Chatting with the Women of Chuck

Last Wednesday, at NBC Universal's TCA (Television Critics Association) summer press tour party, I had the chance to speak to both of Chuck's lovely and talented actresses – Yvonne Strahovski ("Sarah Walker") and Sarah Lancaster ("Ellie Bartowski").

Chuck just went back into production this past week and in fact, when I spoke to Strahovski and Lancaster, the first table read for Season 3 had been earlier that day. Said Lancaster, "Everybody came back on set, got their parking passes and got adjusted. We read the first episode and saw all the writers and saw our crew and had our safety meeting – and tomorrow I'm on camera!"

The Australian Strahovski admitted it was, "A little strange finding my feet, especially talking in an American accent after all this time. I spent two months in Australia [this summer], so I kind of became a lot more Aussie. So coming back here it just takes a little bit more effort."

Given the huge events that Season 2 left off on, fans are all very curious where the next season will pick up. When I asked Strahovski if she could reveal anything about the season premiere, she first exclaimed, "Oh man, I don't know what I'm allowed to say!" She then teased, "Something really big and dramatic is going to happen to Chuck and Sarah," before adding, "I don't want to get in trouble!"

Chuck not only got a new Intersect in his head at the end of Season 2, but discovered it was a very different version than what he had before, suddenly showing off martial arts skills he never had. Strahovski said that as Season 3 begins, Chuck and Sarah, "Weren't planning on this, so it's kind of weird that he's got this new Intersect in his head. In the first episode and the season, we're going to be fleshing out how this thing actually works in his head. For Sarah, I don't know if she's going to be that happy about it, because she kind of let herself go a little bit more towards the end of the second season – allowed some stuff to happen [with Chuck]. And maybe this is a little bit of a slap in the face for her."

Lancaster revealed, "Chuck's new powers aren't all that he hoped for." Still, Strahovski said, "I'm sure we can look forward to some more interesting fight scenes with Chuck and [Sarah] together. It's going to be very fun working with Zach [Levi] on that, because he's really very good at remembering moves with his fight coordinators."

Strahovski understands that some fans wish Chuck and Sarah could just get past all their obstacles sooner than later, but adds, "I like the will they / won't they vibe; the chemistry. That's fun to do as well. It's fun to watch the chemistry, but it's also fun to act it, because it's so passionate." Plus she said, all that build up will make it all the better, "When they eventually get together some day!"

With her husband, Captain Awesome, now partially in on Chuck's secret spy life, Ellie has two very notable people trying to keep the truth about her brother from her. Lancaster told me that has Season 3 begins, "[Ellie] definitely senses that something's adrift - women's intuition or what have you. She's got the two most important men in her life lying to her and kind of sneaking around. It's definitely going to become an issue."

Lancaster and Zachary Levi have had a lot of warm moments on the show, as Chuck's relationship with his sister has been an important element of the series. "The writers always pitched it to me as Ellie's the grounding force in the show," said Lancaster, adding, "There's always crazy stunts and a lot of havoc and a lot of comedy happening and they like that Ellie and Chuck's relationship is really cemented in something real and honest. It's this grounding force. I love the scenes with Zach and I. It's got a really sweet tone to it and we just got along really well from the get go."

While Captain Awesome is now somewhat tied to the spy world, and even briefly fought John Casey last season, Ellie remains very much apart from the violent scenarios her brother is involved in. But does Lancaster hope that someday, somehow, Ellie Bartowski can also show off some action hero skills? Said the actress, "Maybe. I don't remember who was saying it the other day, but I was like, 'Are you guys going to make me pregnant for Season 3?' Somebody was like, 'It's fake and you come out with guns drawn!'" as Lancaster humorously showed me the motion of Ellie pulling guns out of a fake pregnancy belly.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Chuck cast were at Comic-Con where they received a tremendous ovation from thousands of fans, at a panel that began with a very funny video starring Chuck creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak along with Levi – which led into a live performance by the show's ever-awesome Jeffster, who were then joined onstage by the rest of the cast, as they sang, "Fat Bottomed Girls."

Recalling what it was like to be part of that, Lancaster remarked, "This year definitely trumped last year, and I thought last year was amazing. Just the fan response is totally killer. All those vibes coming your way, it's just a fantastic thing. Certainly the highlight for me was the Josh Schwartz/Chris Fedak video. I thought that was great. Of course, they told us about five minutes before we went on stage that we were going to come out and dance with Jeffster! So we're all riding there together and we're like, 'Wait, what are we doing? What? Huh?! This is a panel? Why am I dancing?'"

Regarding Jeffster, Strahovski said, "I loved that they did the song!" and agreed with Lancaster, noting, "The video that Josh and Fedak and Zach made was hysterical! Especially Fedak! I thought he did such a good job. He should be in the show!"

So what's it like facing a room of 4500 or so of exuberant, screaming fans? Said Strahovski, "I was a little intimidated by the enthusiasm, only because it's so overwhelming. It's all there in one room and the energy is so powerful. But we love it. We love doing it."


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