We spoke to Ryan McPartlin and Sarah Lancaster, two stars of the series Chuck, about the show in general and about a particular episode that brought back Armand Assante as Costa Gravan Premier Alejandro Goya. In the series, Zachary Levi stars as the titular character who, after receiving an email from an old college friend now working in the CIA, has the world's greatest spy secrets downloaded into his brain. Chuck Bartowski then goes from computer geek next door to super spy in this action comedy series currently airing its fourth season. Sarah Lancaster stars as Chuck's sister, Ellie, while Ryan McPartlin plays Ellie's husband, Devon "Captain Awesome" Woodcomb.
Despite middling ratings, Chuck has a devoted fanbase that has succeeded in staging campagins in getting the series renewed. Audience for this season have averaged 5.9 million viewers per episode, putting it in fourth place out of five shows in its timeslot. However, NBC has ordered a full season of 24 episodes – the most ever for a season of Chuck. It remains to be seen whether Chuck will be renewed for a fifth season.
USTOWNHALL SPEAKS TO RYAN McPARTLIN & SARAH LANCASTER OF CHUCK:
USTH: I'll start with Sarah, just to sort of outline next week's episode, "Chuck Versus the Coup d'Etat." Can you tell us what it's all about and what it was like working with Armand Assante? And of course, Ryan, you can chime in when you want to.
SARAH LANCASTER: Sure. We were thrilled to have Armand back [as Premier Alejandro Goya] first and foremost. He really brought a lot of energy and flavor to the show last time, and he's a consummate professional. Works very hard and very diligent at what he does and is hilarious. So, we were happy to have him back. But, the show statrs off [where] Ellie and Awesome are expecting a child, and Ellie's just feeling like we're already going down the road of "home" all the time, and the baby might as well already be here. She feels like she needs a little excitement in her life. She's feeling a little too over-babied.
And so, it just so happens that [Assante's] character calls upon Captain Awesome again to come down to his country of Costa Gravas and there's a big ball in Awesome's honor, and because it's Chuck, nothing goes as is planned and hijinks ensue.
|(l-r) Ryan McPartlin, Sarah Lancaster star in Chuck [Photo Credit: NBC]
RYAN McPARTLIN: Yes. The fun of it was last year, I was the one who was craving some excitement and wanted a thrill. That I was getting – not bored with marriage – just feeling like we're getting complacent with our suburban lifestyle, and that's when Armand Assante came in, and I ended up thinking that I was going to save his life by tackling John Casey [castmate Adam Baldwin]. And this year, it's fun that they've kind of flipped that on its ear and made Sarah's character Ellie the one who wants a little excitement, and I'm the one who's like, "Uh-oh. No. I know where this can go." And of course, we go to Costa Gravas.
Armand Assante – he's so dedicated. I've been a fan of his since Mambo Kings, and I loved watching him in Gotti on HBO, which I'm pretty sure spawned The Sopranos. And to work with him, he takes it – as funny as it is – he takes it very seriously and he's very committed to his role, and especially when he's dancing with Sarah Lancaster [Ellie] last season.
So yes, it's just really amazing. You never know what to expect from one week to the next, and who's going to show up, and what they're going to have us doing, or who there's going to be a ten foot statue built of. So, you'll see. It's a fun episode, and I really feel like Kristin Newman, our writer, did a great job of bringing three different relationships and tying them all into the same type of problems.
SARAH LANCASTER: Oh, way to get more dialog, Ryan.
RYAN McPARTLIN: There you go. You got to know whose ass to kiss. That's how it is.
SARAH LANCASTER: No, it's true. It's true. I think it's always fun when they can create a creative and feasible way for us to all be out of our independent houses and be on location together. I think it makes the show really pop when you can have all of us in the same room together. It always makes for a good episode.
RYAN McPARTLIN: And, Armand Assante hitting on Sarah – I mean, their characters, and the Generalissimo hitting on Ellie is – it always makes it pop.
SARAH LANCASTER: He does have a lot of affection for Ellie.
RYAN McPARTLIN: Oh, man. And some one-liners. They're coming up, and you'll see.
USTH: Ryan, it's my understanding that you auditioned for the role of Superman in Superman Returns. Now that Warner Brothers is rebooting the film series with Chris Nolan and Zach Snyder directing, would you want to audition for Superman again, or have you already even taken steps to secure an audition?
RYAN McPARTLIN: You know, it's so funny that I was on the train next to Zach Snyder going down to [San Diego] Comic-Con, and I was like, "I really should go over and introduce myself to him, because I'm a fan of his." And you know, we're literally sitting across the aisle from each other, but my buddy wasn't in the – oh, this sounds so tacky – but the business class. He was back in Coach. He didn't get the business class ticket. And, I'm like, I got to go sit back in coach with my buddy who's not up here. I'm really going to blow an opportunity to get to know this Zach Snyder on the way down to Comic-Con this year. So, I ended up sitting with my buddy back in Coach and giving up my seat, so I probably blew the whole Superman role right there.
No, I mean, of course that would be great, but realistically speaking, I'm with Chuck now, and whatever happens after Chuck, we'll just take it as it comes. But, Brandon Routh played Superman in the first one that came and [worked with us on Chuck], so who knows. Maybe he could do both. I don't know. But no, there are no steps that have been taken other than I'm sure my agents are calling whoever's involved. I think Zach Levi would make a great Superman to be honest.
USTH: You've mentioned that ordinarily you're kind of jealous of Zachary Levi [the star of Chuck]. I was curious as to why that is.
RYAN McPARTLIN: The guy gets to do all the spy world stuff. He gets to go and kick butt and have fun, and he drives a really cool car in real life, that to be honest, I just couldn't pull off. Of course I was kidding, but that was playful on both ends, of his and my end. But to be honest, if he got Superman, I figure it would be a great thing. I'd be happy for him. And if I got it, I'm sure he'd be happy for me. And let's be honest, I think we're both going to be doing Chuck for awhile. I hope that's the case.
USTH: When the series does come to an end, would either of you, Ryan or Sarah, want to move on to other projects and leave these characters behind completely, or would you be up for a theatrical film version of Chuck?
SARAH LANCASTER: That would be all dependent on the script I think.
RYAN McPARTLIN: Yes. Yes, if it's done right. I mean, not just for the sake of doing it. I think when you're done with one character, you tend to go the opposite route and try and do something totally different. What do you think, Lancaster?
SARAH LANCASTER: You're going to play Mr. Dud – Mr. Notoppen?
RYAN McPARTLIN: Yes. I'm going to play a geek. I'll even play a total dork next time. There you go. No, I'm just talking about it as a type of product. I mean, it's like you look for something that is more dramatic versus a big action comedy.
SARAH LANCASTER: Yes. I mean, you know, we're here. We're in Chuck for the long haul. We want to continue on. If for some reason there was a theatrical release beyond that, you know again like I said, it would be dependent on the script, and then I think all of us would look at each other and say, "let's go!" We have a great time working together. If the script wasn't there, then we'd just have to leave the roles where we left them and move forward.
RYAN McPARTLIN: Yes. In everything, there's a lot of hypotheticals. I saw they're making a new Wonder Woman [series] now. I was like, "Oh. Sarah Lancaster would be perfect for that Wonder Woman," but hopefully, she'll still be my wife on Chuck and not take the chance to play Wonder Woman at all, ever. Hopefully ten years from now, we'll still be doing this.
USTH: Do you have any ideas for a story that has not been done with your character that you would like to see the writers do?
SARAH LANCASTER: Oh, gosh.
RYAN McPARTLIN: I actually do, and I passed it along to the writers. I can't divulge it because they liked it. Not necessarily for my character, but just for the show. I felt like there would be a good setting for it, but I hope it gets done, so I can't tell you. Revisit that question with me next spring, and then we'll know whether they took my idea or not.
SARAH LANCASTER: Interesting. I don't know what this is.
RYAN McPARTLIN: Yes. I don't know if I've had a chance to tell you. I was talking to [Chuck co-creator] Chris Fedak the other day about it, and they seemed to like it. I'll tell you later. I'll tell you this spring if they don't use it.
USTH: Well, what about you Sarah? Do you have any ideas for your character?
SARAH LANCASTER: Gosh. I mean, there is a reason why I am an actress and not a writer, you know. I am much better suited to say the words instead of come up with them. And I do not envy their job. I think the time constraints that they're up against and the fact that we never know if we're coming back from season to season, let alone an order or 13 or an order of 22. It makes it really difficult for them to create an arc for the year. And, I am not envious of what they do. So, I just keep my head down and...
RYAN McPARTLIN: And plus, the actors are never happy. The actors never have enough lines and they're never – they're always complaining. I'm kidding. No, we're fine.
USTH: Just looking at everything overall, both of you have done sitcoms, and dramas, and TV, and some film work. Do you have any preference for one type of medium or the other? Each one has its plusses and minuses.
SARAH LANCASTER: I think it just depends on where you're at in your own personal life as well. I feel like I actually made a concerted effort to look for something a little bit lighter after What About Brian and Everwood. I felt like I was just crying on national television for years and years and years. So, I wanted to see what I could do with comedy and work with that and be funny again and lighten up. So when Chuck came around, that was exactly what I was looking for.
So I don't know, because I'd been doing that for a few years now, maybe the next one I'll turn to more drama. But at the end of the day, really again, it's all based on writing.
RYAN McPARTLIN: Yes. I got to say that when I look at the product like Chuck, I'm most proud to be a part of this type of medium. But as far as scheduling is concerned, working in a sitcom and being in front of a live audience, you get that rush of kind of being [in] live theater and doing three weeks on and one week off, and having fun really just getting a lot of laughter. And not to say it's not hard work, it's just not as tedious, and it's not as many hours as doing something like Chuck.
But at the end of the day, I'm most proud with our end result. So, I'm really happy with where I'm at right now.
USTH: Thanks to Ryan McPartlin and Sarah Lancaster for speaking with us. Chuck airs Monday nights on NBC.