Joshua Gomez and Chris Fedak tell us what's in store for Chuck Season 4
Chuck will debut its fourth season on Monday, September 20th at 8:00 PM ET on NBC and there are certainly a lot of changes in store for the Buy More group. Actor Joshua Gomez and co-creator/executive producer Chris Fedak recently held a conference call to discuss the new season and here's what they had to say:
Josh, the last time we saw you at the end of Season 3, you had blown up the Buy More so...
Joshua Gomez: It was an accident.
I know, but your buddies and you were like giving a thumbs up at the same time while you were doing it because - to lead our thoughts - I hope your hands are better at the start of this season. Are you still part of the spy team after that and what can we look forward to in the new season on Morgan?
Joshua Gomez: Yeah, I'm definitely part of Team Bartowski. I don't know how much the CIA loves me but Team Bartowski and I guess the Buy More actually becomes rebuilt and taken over by the CIA - and Morgan basically kind of becomes the sort of the through there. He kind of is in charge of keeping the Buy More's CIA cover so he's there to kind of make it feel and look and run like a real Buy More. Meanwhile, it's now I guess owned and operated by the CIA, is that right, Chris?
Chris Fedak: That's absolutely correct.
Joshua Gomez: So yes, I'm not jumping out of any planes yet or anything like that. There's, you know, there's room to grow.
Obviously the Chuck fans are very excited you have another season but I was also thinking maybe people who haven't watched Chuck before will say, you know, this Chuck thing has stuck around. Maybe I should check it out. What are new viewers going to get out of the fourth season if this is the first time they see it?
Chris Fedak: They're going to get a big, exciting action comedy television show. I think we still design the show even though we have a mythology and we have a big story going on is that you can sit down and watch the show on Monday night and really kind of get like you're going to know where you are. You're going to know the stakes and the story and we kind of remind you and get you back into where off last season and then we're off to the races. We're off to the comedy world of the Buy More and then the kind of big excitement that we bring in the spy land and I think that, you know, that's part of the fun of bringing in someone like Dolph Lundgren or Olivia Munn in our season opener or Harry Dean Stanton is that it's a fun way back into the world. I think new viewers if they decide to just start watching on Monday night, I think they're going to get a really fun, big story that anybody can kind of jump right into. However, I would also I'm recommending, you know, going back and buying our DVDs but it's not necessary.
Are there any cool new action scenes you can preview to get people excited?
Chris Fedak: Well, I'll just talk about our first couple of episodes but in our first episode Chuck Versus the Anniversary, we have some really kind of great action stuff. We wanted to go into the kind of the classic spy world of Russian bad guys so we have Chuck and another fellow by the name of Morgan Grimes getting into some trouble inside a Russian bad guy base and it's really fantastic. And it's not only just great action but you have Zach and Josh just being so funny together. One of the things that we really love is their kind of great repartee. I want to do an old reference to Hope and Crosby. It's like they're just so much fun to watch together. Sorry, went deep into the majors on that reference. That was for TCM crowd but that's a great episode and then our second episode for those requiring some Sarah Walker action, we have a fantastic site, a wonderful site that takes place in Milan during fashion week between (Carolina Dracova) and Yvonne Strahovski. It's one of our best fights yet.
Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch Chuck?
Joshua Gomez: I think it's just because it's such a fun show. I just at the end of the day, you come home and there's plenty of good television but most of it I feel like is always kind of a bit of a downer and I think that Chuck is not. I think it's the opposite. I think at the end of a Chuck episode you kind of - you feel good - and it's fun and you laugh and you go for a fun car chase and, you know, it's just - and you hang out with people you like. I think that's also the big deal too is that, you know, we got a group of characters that Chris and Josh and the rest of our writers have created these characters that are just fun to hang out with, that you just kind of want to see again week after week so I think that's a big part of it.
Chris Fedak: Just to go off that point - I think that the cast is just one of the most fun casts on television and like Josh said, you just want to be with them each week. You want to be with Ryan McPartlin and Sarah Lancaster and Zachary Levi and the gang at the Buy More. They're such a warm, caring kind of family. I think all great TV shows are about families and we have just a splendid, splendid family on our show.
Could you talk a little bit about what's going on with Morgan in terms of love life. We saw at the end of last season some fun stuff going on maybe with Alex and just the fun to see Joshua Gomez and Adam Baldwin is just hilarious to watch so is there any more of that we could see coming forward?
Chris Fedak: Absolutely. I think that at the heart of the Morgan story this year is that dare I say a forbidden romance.
And when he says forbidden, he's meaning lethal.
Chris Fedak: Yeah, I mean, I think Joshua Gomez's dynamic is also just like such great comedy material for us that we want to make that the most dramatic dynamic confrontational relationship with a lot of like extra little gut punches thrown in. So yeah, you should definitely expect stuff. I mean Josh, do you want to speak to that?
Joshua Gomez: Yeah, yeah, easy for you to say. You write the gut punches but Adam really throws them.
Chris Fedak: I know, he does. They look really painful.
Joshua Gomez: Yeah, it's not pleasant but it's so much fun. We have so much fun and I hope we definitely are going to give the fans and you guys a lot more of that I think dynamic. And Alex definitely plays a role in that and that just opens up a whole - it's fun, you know, and Chris I don't know if you feel this way - but it's to me I find Morgan now in these situations that are very Chuck-like to let's say the first and early second season kind of stuff. It'll be like having a conversation with Alex or something and then, you know, Morgan'll notice a bad guy or something now and have to sort of bluff his way out of that. And so he's finally like in a very similar situation as Chuck and that part's a blast and do you feel that way? Do you feel like there's a similarity in that?
Chris Fedak: No, not at all. I don't feel that way at all. Actually, I completely do. One of the things that when we were working on it, you know, we were working on last season is that we realized that, you know, Chuck was obviously was getting better as a spy, you know? It's like he's got, you know, he's got these, you know, amazing raw materials. He's got the Intersect in his head so with after so many missions, you know, he's kind of learning a little bit about how to be a spy. He's still Chuck, you know, he's not James Bond or Jack Bauer. He's not a ruthless killer. However, he is getting a little better but I think when it comes to say what was great for us last season is we realized we could do that fish-out-of-water story, that kind of classic like welcome to the spy world and how scary it is and you know nothing about how it works by funneling stories through Josh and Morgan.And that's a great kind of way for us to kind of still keep that wish fulfillment side of the show.
Timothy Dalton hasn't been on American TV in awhile. Chris, how did that whole thing come about and what did you guys do to convince him to come on board?
Chris Fedak: We tried to be as charming as possible. Luckily I was with Josh Worth at the time who's just fantastic and Timothy Dalton watched the show and he really dug it and so we sat down and started talking about like what he wanted to do. And the kind of part that we kind of when we starting breaking this season, we were kind of looking at this specific part and we were thinking how fantastic it would be if we could get someone like Timothy Dalton. We started the kind of process and we sent the show to him and he watched it and really dug it and we started having a couple of conversations and he was really digging it and as we're about to start filming his first episode. There is just nothing more exciting than Timothy Dalton just kind of digging in and kind of savoring the character. It's a lot of fun and it just speaks to like the fun of casting this season. It's been our casting director Patrick Rush who's just done a fantastic job and kind of filling out the ranks of this show and just making each part colorful and exciting and dynamic and "T-Dal" if you will is going to be amazing. I think you guys are going to really love him.
I was wondering if Chuck is no longer officially with the CIA, can you talk a little bit about the plans for Sarah and Casey?
Chris Fedak: Well, Sarah and Casey are still with the CIA so we opened Season 4 as they're traveling the world working on missions, still like the best spy, NSA/CIA spy team in the world.And I'll say that the person they're focusing on is a man by the name of Alexei Volkov who's our big bad this season.
Josh, how far do you think Morgan would follow Chuck into his rogue endeavors?
Joshua Gomez: As far as he wanted me to go. As far as he would want. Yeah, I think Morgan is beyond being just completely loyal to his friend and just being that kind of a guy, I think he's just a good-natured loyal dude. To him this is as we saw in Chuck Versus the Beard it's just the coolest thing in the world. This is we're living out our every video game we've ever played, every movie we've ever watched. I think there's a part of Morgan that doesn't quite - although I think he's starting to get it - doesn't quite know the full ramifications of the whole thing. I think it's still fun time in a weird way even though there's, you know, occasionally some bullets whizzing around or ginormous men grabbing me. It's fantasy time. If we have to go be rogue and do whatever, I'm in. You got me, you know, it's like let's do this, America's last line of defense. He's just a leap first kind of guy so it's he'll go as far as Jeff wants him to I think.
Now Chuck has an incredibly loyal base of fans and of course they've been concerned for some time with the series getting renewed. If by some twist of fate the ratings don't hold up this season or you guys prepared to end it as the end of the 13 episodes or will there be closure for the fans if that happens?
Chris Fedak: Right now, we're right now in the midst of working on the 13th episode, the 11th, 12th and 13th episode and the way we've always broken the show in the past is that we try to tell the most dynamic story we possibly can. 13 will be an epic episode no matter what, even if there is a back nine or more episodes ordered but I don't want to give anything away and imply the end of the show. So I think that my favorite version of an ending is the one that implies the great adventure ahead, so I do think that 13 will be a very exciting and very satisfactory and usually and hopefully with the back nine will be a strangely-placed epic episode right in the middle of the season.
Now that Morgan's brought into the fold in the CIA, I wanted to know are his combat skills upgraded at all because I just keep thinking back to the Season 1 pilot where he had to fight that ninja in Chuck's house.
Joshua Gomez: Yeah, I mean, he went for that golf club pretty quick. I would say no, I don't think there's so much an evolution. Yeah, combat skills are probably not either Chuck or Morgan's forte although Chuck, now he does but he's got to cheat. It's still Morgan and although I think he wants to learn, I think he wants to get better and I think that he's got a sort of mentor and the best mentor in John Casey.
Chris Fedak: It is world-spanning. I think that like I said before, it's like we do have a monster sequence set in Moscow so but yeah, they go all over the place and we will get glimpses of some of those adventures.
One quick question about Papa Bartowski. He was last seen lying not far from a regeneration machine and we never saw him buried so any chance Scott Bakula may be back?
Chris Fedak: Well, we'd love to have Scott Bakula back on the show. Scott's fantastic and also just like a fantastic guy to work with. However, I have to say that Stephen J. Bartowski is no more and...
Joshua Gomez: Oh, on record. You're going on record.
Chris Fedak: I'm going on record but, then again I'm not the most trustworthy person in the world. He definitely certainly died in the arms of his son.
Is it difficult now suggesting that Morgan does have a certain level of competence while still maintaining his original Morganism?
Joshua Gomez: First of all I think that I always kind of viewed Morgan as, yeah, there was clearly things that he was not good at but I think more than that, there were things that he just didn't want to be good at. I think that he was more of a, I don't think that slacker is the right word. I just don't think he - I think he was happy kind of where he was, you know? He had best buddy, they played the new games. They had pizza nights and whatever it was and they worked at the same job. They commuted together or rode their bikes, whatever he was doing and so I think he was just happy and just kind of that dude. I don't think he ever kind of maybe he just didn't have any real ambition I think was probably his biggest fault. Once he has the motivation, once he saw this exciting world, it was sort of like oh, there's just something to strive for and I think he does have a skillset although it is a bizarre skillset. Or one that's not normally suited I'm sure to spy work but it comes in handy, you know, a vast kung fu movie knowledge comes in handy apparently. It's a blast and it's cool. It's cool to pay that fish out of water. So much fun. It's so much fun to be able to play this character who's just, at every turn it's just like whoa, everything is just so new and exciting.
You have a lot of great comedy bits on this show but has there ever been like a comedic idea you guys have had where you've said okay, that's just a little too far over the top or, you know, we can't fit it into this episode?
Chris Fedak: Oh, absolutely. It's not so much that it's too far. It's usually a matter of time. Our episodes are kind of ambitious and there's, you know, usually every season we have a couple of different bits that unfortunately don't make it into the cut and it's not usually about being too broad. I'm trying to think of a too broad example but I don't have one but it's usually about time and we had a great I'm thinking episode in Season 2 where Vick and Josh, Morgan and Lester are trapped in the Buy More at night and they're both convinced that Michael Strahan's going to kill them in the morning. And so they discuss how they wanted - they didn't think it was going to happen this way - and they both discuss how they thought they were going to perish and it's this great kind of like hilarious monologue between the two of them discussing how they thought they would go and unfortunately just for the time, we had to lose it.
Joshua Gomez: Unless we want to go in like Speedos and packed by dolphins or something weird. I forget his rantbut, I do remember that.
Chris Fedak: There's porpoises and you had I think you had something to do with you were going to drive a motorcycle, it would be a stunt of trying to jump over the Grand Canyon or something.
Joshua Gomez: Very Arthur Fonzarelli kind of.
Chris Fedak: It was very Fonzarelli. Yeah, I'm certain there's other things that, you know, it's like each episode, usually there's kind of like if only we had five more minutes per episode. If only NBC would do that, we would be able to kind of get it all in and you'd see it. But sometimes, trying to boil it down to 42 minutes we have to lose stuff so maybe once an episode there's something that we know we're going to probably have to lose.
I wanted to ask you that we started out the first season with Chuck have to protect his CIA status from everybody and now here we are at the beginning of Season 4 and pretty much everybody in the main cast knows that he's a spy. Do you every worry about too many people in on the secret or too much out in the open?
Chris Fedak: Absolutely. I mean, we're always concerned about the core dynamics of the show which is kind of based on a kind of classic TV structure of like Chuck does a job that nobody can know about. But, through three seasons of the show and now a fourth season of the show is that that dynamic has changed and that the show isn't solely about, you know, Chuck keeping that secret from his family. However there is, you know, there is deception still happening inside the show. You have a giant Buy More filled with spies that nobody can know about and we also have a - Chuck told his sister at the end of last season - that he had quit the spy life per her request, that she didn't want him in harm's way. But now Chuck has been given this mission from his father to find mom and so that conflict is something Chuck will be dealing with this season.
With the Buy More now playing even a bigger role possibly because it's owned by the government, are there any challenges Chris and you and Josh Schwartz find in trying to include all the characters already there in addition to the wealth of guest stars that you have with the Gretas and everything?
Chris Fedak: Actually, the Buy More's helped us a lot. The Buy More being owned by the CIA and being a part of the spy world has allowed us to do more spy stories that kind of fold back through the Buy More. And so that was something that we kind of, you know, figured out at the end of last season is that there's always a tendency in a spy show is that as you kind of get into the spy show and you're kind of following these spy missions is that you lose the home life, that you lose the, you know, the friends back home. But as you know, watching our show, it's like this wouldn't be the Chuck show unless you had Ellie Bartowski be a part of it and Captain Awesome and those people because those things make the show about a regular guy who also is maybe not the most regular spy in the world. So the Buy More being a part of the spy world has actually made it a little bit easier for us to kind of organically keep Lester and Jeff and Big Mike and the Buy More as a part of the show and just like the Chuck living in the same apartment complex with Ellie, keeps Ellie and Captain Awesome part of the show and that's important to us. It's critical that it be the spy show that doesn't lose the home life.
Do you have any sense of a timeline for little Baby Awesome when the little newborn will make an appearance?
Chris Fedak: We do have a timeline for that but I don't want to spoil. We are planning on doing a baby episode this season but I don't want to give it away. It will not be in the early episodes of this season but I've had a lot of meetings about baby bumps and how they look on TV so it is definitely going to happen and it's going to happen but not at the beginning of the season.
Joshua Gomez: The ginormous twist that Chris doesn't want to talk about is that the baby actually does come out with a beard.
What have you guys been able to do with the fourth season that you never had before?
Chris Fedak: What have we been able to do that we've never been able to do before? Well, I think two big things. I think that we actually at the halfway through last season when we had Chuck and Sarah together as a couple, what it allowed for us to do there and here in the fourth season is to make the show a relationship show, to not make it only just the world they want but to expand it out and to make it about this Chuck-Sarah relationship. And also with Episode 9 last season to bring Morgan into the spy world. These are things that we wanted to do and that we were really excited to do. Now being Season 4, it's exciting to kind of take that to the next level and so you'll see early on in Episode 1 as we've kind of described in our synopsis of that episode is Chuck and Morgan on a mission together, on their own kind of rogue mission which is great because it's not only a spy mission but it's these two guys, these two good friends kind of doing something together and that's exciting for us. We love to see that. The new Buy More is another exciting thing this season that's allowed us to kind of bring the spy world back into the Buy More so that everything's a little bit closer and more tense and that there's always the chance of trouble kind of popping up more organically into the show so that's been a great thing for us. The other thing about Season 4 is we've been able to kind of bring back guest stars from previous seasons so in our third episode and fourth episode, you know, we're bringing back - third episode - we're bringing back Stone Cold Steve Austin and Nicole Richie. And then in our fourth episode, the Generalissimo Armand Assante returns so it's just great so see those characters.
What does having mother issues in this season do for Chuck?
Chris Fedak: I think mother issues like all mother issues, there's always a lot of story and a lot of mythology to kind of get into and figure out and so for us, as the writers of the show, it's a lot of great of material. But also like in most mother issues, there's also great comic material for us to have fun with so you know, that's the mythology of this season is the search for mom and what it means and what her story means to Chuck and the mythology of the show. So in the past, we've had organizations like Fulcrum and the Ring which were, you know, which were your bad guy organization. This year the search for mom is going to be a very interesting kind of very emotional mythology for the show.
Obviously General Beckman's been a big part of the show from day 1. What made you decide to make Bonita Friedericy a regular for this year and why didn't you do it sooner?
Chris Fedak: Well, what happened was is that Bonita is of course as you realize how important General Beckman is to the show is that over the three seasons, what originally began as, you know, kind of the Charlie voice on a box giving the mission became very much an important kind of character to the show. So as we worked on Season 3 and realized just how much fun, you know, how much more work we wanted to do with General Beckman and how we wanted to have fun with that character and so you started to notice that at the end of last season that every time you saw General Beckman, something strange is happening. A reminder that, you know, we wanted to have more fun with that and Bonita was so fantastic that we knew going into Season 4 that we were going to require a little bit more Bonita time so we made her a series regular and she's been wonderful. The new Buy More is exciting. It's exciting to have her, up and about and a part of the show.
Some of the funniest stuff last season was the interactions between Morgan and General Beckman. Does Morgan have a different view of General Beckman than he does of say Casey?
Joshua Gomez: Yeah, I think he does. I think Morgan somewhere in his brain fancies himself a ladies man so he thinks he's charming and I don't think he plays that game with Casey so much but with General Beckman, it's always kind of fun to do that with Bonita because she plays that so great. She has such a fantastic sense of humor. She's such a funny lady and she has to play this stern, you know, it's this character that's just, you know, she's a general and it's just this stern, monotony kind of character and so it's great to go to like just like it's so fun just to be able to throw stuff at her and try to keep her straight-faced, you know, see how long she can do it. Yeah, I think that Morgan and Beckman have a great little a risk then.
Chris you mentioned the big bad of the season. I assume it's for the full 13 episodes he's the main figure as the enemy?
Chris Fedak: Yes, that's the person that's with the organization, our bad guy organization.
Do you have an option for another nine episodes still or is that still in contention?
Chris Fedak: That could happen, yes.
Does that present a problem knowing you had a plan for a 13-episode arc and then having to add to that story? Do you try to incorporate what you were doing or make it a full story like...
Chris Fedak: It all depends on when we find out about the back nine, if that's going to happen. The earlier we find out, the more we can kind of like adjust and change things. Last year we had already broken the 13th episode so when we got the back nine order so the 13th episode is kind of big and epic and that was just because we couldn't change it, you know, it was too late in the process which isn't the worst thing in the world. It's kind of fun to kind of do a mid-season after, you know, the first half of the season so, you know, we'll probably be in the same situation this year but then again, if we find out earlier it'll just allow us to kind of adjust and, you know, the story accordingly.
Chuck debuts its fourth season on Monday, September 20 at 8 PM ET on NBC.