Interview with Adam Baldwin & Executive Producer Chris Fedak from Chuck

Earlier this week, I got the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Adam Baldwin to talk about tonight’s Chuck series finale. When the session began, it was a pleasant surprise to hear that Executive Producer Chris Fedak would also be joining the call! They discussed Colonel Casey, tonight’s finale, and what it’s been like working on Chuck for the past five years.
Jump with me to read all the great questions & answers!

On what we have to look forward to for the big finale

Chris Fedak: Well, I think that, you know, we have essentially an epic finality, you know, for you guys and it’s going to be different than anything we’ve ever done before on the Chuck show. We knew that we were building toward, you know, our final episode and we really wanted to put together something special. It’s going to be a two-hour finale and it’s a – the first part of it is called “Chuck versus Sarah” and the second part’s called “Chuck Versus the Good Bye” and everything is at stake.. You know, it’s like all of our characters are at a crossroad, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it all falls out. But it’s definitely the biggest thing we’ve ever done on the Chuck show.

Adam Baldwin: Well, there’s some resolution there with [Casey’s] relationships that come into play which I found very heart warming and dangerous at the same time. So I appreciate it, but that was the thing about Casey. The biggest challenge for Chris and the writers to keep him dangerous while at the same time being lovable and I think they walked that fine line.

You know, I kept asking well how do I play this guy down the line yet still maintaining within the realm of this romantic comedy. Basically, it was this dangerous romantic comedy that Casey had to walk this line. So it was nice to get the, you know, the personal aspects of his life really highlighted in the last couple of seasons. So I really appreciate it. I thought that was fun.

Chris: Yes and just jumping off of that. I mean that was a real revelation for us is to watch not only what Adam did with Josh Gomez, but also what he did with Mckenna Melvin. I mean it’s just a – it was something the more we saw of what our actors were going to do between each other and the building up of family part of the story was something that we really kind of wanted to follow and to see.

And there’s a moment in the finale which is kind of like the epitome of like, you know, is whereas that Casey is holding a sniper rifle, but he’s also like, you know, Adam’s so fantastic that it’s also a heartbreaking moment. And, you know, it’s like very few people can like look through a sniper rifle and also deliver like, you know, something really heartbreaking. And it’s really a testament to what Adam has brought to the character of not like a stone cold, you know, sniper, you know, for the government but also, you know, a heart warming dad.

On the atmosphere on set while filming the finale

Adam: There were a lot of tears, a lot of emotion. I didn’t cry, but I watched a lot of other of the younger people cry being a cold-hearted bastard that I am. It was uplifting and bittersweet and yet it was a sense of accomplishment because we had against all odds persevered and been lucky enough and had the good graces of the network and the sponsors to keep us going, you know. And Chris can tell you the back story more than I can, but that was the sense on the set day in and day out was just that, you know, we made it five years when we didn’t even think we were going to make it past the first season let alone get picked up as a pilot. So while there were a lot of tears, they were tears of accomplishment and of a job well done.

Chris: I agree with everything that Adam just said and I would also say that the tears were a real disaster. There was people crying at every, you know, for everything. You know, people would type into a computer, it would be the last time they were typing into a computer and they would start crying. So it was an emotional shoot. Thankfully we had the rock that is Adam Baldwin who doesn’t have emotions and we were able to do some scenes without constant crying.

Adam: Makeup was on an extra detail on that last show.

On writing each season finale as a possible series finale

Chris: Well hopefully I’ve gotten good at it. I think that, you know, there are a couple of things. I think that when – all the finalities that we’ve kind of built therefore, you know, they were all, you know, kind of, you know, they were all – we were hoping to come back. And so we built them in such a way – we wrote them in such a way that, you know, they implied a big new season coming next year or in a few weeks.

And this time we knew that this was going to be our final episode, you know. When NBC picked this up, they were very clear that this was going to be a 13-episode run and, you know, that this would be our final season and, you know. So we built, you know, when we started working on the finality when we were writing it, it was much more of a kind of like this will be the final chapter. This will be the final moment of this show and we need to resolve, you know, these stories that we’ve been working on for five seasons now. And that the finality isn’t so much a finality just for Season 5, it’s a finality to five seasons of the show. So it’s definitely different.

Now in regard to the writing of it that was a panic attack on a daily basis because I think that, you know, knowing with the size and the scope of five seasons of the show, you know, there was many days where it was like, you know, it was hard to even look at the board in the writers room and then to consider the page so. But it was something that I think that when we finally cracked the story and, you know, looking at it on the page and doing that part of the show. It was a big moment and there was a lot of emotion involved in a process that’s usually pretty solitary, but hopefully I’m not in too much of a mess, you know, getting out of it.

On whether there was an idea for the final image or scene years in advance

Chris: You know, we had a couple of – Josh and I had a couple of big moments that we wanted to get to in the show. You know, we knew, you know, we wanted to do the end of Season 2. We knew we wanted to, you know, bring Morgan into the spy world. We knew that we wanted to explore Casey’s back story and his family. And so we had these big moments that we kind of knew that we wanted to be part of the show each season. In regard to the very final moment of this season, it was something that we came up with at the end of last season and it was a part of our pitch to NBC, you know, for bringing us back. And so this year we knew we were heading toward this final moment of the show and so that was a year in the making.

On why the fans have kept the show on the air for the five seasons

Chris: I think that the Chuck show is about, you know, I think the Chuck show spoke to people. I think it’s about in every man who steps up to the plate and decide to be a hero. But, you know, he still remained, you know, a good guy. Still remained, you know, the Chuck Bartowski that people feel in love with in Season 1.

And I think the other thing about the show is that it’s about a family. It’s about a group of people who come together and they kind of flow in the family unit. And all of my favorite TV shows growing up were kind of about that. And I just can’t imagine a better family than this group from Casey to Chuck to Morgan to Sarah, to everyone involved in it. So I think that, you know, it was a lot of things for people to kind of lock onto and to kind of fall in love with.

Adam: Let me jump in on that. I just want to if I could button that. My manager said to me at the very beginning of the show when we were worried about being picked up and what not he says, “Look, the show’s called Chuck. If they fall in love with the guy who’s playing Chuck, you’ll continue. If they don’t, they won’t.” And they did. So that’s a big – I mean that’s one of the main reasons why Zach Levi is such a great guy is that he was able to capture that audience and make them fall in love with him hard enough to stick around. And so this is my I love Zachary Levi speech in case you didn’t know.

Chris: And the amazing thing about that part of it, you know, the amazing thing about that performance — about Zack’s performance — is it’s kind of like all of our actors are forced to do two things: they’re all forced to do not simply be an action hero, but for Zack is to become the hero of the show but also to be the every man. That’s an amazing skill set to be able to be funny, but also mature into the hero of the show is something that’s a tightrope that only a couple of guys can walk and Zack’s one of them.

On how the finale fits in with the rest of the series

Chris: Well, I think that the finale is definitely an answer to a lot of the character stories that we’ve been building for five seasons. So thinking about the two characters that have changed the most, I mean outside of Chuck or Sarah and Casey. And so everyone in this finale is going to be forced to make a decision in regard to what their future is going to hold and, you know, what have they learned over the past five seasons of the show. And so that’s a, you know, these are – the finale answers those questions. It’s about, you know, where we’re going to finally land with these characters and, you know, what they’ve discovered. I think that if you look at the finale if it’s two hours, the first hour is very much about Season Five and then the second hour is very much about the show as a whole.

On the things they never got a chance to do on the show

Chris: You know, it’s funny. I think that, you know, there was a number of things that, you know, if we had ended at the end of Season 1 there was certainly things that I would have wanted to do. But I think that we’ve really gotten to do a lot of it, you know. We’ve really gotten to do – like in our final episode, we have an amazing skydiving sequence that we actually – we shot using a real skydiver up, you know, up in the air. I think that was something that we always wanted to do, you know.

You know, but 91 episodes really gave me the opportunity to kind of write a bunch of different types of things. I think that, you know, there was always a chance that we could have had more money and more time than, you know, we could have built out action sequences into, you know, some bigger things.

But I think that the most important thing for me was that we were able to kind of do a lot of the character stuff that we had planned to do – the Chuck/Sarah relationship. And we hadn’t been able to do any part of that, you know, Chuck and Sarah getting married, hooking up. You know, Adam and Mckenna, you know, Mckenna is (unintelligible) that would have been really disappointing to me. So in some ways it’s like I’m excited that we were able to do all of the big emotional stuff that we wanted to do.

Adam: Now, Chris I was — had we, you know, this is just fantasizing because there’s that 91 number — had we gotten a back 9 and gone on to 100 episodes would Mckenna or would Alex and Morgan have had a kid and would that have then made grandpa Casey? Because if that’s the case, I would prefer that you just kill me.

Chris: Yes. No, I think that – I don’t think we’re going down the grandpa route quite yet. I think that would have been a little fast for us. But killing the Casey character that is something Adam and I have argued about quite a bit. But maybe we shouldn’t talk about that because the finale’s still upcoming.

Adam: Right.

On the moments they are particularly proud of

Adam: Playing, gosh, particularly proud of. That’s really hard to pinpoint. I’m proud of being able to keep a straight face as much as I can when Zack is working because he’s so damn funny. And there were a lot of moments where we would, you know, lose composure and laugh and proud of holding it – proud of, geez, proud of surviving scenes being eaten alive by Carrie-Ann Moss. I think that was pretty great. She’s a tigress and I mean that in the best sense of the word. She’s a great, professional.

I was really honored to work with another icon and she really – because when you work with someone, you want them to have their feet planted firmly on the ground and have good sensibility and be sane. And she’s a lot like I am in the sense that she’s, you know, she got a family and she’s grounded and it’s completely professional and is experienced veteran and it was just – I’d say I take a lot of pride in holding my own with Carrie-Ann Moss. How’s that?

Chris: I think that’s great. If I was supposed to answer the question of what I’m most proud of it, it’s like I think that just 91 episodes of this crazy television show called Chuck. There have been so many moments where we’ve, you know, we’ve just kind of sat back and looked at the show. And, you know, it’s an action comedy and, you know, there’s lots of those but in some ways it’s whole unique show. And it’s been a pleasure to do it and it’s been an honor to work with our cast and our crew and that’s what I guess I’m most proud of. And now thinking back, if I could have done one thing over again I think we would definitely have had to have gotten Casey into the Speedo.

Adam: And I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t do that. I’m proud of the fact that didn’t happen.

Chris: Yes.

On what things about Casey really surprised them

Adam: What is it about the character that surprised me? Gee. That he has emotional ties to – I mean when Mckenna Melvin came on to play Alex, I think is when it really sparked with me. I kept bugging Chris, you know, is Casey ever going to meet his mom, you know, what’s his back story. And Chris can tell how they found Mckenna, I’m sure it’s just an audition process.

But there was a certain spark with her that really it rekindled my love for the character himself because I was looking forward to sitting down with her and just – she’s just very inspirational to me. She’s a smart young woman. My daughter — I have a daughter who’s not much younger than she is — and it just was a joy to play that and that plus my evolving relationship with Morgan was just a pleasure to work with him as well. They’re all so fun, but when you see the height discrepancy between me and them on camera, it’s just hilarious.

Chris: I mean that’s a great point. I mean I think that the dynamic between Adam and Josh and Mckenna and Carrie-Ann this year, it’s just – he has an amazing chemistry with them – whoever we bring on to play opposite him. And I think, you know, the Mckenna thing was a real discovery and also kind of an accidental discovery because we built a, you know, we built an episode where we could explore Casey’s back story. And we cast Mckenna and she had one line. You know, she said, “Dad.”

That was it and so later that season we had an episode where she was, you know, we got an order for more episodes – we didn’t know that was coming and then we built an episode about her being kidnapped. It was really kind of like do we bring her back in to have her do more lines, you know, how is this going to work. It’s like we weren’t quite certain, you know, what the story was and she came in and she was fantastic.

And there was a scene actually from our finale of that season where we cut it out because of length, but there’s a moment where she growled back at her dad and we just oh she’s fantastic. She’s not only great and emotional, but she’s funny in that same way that Adam brings to his role is like he’s tough, but there’s also just like a great comic underpinning to that.

Adam: Yes, she just fit right into the production like a glove. She just got the humor of Gomez and of Zack and Yvonne and she just fit right in there with all of us so it was just great casting.

On whether Casey becoming a much more emotional family guy hurt him as an agent

Adam: Oh yes. He became a total pussy. No, I think there’s only so far you can go with a cold-hearted killer. How do make it – how do you keep a guy like that interesting within the confines of a comedy and I think the layers – I mean, the character could have easily been killed off at any moment if he just stayed in that realm I think. I mean, I don’t know if anyone agreed with that. I mean all characters are expendable as far as I’m concerned in a show except for Chuck in a show called Chuck so… well I’m glad that they were able to find other ways for me to express myself.

Chris: Well, I think the thing of it is that if we had wanted simply a cold-blooded killer, you know, then we wouldn’t have cast Adam Baldwin. Because what Adam brings to the role is kind of the grit of the action hero but there’s something deep. There’s something, you know, Casey is, you know, is in some ways a wounded passionate character. But it’s like, you know, on top of that is this, you know, this stone façade and that’s what Adam brings to the part and he’s also wicked funny. So that was something that, you know, a part of our show is it’s sentimentality, it’s emotion but it’s also humor in case and Casey brings all those things together.

So, you know, for us, you know, writing to the Casey character was very easy because we knew we had Adam who was always going to give, you know, was always going to extra soft. It wasn’t going to be just a grizzled, you know, screaming into a walkie-talkie, you know, cut the red wire, cut the green wire. No, that’s not what this show is about and Adam personified that and I think that was something we knew from the pilot process is that Casey was – because like he’s right. Is that if Casey was simply just a hard-nosed action hero that character would have probably not been as important to the show.

Adam: Yes and also Fedak and the writers were smart to not craft him so much as the speech at fire, the, you know, the exposition deliverer although he did that on occasion I think. They really saved Casey’s MO character wise which I think helped him. You get sick of a guy speechifying all the time I think.

Chris: Absolutely.

On whether Casey is going to be the character he misses the most

Adam: Well, I think it’s fair to say that while I will miss Casey, he was a fully developed character that got five whole seasons and 91 episodes to arc through. So again I go back to the sense of accomplishment with him. So I would say that while I will miss it, I won’t miss it as much as other characters that have been short circuited where I, you know, would have liked to explored further. So again it’s kind of an apples and oranges comparison. So yes and no.

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