Creator Steve Franks discusses 'Psych 2: Lassie Come Home,' welcoming back Timothy Omundson and Joel McHale's secret character.
Lassie is coming home -- Carlton Lassiter, that is.
In the newest Psych movie, Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, the beloved cast reunites once again. But this time, Santa Barbara Chief of Police Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) is the catalyst for Shawn (James Roday) and Gus' (Dulé Hill) latest case. In conjunction with the cast's ATX TV... From the Couch! panel on Sunday, only ET has the exclusive sneak peek of the first four minutes of the Hitchcockian movie sequel, which reveals Community's Joel McHale as Lassiter's previously unseen father and Scrubs' Sarah Chalke as Lassiter's caretaker, Dolores.
Here is the movie's plot: When Lassiter is ambushed by a mysterious culprit in a sting operation gone wrong and left for dead, Shawn and Gus return to their old stomping grounds in Santa Barbara to be by Lassie’s side, as he is recovering from a stroke. The duo, in all their tomfoolery, find themselves secretly untangling a twisted case without the benefit of the police, their significant others or the perks of living in the Bay Area. But, as they soon discover, what they uncover will change the course of their relationships forever.
Though Psych 2: Lassie Come Home will drop in a few short weeks on NBCUniversal's new streaming platform, Peacock, the cast finished filming over a year ago in Vancouver. It also marked the first big project for Omundson since suffering a major stroke in April 2017. (Omundson had a brief cameo in 2017's Psych: The Movie.) As creator Steve Franks tells ET, having the sequel's plot revolve around Omundson's character was "a rallying call" around their friend and co-star.
"We had to figure out how to do a story with Tim and work around the amount of time we would potentially get with him and what he was going to feel comfortable doing. So, we put a couple scenarios together. But James [Roday] basically said, 'He gets shot, he's recovering from a stroke, he's in the hospital and he starts seeing things,'" Franks said of how he and cowriter Roday put it all together. "And I'm like, 'Well, that's classic Psych right there,' and so, it was our way to sort of do a variation on Rear Window."
Watch the opening of Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, exclusively on ET, below.
There were, of course, concerns over how to incorporate Omundson's stroke into Lassiter's story to ensure that it felt seamless and organic to the character's journey. That was top of mind when Franks and Roday crafted the script for the sequel.
"The one thing we didn't want to do was have him try to hide [the stroke] because that was going to add an unnecessary layer," Franks explained. "It was also about the amazing recovery that Tim has been making. His strength was similar to Lassiter's strength on the show. It felt like we could honor Tim's journey and tell a story that gave him the best opportunity to shine and to be himself and the character at the same time. And it opened up a lot of nice opportunities. We started talking about, 'What is he seeing and why is he seeing things?'"
"If it was going to be a Lassiter story -- we do the flashbacks with Shawn and his dad, but we've never done one with Lassiter and his dad. In fact, we never really talked about Lassiter's dad [on the series]," he noted. "We came up with the idea of, what if it's his father he's seeing in the hospital and there was a lot of unfinished business and he felt abandoned by him? It gave a lot of emotional depth to the story and... opened up all these avenues and all these new things we haven't done. It all was a clean, nice fit and we never wavered from the plan once we started going."
On Omundson's first day of filming, the crew stuck with a yearslong Psych tradition, where they nonsensically sing "Happy Birthday" to actors when they arrive and when they wrap -- in line with their "particular brand of madness on the set."
"He showed up the day before he was supposed to shoot, and Allison, his wife, brought him in -- we were in the foyer. When Tim walked in, we were all standing there waiting for him and immediately we started singing 'Happy Birthday' to him," Franks fondly remembered. "Every single person in that room had tears in their eyes and Tim was overwhelmed. But at the same time, it was like we all knew it was going to be OK no matter what happened."
The other surprise they managed to pull off was keeping Omundson in the dark about McHale playing Lassiter's father. (Omundson and McHale are close friends.) "There was a lot of subterfuge that went on and a lot of maneuvering to create a fake person he thought was playing the father, someone we've never heard of. We asked him, 'Do you want to meet Paul Gerth?'" Franks recalled with a chuckle. "We opened the door and there's Joel McHale, and the look on Tim's face, once again, dry eyes were not anywhere. But he was both laughing and overwhelmed. It was a tremendous moment."
As for the original Psych episodes fans new and old should watch before pressing play on the newest installment in Shawn and Gus' crazy adventures, Franks suggests tuning in to the following: Psych: The Movie ("We carry over a few characters introduced in that one, so the first Psych movie is helpful viewing") and the following classics...
"There are a lot of little nods. There's props from the '100 Clues' episode [in season 7], the 'Indiana Shawn and the Temple of the Kinda Crappy, Rusty Old Dagger' [in season 6]. I believe there's something from 'Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster's Goblet of Fire' [in season 8], which was the most fun I'd ever had. There's some from the musical episode in there. They're tiny little references," he teased, crediting the Psych-Os for catching every small detail. "I love the Twin Peaks–inspired 'Dual Spires' episode [in season 5], and I love our version of The Hangover with 'Last Night Gus' in [season 6]."
Around the time the first movie came out, Franks hoped for a six-movie Psych saga, and his feelings haven't changed in the years since. His personal email signature -- "Psych, movie two of six" -- beats that point home.
"I know the cast and the crew are on board, and hopefully the people who make these financial decisions will think it's a good plan, but I believe in unbending positivity and optimism -- even sometimes when optimism doesn't seem like it's possible," Franks said. "I've always said, 'We're not going to make one movie, we're going to make six,' and we thought if we made the first one, all right, we're done. They're never going to let us do another one, and then we got two. Now, we're a third of the way there. I would love to do it because it's something that I feel like the world needs."
"It's a show that's about two great friends who will do anything for each other. It's a show that's designed to make you feel good about yourself and your friendships and your family and it feels like that's a vital thing," he added. "We're just trying to bring some light into the world, make a few jokes, tell a decent story and hopefully sneak a mystery in there."
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home drops Wednesday, July 15 on Peacock, NBCUniversal's upcoming streaming service.
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