PSYCH’s Maggie Lawson, Master of Mafia   

I feel like every time I share a new interview from my visit to the set of Psych I say, “This was my favorite interview of the day!” Is that true? What can I say, they’re a likable bunch the Psych crew. I thought I loved the show before meeting them but, man, has its place in my heart grown ten times since my set visit.

Maggie Lawson answers questions. -- USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk Detective O’Hara truly is one of my favorite characters on the show and meeting Maggie Lawson only reinforced that. Earlier in the day, before Maggie would introduce herself to me, we had some downtime between interviews and were talking about the pilot episode and how Juliet was added to the cast after Anne Dudek’s character, Lucinda, didn’t test well. The funny thing is that I actually liked Lucinda but I can’t see how she would ever have worked as well as Juliet does. And I’m not just talking about the hints of a Juliet/Shawn pairing, something I go back and forth on myself, I just mean the way she fills the gap between those at the police department and Shawn and Gus. It seems like she’s almost a buffer between the two and I don’t think the Lucinda character would have worked as well.

Since we wouldn’t have Juliet if I had been the test audience for the show, I guess I owe my thanks to those who didn’t like Lucinda. Especially since then I never would have met Maggie Lawson and she’s kinda awesome. A skinny miny though! I mean, not that I ever thought she was big in any way, I was just struck with how much skinnier she is in person compared to on screen. I know they say the camera adds 10 pounds but I haven’t really noticed that on others that I’ve met. In one day I had that thought twice, with Maggie and then Tim. Weird. She’s adorable, though, and was very sweet. Plus, she was completely comfortable talking and joking around with us. That always makes for a fun interview.

Speaking of…

Note: This interview contains some vague spoilers for the upcoming third season of Psych and some not so vague spoilers (though nothing that will spoil the mystery) about the sixth episode of the season “Talk Derby To Me.”

So don’t worry about all these… [talking about the multiple recorders on the table]

Maggie Lawson: No, that’s okay. I did a conference call the other day that I guess was very similar. There were about, like, seven people on the phone, and the phone kept getting disconnected, and the interview is—the transcript of the interview was so spotty. It was like, “Wow, I sound schizophrenic.” But anyway.

Was that the Fear Itself teleconference?

ML: Yeah. Yeah. It was really fun, but then there were these clicks going on and of course doing any interview with John is a treat. He’s great. All right. Fire away.

Dulé says that he’s the Master of Mafia…

ML: [does a double take] I’m sorry. Really? I will say this about Dulé— He’s not the Master of Mafia because I am but Dulé is very good at reading people. Probably the best of all of us. But sometimes he gets a little over-excited and he gives too much away. But no, he’s really good. He’s really good at the game. I’ll give him that. James is very good at the game. But I’m the best. It’s true. Anyway, I really don’t know what else to say, except that they’re liars, anyone else who says they’re better at Mafia than I am.

Are you better at picking out the Mafia or are you better at being the Mafia?

ML: I think a little bit of both. I think I’m actually better being the Mafia because I play that innocent thing. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the game at all?

Yeah.

ML: Okay, yeah. So when somebody wakes up the next morning that I’ve killed, I’m always like, “Oh my god, who would kill them?” Anyway. And no one’s really on to my game yet, so it’s kind of nice. I can play that innocent—

We won’t print that part so they don’t catch on…

ML: Little—oh, no. I mean, honestly I’ll just switch it up. I’ll just switch it up next time. That’s what Dulé had to do because I was on to him. But yeah, that’s to replace poker. Season 1 and Season 2 it was poker and this year it’s Mafia, so.

So who brought that game to the group?

ML: I’m guessing James and I did because it was a friend of James’ that introduced us to the game. And I played years ago and then I hadn’t played – I mean, I’m saying, like, seven years ago, and I hadn’t played since. And then I had a going-away party before I came up here, and one of James’ friends came over. And she was like, “We’re playing Mafia.” And we were like, “Oh, this is so lame. What is this game? Why is everybody going to play? How do we get out of this?” That was at 9:00 p.m., and at 3:30 everyone left. So needless to say it was a hit, and we brought it to Vancouver.

Tell us about your role in this episode.

ML: This episode, so Episode 6 we’re about to wrap, was a roller derby episode, and I have to go undercover to break up a ring of thieves, basically. And best experience ever. I am addicted. I’m not kidding. They would be like, “Maggie, Maggie, you can [mines taking off the skates] – it’s lunch.” And I’d be like, “Yeah, I’m leaving them on. I’ll just be over here, skating and hurting people.” But no, it’s been—god, it’s just been so much fun. I had a couple days of training. I had one day of training in L.A. and then I had a day of training in Vancouver, and then four days of shooting the actual stuff. And it was just so much fun. It just kept everyone pumped. We had a couple of really long days that went into nights, and we just were having so much fun so it didn’t really feel like a super-long day. But wait till you see me. [she laughs]

Any desire to join a league now?

ML: You know, the Derby Dolls in L.A., yeah, one of the girls on the team, Mila—actually two girls on the team. Sydney is actually in the show and then Mila sort of trained me in L.A. a couple weeks ago, and she said that I could come – even if I don’t join the team, because obviously I live in Vancouver half the year, that I could come work out with them at least and come to some of their practices. So that will be happening. Just because I’m already like, “Oh, I want to do more.” But you know, it’s by far the skimpiest clothes I’ve ever worn on Psych, ever. And eyelashes galore. And oh my god, it was so much fun.

What’s your derby name?

ML: Maniac. And then at one point Shawn is having to disguise himself as well, and he disguises himself as Maniac 19, President of the Maniac fan club. And they have something like 698 hits on the blog and counting. So yeah, good times. I think it’ll be a really fun episode with a really good ending.

How’s the season going so far?

ML: This season has just brought – I mean, we are just so pumped because it has been – the shows have just continually gotten better and better, and bigger and bigger, and funnier. And we have some of the best guest stars. This year we have Cybill Shepherd and we have Steven Weber and Rachel Leigh Cook, and we have coming up Gary Cole and yeah, we’re just so lucky. I think we all just feel so lucky because we’re on a show that we really push ourselves to deliver the best. The goods.

We just watched the season premiere….

ML: Oh, you did? Oh, good. I haven’t even seen it yet. Tell me what happens. I hear it’s awesome. [the Panel nods in agreement] Yeah? All right, good.

We’re getting into the characters a little more and not just what happens in the police station and what happens at the Psych office and how Shawn has to get in and out of situations and the detectives have to come in and have to be proved wrong every time. We’re getting into our lives a little bit and the relationships a little more, so it’s really becoming – I really think this season we’re just nailing it, not to sound snobby, but…

Maggie Lawson answers questions. -- USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk I teared up a little there at the end, and I don’t think I’ve ever teared up for Psych before.

ML: Right? I think there are a few of those moments this year so far, and we’re on Episode 6. Touching moments. Definitely the more dramatic moments. And we’re just—we’re so blessed that we, as a cast, as crew, writers, producers, everyone across the board is just, we are so in love with the show. So everything, we always just want to make it better. So everybody comes to play.

So what’s happening with Juliet this season?

ML: What’s happening? This year so far again we’re getting—we’re exploring a little bit more the Juliet-Lassiter relationship on not a romantic level but just on more of a personal level. Taking an interest in the other one’s lives. We’re teaming up more rather than bickering. And we see a little bit of a softer side to both characters. And I think later on in the season we’re going to see a lot of changes in Lassiter’s world and in Juliet’s world. And exploring just what she and Shawn really think of each other. That’s all I’ll say about that. And just again this year – it’s like with every season I feel like – first season I was the new detective at the Santa Barbara Police Department and so it was all about sort of negotiating all the men. And then Chief Vick was around more so I had more of a pal last year and I was getting more comfortable. And then I think Juliet this year is really secure in her job. And I think the personal side of her life is struggling a little bit more. So hopefully we’ll get into that a little bit.

So you can’t say 20% more romance?

ML: 20%. No, I think everything is just 20% more. [laughs at the look on our faces after that dodge] Everything. Every character, too. Not just the Juliet/Shawn move. We see some of Shawn’s world a little bit and maybe a little bit of his past as far as relationships go. And Henry’s world. And seeing Cybill and is he going to be dating? What’s going to happen there? And Juliet, and is she going to be dating? Is she going to be dating [Shawn]? All of that. And Lassiter as well. So 20% better. Twenty percent more for every character.

Did you spend any time with Cybill while she was on set?

ML: I did. I just love her. I love her so much. She was—this is really funny, actually. When I was 17 it was my first job in L.A. I played her daughter on her sitcom, on Cybill.

No kidding?

ML: Yeah. So she had her family and then she had her show. And I was this girl that they hired to play her daughter to come on for an episode, which is really funny because I was just from Kentucky. It was one of my first roles, and I was wearing a skirt that was up to here [puts her hand high up on her thigh], a shirt that was down to here [hand goes to above her bellybutton]. I was smoking. Had tattoos. And was like—they had to bleep out some stuff that I was saying. I was that Hollywood starlet kind of character. And so when she came up here we had a really nice laugh about it because that was a long time ago, and I won’t tell you how long ago. You know, last week, when—so yeah, we had a nice laugh about that. And then we had a fun scene together that I actually don’t know if it made it in to Episode 1. Is it still in there?

No…

ML: Oh, maybe it’s in Episode 2 then, where I’m seeking some counseling from her. Anyway, so she’s wonderful. She was such a delight. I think she had a good time. And always smiling and so gracious to everyone. So yeah, that’s the Cybill experience.

So you went undercover in a roller derby episode. Are there any other things you’d like to go undercover and try in the series?

ML: Oh, gosh. Everything. Yeah. That’s when I have the most fun I think because as an actress I get – in the episodes where I go undercover – to play many different roles. So it’s really fun for me; when those episodes come along I get to really sink my teeth into something. In this last episode I got to be a detective, I got to be a roller derby girl, I had to almost get caught and my cover blown at one point, and then there had to be a softer, sweeter sort of romantic side as well. So yeah, I would go undercover as anything. I see characters all the time and I’m like, “Oh, I want to do that. How could Juliet go undercover in a pageant? How could Juliet go undercover as a _______?” I don’t know. So yeah, I think anything they want to throw at me I’d be willing to do. I can’t really think of any one character I’d like to go undercover as though.

Well, you nailed the sorority girl already.

ML: That wasn’t too much of a stretch. [laughs] That wasn’t so much sinking my teeth into anything as just being natural. No, I’m kidding. That was a lot of fun. And Season 1 especially, because I was really trying to find the character, and then they were like, “Oh, by the way, here you go. You get to play college and ditzy and wear pink and not suits all the time.” It was really fun. But that was kind of the same for roller derby as well. It was like this tough side to Juliet that she really enjoys exploring.

We just finished talking with the costume designer. So have there been any costumes that you got to wear that you’ve been really pleased with?

ML: Oh, well, yes. Yes. There was a—this year?

Or at all.

ML: Well, Season 1, I don’t know if you remember the “Weekend Warriors,” the Civil War re-enactment episode?

Oh, yeah.

Maggie Lawson as Juliet O\'Hara - Alan Zenuk/USA Network PhotoML: That was really, really fun. Except that we were shooting out in these meadows that were filled with bugs, and I had a gigantic hoop skirt on. So at one point we were getting ready to roll, and I had these long bloomers on. By the way, I absolutely loved the outfit. It was one of the most fun because I come out having this musket and it’s like last minute and they’re sewing up my—it had a corset kind of back to it, and Shawn and Gus are having to pull it really tight. It was all really silly fun.

But yeah, at one point I’m like, “Wow, that’s weird. What is that? I feel something on my—” I had these long bloomers on, and all I see is something about this big [holds her fingers about 3 inches a part] that was black. And it had made it up to about here [shows a spot on her upper thigh]. And I was like, “Oh, this is going to hurt. I know it’s going to hurt but I’ve got to do it.” And I was like… [smacks her thigh with her hand] And it was like, “Ah!” “Are you okay? Are you okay?” And I had them slit it open and the thing fell out. I could never find it on the ground. I still have no idea if I got stung or bit or what it was, but I’m not kidding it was this big [shows us the size again]. And the welt on my knee was about that big [makes big circle with her hands]. That’s my funny “Weekend Warrior” story. Those girls had it rough in those days. [we all laugh] [jokingly] And I don’t think they had Off! or Skin So Soft or anything. So that really sucked for them.

But I think my next favorite would have to be the roller derby outfit, just because it’s so unlike anything – well, I think the men on the set really liked those outfits as well. I’m not naming any names. Yeah. Fishnets and short shorts and cleavage and arm bands and dark eye makeup. It was just a really fun role to step into. The first day I wore it I was like, “Wow, this is the furthest I’ve ever been from myself, ever.” So own it. Just own it. And then by the end I was like, “Can I wear it again?” So now I’m kind of sad because yesterday was the last day I got to wear it.

How do you like working in Vancouver?

ML: I love working in Vancouver. This city is so wonderful, and we have by far the greatest crew I’ve ever worked with. And yeah, the city’s been really good to us, all of us. It’s really nice. We feel safe and we’re all happy. And we get the best of both worlds here. You get the urban, downtown life but then you get-you’re just surrounded by the most beautiful nature and mountains and lakes and oceans. And it’s really special.

So you’re getting used to the rain as well?

ML: Yeah. Yes and no. I can see where living here would be tough, but we’re so blessed in that we shoot from April to October. So we’re here for the nicest months. Yeah, we hit some rain on the bookend months, but yeah, it’s—I like it because the weekends come and we’re all so exhausted. And if it’s sunny out you’re like, “Oh, we have to go outside and do something. It’s so nice.” But when it’s raining you’re like, “We can just sleep all day.” You do what you want to do and you don’t feel guilty. Where in L.A. every day you wake up and you almost take it for granted. So yeah, I’d say that the 1 in 5 beautiful days that you get in a week here, they’re worth it because they’re so gorgeous. And you’ve sort of earned it. I don’t know.

Are there any guest stars that you’d like to see on the show?

ML: That haven’t already been on the show? Oh, gosh, that’s a good question. Yes. Anyone who wants to come up and do the show. That’s a hard question. I have to go back to that. More wrestlers? No. Sorry. As I look at Brad. We do have a wrestler this year.

Mickie James.

ML: Yeah, we have Mickie James who’s the WWE 2008 champion. Yeah, she was a roller derby girl in one of our episodes. She’s awesome.

Would you like to do a WWE type episode?

ML: That would be fun. Brad, Juliet goes undercover as a wrestler?

USA PR Rep/Brad: I think James is going to fight you on that because I think he’d probably like to go undercover as the wrestler.

ML: That’s true. That’s true.

USA PR Rep/Brad: It could be a mixed tag team.

Maggie Lawson answers questions. -- USA Network Photo: Alan Zenuk ML: That’s true. Oh, that would be funny, and weird. [we laugh]

USA PR Rep/Brad: Somehow Gus gets screwed in all that.

ML: I was going to say, that’s a—yeah, that would be funny, though, right?

USA PR Rep/Brad: That would be good. It had been talked about.

ML: Really?

USA PR Rep/Brad: Yeah, it had been talked about.

What kind of nickname could you come up for an episode like that?

ML: Oh. The title of the episode or for my own name?

Your name.

ML: Oh gosh, I’d have to come up with something good. What do they say? What is your porn-what’s your stripper name? It’s the street you grew up on.

And the name of your first pet.

ML: And my first dog. Yeah. I’d be Rosemary Snicky. [we all laugh] That’s what I’d go as. It’s not that porn and wrestling are at all connected. But I’m just not that – I don’t think that well on my feet when it comes to quirky names. James is really good at that. But yeah, so I guess I’d have to go with that…. Rosemary Snicky.

That’s a good one.

ML: That’s where I grew up and that was my first pet.

So how hard is it keeping a straight face working with Dulé and James?

ML: It’s not hard, it’s impossible. Yeah, there’s—it’s become now, now that it’s Season 3 and everyone’s very comfortable, somewhat of a game when it’s the other person’s coverage. So it’s like, “Oh, it’s Maggie’s close-up.” I can almost see Dulé and James in a corner, “Psst, psst.” And I’m like, “Oh. Every time? We have to do this every time?” But now I’m starting to get them back a little bit. So yeah, they play—it’s like some sort of challenge now where we’re all trying to top the other one for who can crack. But James is the hardest one. James is the hardest one to crack, and Tim’s the easiest one to crack.

Really?

ML: Yes. Yes. Because he has to be so serious all the time, and he’s not that serious of a guy. He’s a fun-loving guy. Yeah, so he’s very, very serious in the character. So if he starts to crack even a little bit, he’s gone. He’s gone. And then we all get the giggles and then we’re all gone.

Tim Omundson as Roland Lassiter, Mercedes Ruehl as Gooch - Alan Zenuk/USA Network PhotoThat must have been tough when Mercedes Ruehl was doing that guest appearance?

ML: Oh, yes.

She was all over the place.

ML: Yes, she was. I actually wasn’t there for any of the shooting of the scenes, but I heard. I heard all about the giggling and the— yeah. John Landis directed that episode as well, so. He always – he gets very – he’s very funny. He loves us so much, but he hates when we get the giggles. [laughs]

Are there any questions that we should be asking Tim? Because I think he’s going to be coming up in the interview.

ML: Questions to be asking Tim? Oh, let’s see. What comes up for Tim this year? Can we talk about it? You can tell him that I said he is the first one to crack always. You can also tell him that I said that I am the best at Mafia.

I think everyone before you has said that.

ML: Exactly.

The next person that comes in, “Make sure you tell Maggie that I’m the best at Mafia.” Although Dulé did say that when he and James are together they are unstoppable.

ML: Okay, when—this is different. This gets interesting. Yes and no, because they frame – they like to frame people when they’re Mafia. That’s their kind of move. So now people are kind of onto it. Yeah. I was framed once, and—

Once?

ML: And that’s all it took. And yeah, so you can kind of spot their move early on. Dulé, I think, is probably the hardest to read until the third round in, and then he’s so vocal that you’re like, “Yeah, you’re dead. And you’re Mafia.” But no, yeah, okay. All right. No, they’re good. They’re good together. I’ll give them that. They’re good together.

Dulé did say that we would all be dead if we were playing with him.

ML: If you were playing Mafia with Dulé?

He said we would all be dead.

ML: Okay. I don’t know if that’s the best strategy, though. See, that’s why I think he loses because you have to be very strategic in who you choose to kill because you don’t want to give anything away. And you can’t just go killing everybody. So I think it’s really a bad move. I think he’d have to die early in that round. What a horrific game we’re talking about. This is really funny.

Well, you know, there’s a dead body in almost every episode.

ML: There is a dead body in almost every episode. How is that in Santa Barbara, this tiny, little, ocean, happy, sunny city? And half the population’s dead on our comedy show.

You should have an actual Mafia episode.

ML: [makes a 'you caught me face'] Shhhhh. That’s funny. That’s a good idea. I love that. [we all laugh] That’s really good. No, that’s good. I have plans. I have plans. Plans are being discussed that you know nothing about. No, that’s good. That’s a really good idea. Someone really smart [grins cheekily] must have thought of that. All right. Anything else?

Is there an ’80s reference that you’ve really connected to that you can relate to?

ML: An ’80s—? Oh, yeah, only the entire second episode of the season, I would say. It’s a John Hughes throwback. The music, the outfit. I mean, the whole thing. Which is really funny because I have to go undercover—

[checks with the USA Rep to make sure she can talk about it]

I have to go undercover as a member of the high school reunion that the episode is taking place at, and I show up in a prom dress that I never got to wear to my prom. So Juliet’s running around in undercover, really crinkly, shiny pink attire. And I have to – I’m undercover so I sort of have to convince everyone that I’m a member of the class. Like, “How are you?” Yeah. And the whole – it’s a whole John Hughes thing, so even the characters, some of the shots and the scenes. That I think for all of us just because that’s what we all grew up with was just—oh my god, it was so much fun. It was like finally, after all the ’80s references we have on the show we get that episode.

Have you got a great Psych-out?

ML: Not yet, actually. I’m—well, in the past we’ve had a couple of fun Psych-outs.

What was your favorite?

ML: One of them never made it, I think. Did “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” ever make it? I was lead singer on that one.

I think it’s on the website.

ML: Hmmm? Oh, it’s on the website. Yeah. That was probably the most fun to do. And the first one I ever did was “I’ll Make Love to You,” that Boyz II Men song. And that will always be close to my heart because we reference Chad Michael Murray again.

Yeah, he never comes up.

ML: [laughs] He never comes up, so it was kind of a fun—

Would you like him to be a guest star on the show?

ML: [gets excited] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. [looks like she's going to say more but stops herself] That’s all I’ll say.

Put him in the same episode with Billy Zane.

ML: Yeah, exactly. We should get Billy Zane in here and we should get Chad Michael Murray. I should stop talking. [laughs]

Well, thank you for coming.

ML: Well, thank you, guys. I hope that somewhere in all of that something makes sense.

Don’t forget! Psych returns this Friday, the 18th, at 10/9c on USA.

2 Responses to “PSYCH’s Maggie Lawson, Master of Mafia”

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