It’s a good day for Chuck fans. With the season premiere less than a month away, it’s definitely not too early to start speculating over what’s to come for Chuck! In addition to the snazzy new promotional photo we received today for the new season of Chuck, we also have the transcript of a conference call that series star Zachary Levi and Co-Creators/Executive Producers Josh Schwartz & Chris Fedak were kind enough to do with the press last week.
As per NBC, Chuck returns to the NBC lineup on Sunday, January 10 with all new missions in two action packed back to back original episodes in the season premiere from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. before the series moves to Mondays at 8:00 p.m., it’s regular time period, beginning January 11th.
Below is the full transcript of the conference call with Zachary Levi, Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak:
Question for Zachary, what do you think of Chuck being able to fight now the way that he’s going to be able to fight? Do you like that for the character? And is it fun for you as an actor or is it a pain for you as an actor?
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.
And it doesn't change the heart of the show which I think, you know, some fans I know were maybe concerned like oh gosh now he’s chasing more and it’s not going to be the same show anymore. Well I can guarantee you I am no (unintelligible) so...
Is pretending to be in love with Yvonne like your easiest acting challenge on the...
Zachary Levi: It’s pulling teeth. No, it’s not. Yeah, it’s very good, man. I mean, you know, I've gotten to - Chuck’s gotten to fall in love with, you know, a few women now over the years and fortunately for me they've all been really, really, really good looking women. And that certainly helps in your process as an actor to have to pretend that you’re attracted to these girls because I am - because they’re all very attractive girls. So, yeah, it’s a good deal.
You guys have a lot of great guest stars all the time and this season is - looks to be the same, I was wondering if you can talk about some of them besides Kristin and Brandon doing multiple episodes, some of the people like Vinnie Jones and Stone Cold Steve Austin what they'll be playing?
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, it’s Josh and here with Chris. And, yeah, 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.
Josh Schwartz: The leader of (Costa Gravas) of course, the...
Chris Fedak: (Costa Gravas), yeah.
Josh Schwartz: That’s a very - a very fragile, you know, Dominican Republican community.
Chris Fedak: I think (Costa Gravas) might be our strangest reference this season. The other thing too is like when you - 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.
It’s just wonderful; you know almost exactly who that person is. And we have fun with that.
Josh 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.
Chris Fedak: But actually a very nice man.
And is it safe to say that Brandon Routh and Kristin Kreuk’s characters are going to be some major obstacles for Chuck and Sarah?
Josh 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.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, it’s not simply romantic it also speaks to the mythology of the show.
Guys obviously fans were very excited when NBC announced that you'd be coming back in January rather than March. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the conversations that you had with NBC about why you were coming back early. And did you ever talk about perhaps being on another night other than the uber-competitive Monday night at 8:00 pm timeslot?
Josh Schwartz: Well it was a evolving conversation. I mean, I think, you know, we were getting our information not that far ahead of when you guys were. And sometimes the opposite was true, oftentimes we would learn about our fate from the blogs...
Chris Fedak: We’re constantly searching the Internet for that.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, for answers of when we’re coming back. So but 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.
Obviously coming back with a two-hour premiere hopefully for our fans is exciting after this long draught, a flood of Chuck episodes coming at you three in the course of 24 hours. So that’s all really exciting for us.
You know, as for Mondays at 8:00 that was our time period and it’s gotten us to Season 3 so, you know, we'll take it.
My first question is for Zachary. I read that you directed an episode this season, what’s more challenging, being a director - first time TV director or being a spy?
Zachary 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.
Zachary Levi: No, no, no, please, you guys are my flavor commentary, bring it in, bring it in.
Josh Schwartz: We’re on the right, we’re on the right.
Zachary Levi: We’re on the ride. So it's, you know, it’s a lot to take on. And a lot of take on a very short period of time. And then on top of that, you know, being in the show and directing it at the same time obviously doesn't make it easier.
But being surrounded by, you know, in my opinion the best crew in Hollywood and best cast and, you know, feeling the support that I have from Josh and from Chris and from our other writers and editors and everyone on post production and, you know, it was a really incredible experience.
And I, you know, there were certainly moments where I felt like I couldn't go on like this - I was very, very overwhelmed at a couple of moments. But overall it was just the most incredible experience and I'm happy to be through it and done with it and really happy with the product that we got from it so - but yeah it was difficult.
Josh 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.
Chris 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.
So Zach was really jumping into the deep end. And, you know, he was fantastic, he was swimming laps by the end of the day.
Now my other question is for the producers, we've heard about Chuck’s character, what are we going to see out of the Buy More this season?
Josh Schwartz: 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.
Chris Fedak: We’re not allowed to say ether.
Josh 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...
Chris Fedak: She plays Hannah.
Josh Schwartz: She play Hannah and she’s going to set multiple hearts aflutter not just Chuck's.
Chris Fedak: But as a new member of the Nerd Herd and she does wear the uniform.
I think all of our Mondays will be infinitely more enjoyable with Chuck back on the air. And I'm hoping you can talk a little bit about what the Subway integration for Season 3 and how that is going to be utilized?
Josh Schwartz: The name of the show is now Jared. It’s actually going to be far less of an integration I think than people feared or predicted at the end of last season. It won't be much more than what you saw last year.
Chris Fedak: And the integration was actually - it wasn't finalized. We started production early so you won't even see it actually until a little later on in the season. But it'll be very similar to last season.
Josh Schwartz: And no one working at a Subway if that’s what you’re asking. But we were open to that, you know.
Yeah, no. Just to ask as well how difficult was it to sort of plot out those back six episodes as they came sort of - the order for them came so kind of late in the game?
Josh Schwartz: I actually think it’s a great thing for fans because basically the season was being built to have this incredible end of season run as you get up to 13. And as I said to Chris, well 13 what a great season finale that he wrote. And of course it’s merely just another episode now with the back nine.
So then it was incumbent upon, you know, the writers to top that. So for the fans they’re going to get like a whole extra dose of, you know, insanity which I think is going to be really exciting and raises everybody’s game.
Chris Fedak: Yeah and the other part of that too is that since we started production early we had a bit of lead time. So like at the beginning of our season we said as soon as we sit down and try to figure out like what’s the big story that we’re going to tell.
So we had time to kind of figure out what those six, you know, huge episodes would be. And it’s some - it’s also a glimpse into, you know, what Season 4 is going to be.
I was wondering because I watched some of the preview material that was on nbc.com and I saw that Chuck will also be doing a little bit of Spanish guitar in addition to all the kung-fu and fighting moves. Is there anything else that you would like to see Chuck do that maybe you've never gotten a chance to do in real life?
Zachary Levi: Well considering I haven't done much in my real life there’s a whole lot, yeah. No, gosh, I don't know, I mean, you know, the writers certainly keep me on my toes. And we've been doing a lot of fun stuff. I would say most of it is fighting-oriented, you know, various forms of martial arts and, you know, in different kind of aspects be it for a moment or for a whole full-fledged fight.
But, yeah, you know, musical instruments and, you know, as you see in the previews I may or may not speak Thai...
Josh Schwartz: T-t-Thai.
Zachary Levi: And, you know...
Josh Schwartz: Dancing.
Zachary Levi: Some dancing and some vehicle maneuvering or, you know, whatever the case may be. I don't know, skydiving would be awesome. I don't know how we'd fit that in the budget but, you know, to have a little bit of that going on would be cool or bungee jumping or...
Chris Fedak: I've been trying to write a skydiving thing for like two seasons now. It’s just incredibly difficult to do but, yeah, that’s definitely on that...
Josh Schwartz: That’s a Fedak goal as well.
Zachary Levi: Yeah. So I don't know, I just - I mean, I'm personally in my own life a very big fan of extreme sports and adrenaline and all that stuff. So the more - but I think honestly almost anything to throw at Chuck would be outside of his norm because he doesn't do any of that, he experiences of all his adrenaline through video games.
So, you know, to throw anything at him will certainly be out of his comfort zone and make for good entertainment I think.
I wanted to know, you know, since, you know, ratings are such a big deal and you kind of have to keep an eye on that stuff - is that you something you consider when you are plotting out a season or thinking about the show or do you just have to kind of put that in a box so it’s not really a part of the game for you?
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, we've made our peace with that a long time ago. And, you know, for us it’s just about trying to make the best show possible and, you know, what was so gratifying last year was that people, you know, really connected to the show emotionally and just got very passionate about it.
And I think it was, you know, it wasn't about trying to be, you know, keep an eye towards ratings or write towards, you know, stunts. I mean certainly we tried to help ourselves by having, you know, great actors, guest actors come onto the show and we wanted to do that 3D episode when that was dangled in front of us.
You know, we don't miss an opportunity if there’s something presented to us that could help expose the show to the broadest possible audience because we do feel like the show is designed to be, you know, very broad and very commercially entertaining. We’re not, you know, it’s really supposed to be fun. And, you know, people can watch it at any age - from any age.
Obviously this year, you know, giving Chuck powers we felt was really opening up the show and even taking it one step further making it even more exciting, more visual, bigger stories, really pushing the character into new territory.
And I think NBC really felt inspired and excited by that and that’s reflected in the promo materials. I mean, this year was really just about taking everything we'd done in the previous two seasons higher. And I think hopefully that’s exciting for audiences as well.
And Mr. Levi I wanted to ask you, you know, kind of - your role - you’re kind of jumping across genres because you play some comedic stuff and you have to do the spy stuff. Has that become second nature for you just to kind of bounce back between those two in your acting?
Zachary Levi: Yeah, I suppose. I mean, I don't know to say second nature I think Chuck (unintelligible) up being a little easier than it is. But certainly after, you know, two years of being involved in a show that is such a multi-genre show you start to, you know, one would hope that you would start to feel how that works and how to go back and forth between wearing those hats.
And, you know, it’s - that’s part of what was so attractive - why the roles in the show were so attractive to begin with. You know, it’s an opportunity to be a part of something that’s not just this one (beat) that you’re playing you get to be a part of, you know, of many, many styles and tones and although kind of an overall tone to the whole show.
And, yeah, in some ways it’s second nature. I think - I would hope that, you know, any actor given enough time with a character, you live with it, you live with it every day and our days are long days so I live with it all day everyday for a long period of time.
But also Chuck in his heart I feel is very similar to who I am. I mean, you know, we’re both, you know, geeks about video games and comic books and pop culture and great 80s movies and so all that stuff helps lend itself toward being - feeling good in Chuck’s shoes.
And because I love action and have wanted to shot guns since I was a kid or even, you know, know karate since I was a kid all that stuff is stuff that I take on very gladly. I'm really happy for the opportunity especially in this season that, you know, now that Chuck gets to be a part of all that stuff.
And, you know, and it’s so - but it never gets away from the heart of the show which is still action comedy. You know, we definitely have some really kick-butt stuff but we always maintain the kind of, you know, funny bone even in it. So, yeah, it’s been awesome and challenging but a great challenge.
Josh Schwartz: And hopefully to, I mean, one of the - Josh again - one of the, you know, one of the challenges about being an actor in a television series can be sometimes playing - having to play the same character every week and having to play the same beats.
And, you know, we've really tried to make an effort that Chuck evolves. You know, and that he’s a very different guy I think this season from where he was in Season 1.
And so, you know, really trying to take advantage of Zach’s skills and abilities as an actor to really grow that character up so he’s not the same, you know, I can imagine it would be very frustrating if he was still sitting in the car, you know, scared of everything like he was in the beginning of Season 1.
But he really does - has come a long way I think as a character and as a guy, man, dare I say man? Man. And hope he does (fine) for audiences too because they’re really taking a journey with this guy and they’re not just, you know.
Chris Fedak: And, yeah guys, this is Chris. Just going off that point I think that this season very much is like we’re building a hero here. And so for each season essentially it’s been a process of going from a regular guy to a guy who’s going to get out of the car, to a guy who’s going to have true adventures and to be a hero.
And it’s been fun especially this season with Chuck’s new abilities to kind of take him one step at a time through the stuff that in a movie you would jump past. And that’s been a lot of fun this season.
I've got this quote. It was boy becomes man last year and this year it’s man becomes spy. So can you talk - can you all talk about Chuck becoming a spy because it really is different, I mean, the fact that he’s embracing his spy-dom.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, I mean a big crux of the journey for Chuck last year obviously climaxing in the season finale was I want to get this thing out of my head and I want to go back to a normal life.
And then he accepted his - the mantle and, you know, responsibility of who he was and his destiny really to become a hero. And now this year is really about the ramifications of that and him really embracing that and going with it.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, it’s Chris. I remember being on the set of the pilot and talking to Zach about the fact that he wouldn't be able to shoot a gun and just the disappointment in his face. Because it’s like - this is a story about a real guy, you can't go right to the point where he's, you know, running around with a gun.
But Season 3 with now with Chuck’s abilities is like now we’re getting into that, now we’re getting into the part of like he wants to be a spy and what does that mean. How does Chuck now change, you know, with this new goal?
And that’s a good question, how does he not change? I mean because we - he still has to be the sweet wonderful Chuck we love.
Chris Fedak: Well yeah and I think, you know, and Zach spoke to this I think at the beginning of the call too about, you know, it’s not like all of the sudden he’s just this like - he’s Casey. You know, there is still this idea that like the (intercept) was designed to go into somebody with no emotion, somebody like a Bryce Larkin.
And that the things that make Chuck such a great guy or the very things that make him fallible as a spy and how does he reconcile those two things, how does he hold onto his humanity but grow, you know, as a spy. And I think that’s been one of the challenges.
And 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.
I don't know, Zach, do you want to speak to that as well?
Zachary Levi: I mean I think you guys covered it pretty well. I mean, yeah, that’s exactly where we find ourselves. And, you know, and Josh and Chris just spoke to something that - like out of the last question, you know, which was, you know, just the evolution of the character itself. And I think that it’s - it makes for very good television if you can allow yourself to evolve.
And obviously you can't evolve too fast. But I don't think that, you know, I think that we've been doing it at a very natural and good pace where our characters are all kind of growing and learning and evolving but still maintaining the characters that everyone has kind of grown to know and love.
And we certainly don't veer away from that but we also want to make sure that things aren't remaining stagnant, you know. On a sitcom it’s very easy to - and quite frankly, you know, you’re pretty much called to stay the same character for however many season a show might go.
Cliff and Norm on Cheers were Cliff and Norm on Cheers to the bitter end, they were still sitting at the bar regardless of whatever their day job was and, you know, there wasn't a heck of a lot of evolution with those guys. But that’s a different kind of scenario. With us in a show that has so much story and mythology if you don't go anywhere I think it leaves fans a little disappointed.
You know, you watch Lost and if you watch an episode that doesn't answer any questions you’re like - you’re frustrated because you want answers and you want the characters to grow and - and, you know, and look and perhaps because we've - every season, you know, been in the situation where it could be our last, you never know. Television is a very funny game.
I think it’s - I think in a lot of ways it’s been beneficial because I think it’s forced us to have to take the sober look at this whatever season we’re about to embark on and say well guys this - maybe this is our last so let’s give the audience everything we can give them.
Let’s not, you know, keep stringing it out or whatever and let’s make sure that by the time we get to the end of this season we've written the new chapter of all of their lives. And so I think this was the natural progression.
And, you know, Chuck - he still is the guy that everyone came to know in Season 1 he’s just - he’s just had to learn and grow and change as the situation in his life has forced him to do so. And - but he does it still with the same heart that he approaches everything with. And so I don't think anyone will miss that. I hope they don't.
Chris Fedak: And there’s a lot of stuff, you know, somebody else this year is going to learn Chuck’s secret. You know, Awesome is going to find himself more, you know, because obviously he learned that last year, he’s going to find himself more involved on the spy side of the story.
So hopefully all the elements of the show feel like they’re evolving and changing and growing in really new and exciting ways.
I just wanted to just ask a little bit about kind of what happened behind the scenes between the Season 2 ending and the Season 3 pickup and what were the emotions going on as you guys kind of waited to hear what would happen?
And I know, Josh, you said earlier you’re used to it a little bit by now, but what is it like kind of waiting for that news?
Josh Schwartz: You know, it’s - it’s not fun. I mean, you know, look we love the show, we were really proud of the show last year. We were hoping, you know, against hope that the show would come back. We knew we were on the bubble.
We knew, I mean, look, the show has had some incredible challenges outside of itself just, you know, the writer’s strike in Season 1, you know, five hours going away to the Jay Leno show - I mean there have been some really unique obstacles that keep getting thrown our way and yet here we are which is exciting.
But, you know, I think for all of us it was pins and needles and mixed with incredible pride in the sense that like well we've put our best foot out there, I mean, we left it - as Zach was saying - we left it all out on the floor.
And then all of the sudden completely outside of our own power this fan base uprising began. And it started out small and it just grew and grew and suddenly, you know, the show which had at times lived below the radar except amongst its most passionate fans, really found a narrative I think in the broader media.
And all of the sudden it felt like it became undeniable through the support of fans and critics. And so, you know, we remained optimistic although it took a while. And there were, you know, several twists and turns in the story and there were dark days and there were days when it looked like it was all coming up roses. And in the end, you know, we got this third season.
And so that was incredibly gratifying. But it was down to the wire. I mean, I can sort of reveal that I guess, it was up to the last minute of, you know, in May.
But the sense that everybody at the network wanted to bring the show back and they were facing their own kind of challenges and, you know, with the five hours going away and whatever the budgets, you know, forcing what they are and, you know, and that was a challenge to us to come back and say we can make the same show and deliver the same show but do it in a way that would be less expensive.
I don't think anybody watching is going to be able to feel money off of the screen. So I'm, you know, extremely proud of how everybody pulled together to deliver the same show. But, yeah, it was a nail biter but we’re thrilled.
And Zachary, could you talk a little bit about what it was like for you just to kind of see that fan-based reaction? I know you must know the show had fans but were you surprised by the mobilization of the fans and how they, you know, rose to really get the, you know, really rally for a third season?
Zachary Levi: Yeah, I mean, it’s incredibly humbling to say the least. To just have a job is a great blessing but to have a job that you know people care about so much that they, you know, band together and let their voices be heard and, you know, their collective energy and love and also resources.
You know, for people to go out and spend a little money be it on, you know...
Yeah, you know, I mean, is really humbling. You don't know - as an actor, I mean, we knew that we had fans and furthermore I knew that we had really passionate fans. We’re fortunate to be kind of in this world of like, you know, Comi-Con love.
And Comi-Con fans, fans of sci-fi fantasy, they are the most die-hard will stay with you to the bitter end fans and tend to, you know, really know how to band together when it comes to the Internet and blogging and vlogging and any other -ogging for that matter, and making sure that, you know, you don't go down without a fight and our fans did just that and continue to do just that.
They’re very savvy and very smart. One of our fans, (Wendy Farrington), was the one who was responsible for the Chuck foot-long finale campaign that really got so much heat last season and got everyone banded together to buy Subway sandwiches.
And I think, you know, while that wasn't the - maybe, you know, lynchpin of what got us back on the air it was certainly a - it was certainly a component of that. And, you know, people took notice, the studio, the networks, Subway themselves they took notice.
And it’s interesting, you know, last season when we weren't just renewed with everyone else I was kind of, you know, not offended, I mean, I hate to use words like that but you are kind of bummed. You’re like, wow, I thought we were - I thought we were making a really great product that people really loved and why aren't we being renewed? Why aren't we coming back for another season?
But then as all this stuff started playing out and as, you know, we were - it was very clear that we were on the chopping block and we were on the bubble and all this fan supported starting coming out, the various, you own, media outlets they started picking it up.
And we got even more love and even more play as far as publicity is concerned then we ever would have gotten had we just renewed quietly in the night. And so I think, you know, everything for a reason.
And I think that there is a lot of reason to how that all went down. And I'm thankful for the experience. I'm thankful that it allowed us to be very in touch and in tune with our fans through the experience and again just very humbling.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, I mean, I think agreeing with everything Zach said. You know, the TV landscape has changed so much that the difference between what makes a hit show and what makes a show on the bubble has gotten so - such a small, you know, it’s a thin line now.
And so for everything to play out the way it did actually was the best thing that could have happened for us because it really showed people that there was real life to the show and a really passionate audience.
And did you find it - were you surprised when they picked - gave you six more episodes after coming off that kind of renewal?
Josh Schwartz: Well, you know, it’s really funny because we've only ever started every season with 13 episodes. And last year we were really fortunate they saw the episodes early and picked us up for the full season before we even aired which was pretty, you know, surprising and unheard of.
And so for this to happen again this year was also very surprising but also very gratifying. And, you know, we were thrilled. We certainly - you always hope that and, you know, that the first episodes impress them and make them feel like okay we know that this how will deliver for us creatively, we know they have a fan base, let’s give them the opportunity to tell the full story.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, this is Chris. I think that just speaks to the show that we’re all making. It’s like essentially for the last two seasons NBC has made a decision to renew us based simply on the fact that they’re watching our episodes and seeing what we’re doing.
It’s just, you know, Zach, the gang and the production and our post team we’re just, you know, it’s a really really fun show. And unfortunately right now only we’re seeing it so it’s like I have two executives who, you know, watch every episode, are our biggest fans. So we’re just really looking forward to, you know, expanding that out to a couple million people.
Josh Schwartz:Hopefully more than a couple million.
Chris Fedak: I'll say 10 - I'll say 10 (50).
I had two quick questions, the first is with Ellie and Awesome married is Chuck going to still live with them?
Josh Schwartz: No Chuck is actually - they moved out, they found an apartment across the way and Chuck and Morgan are getting their bachelor pad.
Oh, okay all right. And then with all the guest stars you've got coming in and you've got some big names and you have to work them in and give them their time do you ever worry about doing too much stunt casting?
Chris Fedak: No, I mean, they’re obviously, you know, it’s something we take into account but we, you know, we design the parts first and then we try to find the actors we think will best bring those characters to life. So we don't ever feel like we’re going out of our way to stunt cast.
Even sometimes, you know, a stunt casting that might raise an eyebrow like Nicole Richie on the show. The part was already written, she came in and read... obviously we’re hoping to get a, you know, an extra boost but we wouldn’t cast somebody on the show simply for ratings that we didn't think fit the tone of the show.
I mean, we brought Chevy Chase on the show and had him play a bad guy. You know, so it really kind of going against what expectations would be. And hopefully that makes it fun for the actor and fun for the audience as well.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, we were the first show or movie to actually shoot Chevy Chase. So it’s always been a - it’s really fun to bring in folks and I think the show handles it very well.
Chris and Josh can you talk a little bit more about how the new intersect works or doesn't work and if there are any skills that it does not posses?
Chris Fedak: Well first off the new intersect was designed, you know, essentially we know that there’s abilities now in this new version of the intersect 2.0.
Josh Schwartz: This one Fedak gets really excited by the way.
Chris Fedak: I’m really excited.
Josh Schwartz: Hang on tight Rick.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, here we go. But so 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...
Josh Schwartz: They’re infinite.
Chris Fedak: They’re infinite really in some ways. I didn't know Spanish guitar, you know, would be in the new spy intersect but, you know, it’s in there. So it’s really funny to kind of see what else was hidden in there by, you know, the intersect scientists.
Josh Schwartz: And the idea too is - oh yeah, I think that was - I'm not going to try to top you on an intersect question.
So is this - are we - is there any chance of sort of like a Greatest American Hero in there or anything?
Chris Fedak: Well we try to...
Josh Schwartz: I mean, I think, you know, I mean obviously, you know, there are parallels I guess, we've heard that before. But I think the tone of the show is very different in the way... it manifests themselves very different. We do take on in an episode, you know, what if Chuck stops flashing.
Chris Fedak: Right.
Josh Schwartz:You know, what if the emotions have gotten to a place where it’s not working at all and he’s just a guy and he’s benched from the team. And this idea too that Sarah, in some ways because she is at the heart of so much of his emotion and angst is in some ways it’s kryptonite.
Chris Fedak: Right.
Josh Schwartz: I mean, I know we have a lot of Superman kind of characters on the show so why not extend the metaphor? She is in some ways his kryptonite. And it’s other times she can be the person that helps him work his, yeah, his spinach for a random Popeye reference.
Chris Fedak: And the other part of that too is that even though we have these abilities and we have a lot of fun with them the peril is still real. You know, and since it’s - the Chuck show is like we have action, we have comedy but we also know that the action has to land in a real place. So there’s still that intensity of life and limb.
And can you maybe also talk a little bit about the dynamic between Brandon’s character and Casey? Are they going to butt heads much?
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, I mean 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.
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.
Chris Fedak:Yeah, we thought Casey was underserved in the Buy More side of the story so we’re having fun there.
Hey Zachary, first of all I got confidence that you can beat Jared whenever that episode comes up. No problem. But I wanted to ask you this now during the time when Yvonne was protecting you for the first couple years were there sometimes where you just kind of awed by how well she does it, how well she picks up those skills? And did you try to kind of learn some karate moves just on the side in case it ever came up?
Zachary Levi: You know what I wish I could say yes, that would make me seem much cooler. No I didn't. It’s not that I - of course you always take notice of everything that’s going on and I did take notice. You know, Yvonne has an extensive dance background, grew up doing a lot of dance, and that really lends itself well to, you know, to fight choreography. It’s very similar in that regard.
But, you know, she’s a beautiful strong limber girl who...
Zachary Levi: ...also has a great, you know, work ethic and just jumped in headfirst and rolls up her sleeves and isn't afraid to get dirty. And that's' what you need for someone playing a character like Sarah Walker, you know, she is a real spy and a real - and a gnarly one at that. You know, very good at her job and able to take down even, you know, guys twice her size be it, you know, Michael Clark Duncan or someone like that. So I've certainly took notice - I'm sorry what was that?
Let me ask you then about your ability to pick it up now because we've noticed a lot of guys who play kind of clumsy guys are actually pretty good athletes or they couldn't do it. I mean, are you basically athletic? How tall are you? You've made fun of your noodly arms but how tall are you actually?
Chris Fedak: Seven and a half feet tall.
Zachary Levi: Yeah, I'm about 6'3", 6'4", something like that.
And do you have any kind of athletic skills? Did you play any sports as a kid? Does any of this come easily for you or...
Zachary Levi: I mean I like to consider myself a reasonably athletic guy. I played various sports for, you know, years here and there growing up but most of my growing up was being a spaz and doing theater.
So but I had to learn a lot of dance choreography, you doing, plenty of musicals and stuff like that and I picked that stuff up pretty quickly. And I also play a lot of, you know, pickup basketball and various, you know, some ultimate Frisbee or whatever now that I'm, you know, an adult.
But, yeah, I mean, I was - literally I think maybe my favorite part not that I don't enjoy, you know, being able to be a part of every genre and everything that we do on the show. But my favorite part of the show is the action. I love being able to be a part of a chase. I love being able to fall off of something or run into something or tackle somebody or being in a martial arts fight or, you know, draw guns on people.
I mean, you know, all that stuff is super fun. And, you know, and certainly can, you know, be tiring, you know, given enough takes of any particular move. But I feel like I hold up pretty well in that.
My heart is, you know, the biggest challenge is just my lank-itude, my, you know long limberness and, you know, trying to make that look as snappy as possible. But thank God we have a great fight coordinator, a great stunt coordinator and great editors to...
And just to make sure I'm clear on this do you really end up fighting Steve Austin on the airplane or do you end up fighting him eventually or...
Zachary Levi: I - gentlemen, am I allowed to talk about that?
Chris Fedak: Airplane, yeah sure.
Zachary Levi: Okay yeah I do, I do fight Steve Austin. But not maybe - maybe not in a fisticuffs fashion.
Chris Fedak: There might be nun chucks involved.
Zachary Levi: There might be nun chucks involved, you never know.
I was wondering with all of the suspense and drama of the pickup, not pickup, six additional episodes if you’re - if you use any of at least the emotion if not the strategy of all that when you’re writing the show?
Josh Schwartz: You mean just - does Chuck angst ever represent the writer’s angst about the show’s - does Chuck’s angst about survival ever reflect the writer’s angst on… survival? That’s the question your positive?
Yes, and you put it so much better than I did.
Josh Schwartz: We would probably have to see our respective therapists to find out about the level of sublimation and transference and projection but I would say probably yeah, yeah.
I wanted to ask about the Chuck graphic novel. Is that sort of a representation of what’s been on the show or is that the further adventures?
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, that was something that came out between Seasons 1 and Seasons 2. And it was a really just fun extension and ability to do an extension of the show. And a couple of our writers and producers wrote it, some of our cast members wrote some stuff for it. I believe Zachy wrote some stuff for it right?
Zachary Levi:You know what I was supposed to but I wasn't - I actually - I didn't but...
Josh Schwartz: He was watching his own life.
Zachary Levi: But if we go another round I'd love to.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah. We'd love to go another round.
Chris Fedak: Yeah and the idea with the comic book was let’s imagine that we had $200 million and that we could make whatever we wanted with the Chuck story. And that was essentially, you know, the Chuck-tale that we told there.
Josh Schwartz: And if you go back and read the graphic novel it’s actually very prescient about the election of Barack Obama. Did we predict it? Was the Chuck graphic novel actually behind Obama getting elected? Discuss.
Zachary Levi: It’s very controversial Josh.
Might there be another one then?
Josh Schwartz:We'd love to do another one. There’s a writer on our show named Zev Borow who was one of the writers and he’s a bit of a diva. So if we can wrangle him we’re game.
Zachary Levi: Yeah.
Zach, just to pick up on what some other people have asked you about with the new skills that Chuck has does that pose any sort of difference - physical challenges for you or has it required you to take any sort of specific training for any of these things that he’s doing?
Zachary Levi: Well we learn - we train per fight as it were so, you know, every week - every episode the fight coordinator and stunt coordinator break it down and find out what they need to do, what we need to do. And then I will go in and learn every fight, you know, before we do it. And try and, you know, it’s a very - we have a very ambitious schedule on Chuck.
And we have a lot to shoot and not so much time to shoot it. But we do the very best that we can obviously and fortunately we’re in very good hands with our stunt and fight coordinators Merritt Yahnka and (Dave Morizott) respectively.
And who are both, you know, incredible. And Merritt, our stunt coordinator, has won Chuck our first and only to this point Emmys so, you know, he’s really kicking butt and taking names on all of our behalf.
But, you know, I wasn't really sure - well two things. I wasn't really sure if we were even going to have a third season. And more than that I didn't know exactly the extent of the martial arts that would be incorporated in that third season.
So and I was working on some other things over the summer hiatus so I wasn't able to really get into extensive kung-fu or otherwise training over those months. But I feel confident in what we’re being able to accomplish just in the week to week of it.
And, you know, feel like God’s given me enough of a coordination and ability to, you know, remember the fight choreography where we can put it together and it looks good. So happy about the process.
Now the three of you have obviously talked about the emotions associated with whether or not the show was going to get picked up. I wanted to talk about though what it is about the show itself because, you know, I don't recall a situation in the past where so many critics, so many fans got behind one bubble show.
You know, usually it’s kind of spread out, people want to see a couple, two, three, four, however many shows come back. But everybody wanted to see this show come back. So for the three of you, I mean, what is it about the body of work you put together, what is it about the show that put it in that position?
Josh Schwartz: Well, you know, I think it’s - it’s probably a lot of factors, I mean, I think there’s probably something different in the show that insights, you know, different people meaning there’s so much inside of the show that could potentially speak to people for some people who love the kind of, you know, mash up of genre.
I think, you know, it’s really satisfying on that end. I think there’s people who just are so invested in these characters emotionally and the romance of the show and in the coming of age story of the show. And I think part of what’s made the show a challenge to market and to break out in the broadest kind of commercial sense is the very - are the very same elements that make the show so exciting for its audience.
You know, I think it is the sort of high concept premise with this - but very character driven almost low concept level of execution, the mash up of genres. I mean, all of that stuff I think makes it, you know, a challenge to try to tell, you know, we live in a world right now where it’s like sum up the thing in one sentence.
And you’re either like it’s based on this, it’s a sequel to that or it’s a remake of the previous thing. And this show is I think truly original and it’s original in its premise and in its execution and I think that’s the result of a lot of different, you know, voices coming together and making it happen.
And ultimately I think too a huge factor is the cast of the show. I think these are people you want to invite into your living room, you know, week in and week out and that people have really connected with our actors as well.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, no and this is Chris. And I think that just, you know, I think at the very core of the show is that family story. It’s like - it’s a group of individuals that we really want to see, you know, and see what’s happening in their lives.
And like when we’re breaking the story, when we’re on set and then we’re in post it’s like we always find ourselves like we’re always going back to our characters, we’re always finding the heart of the show there.
We love to have the fun action sequences, we love to come up with crazy comedy but in truth the heart of the show is the characters and what our cast does with them.
Josh Schwartz: And I think so many people feel like a Chuck. You know, there’s that wish fulfillment of like, you know, my life didn't quite work out the way I thought it was going to be and what if. You know, that delicious fantasy of like what if I got thrust into my fantasy world.
And I think there's, you know, there’s the tremendous amount of wish fulfillment there for people as well.
Zach, I wanted to know as Chuck gets more in tune with is spy side how does that affect his relationship with Morgan?
Zachary Levi: Well that’s an excellent question. I mean 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.
And, you know, they do make steps. 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. So...
Josh Schwartz: And you know, last year we were - we got - especially in the second half of the season we went in with Chuck’s dad and the intersect and these larger stories and we got away from some of the Chuck and Morgan bromance stuff.
And now it’s something that Zach and josh both as actors and as friends really we were like, you know, how can we get back to that. And we were like, you’re right, we really want to service those stories and service that friendship. And it was so much a part of the show and I think we really take it to a new level this year.
Chris Fedak: Josh Gomez is just wonderful this season, he makes - every time we sit down with a cut he just has us cracking up all over the place.
And this is for Josh and Chris, I was talking to Vic recently...I was jacked actually. And I was wondering if any of the upcoming episodes will focus on some of the secondary characters' back stories like last year?
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, no I mean, Jeff got his big back story episode I suppose Lester is due.
Chris Fedak: He got to run the Buy More for an episode.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, that didn't work out well. But, you know, we - 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.
Chris 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.
Josh Schwartz: And his PJs. You will see what Lester sleeps in.
I was wondering how Chuck’s new abilities and what he’s able to do will affect Casey?
Chris Fedak: Well that’s actually been a lot of fun this year because what we had - what we've had in the first two seasons - the 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.
And 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.
Josh Schwartz:You'll actually see him compliment Chuck this year.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, maybe once.
Josh Schwartz: There will be, you know, some - 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.
Chris Fedak: There’s huge revelations in his back story.
He doesn’t really like Ronald Regan?
Josh Schwartz: No that’s a guarantee.
Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.
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