On NBC’s CHUCK, now on Friday nights at 8 PM as it winds up its fifth and final season, the title hero played by Zachary Levi is still juggling his Buy More workplace and his secret identity as a spy. The spy missions can be dangerous, even deadly, but they lack one menace found only at the Buy More – the team of Jeff Barnes and Lester Patel, played respectively by Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay.
Washington,D.C.native Krinsky’s background in standup comedy has served him well in his role as Jeff, who until earlier this season has been wandering around in a state of strangeness fueled by alcohol, drugs and Lester’s influence. When Chuck’s doctor brother-in-lawDevon(Ryan McPartlin) cured Jeff of carbon monoxide poisoning (Jeff had been sleeping in his van with the motor running), Jeff went through a radical change of personality.
He’s a model citizen – for now, at least. Krinsky – with some guest comments from costar Yvonne Strahovski (who plays Chuck’s wife and fellow spy Sarah Walker) – talks to us about Season Five, some of his favorite moments and the Jeff/Lester musical combo known as Jeffster.
ASSIGNMENT X: Were you pleased/surprised/not surprised that CHUCK was picked up for a fifth season?
SCOTT KRINSKY: You know, I have always been such an optimist about the show, so [not surprised]. I feel like it’s a great show and we have amazing fans. I felt better about coming back this season than I ever did, because I knew from a business standpoint, with the whole syndication, that it felt like it was a really good chance that it would come back.
AX: Were you concerned at all about the Buy More coming back?
KRINSKY: No. I felt like, if it was going to be the last season, they’re going to keep the whole show intact.
AX: It seems like you might have had reason for trepidation about Jeff’s place on the show when the Buy More blew up at the end of Season Three. Were you worried?
KRINSKY: Of course I was. It was like, “Whoa, are they going to do one of those big season game-changers?” It’s a real game-changer and that doesn’t include me. Would you not worry if the office where you go to work blew up? Yeah, I was very worried.
YVONNE STRAHOVSKI: To be honest, I was [worried]. I was wondering, “God, what are they going to do? What is going on?”
KRINSKY: You’d miss us, right?
STRAHOVSKI: Sh**, yeah. It wouldn’t be the same. That’s the beauty of our show – we have this great mix of the Buy More, the nerd stuff and then the spy stuff and the funny …
KRINSKY: I’m crying now, tears in my eyes …
AX: Were you given any reassurance at the end of the season that you’d be coming back with the show?
KRINSKY: There were some hints. “Don’t go off yourself, don’t go drinking too much and taking pills, it may not be as bad as it looks.”
AX: Jeff has really cleaned up his act this season since he’s recovered from carbon monoxide poisoning. However, for four seasons, did you feel a particular sense of responsibility to slackers everywhere, playing perhaps the most extreme slacker in a group of slackers?
KRINSKY: Yeah, it doesn’t get any slacker than the way Jeff [was]. He was coming to work hung over and who knows what else. He’s a great, fun character to play and it’s a blast working with these guys and our amazing writers. We have the most amazing writers. I read the scripts and I’m always cracking up when I read it.
AX: Was the toilet stall where Jeff hung out the size of an actual toilet stall?
KRINSKY: Yes. It’s a handicapped-size stall. Because Jeff is kind of a handicapped person. I think they’re thinking of putting Jeff’s bathroom in the Smithsonian.
AX: When you were first told that you and Vik Sahay were going to be singing and playing as Jeffster, what did you think?
KRINSKY: When they told us we were going to be singing, we were terrified, but at the same time, I thought it was really exciting that we were going to have this band and it’s been great. The fans love it, and it’s fun to perform.
AX: How is it when you play in Jeffster at Comic-Con?
KRINSKY: Yeah. It’s all over YouTube. We had a music video to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” And I got finger burns from spraying foggy mist around Vik. It was amazing. And our biggest fans were there and we just had a blast. It was awesome. And I felt like a real rock star.
AX: Was there a lot of emotion at this last Comic-Con?
KRINSKY: There was. I mean, to think that it might be our last season going there as a cast, it was emotional, but at the same time, we meet so many fans and it’s so fun. I’m swept up in an emotion of fun, of feeling good and getting to meet all the fans, which is the reason we’re there in the first place.
AX: Will we see any more of Jeffster?
KRINSKY: It’s a safe bet. You can’t have a whole season of CHUCK without Jeffster.
AX: When Chuck the character first got kung-fu, did you have any concerns as to how that might factor into his interactions with his Buy More colleagues?
KRINSKY: Well, I guess we could [have had] our asses kicked by Chuck [laughs], if his powers sort of popped up while we were pissing him off or bugging him or making his life miserable, as we do sometimes at the Buy More.
AX: Did you have any clue as to Jeff’s past as a videogame champ prior to the second-season episode “Chuck Vs. Tom Sawyer”?
KRINSKY: No, I didn’t, actually. They always know what’s coming up, but I don’t want to know until I read it, so I was like, “Don’t let me know anything,” and it was great to find out that [Jeff had a past as a gaming champ]. I saw THE KING OF KONG, of course, the documentary that it’s based on, so it was awesome.
AX: Do you have any videogame-playing in your real-life past?
KRINSKY: Yeah. The thing is, I’m not a big gamer right now, I don’t do a lot of games, but those were the Missile Command, Donkey Kong, Carnival, Centipede, all those old arcade games, the quarter games.
AX: How did you like working with the Gretas, the CIA agents who were installed undercover at the Buy More?
KRINSKY: The Gretas have all been really great to work with. Summer Glau was one of the Gretas, and Isaiah Mustafa, so yeah, it was been a lot of fun.
AX: Jeff and Lester still think that Casey is not a spy, but rather a hardcore partyer, based on them finding him drugged on the street …
KRINSKY: It was fun to [apparently] find out this about Casey, that he has a little bit of a wild side, and it’s fun to play those scenes with Adam [Baldwin] as well. He’s really got a great sense of comedic timing.
AX: Were you surprised when Jeff actually stumbled upon doing something emotionally right with his editing of the music video for Chuck and Sarah’s wedding?
KRINSKY: [laughs] Yeah. I love when Jeff gets to have kind of more human, more touching moments like that. It shows another side of him than his binge drinking and drugging. It’s nice to see that he’s got a human side, heartfelt.
AX: Were you surprised by Jeff’s sudden recovery from carbon monoxide poisoning?
KRINSKY: Yeah. It wasn’t the pills and alcohol after all. I was really excited, just to do something different with the character and to see him going in a more positive direction.
AX: Was it a relief to get to wear a suit and have a haircut?
KRINSKY: Yeah, it was fun. You change your look and you feel different and the character becomes different, and it was fun to go in and see everybody’s reaction, even on the crew, and [hear them] say, “Oh, my God!” Because they didn’t know until I walked in on the set.
AX: How was it playing the comedy once you were coming at the comedy from a different direction?
KRINSKY: It’s no different really, I think, as an actor, because you’re still just playing the scene, you’re playing what’s written and you just hope it works. I sort of became the straight man to Lester and it was so funny, it was a different dynamic between us, and it was nice to change it up at the end here.
AX: Is Jeff trying to straighten out Lester now? Is that how the characters wind up?
KRINSKY: I don’t really want to say what, but there’s a nice way that our characters evolve. There’s only a few episodes left and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I just can say that I really like the direction it continues in and I like the way it ends.
AX: Do you have favorite episodes?
KRINSKY: You know what, when anyone asks those questions, I draw a blank. “Oh, God, you’re putting me on the spot!” I really loved the Tom Sawyer episode and finding out about my past – that was great. That [Season Three] episode with the Buy More rebellion, where we sang – that was kind of a highlight.
AX: Are there things you’d still like to see for Jeff?
KRINSKY: I’d love to meet [Jeff’s] mother, because his mom’s in jail, so I’d love to see his mom get out of jail and see what happens with Jeff and his mother.
AX: What else have you done over the past few years?
KRINSKY: I did a film called SILVERLAKE VIDEO: THE MOVIE, and that actually has Marc Christopher Lawrence, Big Mike from CHUCK, in it. Patricia Rae, who played Bologna, Morgan’s mother, is in the film as well. I did a little part in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, [with scenes] in an office. I did make the cut [laughs]. It was great to be a part of a film that big, an incredible experience, working on a film of that size.
AX: Did you have to do anything different for the 3D in TRANSFORMERS 3?
KRINSKY: No. That’s more of a technical thing. On my side of the camera, it’s very different.
AX: For 3D, sometimes they want the actors to move differently than they normally would …
KRINSKY: I think it depends on the shot, but I didn’t have to do that. When we did the 3D episode of CHUCK, I think there were some scenes where I had to do a little something different for the camera, but not for TRANSFORMERS.
AX: Do you have anything else coming up that we should know about?
KRINSKY: Just starting to read a lot of stuff and we’ll see what happens. It’s exciting seeing what’s out there and not knowing what’s next again.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about CHUCK at this point?
KRINSKY: I just want to say thank you to all the fans, because again, CHUCK has the best fans, really, and we are here because of you guys. Friday nights, eight o’clock.
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