Zachary Levi CHUCK Series Finale Set Visit Interview

     January 24, 2012

With the two-hour series finale of Chuck airing this week, 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 with series star Zachary Levi, he talked about how gnarly it was to film their last scenes, that they spent their last day of shooting on the Buy More set reminiscing about their time on the show, guest stars he wishes could have come back, what he hoped he would get to do as Chuck but never got the chance to do, what it was like to direct his last Chuck episode, and whether fans will feel any resolution to the Chuck and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) relationship. He also talked about his desire to continue directing, his hope that he’ll be able to do a Y: The Last Man movie someday, and wanting to do a Broadway show. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there might be some spoilers:

chuck-tv-show-season-5-imageQuestion: What can you tease about what you’re shooting today?

ZACHARY LEVI: I’ll just say that things happen where we come to the finale in a way that it’s almost a reset, of sorts. The “will they or won’t they” dynamic comes back into play, particularly in the second half of the finale, with Episode 13. There’s a ton of homage to the pilot, the origins of these characters and their journey together. Everyone is in it, and that’s awesome. It’s been really emotional. Last week, we shot pretty much all of the goodbye scenes, with all the characters saying goodbye to one another, and when art is imitating life, simultaneously, in that moment, and I’m looking at my friends and family of five years, in a scene where I’m having to look at them and say goodbye, and I really am saying goodbye, was difficult.

Why is it goodbye?

LEVI: Well, it’s not forever. Although, I’ll probably never see Adam Baldwin again. That’s not true. It’s actually not even that final in the world of Chuck, if it were to continue. Obviously, Chuck and Morgan are going to be best friends, for the rest of their lives. Chuck and Ellie are still brother and sister, and therefore Awesome is still Chuck’s brother-in-law. We would all still continue to see each other, in some way, shape or form. But, the world that has been created, and the world in which we all live and work, has drastically changed and is drastically different, so we did say goodbyes, at least for the time being.

chuck-season-5-image-2It was gnarly. It was really, really surreal. But, I don’t feel like we were cut short. As difficult as it is to shut this last chapter on this journey, I don’t think that we’ve been shorted. I think five seasons is actually a really good amount of time. Oftentimes, in network television, you’re left with more than you really wanted. After 22 to 24 episodes a season, for 7, 8, 9 or 10 years, viewers eventually go, “All right, we get it.” With a sitcom, you can stretch it out a little more because you’re really just tuning in for fun jokes, every week. For something like this, which definitely has story arcs and a serial story, 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.

What was your last day shooting at the Buy More like?

LEVI: Oh, dude, our sets are almost just as much of a character as any of the actual characters, particularly the Buy More, our apartment complex and Castle. The last day at the Buy More was a really emotional time. When we shot our last scenes there, everyone was aware of it. There were about 12 of us there, including Yvonne [Strahovski], Josh [Gomez] and I, and I think Vik [Sahay] and Scott [Krinsky] were still there, along with some crew. We were just in a circle, standing in a very dimly lit Buy More because everyone was wrapping. But, we were just standing around in a circle, reminiscing about the show, and specifically about the Buy More and the memories we had there. The pilot Buy More was very, very different from the Buy More that was in the rest of the seasons.

On the pilot, I remember McG yelling for me and Josh, as we had just barely met each other. I had brought my Xbox and the original Gears of War, which had just come out, and I had hooked it up to a flat screen in our store, and we were just sitting there, playing between takes. McG would go, “Guys, I need you! Come on!” We would pause it, run back to the set, and then go and play some more. That pilot was just a really magical time. It’s crazy to think that it’s been five years since we did that. And yet, at the same time, it’s like any memory like that. It seems like it was yesterday, and it seems like it was a lifetime ago.

How do you feel about making nerd popular?

chuck-tv-show-imageLEVI: Great! Obviously, with the Nerd Machine and everything that I’m passionate about, nerd is a really operative word in my life. I’ve talked about it in plenty of other interviews, so I won’t go over all of that stuff, but I definitely feel that being a nerd just means you’re passionate about something. We’re all nerds because we’re all passionate about something. I love that people are able to embrace that and bridge the gap between people who might not necessarily consider themself a nerd. I say do it! Embrace that! It brings people together on a much more level playing field.

Are there any guest stars that wish you could have brought back?

LEVI: Scott Bakula, for sure. That was a bummer. He’s such an excellent human being, who’s a great actor and a great man. In a lot of the conversations we had over our time together, Scott and I have 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, with crazy hours. He was so supportive of me, from day one, and an excellent guy. I wish Tony Hale never left. He’s so funny, and such an incredible human being. I’ll take John Larroquette, any day. I loved Arnold Vosloo. Jordana Brewster was great.

Was there anything you hoped to do as Chuck that you didn’t get the chance to do?

yvonne-strahovski-zachary-levi-chuck-finaleLEVI: Great question. Not that these other ones haven’t been, by the way. I’m not judging. One of the things I really hoped I would have gotten the opportunity to do on this show, and I thought I would when we started it, was take advantage of the fact that, ever since I was a kid, I’ve done voices, dialects and characters. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, this is great! I get to play this spy who’s constantly going undercover, so 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. Season 4 and this last season, I was looking for every opportunity where I could a voice or something. To commit to a character and really get to own that, for an entire episode, would have been really, really fun. And only once, did I get to do any kind of cool prosthetics, which was in the season finale of Season 3, when I was an old Russian guy. Of course, if you looked at my hands, you would have seen that there were no prosthetics on my hands. I was old and wrinkly in my face, but I had young man hands.

What was it like to direct your last Chuck episode?

LEVI: I really enjoyed it. I always enjoy that. It’s a weird love-hate thing because it’s really hard. It’s only the third episode of television that I’ve ever directed, so I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go as a director, but I feel like I was the most learned, and I applied that knowledge in that last episode. Obviously, the more times you do it, hopefully, the better you do it. And, I feel like the storyline was a lot of fun. I tried to extrapolate as much comedy that I could out of it.

chuck_olivia_munn_zachary_levi_imageAt the heart of it, I really see this show as an action-comedy, and I really try to apply that to the episodes that I direct. It was really fun stuff. There were a lot of scenes with characters that you wouldn’t normally see together, and situations you wouldn’t think they’d be in together. Beau Garrett was totally game, totally awesome, and totally fun. That was one of the things I was really stoked about.

In the episodes that I got to direct, I got some really great guest stars. In the third season, for my first episode, we had Cedric Yarbrough and Diedrich Bader. Last season, we had Linda Hamilton and Timothy Dalton. And this season, we had Beau and Carrie-Anne Moss. When Carrie-Anne did her first episode on the show, Josh and I were totally fan-ing out. We were like, “She’s standing over there! Trinity! Oh, my God.” So, that was pretty cool. She was awesome.

It’s weird, when you’re acting in scenes with other actors and you have to direct them. As an actor, you don’t particularly care when another actor comes up to you and says, “Maybe you should do the line like this.” You’re like, “Oh, really? Thanks a lot for the note.” So, you hope that they’re seeing you with the hat of director, in that moment. But, everyone has always been super-cool and kind and helpful in the process.

What was it like to work with Brandon Routh again?

chuck_zachary_levi_yvonne_strahovski.jpgLEVI: It was a trip. He died a couple times. Well, not really. He’s a tough one. He’s Superman. You can’t expect any less. It’s always fun when you get to have recurring themes or recurring characters, and Brandon spent a lot of time with us. I’ve known Brandon, outside of work, for a lot of years, because we have mutual friends. In some ways, it’s cool to have even more closure than what the closure was before. When I killed Shaw the first time, we didn’t know we were going to have more of a season, so that was him dying. And then, we had more of a season, so we were like, “Well, okay, what are we going to do?” So, he didn’t die. He came back, and that was interesting, to bring his character back. And then, at the end of Season 3, with the Buy More blowing up, we knocked him out. It was really more implied that he got captured, which he was, and didn’t die. So, we really only killed him once. Because this season felt like it had a lot of themes and homage to other parts of our journey, that was always cool.

Do you feel like he was a real match for Chuck? Do you think he’s one of the toughest opponents Chuck has faced?

LEVI: Well, certainly in Season 3. That’s what his character was and was built up to be. Volkoff, for example, was a very formidable opponent, but I wasn’t fist-fighting Volkoff. Daniel Shaw and Chuck Bartowski were contemporaries. We were enemies and friends, at one point, and then just enemies. And, we’re both the same age and, in some ways, we were vying for the love of the same girl. Sarah had killed his wife. That was very messy. Other bad guys we’ve had on the show were different types of enemies. It was more of a, “How does the team, together, take down this empire?,” as opposed to just this one guy and his vendetta.

Will there be any Chuck and Sarah resolution in the series finale?

LEVI: In the finale, things happen. What happens in the last few episodes, resets the clock, in a lot of ways. You find our heroes, all almost like you found them, in the beginning of the show, which is a really cool, full-circle type of thing. Because of that, that leads to a tremendous amount of emotion and a tremendous amount of fight and yearning. But then, aside from that and the love story, there’s major stuff happening. What happened, this time around, knowing for sure that this was the last time I’d say, “Goodbye,” it just rocked me.

Sarah Lancaster and I were filming the last scene that we will ever shoot in the Awesomes’ apartment, and we couldn’t even get through rehearsal. We started saying our lines, and just started crying. It was really nutty. Sarah has been my sister for five years, and I couldn’t possibly have cast anyone else in that role. Even though she hasn’t had as much to do, and hasn’t even been in every episode, she’s been in the vast majority and is one of our main characters. She is just so incredible, so lovely, and so talented and gorgeous. It’s weird being attracted to your sister. First and foremost, that’s strange. We have also been very brother-and-sister and supportive. Watching her live life, find the man of her dreams, get married and have a baby, on-screen and off, was incredible. So to be standing there and saying goodbye, that stuff really gets you.

I can imagine, if it’s hitting us that hard, that the fans, as they’re watching the two-hour finale, are gonna feel the same way. It’s good. It’s cathartic. It’s therapeutic. It’s not necessarily tears of joy, but it’s tears of love. I hope that the fans all feel that. One of the things that I’ve always heard is that part of the reason why we’ve been able to maintain what we have is that people can feel the fun that we have. It transcends the television screen. If there’s any truth to that, then I can only assume that they’re gonna feel the love and the emotion that we felt doing all this together.

Will Nerd HQ continue?

LEVI: Yes, I fully intend to keep fostering the Nerd machine and keep trying to do the coolest things that I can do, as far as bringing entertainment and technology together, and bringing the creative world of Hollywood and fans together. I think that, in next five years, we’re going to see really incredible steps, as far as social networking and the impact that will have, not just reading tweets and people hash-tagging and trending things, but offering fans and the public the opportunity to have the power. I believe that you need to give them the power back. I think that, if you trust them with it, and everyone has an understanding that, if you believe in whatever this is and you buy it, as long as you’re not gouging your audience, you can build a healthy relationship with them. It can be consumer-driven, where you’re not worried, as a fan, that your show is gonna get ripped off the air because of some weird number of live-plus. I want to take a lot of those middlemen out of the process. I want to go create my own independent content and entertainment, in new models and in new ways, and essentially show studios and networks that people are good. Fans will treat something preciously, if they’re given the opportunity to do so.

Do you think you’ll still do a Chuck panel at Comic-Con?

LEVI: Oh, 100%, as far as I’m concerned. Last year was an interesting time because there were a lot of things going on, as far as our ability to even get casts, with the studios and networks that they belong to and the press that they’re allowed to do. To perfectly honest, I’ve never really understood it, especially since it was all for charity anyway, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is now that the show won’t exist anymore, so I don’t think that there should be any kind of complications.

I’m all good with Warner Bros., and I’m hoping to get other Warner Bros. shows, and I’m hoping to have a Doctor Who panel. I just want to get stuff the fans dig, and that can be all manner of things, whether it’s comic book artists or writers, or people who are working in entertainment, or just fan-favorite shows. I just know that, every year I’ve gone down there, I felt awful, every time we’d finish a panel and there was five minutes left for fans. In some ways, I’m grateful for it because it was a catalyst for a fire under my butt, for wanting to go and do something that was different, and doing hour-long Q&As where there’s no moderator and it’s very free-form and you can just ask what you want to ask. Everyone was so game for that.

chuck-season-5-image-4That was one of the things that I loved the most. I went to all the people that I felt, in my heart, care about their fans, and get the symbiosis between being an entertainer and having people that support you as an entertainer. At the end of the day, you strip all this away and it’s community theater. We all just get paid pretty well and we’re put on entertainment pedestals because we’re pumped into people’s homes, every week. That’s cool and that’s awesome, but take all of that away and we’re all eating Red Vines at craft service and making minimum wage. You love what you do. You love being an entertainer and you hope that people see that and go, “I dig what you do.” So, it was a really cool experience and I felt like the fans really dug it. I want to get even more technology and video games in there. I want to kick off the whole Comic-Con week with like a little concert and get three bands, and do all that for charity.

With Chuck ending, are you going to be able to do the Y: The Last Man movie now?

LEVI: I wish. That movie is in production limbo. At least, every time I’ve checked on it, it’s in production limbo. Jeff Katz at New Line grabbed it, and then when Warner Bros. gobbled up New Line, so it’s just been sitting there. I don’t know. That’s a dream role.

Do you have any idea what you’d like to do next, acting wise?

LEVI: I really want to create my own entertainment, but aside from that, as an actor, I want to do films. Films are really cool because, every couple months, or however many times you can get a job because there’s a lot of luck involved in that, you’re playing a different character. That’s fun, but it’s also a cool piece with a beginning and ending. I started in theater, and I love to go back to theater, just to have the experience and recharge my batteries, creatively. There’s nothing quite like having a live audience and being able to entertain them.

Would you do Broadway, or something in the West End in London?

LEVI: I’d love to. I’d love to live in London. I think the first step would be to try to go and do something on Broadway. As far as the bucket list of things I’d like to do, it’s like, “All right, I want to do a show on Broadway. Check. Done.”

chuck-season-5-image-6Will you be looking to direct more?

LEVI: I’d love to. Honestly, I really hope that people see the talent that this cast possesses. Even the people like Vik, who don’t get as much screen time. I’d love to go and direct some fun comedy stuff with Josh [Gomez] and Vik [Sahay], or anybody in our cast. They’re all very near and dear to my heart, and they’re all such fun, talented people. I’d love to direct more, but I don’t know that I’d want to go and direct television, so much. Television directing is a very interesting job. It’s a writer’s medium, so you end up being a traffic cop, of sorts. You’re taking what they want, and then you go and apply that to the actors, and then the actors say, “Well, I don’t know how I feel about that,” so then you have to take that back to the writers. You’re a go-between. Especially as a younger guy, going and jumping onto the eighth season of CSI, where it’s a very well-oiled machine and they know what they’re doing, I imagine I would walk onto that set, and they’d go, “Who’s hop-a-long here? Who’s this guy? We know the show. We know our characters.” So, to me, that’s not an incredibly enticing thing. But, who knows? I’d love to go and direct a pilot. On a pilot, you really get that creative influence, and you get the chance to put your vision into it.