“No More Mr. Nice Spy,” the ads for Chuck’s Season 3 proudly proclaim. But don’t fret, fans: Star Zachary Levi insists he’s still the same old Chuck—with a few minor adjustments. I spoke to Levi about the new directions the show's taking and tried to break through all that intelligence training and gather some secrets about next season, kicking off this Sunday.
You’ve been doing a ton of interviews about the upcoming season of Chuck. What do people most want to know?
One of the questions I’ve heard the most is, what is this new direction, this new shift with Chuck in this new season, these new powers? At the end of the second season, Chuck downloads the Intersect 2.0, which now grants him these physical ability flashes, so basically anything you can think of that requires physical movement, he can tap into—like Neo in the Matrix, but not nearly as cool or as reliable as Neo in the Matrix.
Chuck is an emotional guy, and his emotions are kind of like a kryptonite for these new abilities. So as long as he can keep himself cool and even-keeled, he can keep the abilities going. But as soon as he starts getting a little bit flustered or emotional, they start kind of glitching out on him. But that’s great, because it helps him maintain the heart of the show. If he just became a Jason Bourne overnight, you’d lose him.
And then the second question is, what’s going to happen with Chuck and Sarah this season? And to that I say, you’re gonna have to watch and find out.
How will you strike a balance between the old Chuck and the new Chuck? We keep hearing this “No More Mr. Nice Spy” tagline, but Chuck is still a really nice guy. How do you walk that line as an actor?
The “No More Mr. Nice Spy” tagline is very catchy and very cool, but it’s not totally accurate in the regard that, he’s still a nice guy. He’s just getting to be a better spy. “No More Mr. Polite Spy” would probably be more accurate? Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak have said it really well: Last season was the journey of boy to man, and this season is man to spy. And it’s a gradual process. You meet Chuck in the beginning of this third season and you get a glimpse into where he’s at six months later, and after having downloaded this new Intersect and new training. But it’s still a long road, and he’s never going to lose his heart.
Chuck is a good guy, and he’ll always be a good guy. He never wants to lose that, and I don’t think Sarah or Casey or any of his friends or family want him to lose it either. And certainly not the fans. I think part of the reason we’ve been able to stay strong with our fans and why our fans continue to come back is because of the heart, not just because of the character of Chuck but the show itself, and the heart of everyone involved and the relationships. They care about each other.
Well, we do learn at the beginning of the season that General Beckman considers Chuck to be a threat to the outside world. Do you share her concerns at all?
Yes and no. I mean, not necessarily, but again, he’s got very powerful stuff in his head and you never know what can trigger it and if it’s going to go haywire or not. So I think that’s more what she’s referring to.
At this point, Captain Awesome is the only outsider who knows Chuck’s secret. If he could pass it on to one more person, who would you want it to be?
That’s tough. That’s really tough. I mean, Morgan’s my best friend, so you’d want to tell him. But Ellie is my sister and a mother figure to me growing up, so you kind of want to tell her. She’s been in the dark for so long and especially since Devon knows. But also, there’s kind of the part of you or rather part of Chuck who would want to tell someone who’s not as close to everyone else, just so you could have that outlet, like Big Mike or maybe Jeff or Lester or maybe some other completely peripheral character. Basically what I’m trying to do is beat around the bush here for as long as I can and not give you any answers.
So most of the plot points for Season 3 are kind of under wraps?
You kind of have to [keep secrets], you know. As much as I wish I could tell everybody everything, because I like knowing everything. Like, it kills me when I meet someone who works on Lost and all I want to do is ask them everything about the show. But I’m glad they don’t tell me at the end of the day, because then, what’s the point? It’s like knowing the end of the movie before you get there. You don’t care anymore.
Chuck returns for Season 3 on Sunday, January 10 at 9pm on NBC before moving into its regular time slot on Mondays at 8pm.