Dulé Hill is the kind of guy who takes things in stride. Case in point, he was all set to share the stage as guest host with his "Psych" co-star James Roday at Monday night's "WWE Raw Live" in Columbus, Ohio when something got in the way - Roday's appendix. An unexpected appendectomy just days earlier stopped Roday, a huge wrestling fan, from making the trip to the Midwest. Knowing the show must go on, Hill was there to take the reins himself so he wouldn't let down fans of his USA hit show and "WWE Raw." Also there in Columbus, thanks to being hosted by the USA network, was our Jim Halterman who got a glimpse inside the world of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) as well as tonight's crossover event with WWE Superstar-turned-actor John Cena guest turn on "Psych."
Before the "Raw" event got underway, Halterman sat down with Hill to talk about his knowledge of wrestling, Cena's surprising skills on the "Psych" set and, believe it or not, Jan Brady.
While Hill isn't as much of an expert on the current roster of wrestlers out there today like Roday, he isn't altogether clueless about the sport either. "I'm more of an old school wrestling fan," Hill said from his dressing room at Nationwide Arena, where the WWE Raw Live event occurred Monday night. "Tony Atlas, Jimmy (Super Fly) Snuka, Andre the Giant, the Iron Shiek and all those cats. Ever since Cena came to do the show, though, I'm getting more into the new cats." Sounding like a true WWE fan, Hill shared, "I can't stand The Miz, can't stand Scheamus, can't stand Jack Swagger. And I'm afraid of Randy Orton."
[The interview with Hill is interrupted for a moment so he can take a photo with the infamous Bella twins. Hill makes sure to immediately email the photo with the bodacious sisters to Roday, who is home resting from his operation.]
While he might not know the WWE through and through, Hill didn't show any signs of being daunted when asked about hosting and commentating during the live event. "I can talk and I'll just play off what the other two [commentators] are doing but I don't know how versed I am. I knew what's happened over the last couple of weeks but any old WWE history... . I know Bret Hart and that kind of stuff but if they get too obscure... I'll have no idea what they're talking about."
As for Cena's guest spot on the winter premiere of "Psych," Hill definitely understood some of the overwhelming thrill that generates from being around members of the WWE when Cena showed up on the set in Vancouver. "I had known who Cena was and I knew who a lot of the wrestlers were so it was just exciting for me. Wrestlers are like a fantasy world for children and adults no matter whether you're a current fan or you watched years ago but it's the fact that, 'Wow, man, I'm with a wrestler! I'm hanging with a WWE wrestler!' You kind of want to man-up and do whatever they can do, you know what I mean? 'You can stay out? I can stay out. No problem!'"
When getting down to work, however, Hill admitted to not knowing that Cena had such solid acting chops. "I don't want to say surprised but I was surprised at how good he was because they perform every week." And while Cena in his acting career (he starred in the motion picture "The Marine") has normally played tough guys, the 6 foot, 1 inch, 240 pound Cena also revealed other hidden talents, as Hill witnessed firsthand. "His comedy skills were definitely on point. Actually, I think his improv skills were even way better than mine. I wouldn't go so far as saying he was better than Roday but he was better than me... I really hope he comes back. Everyone up there [in Vancouver] loved him. We had a blast and he did a great job."
Speaking of improv, how much of the comedy that is such a staple of any "Psych" episode comes from the script? Hill explained that "pretty much each scene [me and Roday] come up with something to put in it. It makes us laugh so we do it [and] 85-90% of the time it makes it into the show." Now that the series is in its fourth season, Hill added, "I think [the writers] always know we're going to add something there anyway but I guess the more we work together the more they figure out the kind of stuff we like to do. It's a collaborative effort."
While the mid-season premiere has a storyline focusing on the relationship between Shawn (Roday) and Abigail (Rachel Leigh Cook), it doesn't sound it will be long before Gus (Hill's character) has his own love storyline. "I have something coming up [in next week's episode] with Sarah Shahi. She comes and does a guest-starring episode and we'll see how Gus interacts with his love interest. It should be a fun episode. It's about daredevils and doing extreme stuff. That's not really Gus so he's trying to hang with his lady who's into the extreme stuff."
For regular fans of "Psych," pop culture references fly fast within the dialogue on the show but does Hill always know exactly what the pop culture references are? "Roday normally knows them. He and [creator] Steve Franks, [co-producer] Andy Berman, all the writers really, come up with the most extreme, obscure references. 90% of the time I have no idea." Asked about the Eve Plumb reference that Shawn says to Gus in tonight's episode and Hill didn't hide his lack of knowledge about the actors on an iconic 70s sitcom. "I have no idea what that is." After told 'it' is the actress who played Jan Brady on "The Brady Bunch," Hill laughed and exclaimed, "You learn something new every day!"
Having spent seven years on "The West Wing" on parent company NBC, Hill said he does see a difference between broadcast and cable networks. "I think USA nurtures their shows more. They give them time to find itself. They produce less series so when they do it, they really get behind it instead of just throwing everything out there and seeing what sticks... they support you more than network television."
The network obviously values "Psych" or else it wouldn't integrate it with USA's popular WWE Raw series. According to Chris McCumber, Executive Vice President Marketing Digital and Brand Strategy at USA, the decision to crossover the two series wasn't a tough one to make. "Part of it had to do with the audience being very similar. Also, James Roday and Steve Franks have been asking since day one and this is the fourth season of 'Psych.' James and Steve came up with a part that was perfect for John... it just came together. John was into doing it and I think both sides saw a good cross-promotion."
"Psych" kicks off its winter season tonight with guest star John Cena in its new Wednesday night timeslot on USA at 10:00/9:00c. A Dulé Hill/John Cena webchat to promote both the WWE Raw Live event and tonight's "Psych" episode can also be found at www.usanetwork.com/series/psych.