NBC's 'Chuck' Looks to Expand Mythology in Season 2
If you want to have your hi tech toys or gadgets fixed, you visit Chuck Bartowski at the Nerd Herd booth in the electronics store, Buy More. If you want to thwart international terrorists or assassins, you visit……. Chuck Bartowski at the Buy More?It’s true. When the socially inept Chuck opened an email from his former college roomie turned rogue agent Bryce Larkin, top secret data, known as the Intersect, was downloaded into his brain. Now, Chuck randomly experiences flashes of information that could either save the world…. or damn it if the Intersect ever fell into the wrong hands. Teaming up with super spies Sarah Walker and John Casey to harness that knowledge and keep it safe, Chuck wants nothing more than to be free of this headache, unaware it will ultimately cost him his life. Going into its second season, co-creator and executive producer Chris Fedak escaped his showrunner duties long enough to discuss what’s next for Chuck and whether he can trust those around him.
Newsarama: Chris, with your series Chuck hitting its stride last year, what really struck a chord with viewers and what maybe didn’t work that you tweaked for Season Two? Chris Fedak: When we were first developing the show, the notion was we would have stand alone episodes each week. It would be a villain of the week and Chuck would get into different types of trouble. What we learned is people have really been primed to expect mythology. We had built the mythology for Chuck, but we thought we would touch upon it every couple of episodes. However, other shows like Lost and X-Files have changed things. You have to come back to that mythology a little more and answer more of your questions. Once we realized people were excited for the mythology of the show, to figure out who Chuck is, and why the Intersect was sent to him, that was something we really dug. In "Chuck Versus the Alma Mater", where we went back and figured a little about Chuck’s back story, people were really digging it. Something we considered coming into this season is that we would really hit upon the over-arcing story and the bad guy organization Fulcrum. Who are they and why are they after the Intersect? Why did Bryce Larkin do what he did? What does it mean to have Chuck’s secrets updated in his head? That has been a part of the breaking of this season and our expectations for the back nine as well. That was probably the biggest realization from last season. NRAMA: How did the writers’ strike derail your original master plan? Fedak: Well, what happened was we produced 13 episodes last season and we had begun to hash out how the back end of the season would work and building up the mythology. When the writers’ strike happened, that was pretty much put on ice until the strike was over. For our show, Warner Bros. decided it would be better just to do a Season Two instead of getting the operation up and running and back in time to have some episodes ready for our last season. We were put on hold and then when we came back this season, we had to figure out what part of that back nine we wanted to do. Would we want to spread it out over the full 22 episodes or did we need to rebreak the series? What we decided is to take a lot of that back nine and feed it into our first group of episodes. When we come up with a good idea, rarely do we push it to another episode; we want to do that episode right away. A lot of that back nine turned into our first 13 and then we’ve developed a new concept for the second half of the season. NRAMA: Chuck was so overwhelmed with his introduction to the spy world. How is he handling being the Intersect now and what does it mean to him? Fedak: From the very first episode, Chuck is a guy having a quarter-life crisis. He’s a guy who is stuck in neutral and the Intersect has kicked him in the ass and forced him to get out in the world to do things he never thought he could do. He has all the potential in the world so in many ways, the espionage community as a whole is forcing Chuck to mature. He’s always been great at the Buy More, but he’s also becoming a somewhat competent spy. He’s still a regular guy though. You are not going to see Chuck with a gun shooting people. That is not our show and Chuck is not that character. He’s smart and he’s figuring things out. In some ways, the Intersect is a burden but it’s also testing him. NRAMA: Chuck and covert spy Sarah finally went on their first real date. Have they finally embraced their feelings for each other? Fedak: We designed the first three episodes of this season specifically around the Chuck/Sarah relationship. I don’t want to ruin anything but we are going to take that relationship and see what it’s like for Chuck, who obviously has feelings for Sarah, and for Sarah, who has feelings for him, but is she a good spy? Is a good spy allowed to have feelings for someone? That’s what these next few episodes will answer and there’s a big surprise at the end. NRAMA: Casey really seemed to warm up to Chuck towards the end of last year but in this season’s premiere, he seemed prepared to terminate him. Is Casey conflicted by his orders at all? Fedak: I believe he is conflicted by those orders. The way we think about Casey is he’s a person who operates without emotion and now in this mission, he actually has this one feeling of regret, of “I really don’t want to do this.” There is a bit of conflict but my feeling is if Sarah hadn’t come to the door, Casey would have definitely capped Chuck. Throughout the season, thanks to this relationship between the three of them, they’ve realized Casey and Sarah are partners which is something they would never have said to one another until "Chuck Versus the Truth". Now going forward, they are becoming a team, a family, and getting more into their lives. One of the things we’ve been fascinated by is these hard nailed spies being surrounded by human beings and how does that affect them. Going into Season Two, it’s definitely going to be a challenge for Casey to deal with these emotions when they do pop up. NRAMA: Casey had been this tank of an agent but we got this glimpse of his humanity with his prized car and running into his former Russian flame. Will you be developing that softer side of Casey more and what makes him tick? Fedak: I don’t know how much of the softer side we are going to get into. I like all that stuff, especially the romantic aspects last season with the "Undercover Lover". However, the reason I was late for this interview is we are currently cutting "Chuck Versus the Sensei", which is an episode about Casey’s sensei returning and going rogue. Then it’s up to Casey to find him and bring him to justice. It’s a great episode where we get into Casey’s back story and how he became such a fantastic soldier and spy. It’s another layer of us pulling back and seeing how you turn into a person like Casey and Sarah. NRAMA: Initially, Sarah wouldn’t even divulge her true middle name to Chuck. Are we going to be treated to more of her personal details? Fedak: Absolutely. The fourth episode is a Casey/Sarah centric episode and we are going to get quite a bit into her back-story. Throughout the season, we will begin to understand a bit about her upbringing, who her father was, and why she is so capable at adopting personalities. Stay tuned for those revelations but episode four, "Chuck Versus the Cougars", will be our first real look at Sarah and where she comes from. NRAMA: How important is the Buy More and the Nerd Herd in terms of Chuck keeping his sanity? Fedak: It is incredibly important to the show. So much of our show will go from big action and then back to the Buy More. It’s a grounding influence for the show. Even though they add the comedy and it can get kinda crazy with those guys, it makes our show different. It brings Chuck back to the real world. He’s a guy who has to check in at work, has to do a real job, and listen to his boss complain why he isn’t there all the time. For so many people, that is what makes Chuck identifiable. We’ve all had those jobs that weren’t so great and we didn’t define ourselves by those. Chuck is a supervisor at the Nerd Herd but he’s also a super-spy in his spare time. That’s crazy, but also distinctive to our show. NRAMA: Is there going to be a Morgan/Ellie/Captain Awesome love triangle? Fedak: Not currently. That is something that Morgan has imagined more in his head and hoping it would happen in reality. Morgan has always obsessed over Ellie and in some ways, maybe she is still the love of his life. However, Morgan is not her type although she loves him in her own way. NRAMA: Do you have plans to expand the supporting cast’s storylines? Fedak: We love our supporting cast. They are incredibly funny. It is always great to cut back and see what they are doing. It gives the series that comic pop that we are looking for so if you have a real serious action piece, we can always go to Ellie, Morgan, or the Nerd Herd to see what’s happening in their world. We are certainly looking to get into their stories this season and figure out what’s going on with Big Mike’s love life or Morgan’s obsession with automobiles form the 1980’s. NRAMA: Bryce Larkin is reportedly returning so how will he be complicating Chuck and company’s lives? Fedak: When Bryce returns, he has an effect on the Sarah/Chuck relationship. She was Bryce’s old girlfriend and we all have that guy we went to school with who was always smart, handsome, and a good friend. We loved them a lot but they also drove us a little crazy because they were so successful at life. But Bryce went out into the world, became a spy, and knows so much of Chuck’s back story and the Intersect that he’s really a vault of secrets. When he returns, there’s so much Chuck wants to learn from him. Slowly but surely, Chuck is dipping his toe into the waters of the espionage world and Bryce has been swimming in those waters for quite some time. It’s like the successful friend who comes home for the reunion. NRAMA: Is there anything else Chuck viewers should be pumped about seeing this year? Fedak: One of the exciting things that I haven’t mentioned is Tony Hale is coming into the Buy More to play Emmett, the new assistant manager. He’s just fantastic. From a comic perspective of Arrested Development and the other stuff that he’s done, he’s a real spark inside the store. At first, he sees himself as “We understand each other Chuck. We are both cut from the same cloth.” However, with Chuck always being away and maybe not being the best Buy More employee, Emmett begins to see Chuck as his nemesis. We had a bunch of great guest stars this season with John Laroquette and Melinda Clarke. For fans of Nicole Richie, she is going to be in episode four. For super fans, we have an episode coming up called "Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer". It was written by Phil Klemmer, who was a Veronica Mars writer, and this is probably the nerdiest concept we’ve ever worked with. We all watched the King of Kong documentary a few months ago and we thought it would be cool if there was a special C.I.A. code hidden in the kill screen to Missile Command. The episode is about Chuck desperately trying to find someone who can win this game so they can get to the kill screen and disarm a missile satellite orbiting over Los Angeles. What we realized is the Missile Command master from back in the 1980’s is Jeff Barnes of the Nerd Herd. I don’t want to ruin what the Tom Sawyer reference is to but it’s pretty cool in a 1980’s way. This is going to be an amazing season!