Back in December, on the second-to-last day of filming Chuck, ChuckTV.net was included among a group of reporters invited to the set to talk with the cast about the finale and look back at the previous five seasons. We’ll be releasing those interviews this week as we countdown to “Chuck vs. the Goodbye” on January 27.
As you’ve read and heard in interviews with the cast and crew for the past five years, the heart of the show is Zachary Levi. As the lead character, Zac has been the show’s ambassador, it’s champion, seemingly tireless in his efforts to produce and promote Chuck. Be sure to read his responses hearing his voice in your head; it’s extra special that way.
Zac: I love the word tease. I don’t know. What can I talk about?
Q: Mine doesn’t air until after the finale airs, so you can tell me anything.
Zac: Oh, alright. Well then, I die. [note: didn’t think this needed to be clarified, but, yes, Zac was joking when he said that.] So essentially, one of the cool things, or how the arc of the season goes or specifically these last episodes, the last couple of episodes is that Sarah, in an attempt to save my life, she has to download the faulty intersect, and before we are able to get it out of her head and the damage is done, the damage is done. She’s kidnapped by Quinn and then kind of reprogrammed by him. This is right, I can talk about this?
[publicist tells him 12 and 13 air back to back]
Zac: Yeah, because this will be after Episode 12. Oh, 12 and 13 are together? Well then they’ll be…oh, that’s right, they won’t know. It’s a two-hour finale. So Sarah doesn’t lose her memory.
Q: And take two.
Zac: So, wow, alright. That got awkward. I’ll just say this. Things happen where we come to the finale in such a way that it’s almost a reset of sorts, where the ‘will they, won’t they’ dynamic comes back into play, and particularly in the second half of the finale, Episode 13. There’s a ton of homage to the pilot, to the origins of these characters and their journey together and everyone’s in it, and that’s awesome. It’s been really emotional. Last week, particularly. Tomorrow is going to be nothing but waterworks, I’m sure. But last week we shot pretty much all of the goodbye scenes, the characters saying goodbye to one another and when art is imitating life simultaneously in that moment and I’m looking at my friends of five years, my family of five years, and in a scene I’m having to look at them and say goodbye and I’m really saying goodbye.
Well, it’s not forever, although I may never see Adam Baldwin again. That’s not true. It’s certainly not as final in…it’s actually not even as final in the world of Chuck if it were to continue. Obviously Chuck and Morgan will be best friends for the rest of their lives. Chuck and Ellie are still brother and sister, therefore Awesome is still my brother-in-law. We would all still continue to see each other in one way, shape, or form. The world that has been created and the world we live and work in has been drastically changed and drastically different. But we do say goodbyes, at least for the time being. It’s gnarly. It’s really, really surreal.
I don’t feel that we were cut short, as difficult as it is to have to close the last chapter on this journey. I don’t feel like we’ve been shorted. I actually feel that five seasons is a good amount of time. I think that oftentimes in network television, you’re left with more than you really wanted. Twenty-two episode seasons, 24 episode seasons at 7, 8, 9, 10 years can eventually go kind of like, “We get it.” The sitcom you can actually stretch that out a little more, because you really just tune in for fun and jokes every week, but something like this, it’s definitely story arcs and serial. How many bad guys and missions can you go on before you feel like you’re repeating the same thing? So I feel like we’ve gotten a really perfect amount of time together, and it’s been special from day one.
Q: Can you talk about saying goodbye to locations as well, like the last day at Buy More? What was that like?
Zac: Our sets are just as much a character as any of the actual characters, particularly the Buy More, our apartments, our apartment complex, and Castle. We’ve wrapped everything except for Castle, really, and that’s tomorrow. The Buy More was really an emotional time. We shot our last scenes there and everyone was cognizant of it and aware of it. There was about twelve of us, including Yvonne and Josh and I, Vik and Scott were still there, and some crew and Robbie. We were just in a circle, standing in the middle of a kind of dimly-lit Buy More, because everyone was wrapping out and the lights were down. We were standing around in a circle, reminiscing about the show, reminiscing specifically about the Buy More and the memories we’ve had there and the pilot Buy More, which is very, very different from the Buy More over the rest of the seasons.
Specifically with the pilot, the characters that have come through, like CS Lee, Harry Tang, Emmitt, Tony Hale, it’s crazy the amount of guest stars that we’ve had, not just through the Buy More, but through all of our sets and all of our story lines and all of our worlds. On the pilot, McG yelling for me and Josh, having just barely met each other, but I brought my Xbox and World of Warcraft that had just come out, the original, and I had hooked it up to a flat screen in our store and we were sitting there playing between takes and constantly McG going, “Guys, I need you. Come on.” That pilot was really just a magical time and it’s crazy to think that it’s been five years since we did that and at the same time, like any memory like that, it seems like it was yesterday and it seems like a lifetime ago.
Q: A lot of the bloggers are giving you guys credit for making the nerd popular. How do you feel about that?
Zac: Great. Obviously, with the nerd machine and everything that I’m passionate about or try to be passionate about, nerd is a really operative word in my life and I’ve talked about it in plenty of other interviews, so I won’t go over that stuff, but I definitely feel like, as I’ve said before, being a nerd just means you’re passionate about something. The word is a defining thing in your life and therefore, we’re all nerds because we’re all passionate about something and I love that people are able to embrace that.
Q: What was it like working with Scott Bakula as Chuck’s dad?
Zac: Such a, just an excellent human being, great actor, great man. I love that the people who have played my parents in the show have both kind of been that. Linda’s like a mom on set; Scott was like a dad on set. He and I have I felt in a lot of the conversations we had over our time together, had a lot in common. He imparted a lot of wisdom to me. His journey on ‘Quantum Leap’ was similar to mine here in that it was all day, every day, go go go, crazy hours, but a great family. He was so supportive of me from day one, just an excellent guy. I wish Tony Hale never left. He was just so funny and such an incredible human being. I’ll take John Laroquette any day. Arnold Vosloo, loved Arnold Vosloo. Oh gosh, who else? There’s been so many. Jordana Brewster. I don’t know.
Q: Was there anything that you had hoped to do as Chuck that you didn’t get the chance to do?
Zac: Great question. Not that the other ones haven’t been, by the way. I’m not judging. One of the things that I really hoped I’d get the opportunity to do on the show, and I thought I would when we started it, ever since I was a kid, I’d do voices and dialects and characters and stuff and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is great. I get to play this spy who’s constantly going undercover and stuff. I’ll get to do that.” And I didn’t really. Very seldom did I get to do anything that was much of a departure from my character. This last season, or Season 4 and this last season I was looking for every opportunity I could when they couldn’t cut it out and I would do a voice or something.
Q: You did a British accent in one episode.
Zac: I did. That was last season. Actually, I’ve gotten to do it a couple of times. In the 3D episode we did with Dominic, we were in some club and he was saying that I was his drummer and I did some random line there. Then last year, the episode where we went to a vineyard in France, and again, for only a second, but I commit to a character and to like own that for a whole episode would have been fun. And only once did I get to do some kind of cool prosthetics, which I think was in the season finale of I think 3, Season 3, where I was an old Russian guy. Of course, if you look at my hands, there’s no prosthetics on my hands, so it’s all wrinkly, then young man hands.
Q: You just really took care of your hands.
Zac: Just creams, hand creams and gloves every night.
Zac: Oh yeah, it’s this Friday. [note: this interview took place a few days before “Chuck vs. the Hack Off” aired in December 2011.] I really enjoyed it. I always enjoy it. It’s a weird kind of love-hate thing, because it’s really hard. It’s only the third episode of television I’ve ever directed, so I still have a lot to learn and a long ways to go as a director, but I feel like I was the most learned and applied that knowledge in this episode. Obviously, the more times you do it, hopefully the better you do it.
I feel like the storyline was a lot of fun. I tried to extrapolate as much comedy as I could out of it, because, at the heart of it, I really see this show as an action-comedy and I try to apply that in the episodes I direct. Really fun stuff. A lot of scenes with characters you wouldn’t normally see together in situations you wouldn’t think they would be in together. Good heart, fun story, plenty of nudity. And that was the thing, when I read this script, I said, “How the hell am I supposed to do this?” I know we hadn’t done it on the show before, I haven’t really seen this done on television before, well, I mean I have, but it’s on HBO.
Game of Thrones is not really throwing blur boxes on their stuff, and thank God for that. God, it’s such a great show. I can’t wait for it to come back. But a fun challenge. Bo Garrett was totally game and totally awesome and fun. That’s one of the things that I’ve really been stoked about. In the episodes that I’ve been able to direct, I’ve gotten some really good guest stars. In the first season, or rather the third season, my first episode with Cedric Yarborough and Dietrich Bader, those guys were fantastic. Last season, obviously, with Linda Hamilton and Timothy Dalton, and then this season with Bo and Carrie Ann Moss.
When Carrie Ann did her first episode with the show, Josh and I were total just fan boyed out. “She’s standing over there, she’s standing over there, she’s standing over there. She’s turning, she’s turning.” So, that was really cool and she’s awesome. It’s weird, when you’re acting in scenes with other actors and you have to direct them, that fine line of…because as an actor, you don’t particularly care when another actors comes up to you and says, “Maybe you should do the line like this.” You say, “Oh really? Thanks a lot. I appreciate that. Thanks for the note.” You’re hoping that they are taking it through…that they’re seeing you with the hat of director on for that moment. But everyone has always been super cool and very kind and helpful in the process, so I hope everybody digs it.
Q: So post-Chuck, are you looking to direct more or are you going back…?
Zac: I’d love to man. I hope that people can see the cast of the show and see the talent that the people possess, even people like Vik, for example. He doesn’t get as much screen time. Josh has gotten more now, thank God, because he’s been brought into the fold of the spy life. But I’d love to go and direct some fun comedy stuff with Josh and Vik or anybody in the cast. They are all very near and dear to my heart and very talented people.
I’d love to direct more. I don’t know if I’d really want to go and direct television so much. Hear me out on that. Television directing is a very interesting job. It’s a writers’ medium, so you end up being a traffic cop, of sorts. You are taking what they want and you go and apply that to the actors, and then the actors say, “Well, I don’t know how I feel about that.” And then you take that and bring it back to the writers and you are this go-between, especially as this younger guy going and jumping onto the eighth season of CSI, where it’s a very well-oiled machine; they know what they’re doing. I would imagine that I would walk onto that set and they’d say, “Who’s hop-along? Who’s this guy? We get it. We know the show. We know our characters.” So, to me, that’s not an incredibly enticing thing. Although, who knows? I’d love to go and direct a pilot. With a pilot, you really get that creative influence and you get a chance to put your vision into it.
The two-episode Chuck series finale airs Friday, January 27 at 8/7c on NBC.