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“This is really something special.” Our interview with Ryan McPartlin from NBC’s “Chuck”

September 26, 2011

Many thanks to Ryan for taking the time to speak with him about this upcoming season of "Chuck" and his future plans.  We debated on whether to cut this interview down, but ultimately left it in tact because we really loved the conversation we had.  Ryan has great things to say about this season of "Chuck" (the funniest yet?), his future plans (the next Flash Gordon?) and the fans that worked so hard to bring "Chuck" back for it's final season (instrumental).


BeforeTheTrailer (BTT):  Are you guys staying busy?

Ryan McPartlin (RM):  I just finished reading the first couple of episodes and don’t start working until next week but I think this season is going to be hysterical.

BTT:  That’s probably the best, most appropriate way to wrap it up!

RM:  It really is. It’s going to be like the first season all over again. Morgan got the intersect and you just don’t know what to expect.

BTT:  I think that was a surprise that none of us were really expecting in the season finale.  I always like when a season finale does something not typical and leaves you on the edge of your seat.

RM:  Yeah, I think this season will actually leave people wanting more. It will be good to go out that way because I felt like we were really getting close to the point of needing to wrap up our stories and then our writers did a great job of reinventing it all.

BTT:  How does it feel knowing you’re going into that last season?

RM:  It’s bittersweet but you always enjoy being in the moment because we thought every season could be our last.  I think in November or December when it really hits us that we can’t come back, that will be a real emotional time then.  But we’re just enjoying it right now because everyone’s just really excited.  There is that end line that we’re shooting for and we’re having a great time doing it and we’re having a lot of laughs.

BTT:  What’s been your favorite season?

RM:  Well my favorites have been the stuff that I’ve been involved in. The end of season 2 into season 3 I think was great. Especially for my character and I had the most fun. You can’t take anything away from the first season though because it was so new and it was so dynamic.  No one had really attempted such an ambitious show and pulled it off.  I remember watching it the first couple of times and saying ‘Wow, this really is something special.’ You come in, you do the show and you leave and you just don’t know until you see the end product.  I think with the first two episodes of this season, this could easily be the funniest season yet. 

BTT:  That’s good to know!

RM:  Absolutely. With Morgan being the intersect it’s outrageous. And now the Buy More is really a significant place because they have to make it work. It has to turn a profit now. You’ll see by episode two what I mean.  They bring in Captain Awesome as the face of the Buy More, which I’ve always said ‘I’d love to get involved in the Buy More but there’s no way that will every happen’  And here we are, I’m the guy who’s the model for the Buy More and really trying to organize the troops and make it work so that the customers will go shop there.  The Buy More becomes essential to the whole spy story now. You’ll find out that it’s vital that it turns a profit.

BTT:  How do you see your character really playing into that role, obviously its quite different from where he has been?

RM:  Well, I’ll say that Captain Awesome feels like he can do anything.  Chuck owns the Buy More now, he bought it at the end of the last season and they’ve been spending like drunken sailors ever since. We’ll see if they can get it all under control. The story surprised me in a way and I don’t want to reveal too much, but it had me laughing out loud.  You know, our show got dark for awhile. It was suspenseful and they were leaning more on the suspense then on the comedy and I’ve always felt like the action has taken a back seat to the comedy and that’s when I’ve loved the show the most. And the first two episodes just blow me away in that regard. There is still plenty of action but my favorite is when the action comes in a comedic way.

BTT:  If the show kept going for awhile longer, where do you think the characters would end up being in five years?

RM: I think that they would end up having to bring almost everyone in on the spy action like they almost done at this point except for the Buy More guys. I think it ends up becoming about their relationships and the spy stuff just ends up being a back drop. When you’re watching a sitcom is the things we all relate to and the milestones in life we all go through and how those characters react to it in a different way. So I think that’s where the show would go. It would be Chuck and Sarah having a baby, Adam Baldwin’s relationship. It would probably be like the Buy More and the Castle would be like the Central Perk for “Friends.”

BTT:  That’s a great analogy.

RM:  We’d just be stopping in to chat it up.

BTT:  One of our Twitter followers Ivy wants to know what you think the perfect ending for the show would be.

RM:  I think the perfect ending would be to wrap this season up nicely like they’ve done every season but then still leave a little bit of a teaser for more. I think if you don’t do that, you’re really going to cheat the audience out of wondering what would happen next, even if it’s never fulfilled. You always want to think that the stories are going to go on. There was part of me that was really sad when they actually closed down the bar on “Cheers.” I like to think in my mind that, that bar is still open and still operating with all the same people. I don’t want the band to break up! I just think it should end in an open-ended way where we resolve the story that started this season that you’ll see will be a very exciting, fun, hysterical one and then leave everyone wanting a little more.

BTT:  Also give the audience the room to create their own ending.

RM: There’ll probably be a spin off of baby Clara getting the intersect.

BTT: What’s been your favorite Awesome and Ellie moment?

RM: The one that comes to mind, I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but it’s one of the funniest, is when Ellie took the truth serum and was yelling at Awesome about just walking around in spandex all the time and leaving nothing to the imagination and telling Awesome that he says the word awesome way too much and that by doing that everything just becomes mediocre. The truth serum was a great, great episode. We all have our own truths that we would never reveal to our spouses or partners because the truth hurts too much, but … Ellie had no problem with that!

BTT:  What are your plans after Chuck?

RM: I did a movie of the week for NBC called “Game Time” that will air Labor Day weekend. (Sorry we’re late with the interview! We LOVED it though!) Beau Bridges plays my dad, Catherine Hicks plays my mother, Josh Braaten was in it as my brother. It is a nice dramatic, family movie. It was nice to be the lead of a show and it was a bit of a departure from what I do on “Chuck.” I don’t know if I want to continue to do comedy or drama. I would think that a half hour comedy on NBC produced by Warner Brothers would be nice if that happened. I like being a part of an ensemble, I like being part of a team that comes together. I know how difficult it is to get the chemistry together that we have on our show. It’s really up in the air. Who knows?! I could be The Flash or Flash Gordon or whatever superhero is out there, whatever is left that hasn’t been done. Who knows what will happen. I’m trying to stay in shape just in case!

BTT: The fans for this show have, especially over the last season, been instrumental in getting you back on for your fifth and final season. We want to know how much of a factor that plays for you guys behind the scenes. Do you talk about how great your fans are and is there anything in particular you want to say to them?

RM: The fans have always been so instrumental in our show and I think they feel a real ownership, which is well deserved.  They have been so innovative in how to be a fan of a show and how to keep a show on the air to bypass the Neilsen ratings and let advertisers know that they are watching and they are buying their products. They really figured out who is paying the bills to keep the show on the air and they appealed to them.  It wasn’t just ‘hey NBC keep the show on the air’ it was ‘Hey Subway, hey Honda, hey everyone – you guys go tell NBC. We don’t have Nielsen boxes but we still want to be counted!’ I have just been in awe and am so grateful for what they have been able to do for us. I think we have a special relationship with our fans when we see them in person because it’s really been a team effort. They want to see more of our stories, more of our characters and we want to do more for them. They’ve really become empowered in their approach. Thank you is not even really big enough. I don’t know how to ever repay that properly but it’s been the best experience of my career thus far. I hope that we all continue to grow together. Just like Adam Baldwin took all of his fans from “Serenity” and “Firefly” and brought them over to “Chuck.” I feel like when our show comes to an end, it won’t really be the end. A couple of years will go by and there will be an outpour of love and support to try to rekindle a flame for another “Chuck” project whether it’s a movie or something else.

BTT: I’m not only interviewing today, but I’m talking as a fan. I love the show. I soak it in. I’ve never seen a campaign like what I saw on twitter. They have certainly paved the way for other fans and I think you said it best when you said they were inventive and found new ways to make it happen and I was impressed sitting on the backside of that movement eating my Subway sandwiches but really the people who thought about it and put it all together were ingenious.

RM: When the fans were doing their Subway campaign that day and buying Subway to spike their sales, I was in Toronto and I went to a Subway store so I could support the fans that were supporting our show. I do think that is a good way to be counted. If you could go in and say ‘Listen, I’m here because of “Chuck”’ somehow they can count the fact that you’re buying that sandwich because it was advertised on “Chuck,” there was “Chuck” special advertised on the show or the website and their sales were directly related to that, I think that is what advertising is going to become. When we look back at this time we’ll say that this [“Chuck” campaign] is where the direct connection to advertising with a show got started.

BTT: Its obvious that it was effective and worked.  Whoever sat there and thought of this, they deserve a ton of credit. They were brilliant.

RM:  Absolutely.

BTT: We were originally supposed to talk during ComicCon this year and I apologize because it was my fault we didn’t connect. I wanted to ask you though, what you think about the ComicCon experience?

RM: It’s overwhelming! It’s the one place in life where we feel like we’re “The Beattles” or something when we go down there. It’s fantastic and I think that Zac spearheaded the Nerd Headquarter movement that he’s got going on down there is going to give us all a chance to reunite every year and come down and have that experience no matter what we are all doing after the show. The ComicCon experience is unique and it’s funny to see how many shows/movies bend over backwards for the fans. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend, its still got to be a cool idea. You can give us all your little perks and all your extras but its all about the product at the end of the day.

BTT: It was our first year there and you’re right it was overwhelming! There was a lot to take in down there. After we got back and reflected on the experience it was at that time we realized that we’ll never been in the same room with all of those people again, whether it was the “Chuck” panel or Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

RM: It’s a great experience. It humanizes the people that create these stories too, to the extent to where at breakfast I was sitting next to George R.R. Martin and I had no idea who the guy was and then a buddy of mine Josh Friedman who created “The Terminator” TV series comes over to me and says ‘Hey man, do you know who you’re sitting next to right now?’ and I said ‘No’ and he replied ‘You’re sitting next to a god in ComicCon.’ I introduced myself at the elevator and I told him that I was on the show “Chuck” and he said ‘You know, you made a reference to me one time on “Chuck” and I got 500 emails from your fans’ and then he said ‘I love your show.’ I still need to tell Chris Fedak that because that was a pretty special moment. I told him that I loved “Game of Thrones” and had just gotten into it and thanked him for his hard work. What an imagination he has. It’s all possible, these are all careers, this is the business that we are in and I just love to soak up, as you said, in that one place all the excitement and all the energy that drives this force that keeps these good stories in production.

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