Blast talked with “Chuck” co-creator Chris Fedak about what season two has in store, who will be coming to the show, and just how long it will take for the big secrets in the Chuck-iverse to be revealed:
BLAST: How is shooting for “Chuck” going?
CF: It’s going well; we’re shooting episode 2.09. So we’re nine episodes in and we’re currently writing episode 13. It’s going really, really well.
BLAST: This is the first [show] you’ve done, right? Can you maybe tell me a little bit about that?
CF: Yeah, before this I was working at the film archive for the Motion Picture Film Academy. Then I was also writing features on the side, and I had a feature in development, but by hook or by crook I couldn’t show it to anyone as a spec, but I could show it to TV people, because TV feature people don’t talk. So Josh read it and really dug it, and we went to school together so we started talking about TV shows we liked to see. That’s where “Chuck” came from.
BLAST: The first time I saw the whole Buy More parody off of Best Buy, I couldn’t get over that. I thought it was so funny. ["Chuck"] definitely has those elements, like when Chuck and Bryce are talking in Klingon. It definitely has that funny, more-comedy-than-comedy element to it.
CF: Yeah, that’s the fun of the show for us. There are those moments where the show has high concept action; in each episode we try to come up with something we haven’t seen before, or if we have seen it before, we put some sort of twist or turn on it. And then on the other side of the coin there is the Buy More story. It’s like Chuck’s story with his sister Ellie and Captain Awesome. Those stories are just as important; the heart-warming stuff at home or the high comedy at the Buy More. It’s really fun to make the show because there are so many things that just put a smile on the face as we’re doing it.
BLAST: So what part of the show is you and what part of the show is Josh, because Josh’s other projects; “The OC” and “Gossip Girl”, have a very, very different feel than “Chuck” does.
CF: It’s our work together. We co-wrote the pilot, and I think it’s very much a matching of our sensibilities. Before working on “Chuck,” I was writing what most people would consider action stuff, and Josh’s stuff shows he can write action, but he’s also been very successful with the comedy and soap opera stuff with “The OC” and “Gossip Girl.” I think that the show “Chuck” is definitely comes from the imaginings of two guys who grew up in the 80s and watched a whole lot of Spielberg movies, a lot of Joe Dante movies [...]. Sometimes when we thing about the show and the stuff that we want to include, we’ll say it’s on the cutting edge of 1984. It’s very much the product of that 80s psych, and Josh and I both think in the same TV and movies. Sometimes there’s just the ideal cop in the room, and we all know what we’re tapping into. We’re tapping into some music video that we all watched way too many times or a TV show that we were obsessed with when we were 13. Sometimes there’s an episode which is like one person’s obsession more than everybody else. We’ve got a really exciting episode coming up which is based on old Atari video games. That was very much the writer who is working on this sort of disgrace, and we all kind of dug it because it’s like “Oh, that’s half the stuff we were obsessed with as kids.” When it comes to the physical production of “Chuck,” Josh is a fantastic show runner. With all his experience from “The OC”, he knows how to run a television show, so it’s a real learning process for myself just to go from writing scripts to actually in television, it’s such an involved process. The writers are involved not only in the writing of it, but also in the casting, the producing, and then the editing of the show; you’re there all along the way. So then as a producer, I’ve learned an incredible amount in just the last two years. It’s like the best master class anyone could have. I suggest that everyone get their own television show. Josh has been a great partner in that.
BLAST: You guys kind of got cut off partway through your first season because of the strike. How many episodes are you going for this season?
CF: The expectation of probably 20 could kind of change more or less partway through the season. We’re currently working on our first 13 episodes, with the expectation that we’ll get a back nine from NBC, which is the way it usually works in television; if you make 13 episodes, then they’ll order nine more. We’ve designed the season very much around the lines of taking the 22 episodes, and then if NBC decides maybe even more, who knows. In our first season, we made 13 episodes, and we had just kind of gotten to the realization that people were really digging the show and we had found a really nice audience and we were building. It was around episode six of our first season that we really got into the “Chuck” back story and we realized that people were truly interested in the mythology of the show. They wanted to know about more about Chuck, where he comes from, why Bryce sent him the Intersect’s secrets. We were just really digging into that mystery when, unfortunately, the writers’ strike hit. Then we had to kind of close up shop. After the strike was over, NBC decided to give us a second season as opposed to nine more episodes. What we essentially did was take most of the concepts we wanted to get into in the back nine and turn that into the beginning of the second season. Of course you have to massage everything when you do that because essentially a season is kind of like a giant book with each episode being a chapter. We’ve gone back and our first episode we’re definitely re-launching the show, so that if a person didn’t watch those first 13 episodes, they can kind of get back into the show very quickly, or understand the show very quickly. We had a lot of great ideas that we were very excited about, and now we’re looking forward to getting into them. I think that when Josh and I first came up with the show, we were very much thinking about stand alone episodes, kind of like a show from the 60s, 70s, or 80s. It would be a mystery of the week or an action show of the week. And you would have a villain come in and tell a little mini action-comedy story, but we realized that people really liked the mythology, and I think that people have been primed with shows like “Lost” and “The X-Files”, expect mythology. It was exciting for us; it was like “Oh, people want to know more. They want to have recurring villains and they want to have a greater sense of the mythology and a greater sense of the mystery.” We loved to oblige them in the second season.
BLAST: Is this going to have a more direct plot? Is there going to be an actual nemesis, more so than Bryce, that’s going to be introduced?
CF: Yeah, absolutely. We began to tease out the idea that there was an organization called Fulcrum in the first season, which is essentially like in “Three Days of the Condor” in the way he describes a CIA within the CIA. This mysterious organization is something we’re playing with now in the second season. Like, who exactly are these people and what do they want? A lot of shows have gone down this road and we are looking to tell it, but what’s our original “Chuck” take on that? I mean, they have operatives and people who are looking for Bryce Larkin because they believe that Bryce is the Intersect computer. But it’s like “What makes these people tick?” In our show, it’s like there’s always intermediates, there’s a lot of villains who are working for [Fulcrum], or working for people who don’t even know. Through this season, we’d like to get the audience excited about what is actually happening and what in our bigger, overarching mystery. What is their plan? There will be more of an organization as well as Bryce Larkin will [be involved]. Fulcrum is something we look forward to getting into.
BLAST: I’m taking from that that you might get into them very quickly in the first few episodes?
CF: Yes, you could say that. You could definitely say that. The show is started with a real bang this year. Our first episode is an epic. We’ve got amazing bits of action having to do with the re-launch of the new Intersect computer, Chuck thinking that he might be let go, that the government might be done with him, and he can go back to his old life. What does that mean for him and Sarah? I would say that our first three episodes are definitely an arch unto themselves; essentially getting us back into the show and dealing with the Sarah/ Chuck romance. They’re really romantic. There’s a lot of romance in the first three episodes, as well as a lot of slam-bang action.
BLAST: What about Bryce? I heard he’s going to be coming back a couple of times this season.
CF: Yeah, Matt Bomer is fantastic; we worked with him last season. He was also the first person to work on the pilot on our first day of shooting with the Intersect vault scene. Matt brought such a great energy to the show that it’s been a real great pleasure to work with him. He will be coming back to the show this year right now. And he comes back at a very unfortunate time for poor Charles Irving Bartowski.
BLAST: I feel like there are a lot of questions left in the “Chuck” mythology, even back to the Stanford days, because we didn’t get a quite clear explanation from Bryce’s perspective why he did what he did. How long is it going to take for those to get cleared up?
CF: Some of the mysteries are things that even Bryce doesn’t know the answers to. Those things will be addressed this season. But when you see Bryce, he won’t have all the answers for you. In other parts of the show, we will go back to Stanford, but maybe they won’t deal with Bryce. We’ll definitely be going back into each of our characters’ back stories and teasing out those things that lead to who they are personally but also to the mythology of the show; the Intersect super computer, Bryce Larkin, Fulcrum, and why Chuck was sent those secrets. I think that that’s definitely what will be answered by the end of the season.
BLAST: Can you tell me a little bit about Tony Hale joining the cast?
CF: Ah, Tony Hale; he’s great. And that goes to the Buy More side of the story. A lot of the time we talk about spy stuff on the show, but such great fun is in the works for the comedy side of things, inside the Buy More. Tony Hale will be joining the cast as Emmett Milbarge, the new assistant manager inside the Buy More. Emmett is a passive aggressive character, and sometimes overtly aggressive. And when he comes into the store, it’s like he lasers in on one Charles Irving Bartowski because he realizes these are two men cut from the same cloth; leaders, college men as well. Unfortunately Chuck is public enemy number one for Emmett Milbarge. We kind of saw Emmett as someone cut from the J. Edgar Hoover cloth by way of Mussolini. His presence in the store is a new challenge for Chuck. One of the things we love about the show is that the stakes inside the Buy More are sometimes as seemingly high as the stakes out there in the real world, with the intensity. When people go to their jobs, it’s the most important thing in their life. For Morgan and Jeff and Lester and Anna, Emmett Milbarge is their Fulcrum, is their evil nemesis. Tony is fantastic; he’s come in and he’s hilarious, and we’ve been really enjoying cutting his episodes.
BLAST: Are there any surprises you can let us know about in the first episode? Anything we can look forward to?
CF: Essentially by the end of the teaser; first episode, our entire show is turned on its head. It’s an exciting, amazing episode with a twist ending that hopefully no one in their right mind will see coming, except for the people that wrote it. Also, just in the upcoming episodes, we’ve got a lot of great cast members coming on. Tony Hale. We also have Melinda Clarke from “The OC” coming as Sasha Banacheck, KGB spy. We have John Larroquette on the show playing episode two, playing Roe Montgomery, the master seducer who will train Chuck Bartowski in how to seduce women. We also have Michael Clarke Duncan in the first episode; 2.01, starring as the villain of that one. In episode 2.04 we have Nicole Richie who is really funny. So we have a lot of really great guest stars coming on this year and it’s been a lot of fun to cut these people in and introduce them to our crazy world. The show really comes to life.