Hold onto something, Psychos, because Maggie Lawson - who we’ve loved for many years as Juliet on the USA Network smash - is starring in her own sitcom, Back In The Game, which premieres tonight on ABC.
The good news is that she’s not done with Psych... yet. But if this new series – about a single mother who moves back home with her cantankerous father – is a hit, there may be another story to tell.
For now, with Lawson's future both exciting and uncertain, I grabbed some time with the actress to talk about her future on USA, as well as what drew her to this new role...
TV Fanatic: Was Back In The Game something you were looking for either as a sitcom or just something outside what you’ve been doing on Psych?
Maggie Lawson: It wasn’t so much that I was looking for something in particular...it was more about the character, I think, and the script, and the show, but whether that was a comedy or a drama, I wasn’t going into pilot season thinking, ‘I want this.’ But I did want a complicated character. I wanted something that felt a little different, obviously, than Juliet, but also feminine, but tough and complicated and funny is just a bonus on top of all of that...I read the script and it was like, “This is it, this is it.”
TVF: Do you personally have a tomboy element to you? Were you athletic growing up?
ML: I have two brothers and all my cousins were boys, for the most part. So I don’t really think of myself as a tomboy but I did sort of see myself as one of them. Like I was a tough kid, I was an athlete, I definitely ran around, and I could hold my own. So, yeah, there was maybe a little bit of a tomboy element, a scrappy element.
TVF: Do you see the concept of the show as kind of a second chance kind of thing with what Terry goes through?
ML: With this character, in particular, and going home, I don’t know if it’s a second chance so much as just like a starting over, maybe a clean slate, hopefully. I think the hope is in Danny, her son, because she’s already messed up, and Dad’s already messed up, but there is this hopeful, smart, beautiful thing that we’re both protecting in different ways.
I’m really protecting from [Terry, Sr. – aka ‘The Cannon’ - played by Caan]. I also love that there is that sort of link to, they spark. It’s a boy and it’s his grandpa. So I think there is something there, I think there’s something really sweet about that, that I think we’re going to see that play out in the episodes, their bond as well. I think that Danny just holds the hope for all of us misfits and mess-ups.
TVF: I think we always relate to like a group of misfits, like The Bad News Bears and the fact that the team isn’t really going to get better. Do you think that is our connecting point into the show?
ML: I definitely do. What I love about the show, one of the things, is that these are the kids that didn’t make that team. I like that there’s an element of, in all of the fighting and the sarcasm and all of that stuff, that we’re sort of embracing their individuality. The winning/losing, if you’re good if you’re now, like whatever, ‘You want to play? You get to play, and we’re going to make that happen. I don’t know if you’re going to be any good but we’re going to support you as you are.’ And I love that.
TVF: Are we going to meet Terry’s ex-husband?
ML: I believe we are. I definitely think he should show up, I think he’s going to at some point. I don’t think there’s any hope for them, based on how it all sort of went down, but I do think, I mean it’s still Danny’s Dad, so I think that’s always a really complicated element in any storyline and in life. This is a thing we created together, ‘ah crap, we’re not working out, but that’s his dad.’ So I think it could create a whole weird dynamic. And then you’ve got The Cannon protecting me from that guy, I think it could be really interesting.
TVF: Now, how surreal is it that you have James Caan playing your dad?
ML: Oh my God.
TVF: He was in The Godfather!
ML: Can we just talk about, I go in for my audition, I’m like, ‘Whoa,’ I’m really lucky. I’m really lucky. And on Psych, William Shatner got to be my dad and Jeffrey Tambor got to be my stepdad, so I’m doing pretty good. I’m doing pretty good with the dads.
TVF: How is it with you and Jimmy on set, whether you’re shooting the pilot or now? Is it like a fatherly thing or is it more just peers? How is it?
ML: It’s a little of both. I think the dynamic in the show is that as well. I think there was probably a role reversal with them, and there still kind of is, where she’s the parent. Like I said from the get go, we were fighting and busting each other up, even at the audition. So we play and we play every day. So sometimes it is very fatherly, sometimes it’s mentory, and sometimes it’s just a couple of buds hanging out. It’s awesome.
TVF: Because the Psych fans are going to be nervous now if they see you on another show, you’ve already finished shooting the new season, right?
ML: Season eight. Yeah.
TVF: And then if schedules work out…
ML: If schedules work out, I mean look, Psych’s my other show. So if schedules would work out, I will be there. I feel pretty lucky. I don’t know how I got so lucky. And they’ve worked together, and Psych’s worked with them, and they’ve worked with Psych, and it’s just a beautiful thing.
TVF: Could you see playing this character as long as you’ve played Juliet on Psych?
ML: You know what? Absolutely. I really can see, I think that’s one of the special things about it, I can see that arc long term. [knocks on the table] God, we would be so lucky. I mean Psych, what an unbelievable thing Psych as been. It’s crazy right?
Back In The Game premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.