Actress Yvonne Strahovski hails from Sydney, Australia, but she’s convincingly American as spy Sarah Walker on NBC’s CHUCK. The series, now in its third season, has a comedic tone, but much of its more serious side comes from the conflict between Sarah’s love for novice spy Chuck (Zachary Levi) and her commitment to her job.
Off-screen seriousness for the series has come in the form of the threat of cancellation. Between Seasons Two and Three, CHUCK fans launched a successful campaign for the show’s renewal that involved buying a lot of Subway sandwich fare.
Now the show is once again on the bubble as the third season is edging toward its finale.
iF spoke with Strahovski who talks Sarah, Subway, stunts and more in this exclusive interview.
iF MAGAZINE: How do you view your character Sarah Walker?
YVONNE STRAHOVSKI: The way I see it as that Sarah is a C.I.A. agent, but she’s a human being, like everyone else, and she has her weaknesses, and if she feels something for Chuck, then that’s a weakness for her, because of her job.
iF: Were you surprised by the Subway fan uprising?
STRAHOVSKI: Yeah. I was in Australia at the time while this whole thing [the fan Subway campaign] was going on, working, so I just kept getting emails and information about what was going on. I was amazed that the fans really stepped up and told everyone what they wanted. I’m standing here today because of them. It was amazing what they did.
iF: Were you pleased about the order for six additional episodes before Season Three had even begun airing?
STRAHOVSKI: Yes, definitely. I mean, the more, the better. We’re kind of always on edge a little bit here, about the [episode] pick-up, so it’s always good to know that they like us.
iF: How did you like doing the sequences where Sarah was interacting with the British super-spy played by Jonathan Cake last season, where she had a peer for a little while?
STRAHOVSKI: Yeah. That was great. I mean, it was great for Sarah to get a love interest and it was fun, because he was a super-spy as well, so we had a little fun shooting those episodes.
iF: Was that similar to playing opposite Brandon Routh as experienced-albeit-very-troubled spy Daniel Shaw this season?
STRAHOVSKI: It’s different. Everyone brings a different dynamic. Brandon’s character [was for a long time] a little more stoic and sturdy and a real level-headed guy, so it’s a whole different thing. As you [watched] the show, and his back story got revealed, you [saw] why there was a common thread between the two characters and why they were sort of drawn to each other.
iF: And the episode with Gary Cole as Sarah’s father?
STRAHOVSKI: Oh, I loved that episode. I loved going back in time and becoming the seventeen-year-old Sarah with the braces and the [bad] hair. She was so different and so nerdy and I loved that.
iF: What are some of your other favorite things you’ve gotten to do so far on CHUCK?
STRAHOVSKI: A lot of the action stuff. I love doing fight scenes. The Nicole Ritchie fight scene in the bathroom with the water going – that was so much fun. Working with Chevy Chase was really great and Scott Bakula. What can I say? I’ve done so many good things. Well, the [first Season three] episode – we jumped off the edge of that building and went down the zip line down. We’re harnessed up for sure, and it’s all under our clothing, and then whatever sticks out they digitally remove later on. It’s kind of scary, sitting on the edge of the building, though [laughs].
iF: Was that fun, did you feel like you were conquering a fear, or was that just, “Please don’t ever make me do that again”?
STRAHOVSKI: No, it was “Please make me do more of that.” I love that stuff. It’s so much fun.
iF: Are you more comfortable with the fight scenes now than when you started?
STRAHOVSKI: I’ve noticed it’s just become a lot sharper and I move like a fighter now instead of a dancer.
iF: Sometimes you have to do fight scenes in a dress and high heels. How difficult is that?
STRAHOVSKI: You know, in the beginning, when I was just getting used to it a little bit, I didn’t even think of the wardrobe [aspect] until I got it at the last minute, and then I realized, “Oh, no, I’ve got to work with this gown.” Now we’ve got the flow of the show working a lot more, and now I can coordinate, look ahead and make sure the wardrobe department knows that the shoes and the gown have to be appropriate to the fight scene. We shot a dance sequence that was kind of complicated and I knew to make sure with wardrobe that we had to trim the dress so I wouldn’t trip on it and make the shoes a little lower, so they wouldn’t give me these stilettos and to make it more comfortable, but yeah, I remember in the pilot, I had to run around in those stilettos. Usually I’m so wrapped up in shooting the fight during the hours that we shoot it that I don’t really pay attention that I’m wearing heels, and I’m used to it anyway, because I’ve [had fight scenes] so many times in high heels. I’m just used to it now. [laughs] I used to never be able to walk in high heels, and now I fight in them.
iF: When you did the fight scene in a shower with Nicole Ritchie, did the water make that more difficult?
STRAHOVSKI: It’s hard with water, but it wasn’t more difficult – it made it more fun. I was really excited about it [laughs]. But the moves are relatively the same. It’s all the same punches and kicks. There was no running around. We don’t cover ground, so if we’re staying in the same spot and just throwing some kicks and punches, it doesn’t really make it that dangerous. Plus we had mats, so when we did the close-ups and you can’t see the fall, we’ll put a mat on, so we don’t slip.
iF: Was it helpful or not helpful being barefoot?
STRAHOVSKI: Helpful. I like barefoot. I love running around the lot barefoot [laughs] and people always tell me off for it.
iF: Some of your fellow CHUCK actors said they used to work at places like Buy More. Does the Buy More set remind you of any place you used to work before you began acting professionally?
STRAHOVSKI: No. I always worked for the restaurant-y things, so I think my first job was in a patisserie with cakes, and then I was a waitress. The wiener place is more like it [laughs].
iF: You did some work in Australia during the Season Two/Three hiatus …
STRAHOVSKI: I shot a couple of movies. One is a romantic comedy called I LOVE YOU, TOO – Peter Dinklage is in it. He flew down, along with some Aussie stars, Brendan Cowell and Peter Hellier, who is in it and who also wrote it. He’s a famous comedian in Australia. The other one was MATCHING JACK.It’s a [director] Nadia Tass film, with James Nesbitt, Jacinda Barrett. Richard Roxburgh is also in it. It’s great fun.
iF: And how was the Comic-Con experience last summer?
STRAHOVSKI: Oh, crazy. I mean, Comic-Con is always so great for us, because we’re stuck in the studio filming the show and when we go there, [the response to CHUCK] becomes real for us, because we actually see in the flesh the response of the fans and how much they love it and it’s a great experience. It’s crazy, but it’s great.
iF: Have the fans told you what it is that makes them so passionate about the show?
STRAHOVSKI: I just think they love the characters, they love the comedy and the humor and they love the action. More than anything, I think they love the relationships and they love Chuck/Sarah.
If Magazine, 2010.