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Breaking (Funny) Bones: Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, and Zachary Levi Talk Season Three of "Chuck"

Wondering what can you expect when Chuck returns for its third season next month? You're in the right place.

Chuck creators/executive producers Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak and series lead Zachary Levi held a press call on Friday (which I live-tweeted) to discuss the third season of the NBC action-comedy, which beat the odds earlier this year (thanks to a massive effort from critics and fans) and is back for another season of brawls, flashes, romance, and comedy-tinged espionage and soul-killing retail employment.

Last season saw Chuck Bartowski assume the mantle of hero as he downloaded the Intersect 2.0 into his skull and was rewarded with some kick-ass kung fu moves. Not bad for someone whose previous involvement in some hand-to-hand combat involved locking the doors of the car while Sarah and Casey took down the bad guys.

"He was much better running away or screaming like a little girl... [but now] he's able to lend a hand in the kick-butt-ery," said Levi. "He's still the somewhat bumbling hero. The abilities are fleeting... and glitchy... [and the new ability] lends itself to more action and comedy."

But don't think that Chuck has suddenly been transformed into a certain badass Matt Damon character. "I can guarantee you, I am no Jason Bourne," said Levi.

What else did the Chuck team reveal? Let's discuss.

They're Back. "This year was about taking everything we've done in the previous two seasons and taking it highter," said Schwartz, who admitted that the cast and crew of Chuck were thrilled to be coming back in January. "[We're the] only thing premiering for the network in January."

But it's pretty incredible that the series is back at all after the axe nearly fell last season. "There have been some unique obstacles thrown our way but here we still are," said Schwartz, who said that the renewal was down to the wire and that everyone at NBC wanted to bring the show back but they had some challenges to square away first. "It was a nail-biter... But we are thrilled [to be back]."

"To just have a job is a blessing," admitted Levi. "But to have a job that people care about so much that they band together... is really humbling." Levi pointed to fans' and critics' efforts to save the series from cancellation.

But only do we have a major Chuck premiere event to look forward to ("a flood of Chuck episodes, three in 24 hours," said Schwartz, including a two-hour opener), there's also the six additional episodes that got ordered for the spring. A bit of a surprise as the season hadn't even gotten under way and the scripts for the initial thirteen episodes had already been broken.

"We've only ever started each season with 13 episodes," admitted Schwartz. "For this to happen again this year was surprising and gratifying."

Intersect 2.0. Schwartz and Fedak revealed a bit more about Chuck's new-found abilities and how it affects the series itself.

The Intersect 2.0 was designed for an emotionless spy like Bryce, said Fedak, but it's been downloaded into anxiety-ridden Chuck. These things don't help. Fedak said that emotions, anxieties will cause glitches with Chuck's new Intersect 2.0-related abilities, which are theoretically "limitless."

"We've really made an effort to have Chuck evolve," said Schwartz. "He's a very different guy this season than he was in Season One." The crux of last season was Chuck assuming the mantle of a hero and coming to terms with his destiny and this season is about him living that in true Chuck-fashion. "It's not like Chuck is all of the sudden... Casey," said Schwartz. "How does he hold onto his humanity and grow as a spy?"

But those abilities won't change the dynamic of the series. "The heart of the show is still action-comedy," said Levi. "We always maintain the funny bone."

Still, it's a nice change of pace for Levi. "I like it very much as an actor," said Levi about Chuck's new fighting skills, "and as a man."

"I've wanted to shoot guns... or know karate since I was a kid," said Levi, who said that he wants the writers to write in a scene where he gets to sky-dive or bungee-jump.

But don't think that Levi got any intensive kung fu training ahead of Season Three. He said that he's being trained on a week to week basis by the stunt coordinators. "The biggest challenge is my lank-itude... and trying to make that look as snappy as possible," said Levi about fight choreography. (He also referred earlier on the call to his arms being "noodly.")

"My favorite part of the show is the action," said Levi, who gets more of a chance this year to kick some butt alongside Yvonne Strahovski's Sarah Walker. Levi said that Strahovski has an extensive dance background which "really lends itself well to fight choreography... She's a beautiful, strong, limber girl."

Roomies. Meanwhile, there are big changes afoot at Casa Bartowski. "Ellie and Awesome have moved out and Chuck and Morgan are getting their bachelor pad," revealed Schwartz. Season Two, said Schwartz, moved away from the Chuck-Morgan friendship. Both Levi and Josh Gomez wanted the focus to move back to their frienship, which Schwartz said that will definitely serviced in Season Three.

But lest you think that that means that everything is peachy-keen between Chuck and Morgan, guess again. Chuck and Morgan's "bromance" will be put under even more strain by Chuck's new role in the spy world, said Levi, and Chuck and Morgan's decision to move in together makes things better between them but also worse as well and things will "come to a head in a big way."

Sarah.Look for some major obstacles for Chuck and Sarah's romance this season, promised Schwartz and Fedak, now that Chuck can protect himself, thanks to his new Intersect 2.0-derived abilities. "Sarah fell in love with the guy, she didn't fall in love with the spy," said Schwartz. "[The new status quo] will be a good source of angst for them." But Sarah will continue to play a major role in Chuck's life. Sarah is "sometimes Chuck's kryptonite" but sometimes she is his "spinach, for a random Popeye reference," said Schwartz.

Casey. Fedak said that Casey's new role this season is to train Chuck and turn him into a spy and "be his sensei." But it's not all good news for the Ronald Regan-loving Casey, unfortunately: Casey has a huge secret in his past that will affect the team this season, according to Schwartz. And Casey will have, er, new responsibilities at the Buy More.

Guest stars galore.The writers are having a lot of fun with the guest stars lined up for Season Three, which include such notables as Brandon Routh, Angie Harmon, Kristin Kreuk, Armand Assante, Steve Austin, Robert Patrick, and Vinnie Jones. "We've lined up a fun, eclectic group of actors," said Schwartz, who went onto say that they like to go against expectations with their guest casting, a la Chevy Chase in Season Two.

Here's what we know about some of them: Brandon Routh's character is a mysterious hotshot who has been brought in to lead the team, which should lead to some major conflict among our favorite spy trio, who are used to working mostly unsupervised. Kristin Kreuk, meanwhile, will play Hannah, a "comely new lady" who takes a job at the Buy More and will be a member of the Nerd Herd. (And, yes, she'll be wearing the uniform, promised the producers.)

If that's not enough, here's a doozy of a tease for Season Three. "Someone else this year will learn Chuck's secret," revealed Schwartz. (Ladies and gentlemen, start your guessing.)

What else? Here's a hail of bullets for what else to expect from Season Three:
  • The Buy More gang will face their own challenges, new assistant manager (hmmm...), cutbacks, new management, and more.
  • Lester is due for a backstory-heavy episode and Jeffster isn't going anywhere. "Those guys are invaluable comic relief" for the show. SPOILER! There's a Fight Club episode upcoming up. And if that's not scary enough: "You will see what Lester sleeps in," promised Schwartz. "It involves feet."
  • Chuck will fight Stone Cold Steve Austin but "maybe not in a fisticuffs-type action," teased Levi. Although nunchucks might be involved in that showdown, which is set aboard an in-flight airplane.
  • The Subway integration on Chuck will be very minor and none of the characters will be working at a Subway, as many previously surmised. (Schwartz joked that the show is now called "Jared").
  • Zachary Levi will direct an upcoming episode of Chuck this season, one that happens to be especially mythology-intensive. Levi said that getting to direct the series was "a lot to take on" as it's a difficult show to direct but also the "most incredible experience."

Season Three of Chuck launches Sunday, January 10th at 8 pm ET/PT before moving into its regular Monday night timeslot on January 11th.

Comments

Hadley said…
Yay! Thanks for this great interview. I'm very excited to see Chuck back in action...especially with his new ninja skills. And I am extremely curious about who else will learn Chuck's secret.
MyTBoosh said…
Only a few more weeks to go until new episodes of Chuck. Woo hoo! It will be a great way to start the new year!
MC said…
Jace-

I justed wanted to say thanks again for one of the greatest 30-45 mins in twitter history as you just rapid fired out #Chuck tweet after tweet. It reminded me of comic-con.

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