Hanging with the cast of NBC’s Chuck: Part Three   

Sarah, Chuck, and Casey in the Pilot

As you probably gleaned from reading parts one and two of this recap, the three lead actors on the series Chuck really do like each other. When Zac Levi, Adam Baldwin, and Yvonne Strahovsky are in the same room together there is a light and jokey atmosphere, like kids on a playground or cousins hanging out before Christmas dinner. Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend that much time with the three of them together—Zac was late getting back from his promo shoot and shortly thereafter Yvonne had to leave for an appointment—but I feel like we got a pretty good sense of what it is like on the set and I think I can safely say that working on Chuck is just as fun as watching it.

For instance, when speculating how Zac might get Yvonne back for tipping Josh Gomez (Morgan) off to the “present” he left in his trailer (see Part Two), Adam jokes that the ultimate retaliation prank would be deportation. Yvonne and Zac laugh as Adam describes the scene on the set when the immigration officer arrives to take her back to Australia. Zac: “April Fool’s!” When discussing whether or not a rutabaga is a root vegetable Zac does his best cartoon Ahnold impersonation—”It’s not a tuber”—and cracks Yvonne and Adam up. But the best is when Yvonne confesses that she has never sampled any of the wieners on the Weinerlicious set and [gasp] she has never even tried a corn dog. Zac can not believe this. He and Adam go on and on about why she should and why they are the perfect food. Yvonne asks what you put on them and Zac goes on a wonderful tangent, something I am sure he is famous for on set, and it’s just so perfectly Chuck Bartowski that I had to recount it word for word for you: “I used to be all about ketchup and hot dogs when I was a kid but I burned myself out on it. Now on hot dogs I like mustard and relish and onions, but I don’t like ketchup. Isn’t that weird? Am I weird? Does that make me un-American?”

Shortly after Zac’s very Chuck-like speech–but not because of it–Yvonne has to leave. Her co-stars jump up to hug her goodbye and they all wish each other happy holidays. Zac suggests that they all get together to “go do things” before she leaves town for winter break. I take the following picture of the three actors and Eric from IGN and we talk some more with Zac and Adam before Adam finally has to leave and we bloggers are left alone with Mr. Levi.

Eric from IGN with the cast of CHUCK

When we sit back down we thank Zac and Adam for staying. It is now 2:00 after all and that was supposed to be the cutoff time for our lunch date. Adam says not to worry and that it is actually fun for him. He says it is “a wonderful opportunity” for him to be able to talk to bloggers. He speaks so highly of what we do that I am a little humbled as he encourages us to keep writing and getting our opinions out there. Zac pipes in with, “Especially when you like Chuck” and we all laugh.

Talk turns to the huge mound of pork on Zac’s plate (the rest of us have already eaten and cleared our trays). Adam deadpans that like the wieners mentioned before, he likes pork. “I like pork wieners actually.” Zac asks us if we have ever noticed that all breakfast meats are pork. I say I have and laugh to myself because just two days earlier my roommate and I had discussed that very topic. She was cooking a pork loin for dinner and was wondering if the leftovers could be used the next morning as a breakfast meat. I said I didn’t think that would work and then realized how weird that was since ham, bacon and sausages are all pork. At the time I never expected that just days later I would have the same conversation with the lead actor on my favorite new show! My life is weird. (See proof below.)

Spadada and Zac Levi

Somebody asks Zac what he can tell us about what’s to come on Chuck and he tells us that there are a lot of the mysteries the writers don’t share with the actors both to keep it under the radar and to help them as actors so that they don’t have to forget something their character isn’t supposed to know yet when they go into a scene. “I’m just as interested to find out as you are.”

When asked, Zac says he is not ready for Chuck to learn fighting skills yet, but in the future, “Hell yes! One of the funnest [sic] things about the show and being able to work on it is all the action stuff: blowing stuff up and guns and bullets and bombs and kung fu and jumping out of buildings. So, for me, absolutely, I want to do all that stuff because that’s what I signed up for.” Me: “Maybe a little music montage?” Zac: “Right? A little music montage? With the learning… [singing, hilariously] ‘You’re the best around. Nothing’s ever gonna keep you down!’” We all laugh hysterically and Zac returns to the topic (he’s really good at that): “I so badly wanna do that, but they’ve also already told me, ‘Look, you’re not gonna get a gun in your hand until Season Three . . . maybe.’ So I gotta wait patiently and watch these yahoos screw it up all the time.”

Jace from Televisionary makes a joke about how cool it would be for there to be an episode where Chuck and Casey switch bodies. I ask whether or not that is possible in this world and Zac reminds me I am the one who said earlier that Chuck takes place is a sort of alternate universe. Zac: “This is Chuck’s world. There are no rules.” Adam: [points to Zac] “He starts grunting.” Zac: [to Adam] “Yeah. I could start grunting and you could become a stammering idiot.”

I mention Rachel Bilson’s awesome guest spot and say something about how well set-up this show is for guest stars before tangenting off into a possible Heroes crossover. This leads to one of my favorite portions of the interview in which Zac geeks out about comic books and discusses how much he would love to do a crossover with another NBC show.

Zac: “I’ve actually talked to some of the producers about doing that. I’m a big comic book fan or I was when I was younger but I still very much appreciate the medium and the characters. And one of my favorite things about comic books—and I’ve been so disappointed with television that they haven’t adopted more—is crossover . . . I love that stuff! I think the biggest problem is that Chuck and Heroes, though I think they have a very similar demographic, aren’t necessarily the same [tone]. If you had anybody from Heroes come onto Chuck it would be more of a comedy; if you had anybody from Chuck go onto Heroes it would be much more like comic relief in a particular scene or a more dramatic meatier thing. But that being said, I’m totally down to do it.”

I mention that there can sometimes be actor crossover too without role crossover and Zac says that in his mind that is not as good and is usually “more of a publicity stunt than a cool creative thing.” He then returns to the comic book comparison and adopts this adorably nerdy voice and says, “Let me geek out for a minute. Hmmm. The Infinity Gauntlet series circa 93-94…” The voice is hilarious and impossible to explain except to say that it is very similar to the voice Conan uses when he does his version of a geeky fan discussing LOTR: “Mmmm. Gandalf!”

Zac drops the voice and gets serious: “The Infinity Gauntlet was one of these cool series that was just epic in the whole comic book world. You had literally every character… You had The Avengers and everybody with that, Captain America and the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer, and all of the X-men and Spiderman and Silver Sable and all of these random characters who were all trying to beat this one dude who was ultimately going to kill everybody… And I remember reading this as a kid and going, ‘This is so great. This is so cool.’ I know it is much more expensive to do it with television . . . but [I wish they would do more of it].”

Jace jumps in to ask “If the characters from Chuck crash landed on the creepy Lost island, who would be the first person to eat Morgan?” Zac laughs and asks Jace if he has an aversion to Morgan. Jace says he’s actually grown on him. Zac gestures to me and says that was what I had said earlier. Then he asks us for a show of hands and asks us to be honest [while pointing to himself], “Who is, as a blogger, your favorite character on the show?” Araya from Daemon’s TV says Morgan. Adam (who I should point out is not a blogger) says Lester. Jace says Sarah. Sandie from Daemon’s TV says she doesn’t know which character to choose which Zac says is “very diplomatic… and weak.” (Heh.) I am about to say Chuck is my favorite character (he is!) when Zac tries to cut into his pork chop and breaks the handle off his plastic fork. We all laugh as he pulls the broken fork out of the hunk of meat and looks incredulously at it. I make a crack about The Little Mermaid and Zac mimes combing his hair with it. Adam appears with a pile of forks and when we are finished laughing we get back on topic.

Someone says they can’t imagine the show without the three actors we met today. I say that even though Chuck is the title character and as Adam was saying earlier, because of that nothing can ever really happen to him, Chuck is actually an ensemble show. Zac agrees and says that he thinks all TV is ensemble work. “Seinfeld was called Seinfeld and it was Jerry Seinfeld… but that show never would have worked without George and Elaine and Kramer and Newman all the other cast of characters.”

Since we are talking about shows named for their main characters that are actually great ensemble pieces and I am always looking for ways to bring up Veronica Mars, I go for it.

Zac: “What about Veronica? You like Veronica?”
Me: “It’s my favorite show.”
Zac: “Is it really? Have you ever met KBell?”
Me: “A couple of times. I’ve seen you guys in pictures recently.”

Zac: “She’s a friend of mine. [speaks into the tape recorder] PLATONIC. She’s so sweet and so talented. She’s great on Heroes, right? She’s wicked.”

Araya asks Zac about Martin Lawrence (who he worked with on the sequel to Big Momma’s House). Zac has nothing but positive things to say about how professional the comic was. He says that he couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be a star as big as Lawrence or someone even bigger like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. He talks about how blessed he is to get to do what he does but how the lifestyle can take its toll on you. He makes sure that we know that he is not complaining and that he thinks he is doing exactly what he is supposed to do and what God made him for but that it can get weird sometimes. We talk about the insane time commitment the job requires and how the lines between your professional and private life get blurred. I ask him how weird it is that going to social engagements is part of his job. (I am not unaware of the irony since we are currently having lunch with him as part of his job.)

[Adam has to interrupt at this point because he has to leave. He says goodbye to all of us individually and we all thank him for his time. Zac says he’ll talk to him soon and it sounds like he means it.]

Eric brings us back on topic by saying he has seen the social engagement as work thing first hand at the infamous TCA parties (where the actors and the press awkwardly mingle with one another). Zac says that even though Less than Perfect was on for four years, back then no one except the reporter from his hometown paper in Ventura ever wanted to talk to him at the TCA events. He said he would get a cocktail and hit the dance floor and that would be that. This year, however, people were so excited about Chuck that he spent the whole night doing interviews.

Someone asks him if it was weird to see billboards of himself all over town. I joke that he loves it. Zac deadpans, “It’s as it should be.” before saying it is “really surreal.” He then points out that since he works so much he doesn’t actually see them unless they are on the drive between his house and the Warner lot. It is at this moment that I realize Zac Levi and I live near each other. He notices that I am smiling and he asks me if I live in Studio City. I say yes and he says “It’s it the greatest?” I nod my head vigorously because I really do love my neighborhood and it’s pretty exciting to find out Zac loves it as much as I do. Eric lives in the Valley too and the three of us geek out about restaurants and comic book stores we like in the area. Zac tells us about a sushi place where you aren’t allowed to order, where the chef brings you whatever he wants to bring you and that’s that. I am reminded of the Chinese place Booth goes to in Bones but I don’t mention it.

Jace asks Zac what he wants for Christmas. Zac wants sleep and more time to play the video games he already owns. Eric asks him which games he is into right now. Zac says Rock Band mostly. He says Mass Effect is still in the plastic because he has been so busy, but that he can’t wait to open it. “Gomez played that for like 48 hours without stopping but he had a catheter bag so no worries.” He said he is excited about Drake’s Fortune and even though he has no idea when it is coming out (Summer 2008 according to the site) he is looking forward to the LEGO Indiana Jones. He thought the LEGO Starwars was fun. He and his buddies played it for hours when it came out. Other games on Zac’s radar: Army of Two, Kane and Lynch, GTA 4, and Little Big Planet.

Zac jokes that he and Josh Gomez should be getting paid for the amount of video games they pimp on the red carpet but he says that is not why he mentions them, it’s just the stuff he is interested in. He says he and Josh have actually asked the writers to let them geek out on video games more on the show. “Josh and I truly are gamers… If we didn’t have to go to work we wouldn’t be at work. We would be at home—not even interacting with each other in real life—we would be on headsets on X-box live… ‘Have you gotten to that part yet? Yeah, that’s so killer… What blaster are you using right now?’ I mean, that’s the kind of stuff we talk about. It’s ridiculous.”

Zac Levi and Josh Gomez at Spike TV’s Video Game Awards. Photo credit: Getty Images.

I ask Zac if he has ever done theatre. He says he grew up his whole life doing theatre and that actually right after he booked Chuck he auditioned for the lead role in Young Frankenstein and he got it. They waited to see if Chuck was going to get picked up before taking him out of the running. “Roger Bart is doing it now and Roger Bart is awesome but I hope that I get another opportunity like that because I was really torn when all that was coming down because I thought I might be giving up my only chance to originate a role on Broadway.”

Zac’s publicist comes over to let us know it is almost time to wrap it up and Zac asks us if we have any more questions. I tell him that I am still trying to figure out which NBC show Chuck could most seamlessly crossover with. He says the question is whether it would be comedy or drama. 30 Rock comes up and Zac says, “Baldwin is so genius it drives me crazy.” Then he starts to think about a possible crossover and realizes the while it could work tone-wise, the different locations could make it difficult. Zac: “Heroes could work for some of their storylines. Life could work.” Me: “You could end up in the ER.” Zac: “We could end up in the ER!”

He then tells us that all the hospital scenes in “Chuck vs. The Truth” were actually shot on the ER sets. We talk about how cool that is (set crossover!) and how awesome it was for Alias fans to see Kevin Weisman on Chuck. Zac: “He plays a bad guy really well. He’s really kind of lascivious and smarmy.” We talk about how fun it was to see him in another spy show but in such a completely different role. This gets Zac’s wheels turning: “Grunberg would be fun to get over.” I am so excited by the idea I almost jump out of my seat. Just when I think the possibilities couldn’t get any better someone mentions Kristen Bell as Chuck’s new love interest.

Zac: “You know, I talked to Kristen about the whole crossover idea because they keep trying to think of ways to bring another woman into Chuck’s life that’s not gonna work. Nothing says ‘doesn’t work’ like evil powers.”

Someone says something about Heroes needing the help more than Chuck. Zac asks us if we watched it during the first season and if we liked it. We all say yes. He asks us why we think it isn’t working as well this season. We all give our theories, including one Eric and I share (the loss of Bryan Fuller) and we discuss glaring continuity problems like Peter forgetting which powers he has when it is convenient for the writers. Zac: “That stuff drives me crazy. Because it’s lazy writing.” He says that even with Chuck he sometimes he gets frustrated when something that’s been established in one episode gets seemingly forgotten in the next. We all agree Chuck’s continuity problems are minor in comparison.

We talk about the acting on Heroes and I say how impressed I am with Christine Rose (Angela Petrelli). Zac geeks out and tells us that he is in a movie with her called Shades of Ray. He says she is so nice and that he was so excited for her when he first saw her on Heroes. Talk of great acting turns the conversation to another one of Zac’s favorite shows, Friday Night Lights. In addition to the great acting and writing, Zac really appreciates the way they shoot it. The look of a show is important to him and one of the things he loves about McG as a director is that he is always referencing something visually with his shots.

Zac is proud to say that the reasons why people watch Chuck are diverse. Some people like the relationships, some people like the action, some people watch for the hot chicks… “One of my favorite things to hear–and I’ve heard it a lot from people who are really burned out on television–is ‘I hate television, but I love watching your show.’ That means everything to me because I don’t really like television that much either.” He goes on to clarify that most of what is on TV doesn’t do much for him. Procedurals are great for people who want to tune in and zone out, but that’s not why he watches television. He likes deeply layered shows with well drawn characters like Lost and Pushing Daisies and Heroes. (And some multi-camera comedies like The Big Bang Theory. He thinks the actors are great and he saw the pilot and he laughed his ass off.)

Zac: “I can’t watch shows that everybody is like ‘Oh my God, it’s the greatest show in the world!’ and I watch it and I go, ‘That was some of the cheesiest writing and acting and action I’ve ever seen in my entire life.’ Because for me, entertainment has one standard: is it done to the best of everybody’s ability. Is every grip, every camera guy, every painter, every transpo, every actor, writer, director, producer… Is everybody coming in every day bringing their A game and saying, ‘Let’s make the best damn product that we can make.’ And I don’t feel that way when I watch [certain shows]… and I hate that. I feel like I am getting the short end of the stick. I want to watch a show like Chuck where I know that every single person on that cast and crew is giving 110% every single day.”

And there it is. Zac Levi has just explained what it is that makes my favorite shows my favorite shows. The people who work on them care deeply about what they are putting out there. And it is that level of commitment that ensures the integrity of the story is served above all else. The people behind Chuck care about the world they are creating and that is probably why so many of us here at Ramblings of a TV Whore have fallen in love with it.

If you haven’t tried Chuck yet, give it a shot. I guarantee you’ll find something to like about it.

16 Responses to “Hanging with the cast of NBC’s Chuck: Part Three”

  1. 1
    Sandie says:

    Nice recap Kelley. There were a few things in there that I didn’t remember, it’s nice to read about it.

    Just one thing, you wrote that my name was Lisa, it’s Sandie ;-)

  2. 2
    Polter-Cow says:

    Words cannot describe how amazingly awesome this sounds. I want to meet them all now! HOW AWESOME CAN ZACHARY LEVI BE???

    Except he likes The Big Bang Theory. I don’t know about that one. I watched an episode and it was pretty awful, as I had been told.

  3. 3
    Spadada says:

    Sandie! I am so sorry. My notes actually say Sandie (well, “Sandy”) but since I could not find any info on you on Daemon’s TV I thought I was wrong and went with Lisa. I was hoping you would come here and correct me. Thank you! I will fix it right now.

    P-C, Zachary Levi is the definition of AWESOME. Even if he does like TBBT. When he was speaking about the show he made a point to say that all the actors on it are great and when we were leaving we ran into Kaley Cuoco (Penny) and she and Zac definitely knew each other. (She is stunning in person by the way.) My guess is that he is friendly with a few of the actors in the cast and his opinion of the show is biased by his personal feelings for them and his desire to see them succeed.

  4. 4
    afrocurl says:

    Nicely done on the last part, Spads.

    I really love the cast and I’m glad that it’s contagious.

  5. 5
    Rae says:

    In defense of TBBT (I know, right?! Who knew!), several people have said that it has gotten much better. And by people I’m talking about people who watched the first few episodes (like I did) and didn’t like them. I keep meaning to give it another shot and forgetting… guess I’ll get the chance if we end up in re-run territory, eh?

    Kell: LOVE this! Sigh. I’m a little jealous now. (Or, you know, a LOT.) Mostly because you’ve done a great job at portraying what a great guy Zach is and, lord I’m such a dork, but the comment about Adam respecting bloggers got me all verklempt!

  6. 6
    Sandie says:

    No problem Kelley. I figured you went on the site and saw the name there, lol. Yeah I should put my name somewhere instead of just Daemon’s TV.

    And about doing this again, yeah it would be fun to meet other people from the cast and see how they get along :-)

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Anita says:

    Great re-cap, thank you! It makes me love Chuck, Zachary Levi, Adam and Yvonne even more. Hee…I’m sure many were crushed when he basically said he loves Kristen Bell like a sister! Ahhh, they’d make the cutest couple though…

    I think my favorite part, other than him hitting the nail on the head with great shows (at least that I love) being ones where every one from the cast to the crew, gives 110%, was him wondering whether not liking ketchup on hot dogs makes him unAmerican? Hee.

  9. 9
    Spadada says:

    Yes, they would make an amazing couple.

    And I love the ketchup rant too. Especially since not using MUSTARD on your hot dog is what makes you un-American ;)

  10. 10
    Tricia says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your time with the cast! I wish there was more to read!

  11. 11

    [...] why Kylie Minogue’s face never moved in the Doctor Who Christmas special. RTVW: Spads wrapped up her three-part series about her time on the Chuck photoshoot. Saying goodbye to 2007, Rae shared her top seven memorable [...]

  12. 12

    [...] Spads wrapped up her three-part series about her time on the Chuck photoshoot. Saying goodbye to 2007, Rae shared her top seven memorable [...]

  13. 13

    [...] Spads wrapped up her three-part series about her time on the Chuck photoshoot. Saying goodbye to 2007, Rae shared her top seven memorable [...]

  14. 14

    [...] can’t say if it was because Zac Levi admitted to laughing his off at the show or because I met the co-creator, Bill Pardy, while walking the picket line at Warner Brothers, but [...]

  15. 15
  16. 16