Breakouts Q&A

TV's Chuck on Becoming a Star

2007 BREAKOUTS Q&A: Zachary Levi talks about seeing his face on billboards, worrying over the strike, and more

Zachary Levi | Zachary Levi
Image credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMES DIMMOCK
Zachary Levi

Production on the set of Chuck may have stalled, thanks to the ongoing writers' strike, but that hasn't kept its star Zachary Levi from setting some lofty goals during its hiatus: Namely, working his way into a rock & roll hall of fame — through the videogame Rock Band, of course. Yep, seems TV's newest Everyman actually is more like his geeky character than you might think (minus that whole computer-for-a-brain thing, of course). Taking some time away from his Xbox to talk to EW.com, Levi tells us about life in the spotlight, the next project from his production company Coattails Entertainment, and how it felt to get a standing-O at Comic-Con.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how has this year been for you, being thrust into the spotlight and all?
ZACHARY LEVI: You know, Less Than Perfect, even after four years, never really opened any doors in my career or built that big of a fan base, at least not one that I know of — they might be in the Midwest or [exist] internationally. But with Chuck, it's definitely been this kind of overnight change in my life, where everyone recognizes you. I [also] don't have a life. That's probably the biggest thing: I don't have any time to do anything. With Less Than Perfect, with a sitcom, you can still hold down a regular life, but with Chuck, [I'm] working all day every day trying to figure out how to get everything else done. .

Not to mention figuring out how to maintain your anonymity. It must have been really weird to see your face everywhere, what with NBC's aggressive marketing campaign for Chuck.
Oh yeah... But it's not like Friends in its third and fourth season. It's still on a level where it's manageable, and people come up and want to say hi. I think you should always say, ''Yeah. Hi. How are you? You like the show? That's great.'' But it's really surreal to be plastered over billboards and bus stops and stuff. .

Any other moments that made you feel like you hit the big time?
Something that I realized that made me feel like, ''Oh my gosh, this thing is bigger than I expected it to be,'' [is when] I would be hanging out with friends, having a drink somewhere, having some food somewhere, and out of the corner of my eye, notice that people are looking at me and pointing at me and possibly even taking pictures of me. I'll be in the middle of taking a bite of food, and I see some guy's got his camera phone up on me. That is so weird. What is that? Why do you want to do that? So it's that kind of thing: People just randomly wanting to take pictures like that, and not just take a picture with you but pictures of you. .

Have you been getting more scripts for other shows or projects now that you're more recognizable?
Kind of. I've gotten some meetings here and there that I've been taking now that we're shut down because of the strike.... You know, you never know. We've only aired 11 episodes. There hasn't been that much Chuck awareness. There's been a lot, but not as much as some other guys. .

But Chuck's full-season pickup shows that the network has faith in the show.
The problem is the strike. It's nice to have a back nine, but you don't really know what that means at the end of the day. You don't know when you can go back to work. If they were to resolve the strike today, then they'd have to start writing, and the writing would take them through the rest of January, and we stop production in February. But I don't know if they're going to resolve the strike before the holidays. So [even though] we have a back nine, we don't know when we're going to shoot, and it wouldn't surprise me if the network says [those] nine episodes will be the beginning of the second season. .

So what are you working on while you wait out the strike?
I've got my own production company [Coattails Entertainment] — we produced this film Spiral coming out on DVD in February.... We've been getting a lot of good buzz on the film. Amber Tamblyn is in it, and Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica, and Joel David Moore, who is in James Cameron's Avatar right now, shooting in New Zealand. He's my best friend and business partner. So that's been kind of a big deal, and we've been trying to get back on, and we're pretty proud of that. .

NEXT PAGE: ''There are fans that come up to me and say, 'I hate television, but I love Chuck.' That just floors me.''

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