For five years, Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski has kicked ass as CIA spy Sarah Walker on NBC’s action-comedy CHUCK.
In that time, Sarah has went from a cold, closed-off spy, to a loving wife (and still stellar spy) to the show’s titular character Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi).
While the ups and downs of CHUCK being on the bubble for its five years on the air has certainly provided anxious butterflies for the cast and crew during the run, Strahovski says the journey has been worth it.
With the series signing off with a two-hour season finale tonight, the actress spoke with ASSIGNMENT X in this exclusive interview during NBC’s Television Critics Association party where she graciously spoke about the end and how difficult it was to hold back the tears filming the finale. In fact, she even admits to having a hard time getting through this interview without tearing up as well.
ASSIGNMENT X: It must have been a relief to at least know that going into this season, it would be the final year so at least the writers could plan ahead for a change.
YVONNE STRAHOVSKI: It’s great because they could write towards an ending and the writers can have a satisfying time doing it. We can all be satisfied that we put our hearts and souls into a real ending, rather than pretend writing something that would fit both an end and a new beginning, which we usually do.
AX: How was Comic-Con this year – knowing it would be the last time the cast got to feel like rock stars together.
STRAHOVSKI: It was really tough. I struggled on stage not to cry. I got off the stage … I had a moment. It was tough.
AX: Was it rough going through the last few episodes, knowing you were getting closer and closer to the end.
STRAHOVSKI: There was a lot of discussion on set about “is this the end?” There were a lot of believers that “no, it isn’t the end.” And there were other people saying “yes, this is the end.” There were a lot of high hopes on set that we would find out we would get the back nine. I was always on the fence. We’ve always been on the bubble, whether we get a midseason pick-up or end of season pick-up. For me, it wasn’t real until we got to the last one and I realized “I don’t think this going anymore – this is going to be it.” It really hit me on the last one. I cried every day. The last week was horrible. It was amazing, and spending so much time with everyone and I got to purge the last five years out of my system. It’s been very emotional for me. I’ve not known this country without this show in my life as my back bone. I’m getting emotional talking about it. Personally, it’s really an end of an era – five years of being in a new country, starting a life here and having this wonderful show and everyone behind it.
AX: Whatever the wrap-up to the CHUCK story is going to be, I’m assuming the emotions you felt as Sarah, were similar to what you were feeling personally?
STRAHOVSKI: We couldn’t get through some scenes. Zach and I shot one of our last scenes of the series and we made a decision – in this particular scene, we’re not going to cry. It would be better if this scene was non-emotional, but we just couldn’t help it. We were a blubbering mess on the day. It was really hard to compose yourself and not cry. There were so many things like that. I saw the editor last night who is editing the last episode and I said, “what’s it like editing this last episode?” And he said “I’m having to sift through a lot of emotional emotions from the actors that shouldn’t be in the scene.” It’s hard for them to cut it together.
AX: Even Adam?
STRAHOVSKI: Adam’s got a really beautiful soft side and I can tell he was reaching out as well in the last week. We all felt it was the end.
AX: One wish you had told previously, was you wanted to have the story regarding your mother [Cheryl Ladd] resolved – when you got that script, it must have been a thrill.
STRAHOVSKI: I really felt that it closed up the Sarah history for me as much as it could have. I was able to have a bit of a Sarah episode going back and finding out who her mother was, why it happened – it really put the pieces of the puzzle together.
AX: Did you hear what your back story was, or did you not know until you got that script?
STRAHOVSKI: As the season was progressing, I would find out bits of information. I could have asked about the last episode, but I chose not to until the very end. There were only so many scripts left and it’s nice to be surprised when you read a script. Maybe I didn’t want to know, maybe I was in denial of the end. I left it for as long as I could before I found out what the ending would be.
AX: Are you surprised they didn’t explore Sarah’s mother last season?
STRAHOVSKI: There was so much we have to cover with spy stuff – it’s hard to focus on something different and tie it in to the main storyline.
AX: There have so many great guest stars too on this show.
STRAHOVSKI: I was very appreciative of working with so many great actors. Timothy Dalton. Linda Hamilton. Cheryl Ladd was beautiful. Carrie Anne Moss I adore. Tim DeKay – loved him to pieces. We had such a great run and there were so many great people.
AX: Since this was your first American series – did you start to look back on the journey that not only you, but your character went on these last five years?
STRAHOVSKI: I think television is one of the greatest training grounds an actor can have. It’s unbelievably hard core and requires endurance levels like nothing else. The hours we work and the pace we work at and the emotions you have to nail in one or two takes, it really is something I had never experienced. I was so grateful of having the best training ground ever. I did three years of drama school, but that’s something else. Five years on a TV show, I feel I’ve grown a lot. We’ve all grown.
AX: What did you appreciate the most about this final season?
STRAHOVSKI: I think I appreciated the time I got to spend with the cast. I feel like personally I settled in more to living here and feeling like this was home, so therefore, I opened myself more to bonding with all my cast members.
At this moment, Vik Sahay. who plays Lester, leans in to say hi to Strahovski.
STRAHOVSKI: I’m talking about bonding with my cast members.
SAHAY: Oh God. She’s lying to you.
And just like that, Sahay exits with expected Lester timing.
AX: Have you become more of a geek during the course of CHUCK?
STRAHOVSKI: Yes, I think I’m more geeky. I’m obsessed with ANGRY BIRDS.
AX: Have you gotten through all of the SEASONS levels?
STRAHOVSKI: Yes, but I’m ashamed that I haven’t three-starred them all yet. I had a problem. I went to Bora Bora for a vacation and it wouldn’t download in Bora Bora. I guess I’m more open about my geekiness. I love HARRY POTTER and I’m not ashamed to say it.
AX: What’s next after CHUCK?
STRAHOVSKI: I’m doing I, FRANKENSTEIN with Aaron Eckhart. I’m flying away in a month and shooting in Australia, of course.
AX: Is it a retelling of Frankenstein?
STRAHOVSKI: It’s a modern day story. I’m not sure how much I can say. I think it’s going to have action, with a very strong romantic soul-searching component. And I have an accent, not American. I’m really looking forward to working Aaron. I think he’s fantastic and really respect his work and looking forward to spending some time in Melbourne.
AX: Without giving anything away, is the finale a “finale?” Does it play like one and will fans be satisfied?
STRAHOVSKI: I hope so. It’s a surprising turn of events. I don’t think it’s anything people are expecting. I wasn’t expecting it. It surprised me a lot actually. I think it’s going to keep people guessing until the very, very end of how this is going to get resolved.
UPDATE: TV Review of CHUCK – Season 5 – “Vs. Sarah” – Series Finale – Part 1
UPDATE: TV Review of CHUCK – Season 5 – “Vs. The Goodbye” – Series Finale – Part 2
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