Chuck Creators on How the Tearful Finale Finished Their Five-Year Plan
Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski
Chuck's five-year plan has reached its end.
On Friday, series creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak saw the end of their beloved spy comedy that inspired nerd culture and Subway sandwich diets. True to form, they still kept up with the fans who made the continuation of the series possible.
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"Someone just wrote the nicest thing on Twitter," Schwartz told TVGuide.com Friday. "Someone quoted the pilot. 'Working on a five year plan. I've just got to choose the font,' which is what Chuck said in the pilot. And so that person wrote, 'That five-year plan worked out well.' I think I'm getting a little teary-eyed right now."
[SPOILER ALERT: The following contains details from the finale. Read at your own risk.]
In the series finale, many of Chuck's nearest and dearest go their own ways: Morgan (Josh Gomez) and Alex (Mekenna Melvin) were moving in together, Casey (Adam Baldwin) left to help save Gertrude (Carrie-Anne Moss), Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) moved to Chicago with baby Clara for a job opportunity, and even Jeffster! got discovered and went to play to adoring fans in Germany.
And although Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) is last seen with Chuck (Zachary Levi) in an intimate scene, their future happiness is less certain. She lost a good chunk of her memories after using the faulty Intersect, and therefore doesn't remember her relationship or falling in love with him. The feelings simply aren't present. But as the last scene on the beach closes, there's definitely a hopeful, sweet note about the way they're connecting.
Farewell to Chuck Part 1: A Jeffster! swan song
Congratulations! It's a little bittersweet, but a pretty satisfying finale...
Chris Fedak: It's a bittersweet moment for Josh and me. But in truth, we got to do something that the others don't get to do, which is write our own finale and build toward it.
Josh Schwartz: We thought we were done so many times, and to have gotten to five years and write the proper farewell is very satisfying.
Do you feel that Chuck and Sarah will be able to recapture their love and the relationship the way it was before the Intersect wiped her memory?
Fedak: I think that for us, we like a little ambiguity to allow our viewers to draw their own conclusions. But for us, we'd like a happy ending. Those two people are definitely in love.
Were there arguments in the writers' room about this ending for Sarah and Chuck, that she doesn't get her memories?
Fedak: We started working on this ending at the beginning of last season. When we were told by NBC that this would be the last season of our show, we built this ending specifically. We knew we were heading toward this beach scene and that moment in the very end when Chuck begins to tell Sarah her story -- that the Chuck show is about a guy who kept all these government secrets. I think we discovered over the course of the pilot and the first two seasons of the show that it's really about a guy who met a girl and fell in love. So we were building toward that.
Farewell to Chuck Part 2: Sarah vs. the Faulty Intersect
Did you feel like there were more stories to tell?
Fedak: If we had the opportunity to tell more stories, we would like to do that, but I think this fit for us. We designed this season as the final chapter, and I think that these 91 episodes are -- we're very proud and very happy. It feels like a good, full story.
Are there hopes for fans who want to know if/when there will be a movie, a comic book, some sort of continuation?
Schwartz: Well, never say never. What Chris and I are hoping is that someone out there inspired from watching the show, some youngun', will come up to us in 10 years and say I've got the greatest idea for the Chuck movie.
Fedak: Wait, I want to pitch the idea. Why does it have to be some kid? No, that would be great. When Josh and I started working on the show, we were really making a show for audiences today, but also for us older kids. This is a show we would have watched and obsessed over. I think considering who we got to work with, people like Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula, and we watched their movies and shows when we were kids, it would be awesome to see some day in the future, a kid who grew up watching the Chuck show and that we were some influence on their life -- which is crazy to imagine.
Has Zach talked to you guys about Nerd Machine or Nerd HQ for future collaborations or Comic-Con?
Fedak: I assume I'll be working for Zach Levi at some point.
Schwartz: Chris will be handing out visors.
Farewell to Chuck Part 3: Cast sheds tears, share favorite memories
How emotional was this for you two? Was there a screening with you all together?
Schwartz: There was a great screening last night. It was the two-hour finale at the Mann's Chinese Theater. Everybody was in the lobby for hours after it ended.
Fedak: Nobody wanted to go home. Not only is it a really fun show and great to make, but it was great to make because of the people. But yeah, we hung around forever and stayed up way too late just talking about the five years and 91 episodes and stories about making this show. We shared a laugh and some tears.
Schwartz: Not a dry eye in the theater.
But no one died at least! There were threats that someone was going to die in the finale...
Schwartz: That first hour is pretty dark, heavy stuff. Will Chuck and Sarah ever be the same? I was watching it next to some writers who used to be on the show but are no longer, and so they hadn't seen these episodes, and they were freaking out, very stressed-out.
I loved seeing the old places, like the Wienerlicious...
Schwartz: It's really helpful to watch the pilot before watching these two episodes.
... and also the El Compadre restaurant... that is, the El Compadre-esque restaurant in Germany.
Schwartz: It's very El Compadre-esque. I wish I knew what German for El Compadre was.
Fedak: But we actually shot at El Compadre, the same location that we shot for the pilot because we wanted to recapture that same look. Except we had to swap out all the employees for very Germanic individuals.
Farewell to Chuck Part 4: The nerd legacy
Were there any reminiscent touches you wanted to fit in and weren't able to in the finale?
Fedak: There were a number of cameos that we weren't able to do. We wanted to bring in a bunch of people, but as we put these episodes together, there was too much story. There was too much we wanted to cover. We had to make some tough choices. I would have loved to have gotten another chance to work with Jordana Brewster or Timothy Dalton. There was a part of the finale I really liked that because it's "Chuck vs. Sarah" in the first half, and the way the team works in the second half, it's really about our team and our people. It gave us time to focus on Casey and his daughter and Morgan and Ellie and Awesome.
What was Chuck's growth from the nerd we knew into who he is now?
Schwartz: When he's walking on the beach with Sarah that you see at the end, that he's the guy in control, he's the guy in charge. How strong he's become and how he's capable, what did you say Chris? About holding it together?
Fedak: Yeah, holding it together. It's funny. He's gone from the gangly guy to a guy who could become a CIA spy, but also still retain that kind of Chuckness. The fact that he's a regular guy, he's not going to shoot somebody in the back. But the other thing about that ending is that in the final moments of the show, it's the emotional toughness. Chuck is there and he's not telling Sarah, remember me, please remember me, he's not crying, he's not pleading with her. He's just telling her that it's going to be OK, that he's going to help her. He's there however she needs him. That was a big moment. Zach and Yvonne knew exactly what they were doing. We've been doing this for five years now. We talked about it for a second, and he knew this was the maturation moment. This was something totally internal and was Chuck being a real husband.
It was good to see Chuck flash again. Was it like riding a bike?
Fedak: As we were working on the episode, that was not the most important thing. Chuck getting the Intersect back was not something that we have to do this. This season was about Chuck not having the Intersect and having to survive on his own, to be the spy who could do this, who didn't have the training wheels of the Intersect. But in that final moment where he would have that decision, that's when we were like, the Intersect is important that he would have to choose between giving Sarah her memories back and saving the data.
Casey had his moment hugging Chuck at the end. It's not mushy, but it showed he had changed a little bit. Did Chuck help him?
Fedak: I think he's changed a lot. Even though he's still the toughest guy in the room, what we've seen is that he's able to access those emotions. It was great for us to build on that with the Morgan-Casey relationship and also the chemistry that Adam Baldwin and Mekenna Melvin had playing his daughter. Even though he's going off to save Gertrude, I think that that hug was something that was a great moment. It's crazy to imagine his character from that pilot being the guy here in Season 5 with the daughter.
Farewell to Chuck Part 5: : Life after Chuck
What songs were rejected for the big Jeffster! number? How did you settle on "Take on Me"?
Schwartz: Every time there's a Jeffster! performance, there's a hundred could've-beens.
Fedak: One of my favorite memories over the years is sitting with Josh at his computer and going through iTunes, selecting songs for the Jeffster performances... That was super fun. When we looked at "Ah-Ha," we wanted something fun. We had done Jon Bon Jovi, we had done "Mr. Roboto," so we were looking for something really hopeful and fun. The incredible thing about the performance — in performances past, we would cut to the actual song at some point. In this one, it's Vik [Sahay] all through it. It's amazing.
So we've just lived the past five years of these characters' lives. Where do you see them in the next five?
Schwartz: Well Jeffster! is rocking Munich. A good retrospective would be to see Jeffster! being huge rock stars in Germany.
Are the items from the Chuck set going anywhere that fans can see them?
Fedak: They have the Warner Bros. museum here on the Warner Bros. lot, which I think still has the Chuck Nerd Herd outfit. The Buy More is gone, all the sets are gone, they've been taken over by other shows. We're still trying to figure out what to do with the Missile Command video game.
Will there be Chuck merchandise for fans to buy?
Fedak: NBC has merchandise they've been working on. I think they're still working on the Chuck and Sarah action figures. Hopefully the show will live on in other areas too.
Do you think this was this the finale that fans wanted?
Fedak: I hope so. We've built this finale as one part love letter to the fans. It's hard to watch without seeing and feeling the previous seasons of the show. But we also built it in such a way that it would be a harrowing experience. That the first hour with Chuck vs. Sarah, you have such incredible intensity, it's hard to imagine -- I was watching it last night with the cast and crew. I was shocked by how intense that first hour is. Then the second hour, having the lightness and the fun was something we also wanted to do as well. It's a big dramatic thing, then hopefully something people are going to respond to. It's built for our fans.
Any last words to say about this whole experience?
Fedak: Speaking on behalf of Josh and myself, this is a show that survived because of the fans and because of the people who watched it. It's an amazing experience and I think we're just happy to have done the 91 episodes and finished the show how we wanted to. We just want to thank the critics and the fans who tapped into this very strange, hybrid show that, in many ways, we're also sort of struck by the fact that it's so peculiar.
How did you like the Chuck finale? Were you surprised that Sarah didn't get her memories back?