Category Archives: Chuck

Yvonne Strahovski Talks to NERD HQ About ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Excerpts from the article:
Yvonne Strahovski, Serena Joy, The Handmaids Tale
If you’ve been watching Hulu’s splendid (painful, infuriating, brutal…) The Handmaid’s Tale, you know just how much of a conversation starter it is. Based on Margaret Atwood’s powerful novel of the same name which was published back in 1985, the series covers an array of timely issues: women’s rights, choice, freedom, misogyny, separation of church and state, fundamentalist religion in general, and an array of other human issues. More than anything, we see what happens to people when they’ve had their freedom, rights, and identities stripped from them – as women especially are reduced to homemakers (Wives), disciplinarians (Aunts), cooks (Marthas), or fertile wombs (Handmaids).

…Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) is one of the show’s main antagonists, so we see her Handmaid Offred oftentimes pitted against her, being brutalized by her, oppressed by her. But the show also delves deep inside of Serena herself. What makes her tick? What drives her to do the things she does? What brought her to where she is when we first meet her in Gilead?

Episode six especially shows us more of who she was before Gilead. How suddenly her instrumental involvement in the coup that brought the United States to its knees, and her voice in the subsequent government Gilead formed in the aftermath, was erased, silenced.

When I was given the opportunity to talk to Strahovski about The Handmaid’s Tale, I wanted to focus on Serena Joy in particular…I wanted to get to know Strahovski’s process, and how she was able to humanize Serena for herself in order to bring to life such a deep, nuanced, complicated character.

What I found out is that Strahovski isn’t just incredibly talented. She’s also a deeply intelligent person, very much aware of the world around her and the many challenges too many of us face today and of the wild range of emotions humans are capable of. Not to mention how brave she is, because Serena Joy is not an easy character for a good person to identify with. Suffice to say, it takes a stone cold bad-ass to enter into this process and create from it such an absolute masterpiece of a character. And that’s exactly what Strahovski has done here.

Here is the discussion…with Strahovski about all things Serena Joy and the oppressive world she lives in:

NHQ: Have you guys been paying attention to the show’s reception? I know that it’s probably a lot easier to keep the blinders on and tell the story without letting the articles pervade what you guys are trying to do. But because it’s such a timely show and has all these feminist issues and with everything going on in the world right now, is this something you are paying attention to? Continue reading

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Yvonne Strahovski Talks to Flare About ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ & Playing a Villain

Excerpts from the article:
Yvonne Strahovski, Serena Joy, The Handmaids Tale
…FLARE chatted with Yvonne Strahovski, one of the stars of the new Hulu original TV adaptation…about how the show is a cautionary tale.

Here, Strahovski, who had the daunting task of portraying Serena Joy, one of the architects of the fundamentalist, totalitarian world of Gilead — and a woman she calls “brutal” — talks white men in rooms deciding what women can do with their bodies, the power of participating in protests like the Women’s March and how the one of the series’s biggest strengths is showing it’s not the longest road to a place like Gilead.

Flare: How does it feel to be part of this show?

Yvonne Strahovski: It feels amazing because it’s something that is obviously incredibly relevant considering the political climate that we’re in right now, and accidentally so. We were shooting this show before and after the election and there have been issues that have arisen out of the election that the show directly parallels. The most fascinating thing to me will be to see how people receive it once it’s out in the open.

Flare: Did the mood on set change after the election?

YS: It was certainly a topic of conversation, but we were still plowing through with what we were doing. It definitely felt personally more precious to me and gave what we were doing on the show more of an edge. It also complicated it a bit more emotionally because I’m playing Serena Joy, which is one of the villains in this story, and here I am trying to humanize her and figure out what really makes her heart happy, while at the same time living through some pretty insane stuff that was going on in the real world.

Flare: How challenging was it to strike that balance with Serena where she’s both the villain but has human qualities?

YS: Being honest with you, it was really hard. It was very hard to relate to her; I don’t really relate to her. There’s not a lot to like about her. She’s very unfriendly, she’s unapproachable, she’s very harsh, she’s brutal, at times, and you’ll see her be more brutal as the show goes on, and it’s not something that came easily. It’s something I really had to think about and wrap my head around and think ‘What is the driving force behind all this? What makes this woman so mean?’ And when it came down to it, I saw a woman who was the designer of her own cage. She was one of the architects of Gilead, where they all live now, which is the former America, and she was one of the people who turned it into this fundamentalist, totalitarian society, and now she has to live in this society that she created and she’s oppressed by it herself.

Flare: How did you delve into understanding Serena’s complicated pain?

YS: I thought about, how do you deal with having a big portion of your identity stripped away from you? You’re no longer able to read, write, read the news, create work; you’re not allowed to work, the only thing you’re allowed to do as a woman is follow your biological destiny and have a child. And if you can’t have a child, then you have a handmaid have a child for you and then you look after that child and that’s it. You look after the house and you’re no longer allowed to have sex for pleasure, it’s only allowed for procreation, so the right to be intimate with your partner has been taken away from you as well, as has the ability to relate to your partner on an intellectual level — anything to do with words and books and newspapers, that’s all gone. So I saw this woman who was an empty carcass, a shell, with not a lot around her to fill those empty holes and that turned her into a monster, but also a monster that had to try and survive in this cage, in this world.

Flare: Had you already read the book prior to starting the project?

YS: I had not read the book before I read the pilot, so I read the pilot first and I knew that I was not the go-to person for the role of Serena Joy because it was written originally as older. The script was obviously incredible, it was dripping in subtext, and it’s every actor’s dream to have that amount of tension in a pilot and so well-written, and there was something very dark and sad that drew me to Serena. Then once the ball got rolling, I read the book, which was an inspiring source for me to work from in terms of trying to portray Serena and create her and the relationships she has on-screen with the rest of the cast.

Flare: What draws you to complex characters like Serena and Hannah McKay on Dexter?

YS: There’s something about trying to figure out why someone is doing something that on the outside is horrible — what drives them to do that? What could drive any human being to that kind of behaviour? I find that fascinating because it’s not something that I can relate to, but to try and get down to the nitty gritty of it and understand where that darkness might be coming from is fascinating to me. I think humans are fascinating in general. We’re so weird. We do so many quirky things and we don’t even know it. There’s just so many layers upon layers of nuances in everything we do, and the most fun part as an actor is trying to get into all those nuances, whether they’re conscious or unconscious.

Flare: You were at the Women’s March here in Toronto [The Handmaid’s Tale was filmed in Toronto]. How important was it for you to take part in the march?

YS: I was in Toronto when the big Women’s March was going on and I thought, Well, I’ve never been to a protest and I can’t sit this one out and they’re having a gathering here in Toronto so I may as well go and gosh, I didn’t expect 60,000 or 65,000 people to be there — it was huge! It was something that I didn’t feel I could sit out at all. It’s interesting being part of the show, and all the themes that are coming up, and then you’ve got stuff in the news about white men in a room trying to decide what rights a woman has to her body and her child… I think that’s something we all should stand up for and fight for and that’s certainly something that I wanted to do. I loved seeing all the signs on the day. It was so amazing and sad to see some signs of some of the older women who had written “I can’t believe I’m still marching and fighting for this shit.” It’s pretty amazing the parallels that we can draw from the show to what’s going on right now in real life.

Flare: In light of the political climate, what do you hope people get out of the show?

YS: There are going to be lovers of the show, and there are going to be haters. There’s going to be some really strong opinions that come out about this show, just like there have been super strong opinions about the election — it’s been incredibly divisive. But the fact of the matter is the show is a display of what can happen when a fundamentalist regime takes over and turns society into a totalitarian-run government, and what that can do when that is imposed on humanity. The show is a display of the effects a totalitarian-run government has on humanity and the struggle to survive and everything that raises, like the denial of rights, the denial of life itself, the denial of your relationship to people, the denial of your own identity. It’s scary, and what I love about the series — and what’s done so effectively — is it shows that it’s not a long, drawn-out road to get to some place like Gilead. It is alarming and it is a warning sign — I’ve read some things about people interpreting it as a warning sign and I tend to agree with that. If there was ever a time for a show like this, it is now. The time is now, now, now, to raise the conversations and to not let things get worse than they are.

Flare: How did you unwind or shake it all off after shooting such intense scenes?

YS: It’s hard. This wasn’t easy to shake off or let go or leave at the studio. It was something that would weigh heavy on my mind when I went home, just because I felt like I was always trying to figure out why would this person do this and why would she be so mean, why would she be so brutal, I was always asking myself those questions and trying to make sense of her so it never really left me. Living through my first Canadian winter didn’t help me, but probably helped me as Serena! Exploring Canada was my relief, just spending time in nature and while it was still bearably cold outside, I would go out a lot and spend a lot of time at the lakeside, on the beaches and in the parks. On my days off, I skipped off to different areas like Algonquin Park and I went to Nova Scotia and did the Cabot Trail and just really embraced Canada and what it has to offer. It was my therapy.

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Yvonne Strahovski Talks to Cosmopolitan About Playing the Villain In ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Excerpts from the article:
Yvonne Strahovski, Serena Joy, The Handmaids Tale
There’s a reason people are comparing Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale to our current political climate: It’s about a world where women’s rights are stripped away in a totalitarian return to “traditional values.” It also features protests, terrorism, and a character who’s already drawn comparisons to Ivanka Trump and the 53 percent of white women who voted for her father: the Commander’s wife, Serena Joy.

In the book, Serena Joy is an older woman who walks with a cane and shows no remorse for her role in the rise of Gilead (she was a gospel star who preached about the sanctity of the home). On the show, she’s closer in age to her handmaiden, Offred (played by Elisabeth Moss), and seems at least a little bit contrite, however unforgivable. (She was once an author who wrote about “domestic feminism.” That backfired.) Here, Yvonne Strahovski talks about adapting her character for TV and why Serena Joy is a cautionary tale.

Cosmopolitan: How does Serena Joy being closer in age to Offred change their dynamic?
Yvonne Strahovski: It offers so much to play with, in terms of the power play, because you have these two women, and one is at the top of the food chain in terms of women in this society, and the other one is at the bottom. Maybe they could have been friends outside the world of Gilead, but they’re not allowed to be now, and they’re pitted against each other. Exploring that, it was so fascinating; I had so many surprise moments with Lizzy when we were shooting scenes, things came up that we didn’t think were going to be there.

Cosmopolitan: What were some of those moments?
YS: There was a scene in episode two, it’s after the scene where Janine [another handmaiden] has given birth, and we had this weird moment in the foyer. We didn’t think it was going to be there, because in reading the scene, it’s not really there in the text, but it was a weird moment of sisterhood in the energy between them. Do you know the scene that I’m talking about? Continue reading

Zachary Levi Gets Philosophical Discussing Religion & Spirituality With Fans During a Flight

Zachary LeviWhile on a recent flight, Zachary Levi took time to answer fans questions on Twitter. He answered a lot of religious and spiritual questions. For those that missed it, here’s an excerpt of his Q&A session.

From @laurencuttiepie: Based on your philosophy, what’s even the meaning of life?

Zachary Levi: At the very least, to understand why we, as humans, even chance to ask that very question.

From @oregon_moo: What would you say your life purpose is? Also, do you prefer orange juice or apple juice?

Zachary Levi: To merely trust the creator. All else is accomplished thru that simple, powerful act. And orange, thank you.

From @BMcCarver: Hey Zac! Do you believe that faith and fact/religion and science are opposing forces?

Zachary Levi: No. More, I believe our incessant desire to reconcile them immediately, while both are still very mysterious, is driving them further apart. Continue reading

Zachary Levi Talks to Theater Mania About ‘She Loves Me’

The complete article:
Zachary Levi, Tony Awards
Zachary Levi’s Tony-nominated run in the Broadway revival of She Loves Me is going out with a bang. Not only did the show, which closes on July 10, win a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical and a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical at last month’s ceremonies, it also made history last week as the first-ever Broadway show to be streamed live online.

Featuring a score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock and a book by Joe Masteroff, She Loves Me is a romantic comedy following at-work rivals and unsuspecting amorous pen pals Amalia (Tony winner Laura Benanti) and Georg (Levi). Inspired by Miklós László’s play Parfumerie, which also served as source material for the 1940 Ernst Lubitsch film The Shop Around the Corner and, later, the 1998 Nora Ephron film You’ve Got Mail, the musical is brimming with clever songs and unwitting romantic encounters.

As Levi prepares to take his leave from Broadway for the second time (he made his debut in 2013’s First Date), the charmer of stage and screen looked back on a run that featured celebrity visits, “gnarly” tattoos, and impromptu acrobatics.

Theater Mania: What is your favorite line that you get to say or sing?
Zachary Levi: I’ll have to go with “I’m freezing, that’s because it’s cold out” in She Loves Me. When I was first learning the song, it just struck me funny every single time. George is rambling and saying he’s “tingling, such delicious tingles,” he’s “trembling, what the hell does that mean?” he’s “freezing,” and then he’s just kind of, well, “that’s because it’s cold out.” And it’s just so genius to me.

Theater Mania: Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
Zachary Levi: Not that it’s an inside joke, but [ensemble member] Cameron Adams and I always have this moment where we pass each other backstage and give each other a hitch kick, like a “Yah!” You know, a little like a “Git ’em girl” kind of thing.

Theater Mania: Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?
Zachary Levi: We really only had one major technical difficulty. We had never had any problems with our set or our automation and then one day, it just wasn’t opening. We all got into the store and then it’s supposed to open up like it has every other time and it started opening and then it just stopped. So me and Gavin [Creel] are looking at each other, going, “What do we do?” And I was like, “I think we’ve gotta stop.”

Then they took about 10 minutes to test it. It was working, so we all just took our places onstage, everybody clapped, and the audience was totally cool with it, because they kind of like that shit. It’s all part of live theater.

Theater Mania: What was the most “interesting” present someone gave you at the stage door?
Zachary Levi: A couple girls had me write — I don’t remember what the two phrases were. “Know your worth” was one of them. They’re things that I’ve said before in the past doing panels or speaking engagements and they just really meant a lot to these girls. And then they came back with them tattooed on their bodies. It was pretty gnarly, but very kind of, honoring.

Theater Mania: Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can’t say your family!)
Zachary Levi: Meg Ryan came. She came during a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraising time, and she stopped by one of the buckets and dropped money in and told one of our ensemble members how much she enjoyed the show, which was awesome because she was a part of You’ve Got Mail.

And John Lithgow came. We were doing a show one day and my phone rings in my dressing room and the guy at the stage door’s like, hey, Mr. Lithgow’s here to see you. And I said, John Lithgow? And he said, “Yeah he’d like to see you.” And I’m like, “Uh yeah send him up.” I was like, “Oh my god, you’re John Lithgow.” Like, that guy is so unreal talented. So that was really awesome.

Theater Mania: How was the awards season experience and being a Tony nominee different from what you expected?
Zachary Levi: You know, if I do TV or a show or a film and it gets nominated, it’s already done. But on Broadway, I still had to show up and do my job every night. So you can’t really get lost in thinking about that stuff. The whole nomination thing was like, hey, rock ‘n’ roll, that’s really cool, but it doesn’t make you a unicorn all of sudden. You’re just a human being.

But as a kid who always wanted to do what I’m doing, it feels very good and validating to feel like people think you’re doing it at that high of a level. So I think more than anything what I took away was, I finally felt like I was kind of accepted a little bit in this community, and that was cool.

Theater Mania: What show do you wish was livestreamed when you were a kid?
Zachary Levi: What’s weird is that growing up as a kid I did a bunch of theater, but I wasn’t really aware of a lot of theater. I grew up on the West Coast and so we didn’t get to Broadway. I was splitting my time between doing theater and playing video games. But in hindsight, maybe Big River. I did Big River when I was 16, I played Huck, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. And I think it would have been really cool to see it on Broadway.

Theater Mania: If you could be pen pals with anyone, whom would you choose?
Zachary Levi: To me, the most fascinating people are the people who have shaped the world or who have really deep curiosity. So you know like, a C.S. Lewis or a Tolkien or Einstein or Newton even or Lincoln or Gandhi would have been really interesting I think. I think Genghis Khan would have been fascinating, I mean a mad man, but like, “Genghis, ‘sup, it’s Z, and what’s happenin’?”

Theater Mania: Were the hat trick and cartwheel in the song “She Loves Me” skills that were already in your wheelhouse?
Zachary Levi: We had the whole thing choreographed and then Warren Carlyle and Scott Ellis came in and they were like, “We really want one more thing that really kind of shows this childlike exuberant enthusiasm.” And I said, “Well, I don’t know, you want me to do a cartwheel?” And they both looked at me like I had a third eye and I was like, “What? I can do a cartwheel. I’ve been doing cartwheels since I was a kid. Who doesn’t do cartwheels?” But apparently many people don’t, especially men who are six-four.

And then it kind of worked out that my hat would fall off my head as I did a cartwheel so then I would run over and kick it up and grab it and sing the rest of the song.

Theater Mania: If you could steal one thing from the set, what would it be?
Zachary Levi: Well I’d be tempted to steal the cash register because that’s probably the most expensive item and also, like, the coolest. But that’s more Jane’s prop. It’s not really fair that Georg would walk away with the cash register. I don’t know, maybe just like one of those bottles, just to have as a little keepsake and be like, “Oh, that’s my little bottle.”

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Zachary Levi Talks to Hypable About Nerd HQ

Zachary LeviEvery year Zachary Levi and Dave Coleman team up to bring Nerd HQ to the fans at San Diego Comic-Con. Their event brings fans and creators together for one common purpose: To have fun and support charity.

When fans descend upon San Diego this weekend for Comic-Con they’ll find Nerd HQ serving up a fun, unique experience just blocks away from from the main convention center. Held at the New Children’s Museum for the second year in a row, Nerd HQ holds several exclusive panels with stars like Nathan Fillion, Stephen Amell and the cast of several shows — if their schedules allow it.

If you want to learn more about how this started check out out this article from last year that explains the entire process, and more importantly explains the charity, Operation Smile, that benefits from Nerd HQ.

A lot has changed with Nerd HQ in the past year, and we sat down with Levi and Coleman to discuss those changes and more.

Hypable: Nerd HQ has been so successful, it’s really awesome. How has this year changed from the previous few, other than venue?

Zachary Levi: For us it’s not a matter of making it physically bigger but it’s a matter of making it more [momentous] of an experience for the public, for the talent, for the people from the network. We want this weekend to be the most memorable, awesome experience that anyone coming in and out of these doors can have. What’s different? Just trying to twist all those screws and make it a little tighter, make the flow better. Continue reading

Zachary Levi Talks to TV Insider About Nerd HQ

The complete article:
Zachary Levi
Beware of nerds who have a machine. They make the most astounding things happen! Former Chuck star Zachary Levi, his business partner David Coleman and their multimedia company The Nerd Machine are about to kick off the sixth annual Nerd HQ fan event, an unforgettable — and surprisingly intimate — experience for gamers and sci fi-fantasy lovers. The dates: July 21-24. The locale: The New Children’s Museum in San Diego, California.

Yep, Nerd HQ is once again happening mere steps from San Diego Comic-Con so you never know who’ll pop up. Past guests have included Guillermo Del Toro, Tatiana Maslany, Jeff Bridges, Eva Green, Joe Manganiello, Vin Diesel, Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln and Zachary Quinto. And this year’s event, a fundraiser for Operation Smile sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, Hallmark, Oculus and Kellogg’s Krave, is sure to be just as star-studded.

Panels include Sherlock, Orphan Black, Colony, Drunk History, Con Man, Teen Wolf, Dead Rising, Supernatural and more. (For a full list of panels, gaming opportunities and fan parties during Nerd HQ week, go to thenerdmachine.com). We spoke with Levi, fresh from his Broadway success in She Loves Me, to get the scoop on Nerd HQ No. 6. Warning: If you are planning to attend the event this year, bring plenty of tissues. Not for you. For Levi!

TV Insider: Each Nerd HQ has been increasingly terrific. How do you top yourself?
Zachary Levi: We don’t. We’re bringing the same, and that’s kind of the point of Nerd HQ. I’m a big fan of keeping things simple and not fixing stuff that ain’t broken. Part of what we want to keep special is that we’re not competing with SDCC. We offer complimentary programming in a smaller, more interactive and personal setting. We don’t try to pack more or different into each year. We keep everything intimate for the fans and the talent. All the money goes to charity. We have awesome sponsors returning. It’s pretty much business as usual. That said, we listen to the people after each event and try to improve every part of the experience. Continue reading

Zachary Levi Talks to Collider About Nerd HQ

The complete article:
Zachary Levi, Joss Whedon, Nerd HQ
Actor Zachary Levi is bringing Nerd HQ back to San Diego, with a really cool assortment of celebrity panels, parties and fun activities that will be held at the New Children’s Museum during Comic-Con, from July 21 – 24. And if you can’t make the trek to be there in person, you will be able to stream all of the “Conversations for a Cause” in a variety of different ways, so that you can keep up with everything that happens, all with a 360-degree view.

During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Zachary Levi talked about what he most enjoys about getting to do Nerd HQ, every year, what they’ll be offering to fans this year, what he’d still like to be able to do, some of his favorite memories, what he geeked out on growing up, and what he geeks out on now. He also talked about how things are coming along with the Tangled animated series (premiering on the Disney Channel in 2017), his experience on Broadway with She Loves Me (for which he got nominated for a Tony Award), and how he’d like to try his hand at directing again.

Collider: What do you most enjoy about getting to do Nerd HQ, every year?

ZACHARY LEVI: There’s so much to enjoy. It’s a massive undertaking and there’s a tremendous amount of stress that comes along with the events. We’re still a pretty small team at The Nerd Machine. We have a few partners that we work with, producing the event, but overall, it’s us. It’s our blood, sweat and tears, and energy and love. The reason why we keep doing it is because of the happiness, the joy and the memories that we get to bring so many people, whether it’s the dance parties or the intimate panels or the photos or the exclusive video games, or whatever. I set out to make something special. I wanted to make something that was different and that I felt like didn’t quite exist yet. After the first year, we realized, “Hey, I think we did that!” Continue reading