‘Psych 2’s Timothy Omundson on Joel McHale’s Casting & Lassiter’s Recovery
After he’s ambushed on the job and left for dead, the film — which also brings back Shawn (James Roday), Gus (Dulé Hill), Juliet (Maggie Lawson), Chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson), and Henry (Corbin Bernsen) — catches up with him at his recovery clinic, where strange happenings prompt an investigation. “[Creator] Steve [Franks] and James said, ‘We’re going to write Lassiter’s recovery in,’ and I expressed to them that I really wanted to make sure that we didn’t try and hide my physical disabilities and the fact that Lassiter had a stroke,” Omundson, who suffered a stroke in 2017, tells TV Insider. “I’m not the same physical actor that I was. I really didn’t want to try and hide that. … Lassiter’s exactly where I was physically and emotionally.”
Here, Omundson discusses the latest Psych movie and how it mirrored his own recovery, guest stars Joel McHale (as Lassiter’s father) and Sarah Chalke (as his nurse, Dolores), and more.
What was Lassiter up to before we first see him in the movie?
Timothy Omundson: He was happily married with the new baby. He was still booming as the chief. He was at the top of his career, which is right where I was when my stroke hit: the top of my game and couldn’t have gotten hit at a worst time, much like Lassiter in this movie.
#GratitudeTuesday AND a Flashback to 3 years ago today 6/9/17 and a massive dose of Canine Medicine from my sweet girl , Lucy. as I lay in a hospital bed recovering from my stroke (first time we had seen each other in months. ❤️) pic.twitter.com/m8Kq58KXl9
— Timothy Omundson (@Omundson) June 10, 2020
But then he’s injured on the job. How does that change his perspective, especially as it pertains to the case?
He experiences the frustrations of not being out on the streets like he would like to be and not being as involved as he normally would be, which is a really similar thing that I’m going through. I used to be independent and much more in the mix of life and working with a bunch of different actors and groups here and there, just being creative all the time. That’s taken a huge hit and it’s much more difficult to get that ball rolling again. It mirrored my real life pretty closely.
And does what’s happened to him change what we’ll see from his relationship with Shawn, Gus, and Juliet?
By the time we got to this point, he was so far different than where he started with those guys in the beginning of the series. With Juliet, him relying on her as his partner, as he always had took that relationship to the next level. [That relationship] is so incredible, and to see her risk her career and stick her neck out for him meant a lot to him.
And he gets a dog at the beginning of the movie.
That was inspired by a real moment when I was in the recovery hospital and my wife brought my dog Lucy in and she hopped right on the bed with me. There’s this amazing picture of Lucy and I kissing in my hospital bed, because we hadn’t seen each other in months. I think Steve wrote that bit in there based on this photograph.
In the first minutes of the movie, we meet Lassiter’s father — and I loved the exchange about Lassiter beards with young Carlton. How indicative is that scene of how their relationship was?
It was pretty right on. Young Lassiter obviously looked up to his father immensely and relied on him for leading his path in life. I love that they wrote in the homage to the king’s beard.
And how would you say that relationship shaped Lassiter into the person he is today?
It was everything. Having Joel play my father was incredible, just on a personal level, because we’re dear friends. Then here’s this big, tall, strapping, strong character of a man, which I think is what Lassiter grew up emulating, and then to be cut off at the knees like this and not be that physical guy that he was was pretty shocking and brutal on him. Then to have this dad appear back at his side and support him was a really lovely beat those guys wrote.
And they managed to surprise you with Joel McHale’s casting?
[Laughs] They did. Even my wife knew. No one would tell me, and I obviously wanted to know who because the character was so important. I kept bugging everybody, “Who’s playing my dad?” and [executive producer] Chris Henze and Steve Franks wouldn’t tell me. They were like, “We got a great guy. He came and he nailed the audition.” They went through incredible lengths to keep it hidden from me. I still to this day can’t believe it. Like I said, I’m friends with Joel and his wife, and the fact they kept it so long, that was amazing.
They came up with a fake name on the call sheet. I looked this actor up and found no IMDB credits. And then there was a day where I was sitting on set and Steve came on set, “OK, do you want to see who’s playing your dad?” and he gave me this speech, “We got this great local guy, he really nailed the audition, he’s going to come in, he’s just going to kill this role.” Then Joel walks in. We have this moment recorded on video, and it’s the biggest belly laugh I’d given since my stroke, just one of the greatest surprises in my life.
There’s also the new character of Lassiter’s nurse.
Oh, Sarah Chalke. For Lassiter, having to be relying on somebody else was pretty intense. I’m so lucky they got an actress that’s as funny as Sarah to come in and play Dolores. She just nailed every beat.
And we got an outsider’s perspective of Shawn and Gus’ antics because Lassiter’s used to it.
Also, it’s really comforting for him to have those guys around.
What were you most excited to explore with Lassiter in this movie?
I was excited to explore the vulnerability he had of dealing with the emotions of him recovering, coming to terms with who he was now physically and as a human being. And Steve and James really gave me carte blanche. A lot of what you see Lassiter talking about going through emotionally is what I was going through emotionally myself. I was really grateful to have that soapbox to work some of those things out and think about them and express them.
The movie description made me think of the Psych episode that paid tribute to The Shining. What do you find the most fun about putting Lassiter in those bizarre situations?
Just to see this guy who’s so tightly wound, to see threads pop out and somebody tug on those threads and have them unravel is a really delicious thing to play. Especially in something like “Heeeeere’s Lassie.”
What do you think keeps fans coming back, for both the new installments and reruns?
They’re going to visit with their old friends. Because people started watching this show when they were so young, a lot of the fans kind of grew up with us in a way. And it’s interesting to see how they evolve and devolve and what they’re up to next. It’s just checking in and the comfort that comes with seeing old friends.
And the chances of getting more Psych, especially since now there’s Peacock?
It all just comes down how well the movie does. The proof will be in the pudding by how many people stream it. Like anything, if it does well, I think there will be more.
Is there anything you’d like to explore in another movie?
Probably more of Lassiter’s family. A lot of it’s going to depend on how my recovery goes physically. I think each movie is going to be a little time capsule for where my recovery is. The first movie was so fresh after my injury that I could barely get through what we did in that FaceTime call with Maggie. I was watching it a little while ago. I just remember thinking how weak my voice was and I could barely physically move.
Over time, I got a little better and was able to do what I was able to do in Psych 2. I said to those guys on set, “I can’t wait for the next movie, hopefully.” Just as I continue to get stronger, Lassiter continues to get stronger and is able to do more things. Hopefully we get to see that, Lassiter’s recovery in real time.
And you also played Cain on Supernatural…
There’s one I would’ve loved to have gotten another shot at. But not to be greedy, I’m so grateful that I got what I did on that show. … Obviously the fan base and that cast have become dear friends. The whole Supernatural family was really a big part of the emotional support of my recovery. And being able to do fan conventions and see that cast again is always an incredible joy.
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, Movie Premiere, Wednesday, July 15, Peacock