The set of “Chuck” is sparsely populated on the afternoon of Dec. 3 — Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski and Brandon Routh are the only actors working — but there are big doings afoot nonetheless.
The trio is working on a pretty important scene in the show’s 11th episode — which I’ve promised not to discuss until the time comes. Fortunately, though, Levi took a break during filming to discuss how Chuck Bartowski adapts to having a new Intersect in his head, how “Chuck” fans helped save his job, and trying not to look like a “giant, wet noodle.”
Q: What was the vibe like when you heard you were coming back for a third season?
Levi: I mean, it’s amazing. It’s really humbling. It’s just a huge blessing to have a job, but to have a job that people care so much about that they’d give up their time and give of their resources to ensure you still have that job is really humbling, you know? Not a lot of people really have that opportunity — to have thousands, millions of people go to bat for you.
Does that mentality creep into the show, or is it something that’s just in the back of your mind?
It does affect your mindset, I think. We’ve always been a really fun group and a tight family here on the show, and one that cares about the content and cares about the fans an how much they enjoy it. There are little Easter eggs everywhere throughout the show, homages to all kinds of shows and other films. So to that extent, and how we want to continue to do that an continue to give to the fans, that’s a further result of that — of feeling really blessed to continue to do this an hoping we can keep giving fans what they want.
Are you having fun doing fight scenes?
So much fun. For two years I sat on the sidelines and just watched Adam [Baldwin] and Yvonne have all the ass-kicking fun, so to finally to get to do that myself is — for me it’s starting to hit all those places that when I first read the script for the pilot … I was hoping Chuck would be able to do. … I want to run around with a gun and kick bad-guy ass and shoot things — I’m a guy. So it’s nice to finally be progressing into that. Sometimes I wish we had more time to learn those fights … and we don’t have a tremendous amount of time to shoot those fight scenes either, just because we don’t have a tremendous amount of time to shoot any scenes. But it’s really awesome to finally get to do stuff like that.
Is it much extra work?
Yes and no. Because I’m in most of the scenes, it’s just a matter of running over to wherever we’re rehearsing and trying to get it done. Fortunately, I think that just from years and years of doing theater, I have a good memory when it comes to dialogue and when it comes to choreography … so I can pick it up pretty quickly. My biggest struggle is just trying to make it look cool. That’s the hardest part. And I’m a long, lanky guy, so I’m just always terrified that I’m looking like some giant, wet noodle that’s attacking [he flops his arms and makes whip sounds]. I hate that. But our stunt coordinator and our fight coordinator, they know that. They know I want to do it till it’s good and right.
How does Chuck’s new scenario affect him and his relationships?
I think he thinks it’s pretty awesome. Maybe he thinks that because I think that, and I get to play him. But it’s clear in the writing — he gets pretty excited about his powers working, especially when they work in his body and work for the betterment of a mission. That’s also what draws him further into this world of espionage and makes him more comfortable in it and makes him want it more.
For a lot of the first two seasons, he just wanted to get [the Intersect] out. If he could get it out and go back to his life, he’d do it. Part of the driving factor in that was if he could go back to being a regular guy, maybe he could be with Sarah [Strahovski]. Now in this season he’s realizing maybe it’s the other way — maybe if I go full-tilt boogie and really become a true, honest-to-god bona fide spy, then maybe we can be together. … So he digs it, but it does make it more difficult. As he’s getting better at the spy work, he’s getting drawn farther into it and therefore having to be absent from his relationships, be it with Morgan or Ellie, and also with work [at Buy More] in general.
What did you think of the news that you were getting six more episodes?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it was a double-edged sword. I had been offered a role in “Thor,” and I really, really wanted to do “Thor.” Just working for Kenneth Branagh would have been unbelievable, but then getting to work with Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman and being part of this huge franchise movie would have been unreal. But I’m a man of faith, and I believe God puts you where he wants you and where you’re supposed to be. So I know that wasn’t supposed to be. I was supposed to be here with these guys and continue having the fun we do and continue making the show we love to make.
Photo credits: NBC