[09/29/08 - 12:01 AM]
Interview: 'Chuck" Co-Stars Zachary Levi & Joshua Gomez
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

It's a huge vote of confidence from your network when they give a series a full season order of episodes before the season premiere has even aired. Based on the completion of the first six episodes, NBC recently gave "Chuck" the back nine order, ensuring 22 episodes this season. Series stars Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez shared their enthusiasm with Jim Halterman about the humorous spy series, which has its second season premiere tonight on NBC.

Gomez, who plays sidekick Morgan on the series, said, "You can't hear better news and it's sort of unprecedented which I thought was really, really cool. I mean, to get it this early just based off of what the network had seen and the studio had seen and stuff... it feels really good. It just gives you that confidence. You go okay, we're doing something right, you know?"

Levi, who portrays average-Joe-turned-spy Chuck Bartowski, jokingly admitted, "I know that I should say the same but I'm really only in this acting game to work my way into infomercials. I was hoping that the 13 episodes would just wrap up and I could get on with my dream. But, you know, whatever. Nine more? That's fine."

It's very clear throughout the interview that Levi and Gomez have a great rapport that transcends what viewers see on their televisions. When the series was searching for its cast, Levi explained, the producers "cast me in the role of Chuck and then they had me come in and do chemistry reads and [be] in the auditioning process with various other characters. And Morgan was one of them and so I got the privilege to meet Josh before he got the role. And the first time we ever read together immediately there was a really great chemistry. We have very similar comedic styles."

As the second season gets underway, both actors agreed that their characters were showing definite signs of growth. Levi shared "For Chuck, it's him just finding himself, trying to become more comfortable and more familiar with this world of espionage and just finding better footing and maturing as a spy because... whether he likes it or not, he has become a spy." Levi also revealed that, in terms of Chuck getting more adept within the spy profession, "I'm looking forward to the CIA/NSA training montage where [Chuck is] getting the crap beat out of him in kung fu class and slowly but surely [gets] closer and closer to the target as he's shooting at it."

Besides his character taking on more responsibility at Buy More, the Best Buy clone where the characters work, Gomez teased that "Morgan and Anna (Julia Ling) start to develop even more and there are a lot of decisions [Morgan] has to make about that and trying to grow up... and he's forced to kind of look down that road and all he's ever kind of tried to do is sort of avoid those roads. Hard work, adulthood, all that stuff - that's the stuff he tries to avoid and now he has to come face to face with it. So there's a lot of that happening for Morgan."

The key romance on the show, however, is between Chuck and his handler, Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski). With the season premiere entitled "Chuck Versus the First Date," Chuck and Sarah finally take steps closer to actually starting a romantic relationship. Levi warned, though, that viewers should not get their hopes up for the two characters to get too far. "Fortunately or unfortunately, this is the way that television - the best television - keeps you on the edge of your seat. And so they're going to string it out as long as they can." Levi said he believes "people want to see the tension. They're rooting for them, for Chuck and Sarah to get together but we can't go there yet. We're all hoping that we'll have a healthy span of five to seven seasons - God willing." Levi predicts that fans wouldn't be completely disappointed, though. "You'll definitely see lots of good stuff that will satiate your desire for Chuck and Sarah. And there's a little DTR - a little Define The Relationship discussion that we have a couple episodes in and so it helps kind of set that tone as well."

Besides Sarah, Chuck's other handler is Major John Casey, played by Adam Baldwin. While Casey is stern, very military in his speech and mannerisms and blatantly not a big fan of Chuck's, Levi and Gomez revealed that Baldwin himself is quite the opposite of his on-air persona. Gomez first said that Baldwin "is so dedicated to the character and shares many aspects with him but... Adam's probably the biggest surprise because he can get sillier than almost anyone on set."

Levi agreed with his co-star. "The biggest surprise is that [Baldwin] plays these characters and... the cameras are rolling and he's polishing his gun and he's grunting at Chuck as he's doing the scene. But when the cameras aren't rolling, he couldn't be the biggest teddy bear... he loves his cast and he loves his family. And he's just the biggest sweetheart and it's mush. And then, all of a sudden, you know, cha-cha and he's grunting and... he's slamming my face into a wall."

The relationship between Chuck and Casey will continue to be explored this season, Levi said. "I think [the writers] want to show that... part of Chuck's charm is that no matter how irritating he may be to his handlers - particularly Adam Baldwin/John Casey - he's like an infectious disease. A good infectious disease whatever that may be." With their lives becoming more intertwined as Chuck gets more involved in the spy business, Levi explained further, "Casey has no choice but to just kind of embrace him and as many times as Casey has saved Chuck's life, Chuck has also saved his and Sarah's in return."

Another imposing presence that can be seen in the season opener is actor Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile"), whose hard exterior was also somewhat deceiving. Levi explained, "It was really an hour that [Duncan] decided to come and play in our sandbox. And he was a really sweet dude and kind of like Josh was talking about Adam, he's just... from the outside he's very imposing and this strong, rough guy and then on the inside he's a big teddy bear. Michael kind of has that same thing. I don't know him as well as I know Adam, of course, but he seemed to be just really laid back, down-to-earth [and] had a good time shooting the episode, was easy to talk to and really professional and very, very imposing. He is a large man."

In an effort to expand the series as a brand, "Chuck" has also been turned into a six-part comic book series that DC's Wildstorm comic books started to put out this summer. The actors couldn't be more enthusiastic about it. Gomez said, "I think it's a great way to expand the storyline in ways that frankly we probably could never afford to do on film. I have gotten a chance to look at them and I think they're all doing just an amazing job. I mean, just the covers have been so cool. I enjoy seeing them."

Levi agreed and gave his opinion on the books. "I think the artists are great. I think that it's drawn and colored very excellently and they capture the voices of our characters pretty well. You know, the dialogue is pretty spot-on and, like Josh was saying, they can go to Paris. They can go to Japan. They can go to all these places that monetarily we just can't do it. But I'm hoping that Season 3 will include episodes like Chuck Versus The Bahamas. That would be great."

"Chuck" leads off NBC's Monday night schedule beginning tonight at 8:00/7:00c.

  [september 2008]  


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