With the two-hour series finale of Chuck airing tonight on NBC, we can finally reveal that we were on set for the filming of that last episode, where we got to interview the cast and creative team about their experiences. While everyone was clearly proud of their work and time on the show, it was also obvious that they were sad to see it go.
During the interview, show creator/writer/executive producer Chris Fedak talked about how surreal it was to be wrapping up the last couple of days on the TV series, that the final two hours will play very much like a movie, that the finale will echo all of the past seasons, and that they believe it will be as much of an emotional experience for the fans as it was for the cast to shoot it. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there might be some spoilers.
Chris Fedak: It’s surreal and desperate. What happens in the last couple days of a television show is that you’re freaking out because you want to get everything. You want to be sure that you have all the pieces you need, all the scenes and all the inserts. It’s a spy show, so you need a lot of digital pads with people punching in keys, and stuff like that. We know that we’re great with emotion and the characters in the scenes, but another part of my producer’s brain is like, “I won’t have these people, after the end of tomorrow. They won’t have to return my phone calls.” I can’t call and say, “Zach, I need another scene,” or “Yvonne, I need another scene.” These are very in-demand actors who are going on to doing very exciting things. I think that’s my producer’s desperation, but it’s also an emotional time, these last couple days. This show has been a great experience for all of us. I’ve done so much that, in 91 episodes, it’s hard to go, “Oh, my god, it’s coming to an end. We won’t be able to blow something up, in a few days. I can’t blow up a car.”
What is the mood of the finale?
Fedak: First of all, we’re airing two episodes, back-to-back. Episode 12 and Episode 13 will be a two-parter. It’ll play very much like a movie. It’ll be epic. It’ll be big. The finale is very much haunted by seasons past. This is an episode that is not only a finale for Season 5, but also five seasons of television, so we’re going to be bringing back a lot of things. It wouldn’t be a final episode unless we saw Yvonne in the cat suit, or wearing an evening gown and dancing the tango, or wearing some other outfits that she’s worn, from time to time. It’s a show that has a lot of echoes.
Fedak: We have Linda Hamilton returning as Mom Bartowski, and we were really happy to have her back. She’s great. But, it’s not a cavalcade. In truth, there was a point when we were working on the cavalcade, and the episode was just so jam-packed with story and big things that we just didn’t have much time.
Did you have enough lead time to know that you would be airing those two episodes together?
Fedak: Not really, but they kind of work together, in a good way. It’s not like there was this change-up. We were already making them. In truth, they were already working together in a great way because the end of Episode 11 is an emotionally catastrophic ending. I think people are going to be wanting these two episodes going, at the same time. I think that it’s a good thing. Back in the day, in Season 3, we had a character named Daniel Shaw (Brandon Routh). There was a time when the Christmas break was going to be a big break, and we were going to have Episode 12 be the episode before that break. We pled with NBC and said, “It’s gotta be 13 [episodes] because Episode 13 is the death of Daniel Shaw.” That was a great moment for us because we were able to tell the story, all the way through to Episode 13, and then we went on our break, which was a great break. With these two episodes, it’s good that they’re fused together because it’s more emotionally satisfying that way.
Can you discuss bringing Daniel Shaw back for this season?
Fedak: Episode 7 was the return of Daniel Shaw. We realized that Decker and the plan had all been manipulated by Daniel Shaw, from his 12 x 12 cell, so we wanted to do a monster story. We wanted to do a Christmas story, and Christmas is such holiday that’s haunted, like in the Charles Dickens tradition, so we thought, “Let’s bring back a monster from our past.” At the end of Season 3, Brandon was such a good bad guy. I was like, “I’ve got to bring that back.” It was one of our most intense, crazy episodes. It was Daniel Shaw, haunting Sarah Walker, in a frozen version of Castle. Brandon [Routh] came back and he was great. He just plays an icy killer like nobody else.
Fedak: Well, I don’t know if I should tell you the answer to that question. I don’t want to answer that question, but there are heavy things coming up. There’s heavy stuff.
What was thing that was the most satisfying for you, in the finale? What were you most excited to wrap up?
Fedak: For the finale, we knew what kind of ending we were heading toward. And then, when we started getting into what the story would be, and we realized we wanted to create an episode that echoed all those seasons, it just helped us wrap our heads around what would make this episode special and different. For this episode, we’ve spent a lot of money. We’re a little over budget. There may be a few people looking for me right now, so I have to keep moving. It’s a long episode, it’s a big episode and we go a lot of different places. We blew up most of the Universal backlot a few days ago, with helicopters and stuff like that. The amazing thing about Chuck is that we put everything on the screen. We’re very good at that. We have a lot of big action coming up.
Do you envision some tears from the audience, when they watch the finale?
Fedak: Yes, and it’s been hard for us, just making the show. We’ve been losing it, on a scene-by-scene basis. It’s been a very emotional experience, and it’s an episode that’s emotional. If people aren’t tearing up, then we’ve not done our job.
What are you looking to do with the Intersect now?
Fedak: I don’t think the show is about simply having the Intersect, but that computer is something that has definitely haunted Chuck for years now, and also haunted his father, who created it. In some ways, it’s the ghost that keeps on cropping up, at the wrong times.
Fedak: I think the Chuck and Sarah story is at the heart of the show. The show is a romance. I think that’s what we discovered, very early on in the show. The moment we put Zach and Yvonne together, the show became about them. That is the through-line of the show – great characters, great emotions and an amazing cast.
There were a lot of parallels between Chuck and Morgan (Joshua Gomez), with Morgan learning how to use the Intersect, early this season. Will Morgan also get Alex back?
Fedak: For the next couple of episodes, Morgan is going to be desperate to try to get Alex back, but it’s not that easy. He broke up [with her] on a text [message]. He turned into a douche. It also may not be the last time you see the frosted tips.
In the run of this series, you’ve thought you were in your final season before. Going into the actual finale, were there things you wished you’d saved from those other non-finales?
Fedak: No. From the get-go on this show, we’ve always blown it out because we didn’t know if we were going to be around. Even during the first season, we were fighting for our spot, so we always pushed for it. Mid-way through Season 3, we had Chuck and Sarah together, which is impressive, despite what some people say. It’s never been anything like, “We should have held that.” I’m always glad when we push it to do more. The great thing about the show is that there was a lot of opportunity to tell new stories, and that pushed us to tell new stories.
Fedak: That’s the episode that Zach Levi directed. It was one of our nerdier episodes. It was a really super-fun episode. Zach’s robe was shorter than Yvonne’s robe. It was very funny. Zach directed it. It was called “Chuck vs. the Hack Off,” but there were not as many hack-off jokes as you’d think. They did a great job. It was dynamic and energetic. We learned a little about Chuck’s backstory, who he was before he met Sarah, and a little bit about the hacker side of Chuck. We brought Danny Pudi into the show because we’re big Community fans and there was a character we were building that only Danny Pudi could have done. So, instead of going, “Let’s re-conceive this and make it a different person,” it was, “Let’s try and get Danny Pudi to do it.” We used our forces at NBC to trick the Community people into letting us use him, or we just asked nicely. He was great. He came in and he killed it. He’s so very funny. It tied into the Jeff and Lester story.
How did you get Rebecca Romijn involved?
Fedak: We originally created a character that was just going to be a man. It was an ominous, scary figure who had a penchant for torture, which he considered his art form. But then, we started thinking about it and were like, “What if Rebecca Romijn was this guy? That would be scary and sexy.” So, we went out and tried to get her. She was game for it, and she also has this great sense of humor. Rebecca Romijn has got a wicked sense of humor, and she’s quite ominous. That was a really fun episode, which had Ryan McPartlin and Sarah Lancaster getting drawn into the action. They were very much the center of that episode. It was a really fun adventure. Watching Sarah Lancaster out in the field is great. She and Ryan are sexy, fun and exciting together.
Fedak: Mom and dad are babysitting. We have the Awesomes taking care of the baby. We do a lot of baby in peril.
Is there anything you can tease from the final scene of the series?
Fedak: Um, no. We’ve already filmed it. I actually can’t say anything.
What about the opening scene of the finale?
Fedak: We actually have one of the deepest-into-the-matrix callbacks of the show, at the beginning of the second hour of the finale. Mark Pellegrino is in the opening scene, very quickly reprising a bad-guy role from one of our previous seasons. In consideration that he’s a Fulcrum agent, we touch upon what’s going on with Fulcrum and The Ring these days. The episode begins on a private jet, and Mark’s in there. He’s great. We actually did a special skydiving unit based on what happens on board the jet.
Is it going to be a globe-trotting finale?
What are you shooting today?
Fedak: This is our Act 4 set piece. This is very much an ode to The Man Who Knew Too Much, with the sequence that takes place in Albert Hall, when someone is going to be killed when the cymbals crash. This is the Chuck version of that. There is a different ear-splitting experience that’s going to happen here.