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'Chuck' Executive Producer Talks About the Wild Season Finale and What's to Come

by Maureen Ryan, posted May 16th 2011 10:35PM
Well, that was a crazy 'Chuck' season finale, am I right?

I don't know about you, but I think the show delivered an exciting, suspenseful and emotionally intense hour, and I'm very intrigued by the possibilities that were set up for season 5.

"One of the things we liked about the season finale is that it allowed for us to get back, in a way, to the 'Chuck' of season 1 and 2," executive producer and co-creator Chris Fedak said in an extensive interview about the finale and what's to come. "The season 4 finale is kind of a reboot of the show."

Below are a few thoughts from me on the excellent 'Chuck' finale, as well as much more from Fedak about what's to come for Chuck Bartowski, Sarah Walker, John Casey, and of course, Morgan Guillermo Grimes.

You may know Mr. Grimes as your new Intersect. Say what?

There was a lot to absorb in the fast-moving finale, which saw the entire gang fired from the CIA and Chuck and Sarah turned into near-billionaires who, thanks to Hartley Winterbottom (a.k.a. the former Alexei Volkoff), have the resources to buy the Buy More and keep its eccentric inhabitants employed. But the biggest shocker came when Morgan uttered the memorable line first heard in the show's second-season finale: "Guys, I know kung fu!"

That line took me back to one of the show's all-time high points, and if I have one minor complaint about 'Chuck versus the Cliffhanger,' there was so much going on that Jeffster didn't have time to rock the Bartowski-Walker nuptials as they did for Ellie and Awesome back in the day. Ah well. There was plenty of excitement to be found elsewhere.

Richard Burgi made the perfect hitman, and the show is always at its best when Team Bartowski is banding together to save one of its own. The episode had momentum to spare (the motorcycle scenes were especially cool), but it slowed down when it needed to: The scenes of Sarah in the hospital intercut with Sarah and Chuck doing a run-through of their wedding were wonderfully touching. How could you not get a little verklempt during that sequence, as well as later, in the church when those crazy kids finally tied the knot?

We've been through a lot with those two, and we have every right to get a little misty as they got hitched. I must add that Yvonne Strahovski looked her most beautiful in that church scene, and when each of them said their vows (at home and in the church), it was moving in all the right ways.

I could quibble with little things here and there (How did Chuck and Hartley get to Moscow? Why didn't Chuck and Sarah have a wedding reception? Has Vivian's metamorphosis into a villain ever made much sense?), but I'm not going to poke holes. Zachary Levi did a tremendous job in selling his worry, his love and his determination to save the woman he loved, and in Yvonne Strahovski nailed her "you are a gift" speech with amazing simplicity and skill.

I'm excited to see where Team Bartowski goes and what Morgan does with his new skills. For more on all that, here's my Q&A with Fedak.

Maureen Ryan: As far as the 13-episode order goes, do you hope it stays at 13 and doesn't expand? Are you hoping it does expand? Or are you open to each possibility equally?
Chris Fedak: You know what? That's a really, really tough question. And of course it's you asking it. I think the way we're going to attack the season and the way we're going to focus on it is to make these 13 episodes as dynamic and as exciting they can be and a really great culmination of everything we've been doing on the show. If the question is, "Would you ever want to do more 'Chuck' episodes if you got the chance?" -- I love these characters and I love the show and I would certainly love the opportunity to tell more stories. But right now our headspace is to tell a very tightly wound 13-episode story.

I guess today at the NBC upfront, Robert Greenblatt [the new head of NBC] said something about the show going back to season 1. Does that mean less mythology, more standalones? What does that mean exactly?
A couple weeks ago, [co-creator and executive producer] Josh [Schwartz], myself and [executive producer] McG went in to NBC and we pitched the season 5 that we wanted to do. One of the things we liked about the season finale is that it allowed for us to get back, in a way, to the 'Chuck' of season 1 and 2. The season 4 finale is kind of a reboot of the show.

At the end of our finale, there are huge things that have happened -- Chuck and Sarah are married and they're fired from the CIA because Chuck had to break every rule to save Sarah's life. The second big component is that Chuck doesn't have the Intersect interview in his head any more, but his best friend, Morgan Guillermo Grimes, does.

Chuck Bartowski spent four years becoming a pretty good spy, learning how to be a spy and how to handle himself. He's still Chuck Bartowski and that guy that we love, but he knows a lot more now. So we love the idea of taking Morgan and making him the Chuck from season 1. And Chuck now has to protect his best friend. He's got Sarah and he's got Casey, but they've all been kicked out of the CIA, so they become private contractors. They're their own spy team.

We spent season 4 going to a very big and epic place, following the world of Volkoff and Volkoff Industries. There were a lot of things we were excited to do in terms of creating a Big Bad this season, but now that we've gotten to the season finale, it allows us to reboot the show and focus more on the independent missions but also very much on our core group of individuals. I just love the idea of Morgan Grimes, Joshua Gomez, having a computer in his head.

My one reaction is, though, that he's been so great at having this sense of wonder and excitement at being part of the spy world. Is it possible for the character to still bring that kind of energy to the show? Is it even more fun now?
I think it's going to be a lot of fun. We have a lot of story we want to tell in regard to the Chuck and Morgan relationship, as well as Chuck, Sarah and Casey. But the idea [is to have] Morgan out on missions and learning the ropes. And getting into trouble -- that's so much of the fun of the show, that these are spies who aren't supposed to be spies. Having Chuck and Morgan getting into trouble -- those are stories we love to tell. So I'm excited to get into that part of the story and to go back to a point where we see our team getting missions and [we see] how those missions fold back on the characters in a smaller way, as opposed to the big mythology in the last couple of episodes, which I really love, but it's fun to shake it up.

This show's always been about a spy team, but it's been about a spy team working for the government. There's still going to be a Buy More and there's still going to be a Castle, but it's not just 'The A Team.' It's more 'A Team' meets 'Hart to Hart.'

Will it be a lighter season then? Not so much a Big Bad or one villain, but maybe a bit more lighthearted?
We haven't broken the season yet, we just started talking about it. We have the big story for the season. I think we'll certainly have some really good villains and they will thread together in the season. We probably won't do anything in the nature of the grandness of Timothy Dalton's Alexei Volkoff. But in keeping with the "back to basics," we love to have our team going out on missions that are maybe different and more... what's the word... unique than some of the more classic spy missions that we've recently been on. Because they're private contractors, they're going to take some jobs that are going to be a little weird.

One thing we talked about before was possibly getting to know Sarah's family even more. Is that still on the table -- getting to know her mom, her family?
That's certainly on the table. [At one point Schwartz and Fedak thought about delving more into the story of Sarah's mom this season but they decided they didn't have the time to do that justice in season 4.] I'd love to do more stories about Sarah Walker. And Gary Cole is just fantastic as her dad, so we'd do anything to work with him again.

Well, I think the fans are clamoring for more Sarah. And any time you take her outside her comfort zone, it's usually great, and the family stuff seems to take things to another level with her.
I agree. What Yvonne has done with the character is amazing. There's a scene in ['Chuck versus the Masquerade'] where she's trying to bond with Morgan and she's playing with his 'Star Wars' toys. It's funny and hilarious and she just doesn't know exactly what to do.

So Sarah Lancaster is pregnant? I just found that out today. Will that curtail Ellie next season?
Well, first off, I feel amazing right now. Because she's been pregnant the last couple of months and we've been hiding it, using all the old tricks. But Sarah Lancaster is a brilliant actress -- so much if it is her and how she was able to hide her pregnancy. For the most part, she will be back and [will have had the baby] when we come back, so hopefully we can also do some exciting things with her. I love to break Ellie out of the shell and do some exciting things with her.

I really enjoyed Ellie when she was working on their dad's computer and then seeing Castle and learning everything. To me it's so satisfying that the show went there with her.
We have such a great cast, I mean, we have the best leading man in television in Zachary Levi. And then going down the cast, we have actor after actor who could really have their own shows. They're so great that you want to spend time with them. And any time we can push our characters out of their comfort zone, into a different place, I just love those scenes. Even small scenes, like Ryan McPartlin and Gary Cole [in a scene together]. Those human moments are I think so much of what people respond to in the show. As much as I like to blow stuff up.

In terms of the budget, will there be a budget change or reduction for the next season?
All that stuff is being sorted out at the moment. I can't really speak to it. It'll be sorted out over the next couple of weeks.

Do you anticipate having to make any changes in terms of cast or in terms of stunts or things the show will be able to do?
No, I don't think so. As you know, we had contractions in seasons past. We have an amazing production team that is very clever and very smart. It will be the 'Chuck' that you know and love. There's always going concessions to the fact that we can't make the $200 million movie I want to make every week, but the crazy thing is, we somehow manage to do it. We can do gondolas, we can blow up a house in England, all thanks to the team we have.

You've taken Chuck on this journey from sort of aimless guy who becomes a spy and really learns his craft, falls in love, then gets married. Is the next phase 'Spy Babies'?
I love Yvonne Strahovski and I do think that would be a great story to tell, but we're going to have some great stories coming up next year and a baby bump might get in the way. I've already spent so much time trying to time out what size prosthetic Sarah Lancaster should have in different episodes [in which Ellie was pregnant].

Will we see any changes in the writing room? Any returns possible for 'Chuck' veterans Ali Adler, Scott Rosenbaum or Matt Miller?
I would love to have those people return, but I think considering that we only have 13 episodes, I think the writing staff that we have, which has just been fantastic this year, will be the ones writing these 13 super-huge episodes.

I'd assume every season there's a learning process. In terms of season 4 as a whole, is there anything you took away from this season, anything you want to do more of or less of?
We had so much fun with Chuck-fu in season 3 and season 4. We had so much fun having Chuck have this springboard into the spy world that was the Intersect 2.0. That was really exciting and fun. But what's exciting about season 5 is taking that away from him. What happens if you take away Superman's cape? Is he still Superman? I think with Chuck Bartowski, he is still a great spy.

It's never been exactly about the Intersect, it's about the fact that he's the guy who will download internet pornography to disarm a computer. He comes up with these unique solutions and that's something we really wanted to explore. It's very much in keeping with what [Greenblatt] mentioned, going back to the season 1 and season 2 of it all, going back to basics. I look at seasons 3 and 4 and Chuck-fu and it was great to watch that transformation, from a guy who doesn't know if he wants to be a spy to a guy who wants to be a spy to a guy who wants to be a hero. This season will be a real change-up.

Maybe it kind of pays tribute to the character in that he's a full-on spy just on his own merits. He's grown so far that he deserves to be a spy on his own terms.
Yeah, that's the thing we're most excited to explore with Zac, and also, to take the team outside their comfort zone of the CIA. We've done the international missions, we've had the private jets, now it's like, what happens when you take those things away? How can our team get into trouble now? Which is easily.

So will there be a musical?
I am totally against the musical. I know you want that.

I am not advocating this. I'm just saying, people have floated that idea.
We already did 3-D, we did a murder mystery. I think when it comes to episodes or ideas we haven't tried, I think I would do a [very long] single take in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rope.' Or some other crazy idea, I'm not quite certain which, but I think musical's the one I'd try to avoid.

Animation is fantastic. That would be interesting. In the 'GI Joe' tradition. I might consider that.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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I've just seen episode 1 and 2, but I don't really like it. The show seems a little bit boring now :( Chuck doesn't do much - actually, he doesn't/can't do anything while Morgan kick people around the room. Morgan is childish and like I am on my period. And I really miss the CIA, and the government things.

I know this season is still about Chuck - but Chuck is just a baby sitter for Morgan right now. I miss the action, and Team Bartowski attacking heavy security organisations. I don't like the idea of CIA turning -- sort of evil -- it's a little depressing.

The thing is that I could work with Morgan as the intersect, even though I want Chuck to have it. But the problem is that Chuck doesn't DO anything anymore, as said. He may have become a great spy, but in episode 2 (at least) he didn't seem like it. I enjoyed the premiere though.

And it's a little too much about money. It has never been a part of the show, and I get that it has to be a part of it now - but without money, and having to get it is also a little dull..

I know I sound negative and stupid. But it's just how I feel. Only on episode 2 though. It'll probably improve further into the season! :)

January 01 2012 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved the finale except for the end. I don't like the fact that Morgan now has the intersect. I mean, the whole time we have followed Chuck becoming the spy he is today, and now that has been taken away from him. I agree with sanfranchuck, a little Morgan every now and then, sure, but Chuck should be the true intersect.

July 25 2011 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

thanks for the interview, moryan. i enjoyed the finale until the end. i think morgan as the intersect is a terrible idea. josh g. seems like a great guy and little bits of morgan can be super funny. but anything more than a little is quickly annoying and i do not relish the thought of watching morgan bumble through the early phases with the intersect, with or without chuck's tutelage. isn't chuck the hero? isn't his brain supposed to be special? does schwedak not get that the majority of the fans want to see sarah, chuck and casey kicking ass, not extra time with morgan or the buymorons? super dissapointing and a definite buzzkill. the shaw arc was horrible and the vivian arc was laughable, but this just seems like a slap in the face to what could have a been a fun season 5. thanks for seasons 1 and 2, but this is becoming even too inane for me. big bummer.

May 17 2011 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have never liked the Morgan Grimes character and if this twist means a loss of screen time for Chuck, Sarah, and Casey then I would have preferred the show ended. He has already been used way more than I like at the expense of Casey and Sarah. His best scenes are on the cutting room floor with the exception of the episode Chuck told him he was a spy at least that is what I here. (I didn't see it as I had already quit watching the show by that time only to be brought back later by a friend during the second part of the season that shall not be named.)

May 17 2011 at 4:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As much as I'm going to enjoy seeing Morgan Grimes with an Intersect, I'd love to see wether Casey could handle having one [or not!]

May 17 2011 at 9:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Whoops that was a plot synopsis for season 5, not season 3.

May 17 2011 at 8:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

About your question to Chris Fedak about the writers for next year, www.nbcadsales.com/2011/programming/pdfs/chuck.pdf which is the sales part of the NBC universe has information on the show that they are selling. It gives a plot basis for season 3 ( wealthy, married, Morgan has the intersect) and it shows Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, Alison Adler and Matt Miller as executive producers. Interestingly enough it was posted a day before the episode aired, I had heard about it but avoided it until this morning to avoid spoilers.

Either Chris Fedak was misleading you or NBC has the wrong info posted.

May 17 2011 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Will Chuck get the intersect back in season 5, or will it revolve around Morgan Grimes?

May 17 2011 at 8:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Always a good read, thanks for the interview. Now sure I'm fully on board, but Chuck season 5 is a gift any way you slice it.

May 17 2011 at 3:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

- "Is the next phase 'Spy Babies'?"
- "I love Yvonne Strahovski and I do think that would be a great story to tell, but we're going to have some great stories coming up next year and a baby bump might get in the way."

THANK YOU I was just complaining on Alan's page that I hope they DON'T go with the preggers storyline next season hahaha ... it's not that I'm against the family thing but I don't watch Chuck to watch people settle down and raise kids! If I want to see that I'll go watch some reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond" or something. ;-) This is CHUCK and CHUCK requires a Sarah Walker who is fully able to KICK A$$!!

May 17 2011 at 1:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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