A Chat with Zachary Levi, Zachary Levi interview, Chuck Bartowski, Spiral

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Zachary Levi first started making his mark in television during his four years as a cast member of ABC's underrated sitcom, "Less Than Perfect,” but the Fall 2007 season brought him new levels of fame as the title character of NBC's "Chuck.” In addition, however, he's got a side gig as a film producer, serving in that capacity in the indie thriller, "Spiral,” in which he also co-stars.

We spoke with Levi about the process of getting "Spiral” off the ground, how things are going with his series, how much acting is involved in his performance as Chuck Bartowski, and whether or not "Less Than Perfect” will ever get a home-video release. First, though, we had to actually get him on the line, as our initial attempts to reach him resulted in our getting his voicemail. Fortunately, he called us back. (You'd be surprised how often our interview subjects don't.)

Bullz-Eye: Hello?

Zachary Levi: Will.

BE: Yes.

ZL: Hey, this is Zachary Levi.

BE: Hey, how's it going?

ZL: I'm good, how are you doing?

BE: Not too bad.

ZL: Alright. Sorry I missed your call there, but we were trying to juggle a bunch of interviews and a photo shoot at the same time, so it was all over the place.

BE: Not a problem. I just figured you were still on another call. Well, I was at the NBC party during the TCA press tour, but I, uh, didn't get a chance to congratulate you on that hard fought victory in "The Singing Bee.” (Writer's note: During the festivities, Joey Fatone hosted an impromptu round of his primetime game show, pitting stars from NBC's series against TV critics. Levi came out victorious, thereby giving himself an automatic explanation for any poor reviews he may have received for "Chuck.”)

ZL: Oh, my gosh, that was ridiculous.

BE: Well played, sir.

ZL: Thank you. (laughs) Well played, indeed.

BE: Well, I'm going to hold off on my bevy of questions about "Big Momma's House 2” in favor of ‘Spiral,” if that's all right.

ZL: Oh, thank you, I appreciate that.

BE: Sure. So I know you've known Joel (Moore) since at least 2005, because you were in "Reel Guerrillas” together.

ZL: Yeah, Joel and I have been best friends for, gosh, five years, going on six. June of ‘02 is when Joel and I started to become friends and since then, we have just shared common vision and passion for acting and filmmaking and whatnot, and as our careers have kind of simultaneously grown and kind of gone up the Hollywood corporate ladder, I guess you could say – not that it's a corporate ladder, but it's a ladder nonetheless. We've been able to kind of…it's opened some doors for us, and "Spiral” was our first venture into us collectively. He and I and Jeremy (Danial Boering), our other producer, and then, of course, (co-director) Adam Green and (producer) Cory Neal coming on board and us all making "Spiral,” it was quite an adventure just making it, and it's been an adventure ever since. Now that we've gotten our distribution and we're ready to launch and we're doing press for it, it's just kind of surreal. Doing press for other stuff where I get hired, like "Big Momma's House” or "Chuck” or whatever, it all seems like it's par for the course. That's part of your job. But when you get to do press for something that you kind of created, it's extra special.

BE: Well, Joel's clearly got creativity to burn, since he wrote it, starred in it, and directed it as much as his role would allow.

ZL: Oh, yeah, and that's nothing for how much creative juice he has.

BE: Had he been talking about doing a feature length film for a while?

ZL: Um, yeah, since we all met and started all talking about what we were passionate about. We were all kind of singularly passionate about having our own production companies, so we just decided, well, look, why don't we all just kind of join forces and do this together? Because, obviously, it's easier to do when you pool your collective talents, and I am no producer when compared to Jeremy Danial Boreing. The man is an animal, and he put this film together -- obviously with Cory Neal, but, you know, the two of them were just work horses. Jeremy in particular, because I got to see him work hands-on, and he was just so on it…and an incredible writer to boot. You know, he and Joel wrote it together. And Adam coming on, having directed Joel in "Hatchet,” he was a really good and perfect match for the time, because Joel, though he had directed and starred in a short, to take on an entire feature and in another city is a task. So it was certainly comforting for everyone to have a full-time…you know, just a director behind the monitors, making sure everything was running the way it should be running. And he and Joel spent countless hours before we even got up to Portland making the shot list and making sure that everyone's ducks were in a row, and things were copasetic. And, so, that way, we were able to hit the ground running up in Portland, and we made this thing in, you know, 18 days…which is not the easiest thing to do, but, again, an adventure.

BE: So, now, as an executive producer, you were saying some of the other guys did more of the heavy lifting, but what was your role as executive producer? What did you contribute?      

ZL: Well, I mean, I guess first and foremost it was a financial thing, a monetary thing. I was blessed enough to be doing "Less Than Perfect” for four years, so I had a little bit of cash. So Joel and myself and Joel's manager, we were the first money in, and we were kind of the seed money to get things rolling and get other investors feeling more comfortable about investing. Because if they know that our own personal money invested in it, they feel like we're not just going to let the thing fall apart. So that was that part of the executive producing role. But then on top of that…I don't know, whatever connections I had as far as securing a camera package. I have friends over at Panavision and made the calls necessary to kind of get that done. And Amber Tamblyn was a friend of mine before this, and we share an agent and a manager, so when we were kicking around names for who would play (the character of) Amber, Danny and Joel, in their kind of dream list, had just kicked around the name Amber Tamblyn. And I said, "Well, oddly enough, I know her, and I could try and make a call.” And sure enough, I did, and we got her, so I was able to help in that regard, and with various other calls here and there. Ultimately, I just believe…for whatever projects I've worked on and what I have experienced, a good executive producer, to me, is someone who just has faith in their cast and their crew and allows everyone to do what they were hired to do without sticking their nose in everyone's business and telling them how to do their job. So I just tried to be the best cheerleader I could when we were up in Portland. When I was shooting, I was focusing on that, and when I wasn't actually shooting, I was making sure coffee was hot or making sure we had enough Red Vines or CornNuts or whatever the case may be. Keeping spirits up. I went and got a BB gun and proceeded to shoot Joel in the ass as soon as I got it, so that kept everybody's spirits high. You know, just that kind of stuff. I wouldn't fashion myself as God's gift to executive producing, but I think they could take a book out of my…d'oh, not take a book…take a page out of my book and just smile more. I definitely think executive producers ought to smile more.

(On making “Spiral”) “We didn't want to make something that was just kind of shock value, and, ‘Oh, my God, isn't this so edgy?’ We wanted to make something that was actually art and something that was entertaining.”

BE: I know people have been throwing around the word "Hitchcock-ian” a lot, and understandably so, but was that the point of reference when you all were putting the film together?

ZL: Oh, most definitely, yeah. I mean, for us…or Jeremy and Joel, when they sat down to write this thing…I think so much of the driving force behind it was that they wanted to write a script that could be a festival favorite kind of film. Something that's a little darker, a little edgier, but we didn't want to just make the same old formulaic thing. And what's crazy is most people wouldn't call it formulaic, but I would. It seems like it's always this super, in-your-face thing where there's, like, a girl who's 13 who's raped, and then she aborts the baby, and then she murders someone, and then she develops a meth habit, or whatever. It just seems like every film that gets into Sundance or some festival like that has something so ridiculously twisted about it. I had a friend of mine who went to Sundance last year and came back and said, "You'll never believe the film I just saw at Sundance.” And I was, like, "Well, I probably can, but try me. And he said, "It's about a girl who has teeth in her vagina, and she bites men's penises off as they have sex.” Now, first, I said, "I know. I wanted that role so bad.” But, second, it didn't surprise me at all. I haven't seen the film, so I'm not making any kind of judgment about it, but that's not the movie we wanted to make. We didn't want to make something that was just kind of shock value, and, "Oh, my God, isn't this so edgy?” We wanted to make something that was actually art and something that was entertaining, and we took a page out of Hitchcock's book in the sense of pacing and timing. It was rough…or, at least, it was a little rough in the beginning, because I don't think people are accustomed to films that move at the pace that we set for "Spiral.” Not anymore, at least. Things are so much quicker nowadays, between viral video and sound bites, people live in, like, five to 15 second increments and it's got to move, move, move. And for us, what we wanted was to kind of harken back to when a film just kind of moved at regular speed and real time, and where not everything is a clip that you can cut for a trailer…which, by the way, ruins the entire movie, anyway, nowadays.

BE: Oh, yeah, absolutely. That's a major pet peeve of both mine and my wife.

ZL: And, granted, we are a little guilty of that to some extent, because that's what the distributers want and that's what they need, but, you know, yeah, we set out to kind of make a film that we would enjoy and that we were proud of. And if we were going to get accolades for that and get distribution and whatnot…well, that was certainly part of the goal, but it wasn't the main goal, which was that we wanted to be proud of what we made. And we continue to be. One of our stances as a company is to just continue to make stuff that we don't look back on 10 years from now and go, "What the hell did we do that for? That was such a piece of crap!” And, by the way, I'm not making any guarantees. We very well could make a bunch of crap. But for now, we are at least trying to hold true to that. And since we locked our final cut and tuned it all up and spruced it all up and made it all pretty, that's when the festivals started coming in, and we were winning awards, and Anchor Bay wanted to distribute the film, and Inferno wanted to distribute it in the foreign market. So, all in all, for a couple of guys who honestly didn't know what the hell they were doing when we started and, quite frankly, still could probably learn a lot, we're really proud of what we've accomplished and hope that we can do it for years to come.

BE: Excellent. I really enjoyed the film. I mean, the scenes between Joel and Amber or with you and Joel…I mean, the conversations actually feel like real conversations, as opposed to unabashedly scripted scenes to move along the plot.

ZL: Well, thank you, thank you. Aside from the incredible performances by myself… (laughs) No, it's really a testament to Jeremy and Joel and…well, actually, no, I mean, really, everybody. It started obviously with Jeremy and Joel, as they pounded out the script, but, then, on set, as we were making little tweaks and changes. And Adam was so helpful in that, as well as being able to maintain a pure third person perspective, whereas Joel was kind of caught between the first and third as he directed and performed. But we were able to make sure that the dialogue remained…you know, we tried to have it remain as real as possible and not…we certainly didn't want a lot of exposition. We purposely left things a little ambiguous sometimes, or left it to the audience's interpretation, and didn't want to spell out anything for the audience. And I think it lends itself well to the style of movie that we made which is mysterious. It's thrilling. You don't really know who these people are and the whole kind of…the war cry of the film is, where does reality end and imagination begin, and who is involved in all that? Who is real, and who is not? What's real, and what's not? But all the while keeping the characters…in order to actually sell that, you have to keep all the characters as real as possible and the relationships as real as possible, and that's really a testament to the incredible writing job that Joel and Jeremy gave us as we embarked on Portland.

BE: Did you work out in your head what happened in the film for your history with Joel's character? I mean as far as why there was so much affection or tolerance as the case may be.

ZL: Most definitely. We had quite a few little sit-downs discussing who these guys are and what their relationship really is, because you can't play it…even though you don't give the audience an incredible amount of information, if you don't have the information already, then it really just comes off as this random weird thing that doesn't really make any sense. So Joel and I sat down, and Adam and Jeremy, we all sat down and kind of banged out our past as characters, Mason and Berkeley, and what that means and why does Berkeley even care about this guy, who is obviously a little off. And ultimately…without giving away too much, because I always want to maintain the audience's participation in trying to figure out who these guys are…but, I mean, I think that Berkeley and Mason are actually very, very similar, and not as different as the movie, on the surface, kind of portrays them. Obviously, Berkeley is…you know, he's got a lot of friends; he's the boss; he's this guy who's very confident of himself, and he's with at least a couple of different girls throughout the film. And Mason, obviously, is the polar opposite of that, socially, but when it comes down to it, I feel…and we believe…that perhaps Berkeley and Mason had maybe identical childhoods. And you can run with that however you want to run with that, depending on what you took from the film, but we probably experienced very similar things and, through that, have a bond where, no matter how weird he is or how much of a dick I am, that bond will always stay. Because we were kind of each other's support through that, but as we grew up, we dealt with it in different ways. I separated from my mind and my heart as much as I could; I buried it; swept it under the carpet; buried it in the sand, whatever metaphor you want to use. Or analogy. I don't even know what that is; I was bad at English.

BE: I have a journalism degree, and I'm drawing a blank for the moment.

ZL: Yeah, uh…a simile? I don't know. (laughs) What the fuck is that? Is it onomatopoeia, maybe? Well, anyway, so that's how I dealt with it, and, therefore, I can kind of maintain this cocky confidence, and that's partly what feeds to that…I feel like I have to maintain this thing in order just to keep it together, and you see it obviously cracking at the end there, when I'm freaking out and saying, "Look, I can't deal with your shit, I've got shit of my own that I've got to deal with!” And Mason's the opposite of that, in the way that he dealt with it is that he holds on to it and holds on to it, and it has slowly but surely warped his mind in the way that it did and turned him into the man that he has become. So, yes, on the surface, we are these kind of polar opposite characters, but on the inside…and I'm going to get very, very vulnerable with you now… (lowers voice to a whisper) On the inside, we're the same guy.

BE: Wow.

ZL: Deep, isn't it? And it's not completely bullshit! (pauses) No, I'm kidding.

BE: (pauses) Or are you?

ZL: (laughing) I know, right? I could go either way. You never know.

BE: So is Joel back at work on "Avatar” yet, or is he still doing press?

ZL: You know, he finished up the end of…they finished up their year right before Christmas, and then he was back for the holidays, and he's leaving again, I believe, on Thursday to go back and do a couple more weeks out in New Zealand, and then I think it's one or two more weeks back here in L.A., and I think he'll be done then.

BE: That's a pretty decent gig for him, I'm guessing?

(On being a producer on “Spiral”) “I just tried to be the best cheerleader I could. When I wasn't actually shooting, I was making sure coffee was hot or making sure we had enough Red Vines or CornNuts or whatever the case may be. I went and got a BB gun and proceeded to shoot Joel (Moore) in the ass as soon as I got it, so that kept everybody's spirits high.”

ZL: Yeah, oh, my God, he's been having a blast in New Zealand. But we've been missing him a lot. It was crazy, you know, ‘cause I was doing "Chuck” and I was working all day everyday, and I barely get to see these guys, and then, all of a sudden, Joel was gone, and then I really didn't get to see him. I mean, I think I hadn't seen him for two and a half months, and then I didn't recognize him anymore, and we had to go through that awkward phase of getting to know one another again.

BE: Looking at the ground, shuffling your feet…

ZL: (laughing) Exactly.

BE: Now, you guys also worked together on "Wieners,” right?

ZL: Yeah, we did. It was pretty fun, because I had gotten cast in "Wieners,” and then they were casting these other roles, and, you know, of course I'm going to be, like, "Hey, you've got to have Joel David Moore in here, people! What are you thinking?” So it just ended up working out. And Joel came out to Salt Lake; we shot it out in Salt Lake, so Joel was able to come out, and we had a good time out there for a week or so. We try to do as much as we can together. I mean, I wouldn't want to liken us to anybody else or any other acting duo or team in Hollywood, but it's kind of like any of these guys who like to work together. Like Luke and Owen Wilson. Albeit they're brothers, but they get to do a lot of stuff together. And, you know, all those other guys: Ben Stiller or Vince Vaughn or Will Ferrell. And that's something that we certainly look at as actors, and say, "Wow, that's really awesome to be able to continue to work with your friends all the time in different facets.” And, so, any chance that we get to do something, we jump at it.

BE: Well, I wanted to ask you how things are going with "Chuck,” but I also don't want to take you completely off schedule. Do you want me to let you go and maybe we can reschedule some other time and talk "Chuck,” or…

ZL: No, no, no. You go ahead. What's going on?

BE: Are you sure?

ZL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

BE: Okay. Well, uh… (laughs) …how are things going with "Chuck?” And more importantly, could you possibly be any more ready for the writer's strike to be over?

ZL: Oh, man. Well, the quick answer is that things are good with "Chuck.” At least in the sense that…

BE: You got picked up for your back nine (episodes of the season), I know.

ZL: Yeah, we've got our back nine, and critically and publicly, we are successful. We're doing well, and I can't thank God enough for what a blessing that is. Television is just a really…I mean, Hollywood is fickle in general, but television, especially, I find to be extremely fickle, and understandably so. There's a lot of money in it, and advertisers are very specific about what they want, and therefore networks and studios have to be very specific. But the problem is that we've kind of come to this place in society where audiences don't want to invest themselves in shows until they know that the network and the studio are 100 percent behind it, because there are too many examples of shows that are one episode and out, or two episodes and out, after millions of dollars in advertising campaigns. So audiences become fickle, which then in turn makes networks even more fickle to get things on, and they don't necessarily give them a chance to breathe. And, so, in that climate, to land a pilot that becomes a show like "Chuck” and to feel the love from the media and the press and to see our numbers continually to grow – albeit sometimes in small increments – but, nonetheless, growing and not falling is a really incredible experience. And it's a great role to play. As an actor, you hope for a role where you get to wear multiple hats and to do action, comedy, romance, drama, mystery, all in one little hour-long block on Mondays at 8 p.m. It's a dream, man. When you get to make people laugh and blow shit up, you know you've got something good.

BE: I've heard that there's precious little acting involved when it comes to you playing Chuck's geekiness.

ZL: Oh, I'm not acting. I wish that I could tell people that I'm the next Sir Laurence Olivier, but the fact of the matter is I'm just phoning it in. I'm really just being myself for the most part. But it's fun. When I was on "Less Than Perfect," playing Kipp Steadman, I was the office dickhead, which also could be very fulfilling and very fun, but I really love playing roles like Chuck. I relate to them more, and therefore I respond to them more. I love playing the kind of guy who's a little unsure of himself, stumbles over his words, and, you know, kind of fish out of water stuff, that's fun. And especially when you throw in the video game variable? I'm like a pig in shit sometimes.

BE: Given all the video game or pop culture references, have there been any that had to be explained to you in the scripts, or did you know most of them?

ZL: Probably, no. I'm pretty savvy when it comes to…well, especially the video game references, but even the pop culture stuff. For me, it's one of my little delights to go into work and be reading the new script and see all of the stuff that they pepper in there. And, by the way, there is a lot; there's probably more than most people realize, but it's easier for me to find them because I know a lot of what my writers like. Like, their favorite movies or their favorite television shows. Chris Fedak, for example, who created "Chuck.” He and Josh Schwartz ultimately created-slash-wrote the original pilot together, but Chris, he came up with the original concept and brought it to Josh – they were friends from USC – but Chris and Josh…our entire writing staff are lovely and talented people, but I have a certain privy for Chris, because this is kind of his first thing, and I'm just proud of him for that, and I think he's a great guy and really talented. But, anyway, he loves, loves, loves "Die Hard.” I mean loves it. We'll spend hours talking about our favorite movies from the 1980's and stuff like that, and he's especially a huge action and action sci-fi geek of the 80's films. And it was in…I'm trying to think, but it could have been the last episode that aired of this last year, and there were these two agents that came from the C.I.A to come pick up Bryce Larkin, and their names were Johnson and Johnson. Agents Johnson and Johnson. And in "Die Hard,” when the F.B.I agents come, they are agent Johnson and special agent Johnson. It's just little things like that; like, these two agents didn't even have lines in our show, but in the script, they're called Johnson and Johnson. And, so, of course, there's also the double meaning, which is just Johnson and Johnson, like the brand name, but I'm sure "Die Hard” was making a spoof on that when they first did it, too, so…

BE: I also read that "Christmas in Hollis” plays in the closing scene at the Christmas party on "Chuck,” and that's played at the beginning of "Die Hard.”

ZL: You know…wait, what song played?

BE: "Christmas in Hollis,” by Run DMC.

ZL: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah! You're absolutely right!

BE: I only knew that because it's in the Wiki that was set up for "Chuck.”

ZL: Oh, my God. See, that's something that I didn't actually pick up on, because that's a post-production thing. Sometimes with the post production stuff, it flies by me because by the time I get to see it, I'm watching it on T.V. and I'm just picking my own performance apart, so I'm missing a lot of the stuff that they end up doing in post. But you're absolutely right, that is the same song. Again, there you go, "Die Hard” reference.

BE: So did you geek out when you got to participate in the panel at the Comic-Con?

ZL: Oh, my God, I was freaking out. When they told us we get to go to Comic-Con, which is something I've wanted to go to for a long time but I just never ended up getting down to it, I was just wigging; it was the coolest thing. And even cooler, we go to this convention where…you know, "Chuck” isn't really sci-fi. I mean, it's got slight, subtle elements, but for the most part, it's more of an espionage show; there's not a lot of real supernatural stuff to it, and obviously Comic-Con has taken on a whole new life with all this film and television that comes down, and it's not even necessarily related to comic books in any way, but it is kind of tied to whatever that demographic is…which is me, as far as I'm concerned. That's my demographic. I grew up on comic books and will still geek out on my favorite superheroes and video games and the movies and television shows tied to them. So for us to go down…and they had a screening, and our screening was completely sold out; there were over 2,000 people, and we got a standing ovation at the end of the pilot. I just about cried; I was milliseconds away from actually tearing up, and part of it was looking at my cast and writers and director and…everyone else was just, like, blown away. I mean, you make this thing…you make this show kind of in a vacuum. We're all really stoked about it, but maybe it's just like "The Emperor's New Clothes,” who knows? And the first time to actually get to see a real unbiased audience take this show in…and especially an audience that is kind of your key demographic. And, by the way, they're absolutely brutally honest. Those people do not hold back, nor should they; they're picky about what entertains them, and they should be. And so to do as well as we did the Comic-Con was a huge boost and put some pride into what we accomplished, and I'm really looking forward to going back, if they'll have us, and just giving them more love and thanking them more for the love that they have given us.

(On “Chuck”) “As an actor, you hope for a role where you get to wear multiple hats and to do action, comedy, romance, drama, mystery, all in one little hour-long block on Mondays at 8 p.m. It's a dream, man. When you get to make people laugh and blow shit up, you know you've got something good.”

BE: So you've got two episodes left that are in the can but still haven't run, is that right?

ZL: Actually, we've got two more episodes that are in the can that we have yet to shoot, and two more episodes that we shot that they're holding on to; they were supposed to air them in January, and they might still, but I doubt it. I went and did some ADR, some looping for the episode the other day, and I was asking the post guys about it, and they said that NBC is probably going to hold on to them until when they can air them closer to the next episode that we're able to shoot. But who knows when that's going to be? I kind of wish that they would just air them. Maybe they'll wait until February. But I feel like they've got to give the audience something to nibble on while everyone's waiting for this fucking strike to get done with. (Writer's note: Zac got his wish. It was revealed a few days after this interview that the episodes would indeed be airing on Jan. 24, 2008.)

BE: Do you know what we can expect from the upcoming episodes, either written or unwritten? I've heard talk that Casey gets more back story.

ZL: Oh yeah, yeah. The next episode that we'll see, there is a lot of good back story for Casey, and it's a great episode for (Adam) Baldwin. I love the guy so much, to begin with. I mean, he's just an incredible guy and so much fun and an incredible actor and a seasoned veteran…I mean, he's been around the block half a dozen times, so it's really great for him to have a little back story and to learn more about Agent Casey. But, then, there's also great moments in the episode after that, where they've kind of given Jeff and Lester, the nerd herders, a little bit more to do, and some get action stuff, and just trying to keep everybody involved as much as we can and just keep playing with all of the relationships and the characters and expanding on the world that is "Chuck.”

BE: Was that your strike beard that you were sporting on NBC's New Year's Eve special with Carson Daly?

ZL: It is, in fact, my strike beard, yeah. I am not a fan of shaving in general, and when I was on "Less Than Perfect,” you know, we would only shoot one day a week, because, you know, it was a multi-camera show, so you just have to shoot on the show night. So I would only have to shave once, maybe twice a week, which was fantastic. But since I've been doing "Chuck,” I have to shave every day, and it's just a pain in the ass, it's no fun, and my skin gets sensitive. It gets sensitive. So when we shut down for work, I told myself and God and the universe and everyone else that I wasn't going to shave. And then I found that Letterman and everybody did the same thing, and I'm, like, well, see, great minds think alike. I want to go on "Letterman” just so we can compare beards.

BE: Well, sadly, he's shaving it tonight, I've heard.

ZL: Oh, is he shaving it tonight?

BE: There are rumors that he's going to shave it live on the air.

ZL: That's fantastic. Yeah, I'm hoping to get mine…I've seen pictures of my dad from the 70's, and he's got this big ol' Grizzly Adams one, and I just wanted to know if I could do it, really.

BE: Well, I'll close with two real quick ones. The standard one I ask everybody is, there any project you've worked on in the past that you thought should have been more successful than it was? Even a pilot that wasn't picked up that you thought was going to be.

ZL: Wow! Well, if you would have asked me right after we didn't get picked up for any of those pilots, I would have said "of course” about any of those pilots. It's funny what a difference just a few years makes, when you go back and…I don't know, last year at some point, I sat down with some friends, and we were just kind of watching some of my old pilots and stuff, and I remember being so attached to them when we first made them, and right afterwards thinking how great they were, and I've watched them since and gone, "Wow, yeah, that never deserved to see the light of day; that really wasn't that great.” I'm trying to think if there was one in there that…because I've done a couple, you know? But I don't know. You know, honestly, I don't know. I kind of feel like everything's gotten its just…desserts. (pauses) Is that right?

BE: Just due?

ZL: Just due. (pauses) Just diligence? (pauses again) I don't know. No, I don't know, I'm always proud of everything that I do, especially when I'm doing it, but then, afterwards, knowing that I gave everything I had…I feel like as long as you know you gave everything you could give to it, then you should be proud of that, and if it garners more accolade or praise than normal, then awesome. Probably the thing I'm most proud of is "Chuck,” just because it's an opportunity to really show whatever range that I have, as much as I can show it, and I hope that I can continue to do that. You know, sometimes, I feel "Less Than Perfect” didn't get a fair shake. I feel like we made some really funny episodes that just never…it was never a critical success; New York and L.A. never really responded to it; the Midwest did, and I have a lot of people…anybody that I ever meet that watched the show is normally from the Midwest someplace. But we went for four years, so obviously we were doing something right.

BE: That was going to be my last question, actually: if you had heard anything about it getting released on DVD.

ZL: No, and I don't think it ever will, which is kind of sad. The weirdest thing about it is that we shot…the last season, we did 13 episodes, of which I think four aired in the States, and I've never seen…I haven't seen any of them. All the other seasons, they would give us a copy of the episode after it aired, a VHS copy or something, and the last season I didn't get one VHS copy, and they only aired four of those 13 episodes. But all the international markets…which, by the way, they are still playing in…like, I've just spoken to somebody from England and, you know, I still have fans in other parts of the world that still watch "Less Than Perfect,” and they've actually got to see all of the episodes of season four. They've seen more episodes of "Less Than Perfect” than I've seen episodes of "Less Than Perfect,” and people keep asking if there's going to be a DVD release, and, unfortunately, I don't think it will happen. Ultimately, it's got to come down to the studio, and if the studio thinks it's going to make any money off of it. But I don't think they think they would, so I don't think it will happen. Maybe one day, if I have ridiculous amounts of money, I'll buy the catalog of episodes from Touchstone and say, "Ha-ha, look what I've done: I've made DVDs for the five people who watched!”

BE: Well, keep in mind that when Jennifer Garner hit it big with "Alias,” the first thing one of the studios did was release the six-episode run on a sitcom she'd starred in on DVD.

ZL: Did they really?

BE: Yeah. I can't remember the name of it right this second. Oh, wait, it was called "Significant Others.”

(On “Less than Perfect”) “I feel like we made some really funny episodes, (but) it was never a critical success. New York and L.A. never really responded to it. The Midwest did; anybody that I ever meet that watched the show is normally from the Midwest someplace. But we went for four years, so obviously we were doing something right.”

ZL: No shit. Well, maybe that's just what has to happen. And, look, Sherri Shepherd is doing great on "The View.” I'm so proud of her, she's, like, the best part of that show. And everyone else from the show is continuing to do… Patrick Warburton is doing great on "Rules of Engagement,” and Will Sasso has got a great development deal at Warner Brothers, I believe, and everyone is still kicking and trying to make things happen. Who knows, if "Chuck” becomes this incredible phenomenon, maybe Touchstone will be greedy enough to put it on DVD, and then everybody can enjoy it. But, you know, one can only hope.

BE: I'll keep my fingers crossed.

ZL: Thank you. I appreciate that.

BE: Cool. Well, it's been great talking to you. Thanks for talking a little bit longer for me.

ZL: Oh, absolutely. So nice to talk to you, too. And if you have any other questions or if you think of anything else, feel free to give me a jingle.

BE: Well, if you've got e-mail, I can send you the link to the piece when it runs. I don't know if you're really familiar with us, but we do a lot of pop culture stuff, and game reviews and stuff, too.

ZL: Awesome, I love it.

BE: Cool. Alright, man, good talking to you.

ZL: So nice to talk to you, too. Happy New Year!

BE: You, too. Thanks!

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