[03/19/08 - 12:11 AM]
Live at the Paley Festival: NBC's "Chuck"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

7:10 p.m.: Tonight's archival clip is from the 1965 pilot to "Get Smart," a scene which introduces the Cone of Silence. Good choice - the audience digs it. Anywho, Pat Mitchell once again takes the podium where she notes last night's "Judd Apatow & Friends" session here at the Arclight's Cinerama Dome was the first "X-rated" Paley panel to date.

7:15 p.m.: And our moderator is... "Lost's" Damon Lindelof! He quips that if there are any problems with the sound or picture tonight, look for him or someone dressed like him to assist. Only 0.01% of people reading this will get that joke but if you live in Southern California you probably do.

7:18 p.m.: Damon in turn intros co-creator Josh Schwartz who in turn sets up tonight's clip package, appropriately titled "Chuck vs. the Montage."

7:31 p.m.: It's our biggest panel yet - Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike)! Scott Krinsky (Jeff)! Vik Sahay (Lester)!, Julia Ling (Anna)! Joshua Gomez (Morgan)!, Ryan McPartlin (Captain Awesome)!, McG (EP)!, Adam Baldwin (Casey, the crowd fav!), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah!), Zachary Levi (Chuck!), Chris Fedak (co-creator/EP)! and our returning champ Josh Schwartz. Damon notes that the absent Sarah Lancaster (out sick) will be played by Joshua Gomez. I should also note that Zach and Joshua have traded facial hair - the former is sporting a beard while the latter is relatively clean shaven.

7:35 p.m.: Damon asks about "Chuck's" origin story. Thankfully my chat with Josh and Chris last year will save me some transcribing. Chris sums it up best: "The idea was if we took something like 'The Office,' where you really kind of love the characters and really felt like you were a part of a family. How terrifying would it be if Jack Bauer actually came into 'The Office?' And you know if Jack Bauer's there somebody's getting tortured." Josh also notes that Chris was convinced they blew their pitch at NBC because he completely missed his mouth with a glass of water. "Talking and drinking - it's hard," Chris confesses.

7:40 p.m.: Josh reveals Adam was the first person - and Chris's first choice for Casey - to be cast. Zach was actually cast on the last day of filming of "The O.C." finale. The producers however were concerned they couldn't get him as he was still under contract for another pilot.

7:44 p.m.: Damon, who notes he's brought his blue "Inside the Actors Studio" question cards with him, prods the gang about the show's "bromance" between Chuck and Morgan. "Me and Zach are just two little peas in a pod," Joshua says, squealing on the last part. "Why did you have to go to another world for 'peeeeaasss?'" Zach quips. McG, who's seated between them, says they're going through separation anxiety since they aren't next to each other. "Normally we'd have Xbox Live communicators on," Zach adds and proceeds to go into a long string of jokes about "Call of Duty 4" I unfortunately am not cool enough to get. Not surprisingly, Zach reveals that he and Joshua bonded after the first cast lunch together when one of them brought up videogames.

7:48 p.m.: McG adds that Zach's videogame "passion" has actually gotten him in trouble - after being told he couldn't do a snowboarding event for charity (for insurance reasons), Zach went to play Wii and "hits an overhead smash in Wii Tennis and gets 45 stitches in his right hand!" Or four actually.

7:49 p.m.: After Ryan makes a joke, McG (I think) muses he doesn't know where Ryan begins and Captain Awesome ends. "I don't know actually," Ryan jokes (I think). "I don't know if that's a compliment or not."

7:50 p.m.: Damon asks about the decision to drop the character of Kayla (played by Natalie Martinez) from the pilot. "We had this part, Kayla," Josh says. "She was Chuck's next door neighbor in the apartment complex. And it was sort of the girl that Chuck was pining for. The issue was he was pining for her but he wasn't over Jill and he wasn't falling in love with Sarah. And the actress we cast was great and it was no fault of her own. We sat and we watched the pilot and it felt like it was hard to get a bead on where Chuck's emotional life really lived... so we decided, I don't remember where it was in the process, but it was like, 'What happens if we kind of let these...' Actually when they go to the nightclub, she worked at the club that Chuck takes Sarah to, to impress her. He kind of took her there to impress this Kayla character. So when we went and watched the film we're like, 'What happens if we just sort of remove this character?' And it kind of lifted out, all of a sudden the love story completely opened up between Chuck and Sarah and you really got a much better handle on his character. It was kind of an interesting process creatively to go that far down the line with a major character."

7:54 p.m.: Mark on whether he wants his character to be part of the spy world: "When I watch all that spy stuff, I go - 'Man, that stuff is fun' - but the comedy is down here [motioning to his side of the panel]."

7:56 p.m.: More deleted pilot info courtesy of Josh: "We had a thing in the pilot too where Lester and Jeff were like secretly plotting to take Chuck down and Vic had all these crazy... that was my favorite stuff. We did fight for it passionately and it was really funny but when we tested it, people were like, 'Wait, he works for the NSA?'" McG adds, "Every time Chuck would exit they would say non-sequiturs like, 'It is time for the fat man to swim at midnight.'"

7:57 p.m.: Ryan on his character: "I like being in the other world. Because if I'm ever in the spy world it probably means Captain Awesome is going to be killed. Or naked. Killed and naked... I'd like to stay at home the whole show. And just be nude." Zach prods, "Give them one read of the line, 'How'd you like the Paley Festival?'" Ryan responds, "Awesome... I had to think for a second, that was the sad part." Vic notes, "As far as I'm concerned the show is called 'Lester.' I'm in my own spy world. I have my own action sequence in my heart."

8:01 p.m.: Damon, on Yvonne being part of the invasion of non-U.S. actors on television lately: "My question is, I guess in your own words, what makes you so vastly superior to Americans? That was a rhetorical question." She notes her accent is actually changing because of being in the U.S, "According to Adam it's [a good thing]." Zach quips (and is subsequently met with resounding applause) with, "He's got the majority vote here right? Firefly!!!"

8:03 p.m.: McG on the difference between nerds and geeks: "Joss Whedon is a geek. J.J. [Abrams] is a nerd."

8:04 p.m.: Damon says Star-Ledger TV critic Alan Sepinwall will give him $5 if he asked Josh about the origins of the Weinerlicious uniform. Confused about the question, Damon e-mailed him about it and Alan responded as follows: "To me it's obvious, Chuck like Seth Cohen before him is the central character in a Jewish assimilation fable, grappling with his place in the secular Gentile post-Holocaust world. The CIA or NSA, I can never remember who works for whom, has obviously done deep psychological profiling on him, having read the works of Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth, they understand his neurosis and ambivalent feelings toward his heritage, have decided to tap into those fears and keep him off balance by posting their operative, that would be Sarah, in a chain restaurant whose uniform invokes the deepest traditions of a culture that gave rise to Hitler and in turn, the rise of the Jewish state. That, or someone thought Yvonne would look good dressed like an Oktoberfest wench."

8:07 p.m.: Josh confirms "Chuck" will return to Comic-Con this year, where they'll be pimping the upcoming six-issue "Chuck" comic from DC Comics and "hopefully" have some footage from season two. Speaking of, he adds that filming is set to start in the beginning of May.

8:09 p.m.: Damon on Zach's facial hair: "Are you going to keep the beard for season two, are you going to be sort of a Jack Bauer working at an oil refinery?" Zach notes, "Everyone thought it was a strike beard, I just don't like shaving people." An audience poll indicates they hope it doesn't make the cut for season two.

8:12 p.m.: Damon asks Chris, "One of my first gigs writing was on this cop show that was set in San Francisco and it started an actor from a very popular cop show that had been set in Miami. I don't want to mention it, we'll just call it 'Crash Cridges.' My boss on that show said to me, because I joined in season six, 'Never ever name a show after the title character because you are writing a blank check for that actor to become an egotistical, raging... and you can never kill them off, ever.' And Josh seemed to know this when he changed the title of 'The O.C.' from 'Ryan and Seth Are Friends.'" Chris responds, "It wasn't always 'Chuck.' I think at the get go we had some kind of terrible, bad genre name for the show which I won't even tell you. It was all one big conspiracy and I was in a big 'Lostie'-type mood, it was like called 'Scenario 5.' [Josh and I] would go back and forth in our e-mails. He was having me read Chuck Klosterman just because I'm not very hip... and so we went back and forth and he was looking at the title of the book and he's like, 'What if we name the main character Chuck and call the show 'Chuck?' I thought that was the worst, most terrible idea in the world. And I think I changed the name to Charles for a little bit and it wasn't working out. And I told Lisa, my wife, the idea and she was like, 'That's perfect. It's brilliant. It's clear. It's simple.' And so I realized the error of my ways which is usual with either my wife or Josh. They're always right."

8:18 p.m.: Josh turns the tables on Damon, asking about the four-toed statue on "Lost." "That's actually a great story," Damon responds. "We did the four-toed statue on the show and basically we got a note back from the network, which was, 'This is too weird.' We're like, 'Do you watch the show? This is too weird?' And essentially they said, 'Could it be a six-toed statue?' If someone could explain why a six-toed statue is less weird than a four-toed statue, that's exactly what we will do."

8:20 p.m.: Josh on the network's support of the show: "We don't really have a lot to say [negatively], not just because they are here because they are. And 'American Gladiators' did do better in our time slot than we did so I have to keep it cool."

8:22 p.m.: Adam on filming the pilot: "We had a great rehearsal process. It was condensed but McG gave us the vision and Josh and Chris [gave us the vision]... of what this pilot was going to be in a couple of days of rehearsals. You had examples you chose from other films, like this is kind of an homage to that and this is kinda my vision for this. And then it would all fall apart that day." McG quips, "You're confirming the audience's suspicion that I'm talentless."

8:24 p.m.: Josh notes the writers began work on season two today. His hints: "The idea is to kind of own the fact that we've been off the air for several months. And so there's going to be a reset that's going to happen, we have to justify the beard. It's not going to go quietly into the night... We want to remind viewers of what they've missed so dearly... definitely do the HGH version of the show, take it up a notch and bring in something fresh and new characters, new villains. My dream for the season premiere: two words - Van Damme." This is followed by a spirited discussion of Van Damme's resume, including a debate about which movie he did the splits on a countertop.

8:27 p.m.: Damon pulls out "Inside the Actors Studio's" trademark closing questionnaire, with each question given to a different person on the panel.

Chris Fedak - What is your favorite word? - "Douchebag."

Adam Baldwin - What is your least favorite word? - "Intolerance." Josh adds, "It's Democrat." Zach says, "He didn't say anything about Casey?" Josh quips, "Neither did I."

Scott Krinsky - What sound or noise do you love? - "Waves of the ocean."

Julia Ling - What sound or noise do you hate? - "Wet smushing boots."

Ryan McPartlin - What turns you on [creatively, spiritually, emotionally]? - Joshua cuts in, "Push ups!" Ryan adds, "Besides Joshua Gomez... football."

Vik Sahay - What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? - "I would like to be McG."

Mark Christopher Lawrence - What profession would you not like to do? - "Janitor."

McG - What is your favorite curse word? - "The truth is... fuck."

Josh Schwartz - If Heaven exists what would God say to you at the Pearly Gates? - "'Chuck' has been picked up for season three." Zach adds, "That technically means you'll be dead."

8:32 p.m.: Out of the standard questions, Damon makes up some for the rest of the panel:

Joshua Gomez - Voltron vs. Godzilla, who you got? - "Why do I always get the hard questions? I gotta go Godzilla." This sets off Zach, "Voltron! Godzilla can't split up into five different things!"

Zachary Levi - You get a script entitled "Chuck vs. Chuck" in season four, in which you play your evil mustachioed doppelganger, what do you do, how do you prepare, how do you make it happen? - "It would ultimately be Chuck vs. Lester. Lester is [evil] me."

Yvonne Strahovski - Are you having fun? - "No."

8:34 p.m.: Time for audience Q&A. Ryan shares that he tries not to use "awesome" in his everyday life so he can save it up for the show.

8:36 p.m.: Crazy person #1 asks if he can do his Hulk Hogan impression for the panel.

8:38 p.m.: Someone asks about Zach and Joshua about their "Call of Duty 4" skills. Both say they're about 34 on the 55-point scale but haven't achieved the 11 prestiges. I'm lost.

8:41 p.m.: Josh said one battle they lost with the network was to name Harry Tang's wife Poon.

8:44 p.m.: Crazy person #2 rambles on about how the show is keeping her daughter up late at night, but she wants to have Adam Baldwin to herself, or something like that. Isn't Comic-Con in July?

8:47 p.m.: And that's it kids! Tomorrow is "Friday Night Lights."

  [march 2008]  


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