriad of different characters and to only – and to continually play the same character over and over and over again would be – that would be counterintuitive to the whole process.
Great. You said you haven’t watched the episode of Psych yet. What are you looking forward to watch on the episode or what you can tell the audience or the fans to be psyched about?
Priestley: Well, I think, you know, you know, the whole episode was – the whole episode is very funny. The whole episode is really funny. And, you know, I remember – I just remember how good Jennifer Finnigan was in the episode. I thought she was outstanding. I thought she was really outstanding. And I think that – I think – I think that – what should the fans be looking out for? I mean, the fans, you know, it’s a classic episode of Psych. It’s a lot of laughs and it’s – there’s a little romance, there’s a little adventure, it’s everything you want. It’s got it all. And it’s got me, Jason Priestley.
Right. Yes, that’s something to look forward to. I’m going to little bit off topic here. I’m from Argentina and some time ago there was a lot of buzz over here related to you doing the Argentinian show (Totos Con Juan) in the US version. Is there any truth to that?
Priestley: No, I don’t think so. There is not.
Oh, okay. So I have that from you that that’s a big confirmation that the rumors were false.
Priestley: The rumors were false.
I was wondering when you’re not acting or directing, what is it you do?
Priestley: What is it that I do? Well, Jamie, that’s a good question. I – these days I’m – I try very hard to wrangle my kids, which is a challenge. I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old. But I’m an outdoors – I’m an outdoor enthusiast, so I, you know, I ski and I – and in the summertime I water-ski and I mountain bike and I – the, you know, and I fish and I sail and I, you know, the – those are the things that I like to do. I’m a big outdoorsman.
Do you have a favorite project you worked on in your career?
Priestley: Do I have a favorite project that I’ve worked on in my career? Wow. Wow. That’s difficult. I’m so hyper critical of everything I’ve ever worked on. I’m very, very proud of all the work that we do on Call Me Fitz. I think that’s a fantastic show. I’m really hyper critical of everything. I think that – I think Love and Death on Long Island was a beautiful movie. I think maybe those – I think Tombstone was a great movie, but they cut so much of my work out of it. But it was still a great movie. But there’s, you know, well, I don’t know, it’s tough. It’s tough. I get – I…
Well, what would you like…
Priestley: …you know, I get so hyper critical of so much of my work, you know. It’s difficult.
Well, you’re part of the social network, Twitter, what is it about that place that’s so great for you to not only connect with your fans, but to promote projects you’re working on like Haven and Call Me Fitz and Psych?
Priestley: What is it about being on Twitter?
Priestley: Well, it’s, you know, I think that Twi- I think that Twitter is a great way to – I think that Twitter is a great way to connect with – I think that Twitter, you know, Twitter serves two purposes. I think that you can – I think you – that – I think that you can disseminate information to a lot of fans very quickly, but then also you can have a one-on-one interaction with a fan and have a very personal interaction with a fan totally impersonally at the same time, which is sort of a, you know, a strange dichotomy. But it’s – do you know what I mean by that? Like it’s a personal interaction and in a totally impersonal way.
Priestley: Do you know? But it’s – and, I mean, it – so it’s fascinating to me, but it’s – but it allows a, you know, a celebrity like me to have a personal interaction with a fan without it, you know, without it being weird or creepy or stalkerish or, you know what I mean. And it allows, you know, someone from the other side of the world to ask me a question and have me actually respond to that question, which I think is really powerful and really – and I think if, you know, if you – if used correctly can be the – a wonderful tool and a wonderful way to build a relationship with your fans.
And what would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of your work?
Priestley: Well, I mean – I mean, I would just like to say, you know, thank you, thank you for supporting my work. I mean, I, you know, if it wasn’t for the fans who do watch and support my work, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do and I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do for the am- for the length and time that I’ve been doing it, so I would – I really give those people a heartfelt thank you. And I hope that they continue to watch and enjoy my work. And I, you know, because those are the people that I do it for.
I just wanted to know since you have known so many people on Psych and you were kind of – you knew about it from the beginning, do you know if they had you in mind for this character or if it was just kind of happenstance casting?
Priestley: You know, I don’t think they had me in mind per se, but I think that, you know, once my name was suggested in the producer’s office, I think everybody thought it was a – that was a wonderful idea. And, you know, I’m just very happy that I happened to be available and able to go up there and do it because it really, you know, I really did have a wonderful time up there. And me and Jennifer had a great time working together. You know, like I said, I – she and I have been friends for a very, very long time and have never worked together and it was really a lot of fun to get to work with her and we just had a great time together.
And were you a fan of Arrested Development and Tony Hale before you worked with him?
Priestley: I certainly was. Yes, I was a big fan of that show and I was really sad to see that show get cancelled the way that it did. I thought it was horrible. You know, Jason Bateman and I have been – another – and Jason Bateman and I have been friends for 20 years. But, man, I’ve been – I’m way too old. You know, so I was really sad to see that show go the way that it did. And, you know, and Tony was, you know, I – and I didn’t know Tony before we went up there to do Arrested together and – or to do Psych together, and he was fantastic. He was great in the episode. He’s really funny. And yes, man, he was really cool.
So any chance you would appear on one of the upcoming Arrested Development episodes that they’re in the pipeline kind of?
Priestley: Yes, they’re talking about doing more episodes. They’re also talking about an Arrested Development movie. And I don’t know what…
Maybe I should get on the phone with Jason Bate- with Jason Bateman.
Priestley: I think maybe I should – maybe I should be calling up Bateman and find out what’s going on. Yes, I was a big fan of that show.
That was – yes. Yes. Yes, maybe I should. I should be calling up Bateman.
So my last question is, you were talking earlier about how comedies have changes kind of from the formulaic sitcom and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit how different, you know, kind of teen drama shows today versus, you know, when you were kind of in the thick of it.
Priestley: Yes. Well, they’re, I mean, sure. I – yes, sure. Well, they’re, you know, teen, quote, unquote, teen shows are, I mean, from, you know, from what I’ve seen of late and certainly, you know, you know, I – the – you – I, you know, I’ve directed my share of this new crop of teen shows. I mean, they’re, you know, the teens that they portray on television nowadays are not – I don’t know, they just – they seem so much more grown up and so much more jaded and so much more cynical and so much more adult-like.
But, you know, I don’t know whether that’s a refle- I, you know, I – not having a teenager myself, I’m, you know, my kids are very small, I’m not sure whether – I’m not sure if that’s a re- that may be just a reflection of the times that we’re living in now as opposed to the times that teenagers were living in back in the – as opposed to the times they were – that the teenagers were living in back when I was portraying a tel- a teenager on television. You know, times have changed and, you know, with the access that teenagers to information now I think that kids grow up a lot faster than they did 20 years ago.
And I just don’t know how, you know, I – like I – I’m somewhat remiss to say that the new crop of teenage shows are off the mark with their portrayal of teenagers today because I’m – because I don’t know how off the mark they are. Because, you know, times have changed. Kids grow up much faster than they did 20 years ago. So it’s a difficult line that you have to walk.
And, you know, at the end of the day, television like that has to be aspirational. And, you know, when you look at shows like Gossip Girl and 90210 and these – this crop of shows, you know, they are – they’re incredibly aspirational. But they have to be. That’s how they, you know, that’s how they hook viewers and that’s how they get them. I mean, that’s just how it works. I mean, even when you look at, you know, like Secret Life of the American Teenager, you know, on a certain level that show is aspirational as well.
I hope not too much.
Priestley: It – no, I mean, it’s not too aspirational, but it’s a little aspirational because it has to be. You know, I mean, that’s how it works. I mean, that’s how it, you know, TV has to be – TV like that and, you know, so- you know, so, you know, not soap, it’s not s- but it’s soapy television. It has to be aspirational. That’s how you hook the viewers. That’s how, you know, they have to watch those shows and think, ah, man, if – ah, why can’t I have a house like that, why can’t I have clothes like that, why – I wish I could be that person. You know, that’s how they have to relate to those characters. So there has to be a certain amount of – there has to be a certain am- a certain aspirational element to the show. Oh, why can’t I have a car like that, ah, if only, you know. It’s just the way it has to be.
And it’s, you know, and so those shows succeed on, you know, and a lot of those elements and I, you know, and I think that, you know, I’m just, I mean, they – I mean, I’m just like, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, if my 14-year-old’s watching Gossip Girl, I’d – I just don’t know. I just don’t know. But they are. I mean, they are.
Priestley: Yes. That’s a fast show for a 14-year-old. You know what I mean.
So while we’re on the subject, I know I’m sure you probably got sick of the 902 question – 90210 questions about a decade ago, but what do you think of the 90210 reboot?
Priestley: It’s, you know, it’s a good show. I mean, it’s a totally different show from our show. And but it’s a good show.
All right. I know a lot of your cast mates have been on the new show. Would you ever consider doing that?
Priestley: No. No, I did my time playing Brandon Walsh and but Brandon has served his time on this planet.
All right. And about the Psych, which scene did you most enjoy filming for this episode?
Priestley: I think the scene that we had the most fun with was the cake scene in the restaurant with me and James and Maggie and Jennifer. When Tony comes into the restaurant and, you know, and we talk about his watch and all that stuff. It was – that was a lot of fun that scene. We had a good time shooting that scene that day.
All right, great. That’s all I have, so thank you very much.
Priestley: Well, all right. Great. Thank you.