I have been in a Chuck press room at Comic Con before and this is the fourth time I’ve attended a Chuck panel, but I never had the honor of meeting Executive Producer Chris Fedak until now. He missed our press table due to lack of time at Comic Con and the opportunity never presented itself the other times.
As an avid watcher of Chuck since the pilot episode though, I’ve grown to love this man’s work. Executive Producer Josh Schwartz told me in that press room all that dorky humor that dominates this show comes from Chris. He really is the true creative genius behind it all. He knows how us 80’s geeks think! So when I heard he was coming to Chicago’s C2E2 Expo this year, I had to try again and make the trip.
You could imagine my worry when time was running out at the press room and the only person left to come to us was Chris Fedak. I thought for sure I’d be doomed again. The other six people at the table were worried too. However the concern proved to be unfounded and he took his seat right next to me, still in a very good mood (or punchy) after doing an hour long panel and all these interviews.
What was different right off the bat in this interview was Chris actually went around the table to find out who we were and what publications we were writing for. I’ve done about fifteen press rooms now and dozens of interviews and that was the first time that ever happened. From a show’s producer nonetheless! Some faces he recognized and was pleased to see. For the rest of us he was just glad we were there.
The round robin eventually got to me and Fedak was fascinated to see a Supernatural fansite editor/blogger there to promote his show. He’s definitely familiar with the show. He entertained the idea of getting some of that fanbase. I explained how I’m starting a new site that promotes shows connected to Supernatural and he instantly knew the connection, Wonderland Sound and Vision. Yep, McG produces both shows. Before we got started, he thanked us all for coming.
Of course, all this knowledge about us proved to come with an ulterior motive. He needed ammunition to have fun with us. Fun he most certainly did have. This transcript honestly is quite dry compared to the actual interview. Fedak spent a lot of time having playful banter with all of us like blaming a podcaster for his shaking, throwing a joke about Supernatural my way, teasing a blogger over her mention of a writer that has gone onto another show, sulking how she left him, and of course provoking us all with a promise of a cliffhanger even though there is no season five renewal as of now. A lot of that teasing isn’t in here (Okay, the Supernatural joke is, I couldn’t resist that). Fedak did give some spoilers, but was very coy about the prospects of an upcoming wedding episode.
So, if you’re super, super, spoilerphobic, stop after the first question. Otherwise, the spoilers are light and don’t give away too much.
The decision to bring Chuck and Sarah together. What went into that decision, what were the pros and cons?
Listen, when you have a show that’s a will they/won’t they relationship, that’s a giant important thing to your show. You have a spy show, you have action, you have comedy, and then you have the romance. For us, from the get go, watching the pilot, you could see that Yvonne and Zack were fantastic together, to the extent that there was a whole character we lost from the pilot because you didn’t want to see Zack with anybody else.
So what happened was we began to obsess over it quite a bit and we really focused season 1 and season 2 around that dynamic. Season 3 was always designed with the fact that we were going to put Chuck and Sarah together at the end of it. From a story perspective we kind of built the season that way. We had an order for 13 episodes, being the Chuck show we thought we had 13 episodes so we built a tight and structured story that led to Chuck and Sarah in Paris and then being together in the end. So that was kind of the model, the structure.
Once we got the order for more episodes that’s when you ask as a television producer “Okay, do we still want to put them together?” You see the battle of all the classes, it’s the math and science to the equation. You have Moonlighting, you have Bones, you have Supernatural with the brother’s relationship… (the entire table laughs and groans simultaneously). Just kidding, I kid, I kid. I just lost the website.
Whatever you’re thinking about, you’re trying to figure out where you’re going to do something. We decided we really wanted to do it in episode 13 of season three so we did it there. I think that was also great for us because we also knew we had a secret weapon which was Zack and Yvonne. (They’re) aren’t only good at looking at each other longingly but they do plenty of fantastic (scenes) together. So we put them together knowing we had something great and the Nick and Nora, the Hart to Hart dynamic would work on our show. When working on Honeymooners (“Chuck Versus The Honeymooners”) episode 14 that season, we knew that would be the most important episode of the show. We could put them together, but how do we sell them being together? And that was great, that was one of our best episodes.
I like the Nick and Nora reference, that’s perfect.
They’re wonderful, Zack and Yvonne. We’ve tricked movie stars into doing this TV show and they’re just such so good at it. Yvonne is also a very funny comic actress. A lot of what her and Zack do work together as a team and not just conflicted lovers. It’s great for the show. Yes, that’s the long answer to that very simple question, we knew in episode 13 of season three they would be together and then we thought we’d be quickly off the air. Low and behold here we are.
I need writers and directors for episodes 4.19 to 4.20
That’s a dry question. 4.19, which comes up this Monday, is Alex Katsnelson and Kristin Newman and it’s directed by Allen Kroeker. It’s a murder mystery called “Chuck vs. The Muuuurder.”
(Katsnelson) is actually from “Undercovers” and he’s a young writer. Kristin is also a new writer, she’s written “Chuck vs. Phase 3” and she’s wonderful. We have a lot of new writers on the show this year which has been great. Episode 20 is “Chuck vs. The Family Volkoff.” The return of Alexei Volkoff to the show and well as Lauren Cohen as Vivian Volkoff, and that is written by Nick Wootton and another new writer who’s been our writer’s assistant Amanda Kate Shuman and she’s great. It’s a great episode. We’re working on that one now.
Is there any chance that any slight chance Ali Adler will come back to write?
I’d love to have Ali come back.
For this season. For the wedding that we know is going to happen.
I’m writing the finale episode, which may or may not have a wedding in it.
I’m glad about that.
I would love for Ali to come back to the show. She’s done fantastic work at No Ordinary Family and she’s just a wonderful writer and so important to the show. But no, I’m writing the season finale, which may or may not have a wedding.
Are you waiting for information about season five before you finish the script?
No. You suppose a smart producer might do that. I might actually think, “I will ask and see what’s going to happen next.” No, what we always do is we write the most exciting crazy thing you can imagine and then we just do it. I’m writing with Nick Wootton. It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be big, it’s going to be outrageous and it will have perhaps a cliffhanger.
I’m nervous about that.
That’s my job dear, to give you stress and anxiety. Why would you want and ending, God forbid shows should ever have an ending. Endings are no fun. You want Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains, I’m comparing the show to Casablanca now, going off into the fog. No, I’m not going to promise you anything. It might be a terrible crescendo. It might be one of those ones that rips your guts out.
You say there may or may not be a wedding. Will there be a wedding song? By Jeffster?
You know, I love Jeffster, but what I would like to do is focus on their other obsession which you may not have known this, but they’re amateur film makers. You know that we’re getting into the film making business. That these two young “au-teurs” will “ma-ture” right in front of us. New things for Jeff and Lester and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
They can do whatever they want in the spy mission because they have the home life to balance it. The spy life is invading. Are you worried about that dynamic shifting?
I’m always worried about that dynamic, just me as a writer of the show. That’s certainly happening and big things are about to change in the show. Things that have been rules for a long time are about to get upended. It’s not like a turnstile show where you can go back in time and rectify the whole situation. Things are about to change in the show and they’re about to change in an interesting way. That’s been the fun of our show we’ve always kind of pushed things. Yeah, let’s do it, let’s try it, let’s make it happen because you’ll never know what tomorrow’s going to bring.
Someone threw in a last second question as he was leaving that was unclear, but the gist was Fedak would like to see Jill and Shaw back, perhaps show their lives in prison. Several at the table didn’t like the mention of Shaw, but I suppose if Chuck does get a season five (oh, please please NBC?) that opens up that possibility.
After that the cast was shuttled off to do autographs, adding to their already exhausting day that started with traveling from LA earlier that morning. That point leads into why I have a huge appreciation for these actors and producers that take time from the tight shooting schedules to show appreciation for the fans. Chris Fedak especially scored big points with my family.
Both my kids are huge Chuck fans and C2E2 was their very first comic convention. They were both brave at the ages of 13 and 9 to go up in front of everyone in that crowded ballroom and ask questions during the Q and A session. Afterward they were waiting for me outside the press room. On the way to the press session Fedak saw my kids waving and told them they asked great questions. A few of the other cast members said hello as well. That only made this very special day that much more special for them, and to this proud mama as well. They left soaring in fan heaven. So to Warner Brothers I say thank you for bringing fan favorites like Chuck to these conventions. It really makes a lasting impact on the fans, more than ever realized.
Coming up soon, excerpts from my roundtable interviews with Josh Gomez, Ryan McPartlin, Vik Sahay, and Scott Krinsky.