From the Set: Original CLUE stars Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, and Christopher Lloyd preview PSYCH’s “100 Clues”
In the middle of 2012, a group of us descended on the Vancouver set of PSYCH to watch them film their 100th episode (which airs Wednesday night at 10/9c on USA), and to talk to the cast and creative team about what’s coming up in Season 7. We sat down with three of the stars of CLUE, the 1985 movie that I played on repeated over the past almost-thirty years to talk about their guest starring roles in tonight’s 100th episode! Check out our chat with Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, and Christopher Lloyd!
What does it feel like to be together after so long? Was it a weird experience for you guys?
Martin: To be the ones that are still living? [LAUGH] Um, …
Lesley: Martin and I did a movie after Clue, so we …
Lesley: … played husband and wife in another movie and …
Lesley: … and so it’s fantastic to see him again. But it’s so great to see Christopher. It’s just amazing. You know? Really!
Christopher: Hadn’t seen Lesley since we wrapped …
Christopher: … Clue, yeah.
Lesley: A long time ago.
Martin: And she’s changed not a whit.
Lesley: Yeah. [LAUGH] Uh, …
Martin: It’s funny. Some of the energy feels very akin to what it was like on Clue, a lot of the mob scenes, running here, running there, running here, running there, etc. I think they’ve captured the essence of whatever it was we did that they kind of got that. It’s been nice.
Had you guys known each other before Clue?
You hadn’t worked together before?
Martin: No. [SNIFFS]
Lesley: No. Not at all.
Were you fans of Psych, had you see it before?
Lesley: I had not. I had not.
Martin: I missed the question.
Lesley: Have we seen Psych?
Martin: No, I hadn’t.
Completely new experience then?
Martin: Yeah. Yeah.
Lesley: What about you?
Christopher: No, I had no idea.
Lesley: Completely new experience.
Martin: In my defense, I rarely watch anything that doesn’t involve a ball. [LAUGH] You know …
Lesley: And a bat.
Martin: Base, foot or basket, you know, so it’s not that, I would go, oh, I don’t watch it. I don’t watch television.
What kind of honor is it for you to have such an iconic movie being portrayed in a show like Psych?
Lesley: Oh it’s fabulous. I mean, it’s interesting; Clue has taken on its own life, like Rocky Horror Picture Show, you know? I mean, I’ll go into a restaurant and some 20 year old server will come up to me and recite all these lines [LAUGH]. It’s really true. And you know, I know that they do it throughout the country in different places, but there’s a movie theater in L.A., that has a Clue night. And everybody dresses up and they do all the lines and sing. You know, they know the whole, so it’s fabulous that we’re here, doing this.
Martin: But it’s funny, it didn’t happen right out of the box though.
Martin: I mean it was not what you go, oh it was a hit movie at the time. You know? No, it has to take 40 years and be a cult [LAUGH][thing?]. [LAUGH] So, you don’t get …
Lesley: It’s true.
Martin: … you don’t get residuals from that little theater down the street, do you?
Lesley: [LAUGH] No.
What was your impression coming onto this set?
Lesley: Well I just finished a five year run on In Plain Sight, another USA show and, I was actually struck by it’s such a different set. The two leads, James and Dulé, are so darling and sweet and generous and lovely. And Maggie, you know, all of them are so open and collaborative and, you know, not that our set wasn’t [LAUGH]!
Lesley: No, [LAUGH] but it was a drama and it was very intense and it was very, you know, so it had a whole different energy. So it’s really fun, really creative and fun.
Martin: Yeah, I’m impressed by how silly they are. [LAUGH] They seem like they have no worry or ever say is this too big or is this too far? These are not questions that enter their minds. They’re willing, they just go for it and it’s great.
Lesley, what is it like to say goodbye to Jinx?
Lesley: Very sad. Very sad. When I read the last episode, changed a lot from when I originally got this script at home. But I was really sad. You know, because, and I was telling, Mary and I talked about it. Playing somebody’s mother for five seasons, if you get along with the actress, which we did, was a very poweful connection and experience. And to let that go was wrenching in some ways. I loved Jinx. She was amazing character for television, for anywhere, really. She was amazing. Thank you.
How did you guys get back involved with this? What was your first reaction when you heard they were going to be doing a Clue homage for Psych?
Lesley: Well I, you know, honestly I just got a call from my agents telling me that this was going on and, did I want to participate. And then I found out that Martin …
Lesley: … and Christopher were involved and I was like, this would be so much fun. This would be great. Definitely. It was that simple really.
Martin: Yeah, my agent just called, said remember when you worked back in 1978? [LAUGH] He said I think I have another opportunity for you. And, I couldn’t believe it so I called the gardening service I’ve been working for and [LAUGH] told them to sell the mower and it was, what Lesley said, it was the idea of knowing I was gonna be with these two, you know? You don’t say no. In fact I’m sure Michael McKean would be here if he had both legs operative right now. He got hit by a car.
Lesley: He got hit by a car. Yeah.
Martin: So, we wish him well.
Christopher: I had no idea! Barely knew that it was a-a takeoff on Clue. When I got here …
Christopher: I’m looking at a call sheeet [LAUGH] and[LAUGH] discovered that you both were cast members. I was like blown away.
Lesley: Oh, you didn’t know?
Christopher: I just couldn’t believe it.
Martin: You know, it helps to read the script. [LAUGH] That’s why we’re on the plane.
Can you each share some favorite moments from working on Clue?
Lesley: It was insane, insane on set. I mean I really feel like we were like [LAUGH] out of control. All of these, you know, brilliantly, hysterically funny comedic actors thrown together and doing their thing and this poor director, [LAUGH] could not corral us to save his life. And we were cracking up at each other’s stuff.
Lesley: Constantly. I mean constantly. So, you know, I think one of my favorite moments, I told you this the other day.
Lesley: We had a scene together when we were trying to get through a door [LAUGH] and it took, you know, we milked it ‘til it was, you know, ridiculous. But …
Martin: [MAKES NOISE] Just forever.
Lesley: … just made me laugh so much that …
Martin: You have to re-remember that we had Michael McKean, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn and …
Lesley: Madeline Kahn …
Martin: … Tim Curry all added to that mix, and we were all there, every day in every scene.
Martin: So when you have that many people who are certifiable in one room, [LAUGH] it just, she’s right, poor Jonathan [Lynn] was just kind of rather, not prim but he was kind of by the letter of the book director.
Lesley: English director. Yeah.
Martin: He wanted, you know, this is how it’s written, this is how we’ll do it.
Lesley: Yeah. Yeah.
Martin: And then we would proceed to just go miles …
Lesley: Go crazy.
Martin: … in another [LAUGH] way or something like that.
Lesley: He also had us, do you remember that he, I don’t know, I’m sure you were there, but he had us all come and watch His Girl Friday, …
Martin: Oh yes.
Lesley: … with Rosalind Russell …
Lesley: … because he wanted us to speak in that clipped, you know, sort of pace and you know,
Lesley: And that was the last thing we did that we actually paid attention to any direction he [LAUGH] gave us. It was balls to the wall after that.
Martin: Yeah, it’s unfortunate, it wasn’t one of those situations where there’s also a crew doing the making of, you know?
Lesley: Yeah. [LAUGH]
Martin: Because that would be something I would probably go out and see again tonight!
Can you talk a little bit about what your character is on this episode of Psych?
Lesley: lt’s nothing like my character in Clue. Um, she’s kind of nervous and shy and was the number one groupie in her day [LAUGH] and has this, and still feels a lot of pride about that. And, you know, she’s a single mom and I don’t want to give away too much, but my character in Clue is much more sort of sexy, angry, you know, I had this whole other energy. So it’s interesting to be doing this Clue takeoff and having a very diametrically opposed character to play in it. It’s a little bit, I have to wrap my head around it every time.
Martin: And I’m basically a drunken old fart so it’s kind of a reach. [LAUGH] I was Billy Lipps’ road manager and I am no stranger to the bottle and virtually everything I say as written is undecipherable, or indecipherable, I’m not sure which it is but he just mumbles his way through the whole thing, drunk. And the people that do hair on the show are actually much better than this. They did this on purpose. [LAUGH] Gotta give ‘em credit.
Christopher: I pass.
Lesley: Ah, you pass?
Christopher: No, no. The defining thing for my character is also different from what I feel, from what it was in the movie is that he graduated from Harvard. That’s his defining how he defines himself. And I feel as it’s gone along, he’s a very repressed person and has been barely able to maintain his self-control in certain moments and kind of like that.
How does filming this compare to filming the original?
Lesley: No, I think, I think because we were there for three and a half months in this one set that was built on the Paramount lot and as Martin said, we were all in all of the scenes together. So, it had, you know, it took on its own sort of life, you know. And this is, obviously, it’s a truncated schedule to say the least in comparison. We’re doing a week’s worth of work that we shot in three and a half months. So there’s the pressure of time constraints and the reality of that.
Lesley: And trying to create as much as you can in that moment with the reality of serving a television series, which is ultimately different. So it’s a very different energy I would say.
Martin: Yeah. Yeah, there’s something that happens to just your brain when you are like she said, that all of us were in one set for 13 weeks. It’s probably the same kind of mentality that happens when people are trapped in an elevator, [LAUGH] you know, for eight hours and something happens to your sense of logic and your ability to communicate, etcetera. So it just blew out down on Clue. We haven’t had it; if we stayed here long enough, we could get that to happen here.
Martin: I’m sure.
Lesley: It’s like being in therapy, in a marathon therapy session.
Lesley: And everybody gets very real, you know, all the guards are down. So, yes, different. [LAUGH]
Talk about doing the same scenes over again.
Lesley: Well, I mean, you have a lot of time to rehearse and there are many, many more takes, generally speaking on a film.
Lesley: You know, than in television. Things can happen in a moment when you’re doing the work this way, on a television set, because it has to, you know? On the other hand, you can also develop a character much more deeply and the relationships much more specifically which brings another whole color to what you’re doing.
Martin: You know, something else that’s kind of interesting about the Clue movie, at least to me, and isn’t that really what’s important? [LAUGH] Is that we never knew during, we could shoot, we pretty much shot in sequence because we’re all in one outfit and we’re on one stage so there’s no reason to do day five before day one. You could do one, two, three, four. We never knew, during the course of the shooting, who the killer was.
Martin: We didn’t know if we were guilty or not.
Martin: And then we didn’t know at all until we were done with the body of the show, we didn’t know there were gonna be four endings.
Martin: That, yeah. There were four different endings shot and depending on which theater you went to, that was the ending you saw. So that if you went to the Bijou last night and said, oh, I love it. I love it when Miss Scarlet kills the guy. You’d go, no, it wasn’t. It was Mr. Green. Or whatever, because the other theater had a different one.
Martin: But we didn’t know any of this stuff.
Do we know who the murderer is this time around?
Martin: I don’t even know my lines. [LAUGH]
Lesley: We shouldn’t give things away! I don’t think we should give it away.
Martin: I don’t think so either.
Lesley: You know?
Lesley: So we won’t say. Be surprised.
Martin: It will be equally enjoyable.
Have any of you had to yet portray the dead body on the show? [LAUGH]
Lesley: Are we allowed to say?
Martin: I, gee, I don’t know. You might want to talk to someone who’s, uh …
Lesley: In charge.
Martin: Higher up the ladder.
Does one of the three of you at some point end up as a dead body? [LAUGH]
Lesley: This is kind of like how we …
Martin: Well I didn’t feel real good when I got up this morning. [LAUGH] Uh, but I managed to make it into the shower.
Lesley: Oh, God. [LAUGH]
How do you find TV comedy now as compared to when you guys were first coming out?
Christopher: I’m not sure. I get asked about, questions like how much TV has changed, and I don’t feel it particularly because I get a call, I go to the job. Director says action and pretty much seems the same. I guess the kind of comedy is a little different from ’70 and ‘80’s but I don’t feel I’ve changed the way that, you know, affects me particularly. I don’t know.
Martin: I’m thinking like, for instance, I just did a several episodes for the Charlie Sheen show working on that.
Lesley: Two and a Half Men?
Martin: … Two and a Half Men, and the main difference is what they’re talking about and what they are “getting away with”, etcetera is different. But as far as a performer, it’s still the same thing. You get your script. You learn your script. There’s a tape mark on the floor, you hit it. You get two takes. You go out to the craft services, eat cheese puffs and have coffee and come back and do the next part and then you go home on Friday night. It’s not that different. It’s just that some things are more permissible, I guess. But, you know, like with stand-up comedy, what’s permissible is ridiculous. I mean Lenny Bruce would be a choir boy compared to a lot [LAUGH] of things that are happening now. But, so that part is different.