The highest point of my WonderCon experience came Sunday afternoon, when I moderated the Chuck panel with Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, and cocreators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz. It was an absolute delight: Everyone on the panel was lively, funny, and eager to chat about a show that obviously makes them all proud.
The crowd definitely reciprocated their warmth. I couldn't see all the way to the back of the Esplanade Ballroom, but folks in the crowd estimated that somewhere around 2,000 people showed up for Chuck. There was a huge line for audience Q&A and lots of enthusiastic cheering, especially for references to the Chuck/Sarah romantic entanglements, Scott Bakula's first appearance in the five-minute trailer we screened, and pretty much anything Adam Baldwin did. In fact, Levi gave a very genuine and impassioned thank you to the crowd at the end of the panel, and everyone told me they're thrilled with — and extremely thankful for — the kind reception they've always gotten at fan events. If you couldn't be in the room, read on for some of the highlights:
- First of all, the five-minute clip from the upcoming episodes was intense; I'll discuss some of the more spoilery stuff after the jump. But it also drew a bunch of big laughs from the crowd. In one section, we saw Tony Hale's Emmett fighting (and, it seems, losing) a battle at the Buy More. In another, Chuck appeared to be undergoing some kind of torture and seems proud to be rating it at about an eight out of 10 — until Sarah tells him the torture hasn't even started yet. Oh, and there was also a scene of Jeff clad in nothing but a bathrobe.
- Does the entrance of Chuck's dad signal that wedding bells are on the way before the end of season two? Schwartz said there will be not one but two weddings before the season is up (which prompted Levi and Gomez to joke — I think — about the impending Chuck/Morgan nuptials).
To find out the details of Chuck's first spy move, what's coming up in the Chuck/Sarah relationship, which past characters might be returning before the season's up, and a special bonus answer to a question I ran out of time to ask on stage, just
- I asked if Chuck is ever going to learn any spy moves, and Levi said that yes, in fact, he is. He then hopped up on his chair to demonstrate "The Morgan," which looks sort of like the Heisman Trophy pose if you were more concerned with covering your face and "the jewels" than going in for a score. However: The episode in which The Morgan appears is called "Chuck vs. the First Kill." Take from that what you will.
- The Chuck and Sarah romance will be something the show tackles head-on for the rest of the season, Schwartz said. That said, it won't be easy, especially because in an arc that starts with tonight's episode, Sarah will be cozying up to an MI-6 agent, and her motives may not be entirely work-related.
- I asked what episodes the cast and creators felt were most representative of what the series wanted to be, and Levi suggested the first season's "Chuck vs. the Wookie" and this year's "Chuck vs. the Seduction" guest-starring John Larroquette. Gomez threw out "Chuck vs. the Best Friend" and then named a couple of other Morgan-centric episodes, causing Schwartz to suggest that maybe there was a pattern there.
- On the topic of guest stars, Schwartz and Fedak said they write the roles first and then look for people for the parts. They like to cast against type, like making the baby-faced Andy Richter the head of a menacing Fulcrum sect. Schwartz said one of his favorite guest-castings of the season has been Reginald VelJohnson as Big Al.
- I asked about the guest stars the cast had most admired, and Gomez said for him, it's the athletes like Michael Strahan and Jerome Bettis who have appeared on the show because he knows he could never in a million years do what they do.
- Pretty much anything Adam Baldwin said got a roar from the crowd, but he was especially funny when the writers were talking about the little touches he brings to the role, like having Casey sit down for a dinner scene and start absentmindedly sharpening his knife and fork.
- The end of season two is a big potential game-changer, Schwartz said — so it's definitely written as a season finale and not a series finale. The episodes leading up to it are also the most serialized they've ever done. Schwartz asked the crowd if they'd be ready to mobilize to convince NBC that Chuck deserves a third season, and not surprisingly, there was a huge cheer.
- That's probably as good a place as any to talk about the Chuck's dad spoiler from the clip: Somehow, Chuck's dad and Chevy Chase's character know each other, and there are definitely some hints that Chuck's dad may have been a spy, or at least worked with them, years earlier. I, uh, may have audibly gasped at that part.
- Gomez says he thinks that Morgan does, at this point, suspect that Chuck has something going on besides Nerd Herding, but as a good friend, he sees his role as covering for Chuck when necessary and not asking questions.
- Strahovski said one of her favorite fight scenes from the two seasons of the show was the choreographed fight with Bryce when they were back-to-back, mirroring each other's moves.
- Speaking of Bryce, I asked if he'd be returning, and the crowd reaction was definitely mixed — from where I stood, it sounded like maybe 25 percent of the room was in favor of more Bryce, while 75 percent of the room wanted him to stay away. Schwartz and Fedak decided to neither confirm nor deny anything after hearing that reaction.
- We definitely haven't seen the last of Jill: Levi said she returns for another episode this season.
- Jeffster! will be back!
- In talking about how much Chuck's geekiness is actually Zach's geekiness, Levi — who was attempting to draw a line in the sand between the two — ended up delivering a long diatribe about video games, offering his critiques of some new titles, and even starting a dialogue with some audience members about his opinions. At which point Gomez leaned into his microphone and said, "So they're completely different."
- During the fan Q&A portion, one questioner asked which other characters on the show the cast would like to play. Gomez offered up that he'd like to be Sarah Lancaster, "and I'd just stare at myself all day." Strahovski said she'd like to be Lester.
I'd planned to ask if Chuck was ever named anything but Chuck in early drafts of the script, but we ran out of time on the panel. Luckily, though, Fedak was kind enough to answer backstage. He said Chuck did initially have a different name, but while he and Schwartz were working on the show, they were reading some Chuck Klosterman, and Schwartz decided their show's main character should get Klosterman's name. Fedak wasn't sold initially, but after his loved ones told him he was an idiot for not going with it, he eventually came around.
It also bears mentioning that all the panelists seemed legitimately hopeful about their chances for a third season. Shooting wraps up this week, and then it's just a wait to hear from NBC about the future. So, if you're a fan, finger-crossing time starts now.