Last week, Zachary Levi, the star and Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, executive producers of NBC’s Chuck – premiering with back-to-back episodes on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 at 9/8 and moving to its regular timeslot Monday, Jan. 11th at 8/7C – took part in a conference call Q&A session. Here are the highlights from that session:
On Chuck’s new abilities:
Zachary Levi: Well first of all thank you. Thank you for liking the show. We appreciate that very much. And as far as Chuck being able to fight this season I like it very much as an actor and as a man. For two and a half years I’ve – well for two years I kind of sat on the sidelines and watched Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski, Casey and Sarah respectively, kick bad guys’ butts and was very jealous of that. Not that Chuck should have been able to do it at that point, you know, he was much better at running away or screaming… like a little girl. But now that he has this new intersect (unintelligible) and the abilities that come with that he is able to kind of lend a hand in the kick butt-ery if you will.
But I think that, you know, Chris and Josh and our other writers have crafted that very well so it’s been a – changed really the dynamic of the show or more specifically the dynamic of Chuck and who he is. You know, he’s still the kind of – the somewhat bumbling hero and I think that’s what brings so much of the heart and general premise of the show and keeps that there. And so, though Chuck now has these abilities they’re fleeting, they’re in and out, they’re glitchy. So it lends this new door that we walk through now just lends itself to both more action and more comedy which I think is good all the way around.
Fedak: … it’s certainly something that Sarah Walker is very cognizant of and concerned about because, you know, she fell in love with the guy, she didn’t fall in love with the spy. And as she watches the guy become the spy, you know, that’s going to be a source of really good angst between the two of them – not really good for them but really good for audiences I think because it’s – it allows for them to really have some great scenes together.
With the new intersect you have to keep in mind that it was not designed – it was not designed – it was designed for a like super cold emotionless spy like Bryce Larkin, someone who could, you know, essentially handle all these new abilities.
Now the problem is is that’s it’s been downloaded into a guy like Chuck Bartowski who’s like filled with emotion. And, you know, anxiety, fear, he’s in love with his partner, all the things, you know, do not – and actually don’t help the intersect – don’t help with these abilities. So, you know, what we fun this season is like putting Chuck into these incredibly emotional incredibly dynamic action sequences. And sometimes the intersect works perfectly and sometimes when he gets flustered, when he gets upset it begins to, you know, it essentially fritzes out and he’s not able to flash.
So it’s like very much the maturation of the process going back to the spy side of the story is that Chuck’s ability – Chuck’s learning how to control his emotions is very much a part of like him being able to operate fully and completely as this kind of new intersect 2.0.
Now in regard to the abilities themselves there’s a lot of abilities…
On guest stars:
Josh Schwartz: We’ve lined up hopefully a really fun eclectic group of actors to, you know, we have these episodes where we don’t have a lot of time to spend, you know, delving into the very complicated and intricate back stories of our villains. So we find these great actors who can come in and really make an impression very, very quickly and bring so much of their body of work to the roles. So obviously Vinnie Jones – I don’t think he’s really done any television before so having him come in and play a bad guy and bring that sort of that Guy Richie villain energy.
Armand Asante is hilarious…
Chris Fedak: You know, when you’re trying to cast the Castro-like dictator Armand Asante is the perfect guy. You don’t need a back story to prove that. It’s like he can literally be that person.
Also when you’re trying to find someone to be the kind of ominous soldier from Casey’s past – we just finished shooting an episode with Robert Patrick and he’s just fantastic.
Schwartz: And if you’re Chuck on a plane and you flash on a bad guy that you’re going to be trapped on a plane with that you have to then, you know, defeat and that person is as terrifying as Stone Cold Steve Austin, viewers are then really on that journey with Chuck.
On guest stars Brandon Routh and Kristen Kreuk:
Schwartz: They’re obstacles – Josh again – they’re obstacles for Chuck and Sarah but I think – we didn’t want to just bring in characters to merely be obstacles. I think you’ll find that the way that they interact in the spy story lines and certainly the case with Brandon’s character is going to reveal complications and secrets throughout the season.
When Brandon’s character comes into the show he’s this mysterious kind of hotshot young guy who’s being asked to lead the team. So obviously Casey doesn’t like answering to anybody. And so there will be some friction there.
Fedak: Yeah, it’s not simply romantic it also speaks to the mythology of the show.
Casey and Sarah but especially Casey have been there to protect Chuck. You know, they’re almost like a Secret Service detail. But this season, you know, Adam is now given this kind of – this new – this kind of new charge which is to turn Chuck into a real spy. So they’re not only there to protect him but they’re also there to train him, in some ways to be his sensei.
That’s been a lot of fun to watch this season. And it’s a lot of fun to see, you know, Adam, you know, kind of be that kind of older brother, you know, type character.
Schwartz: You’ll actually see him compliment Chuck this year.
Casey’s harboring a secret of his own that he’s kept quiet to the team and that’s going to come into play this year as well.
On coming back in January instead of March:
Schwartz: We were actually thrilled to come back in January because for us it’s, you know, we’re the only thing premiering in January for the network. And I think we’ve all been really excited and impressed by the amount of promotion the network has thrown behind the show this year. And that we all will really – we feel like the promos that they’ve cut really tell the story of the season this year; that No More Mr. Nice Spy is a very pithy way I think of summing up the season. So, you know, we’ve been really excited about that.
On which is harder – directing an episode or playing a spy:
Levi: Oh I would have to say 100% being a television director. And I can only say that because being a spy is completely fictitious I suppose. And not that it doesn’t have its difficulties, you know, we – being a spy on the show we get to do a lot of fun stuff but a lot of that fun stuff also requires a lot of rehearsal and choreography and making sure that you don’t hurt someone else or yourself. You know, and with my long noodly arms that’s not always a guarantee. I have whiplashed a few. But directing an episode of television – and maybe even specifically our show although I mean I suppose – I can’t speak of directing any other shows so I don’t know by comparison.
But I do know from speaking to our other directors that have come in and directed our show it’s a very difficult show to direct. It’s a lot, it’s just, you know, and people watching the show can tell, you can sense, you know, there’s a lot to the show, there’s mini-genres. It’s a cornucopia of genres if you will, a horn of plenty.
Schwartz: Yeah, this is Josh again. The episode turned out great. We also decided for Zach’s first episode we were going to give him one of the more ambitious, important, you know, in the series mythology of the show kind of episodes to do.
Fedak: We did Zach no favors. It’s an important episode. And he’s absolutely right, the Chuck show is an incredibly difficult show to direct because you’re doing comedy and action which are really difficult in their own right and we try to do both of them.
On the Buy More:
Josh Schwartz: [The] Buy More will always be a dysfunctional hotbed of competingly bizarre personalities. They’re going to face their own challenges this year, cut backs and potential management overthrows, a new assistant manager coming into the mix, someone you may know from the show. Jeff I think actually has gotten weirder this year if that’s even possible. I don’t know if he’s hitting the ether too much this season or what.
Fedak: We’re not allowed to say ether.
Schwartz: Oh we’re not? But – well then bleep that – redact that as they say in this Buy world. And, you know, there’ll be a new comely young lady who’s going to come work at the Buy More this year played by Miss Kristin Kreuk… She play Hannah and she’s going to set multiple hearts aflutter not just Chuck’s.
Fedak: But as a new member of the Nerd Herd and she does wear the uniform.
Schwartz: I think a lot of friction for Casey this year is going to actually come at the Buy More where he’s going to be given more responsibility. And without giving too much away, find the Buy More to be, you know, potentially his future.
Fedak: Yeah, we thought Casey was underserved in the Buy More side of the story so we’re having fun there.
On Jeff and Vic:
Schwartz: Those guys are invaluable comic support for us. They drive, I mean, Vic has – we have like a – without giving too much away just the Buy More – (buy a fight club) storyline where Vic – where Lester really goes bananas.
And, you know, obviously you can expect and look forward to the return of Jester.
Fedak: Yeah but so far this season we’re really just getting glimpses into their world. I will promise this, we will see him – Lester’s bedroom.
Schwartz: And his PJs. You will see what Lester sleeps in… It involves feet.
On Chuck’s life after Awesome and Ellie’s wedding:
Schwartz: They moved out, they found an apartment across the way and Chuck and Morgan are getting their bachelor pad.
Levi: …it continues to put the strain on our bromance, which is pretty difficult because, you know, Chuck and Morgan have been best friends since they were young kids. And over the last two seasons, you know, Chuck has had to distance and distance himself from his best friend, you know, A, to make – to try and keep him safe, you know, his entire personal life is always kind of at risk depending on how much they know or how close they are to the danger that he is now involved with.
But also the lies, you know, how he does that is being able to lie to them, you know, day in and day out and that starts to really have an effect on their ability to just, you know, be friends.
Morgan moves into Chuck’s place and now they have their bachelor pad and that’s good for a little while. But then eventually it makes it actually kind of worse in some ways because now they are so close in proximity physically that Morgan sees how absent his friendship – his friend and friendship are. So you’ll definitely see that, you know, take its toll in this season and come to a head in a big way, which is exciting and cool and, you know, all part of how these characters are all growing and evolving.