Interview With Zachary Levi: “Every Intention” Of Doing More ‘Chuck,’ Kickstarter Hatred, ‘Thor 3,’ New ‘Tangled’ Stuff, And More!
If there is one thing you can say about Zachary Levi, it’s that the man knows his nerdy stuff! Serving as the host of the pop-culture gameshow Geeks Who Drink (SyFy, new episodes every Thursday night) as well as starring in the new Heroes Reborn mini-series (premiering tonight, September 24th, on NBC), he’s got to routinely be on his game, and it’s apparent that he has had the love of all things pop-ish from well before his days starring as everyman spy-wannabe Chuck from the mid-2000s NBC show of the same name.
Check out our conversation below, and be sure to check Zachary out in his new shows Geeks Who Drink and Heroes Reborn this Fall!
NerdBastards: We’ve been enjoying Geeks Who Drink and enjoying it immensely. I’m admittedly curious, in terms of you hosting the show: how did that come about? Is that something you pitched to the network, or did they come to you?
Zachary Levi: It came about in a very strange and inorganic way – they came to me initially to host and executive produce, and I initially was like, “y’know, I’ve never hosted a game show, I don’t know that I’m really at that point in my life that I’m ready to host a gameshow…” Heroes Reborn was going and I really didn’t think it was possible. But I signed on to executive produce and I brought Dave Coleman – my partner from Nerd Machine – in, and we produced a pilot for SyFy. They loved it and picked it up – but then they came back to me and said “we really think you’re still the guy to host this,” so I thought about it a lot, prayed about it, and I was like, “all right, let’s go do this.” [The show] is my baby, I want it to have the best chance it has, so if they think I’m the best guy for the job, then fine, I’ll believe them. So I just jumped in! I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured, more than anything, the show should be fun. I like having fun; I like people coming on the show and having fun; that’s what I tell everyone (the contestants) before they come out. I say, “look, they money is real, the prizes are real, but the most important thing is that we all enjoy ourselves while we’re doing it.” Everybody is on board, everyone is cool – I think as far as I was concerned, they (SyFy) were like, “you are a guy who is very much in and of this world… and you like to drink, so it’s going to work perfectly.”
NB: Are there any celebrities that you would ban from being a Team Captain on the show from knowing too much nerdy trivia?
ZL: Oh, man…um… no! I think the more knowledgeable they are, the better, as far as I’m concerned. I love when people come and let their geek flag fly. Felicia Day is someone who has been a friend for many years, and she knows a lot about a lot of stuff in that world, but at the same time, she also doesn’t. We all kind of have areas that we spend a lot of time in, whether it’s comic books or video games or movies or television shows or pop culture in general; sometimes people don’t know a lot about pop culture but are really great with science and math. I love that there are so many contestants that run the gamut.
NB: Of course, I have to ask: is there a specific drink of choice you have?
ZL: Oh yeah – tequila, rocks, splash of soda, squeeze of lime.
NB: Moving to other events – we have Heroes Reborn coming very soon. The character you play has a much darker tone than what you normally get to play; is this something that you sought out, or did it just sort of happen?
ZL: It’s definitely something I sought out. I saw the announcement that they were making Heroes Reborn, and I thought a miniseries would be a lot of fun – in fact, I’d love to do nothing but mini-series for the rest of my life! I love the idea that you have more time to tell a story than in a movie, but you’re not dragging it out for seven years and have a lot of “filler” episodes and stuff like that. So I sat down with Tim Kring (the executive producer) and basically, my only prerequisite was that I wanted to play a character that was very much not Chuck (Levi’s titular character in the mid-2000s NBC sitcom). I loved playing Chuck, and I loved the amazing journey that I had in my life, but I think it’s important as an actor to constantly challenge yourself and challenge your audience’s perception of you. So I really wanted to play something that was a little darker and grittier and more… messed-up! Tim had a character in Luke Collins, and he pitched that to me, and I said, “yep, let’s do it – that sounds like a really cool job.”
NB: I know that, when the first Heroes series was on, it was on at the same time as Chuck – did that connection help to steer you towards working with Tim Kring and his crew?
ZL: I think so, yeah. I have a lot of love for that whole gang – I became friends with a lot of the cast, and still am. I was always a little envious that they had superpowers and stuff! I was like, “wow you can fly… I can do kung-fu, but you can fly, and that’s pretty awesome.”
NB: I’m obligated, damn near at gunpoint, to ask: is there any possibility or word of a Chuck reunion?
ZL: [Laughs] Well, not officially – at least, not from anyone at NBC or Warner Brothers. But it’s still something that I’d love to do, if and when the timing is right. Personally, what I’d love to do is create something – it’s very difficult to get everyone back for more seasons of the show, as everyone is off working on other things – but to do a Chuck movie once a year or once every other year, that would be a lot of fun. I think the show really lends itself well to doing something like that – you can write an awesome new mission or an awesome new bad guy, then get the band back together to go take him down! Or take her down, it could be a very evil woman, you have no idea. Also, we’d want to do it in a way that lets us focus on our very specific fan base; maybe that means doing it online, or – since Chuck is on Netflix and has done well on Netflix, perhaps going to them and doing a movie there, I think, would be a lot of fun. I’d love to do it, and I still have every intention to do it, but it’s just a matter of timing.
NB: I guess if Veronica Mars has taught us anything, you could always Kickstart it…
ZL: Yeah, but… I really don’t want to Kickstart it. I’m really happy for Veronica Mars, and the various people who have utilized that well… but there was a lot of backlash after Zach Braff Kickstarted his movie. I understand why he wanted to do it, but I can also understand why people were like, “you’re a big movie-star guy and you have access to big movie-star money, and Kickstarter is a place for people who don’t have that.” Also, there’s something very strange about going to people and pleading for them to give you money, but then if you don’t get enough money, you don’t get to do it. I feel like the perk system can get very… interesting. I would want people to buy the movie and watch it because they really love it, not just because they’re going to get, like, a voicemail from me – I don’t know, I don’t want to have to whore myself or other people out just to make something that should stand on its own merits.
NB: Still being held at imaginary gunpoint here – I have to ask about Thor 3! Have you received any word about potentially reprising your role as Fandral?
ZL: No, none yet – they’re still working on the script, and I believe they are shooting for a window of next summer to shoot it, so there’s still time! I’d love to reprise Fandral, I thought he was a really fun character to play, and working alongside Chris (Hemsworth) and Idris (Elba) and everyone – it was a very fun experience and a cool honor to be a part of the Marvel Universe. If they decide to put Fandral in the movie and want me to play him again – just tell me where to go!
NB: For as much amazing “geek cred” that you have, I’m sure you also get lots of love for being the voice of Flynn Rider is Disney’s Tangled. How does it feel to be a part of that pop-culture fairy tale universe? What’s the word from Disney about potentially continuing the Tangled storyline?
ZL: It was an absolute dream come true – I’ve been a massive Disney fan, or “Disney Nerd,” as I like to call it, since I was a little kid. Doing a Disney musical was absolutely mind-blowing. And they did such a great job with the movie… people continue to find it and love it, and I’m extremely honored that I got to be a part of it. As far as continuing the storyline on – we are! We’re currently making a Tangled animated series that’s going to premiere in 2017. We’re already recording episodes, and we’ve got basically the entire original cast back together – me and Mandy (Moore), and some various other people who play pub thugs and all that stuff… we’re really looking forward to people liking it and enjoying the continued adventures of Flynn and Rapunzel!
NB: That’s exciting news – I guess you could say [terrible impression of a thug from Tangled] “Happy Birthday” to everyone!
ZL: Exactly – [a slightly better impression] Happy Birthday, everybody!