Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cutting Room Floor Commentary: Zachary Levi on Life Post-'Chuck' and Creating His Own Content...

Chuck came to a close on Friday. Five years, done in an instant. For Zachary Levi, it was a series that launched him as a star and also made nerds the new cool kids, which, really, was the best of both worlds for the thespian who is also a huge technology buff. While the "end of the era," so to speak, has is surreal and sad for the fans, oddly, the actors don't find it all that scary-- even though Levi joked that he "doesn't have millions of dollars" just squirreled away and therefore is already looking for his next gig. But why not just create the perfect next job just for himself? Hey, if Joey Tribbiani was going to do it... Let's just say, I have much more faith in Levi! The man will one take take over the world. He's just starting with Hollywood.

Zachary Levi: I love technology. I’m also frightened by technology. I think the next five years of our lives are going to be insane. Then the next five years after that are going to fucking just freak people out. But I also have just so much passion for it. And I look at technology in a lot of ways, and I kind of in my own ways see ways that I want to improve upon it or utilize it in different ways specifically as it pertains to entertainment. So I really want to be more involved in that world and start developing the actual technology. Hardware, software...

DanielleTBD: Are you considering developing your own web content or original series?

Z.L.: I am, but I think that-- I disagree with a lot of people as far as what’s actually good and what’s not. I think networks and studios have tried their hand in webisodes and they continue to try, and I applaud them for that. But I personally think that they’re kind of going about it in the wrong way. I don’t believe in four minute webisodes.

D: But if you’re doing it and you’re developing your own you can do whatever you want.

Z.L.: Sure, sure, sure, yeah! And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I want to is because I want to be the first example of what is successful online. You know, I think that as human beings we put a value on something based on the value that comes with it. And if somebody offers you something that doesn’t seem to have that much value because it’s only four minutes long, you go 'Well, thanks, but no thanks.' And how do you really track a story through that?...It’s like going to Starbucks, and you go and there’s, like, the free sample sitting up there that you’re like-- you have no idea what it is; you may or may not want it; you don’t know. But you look up at the menu and there’s a brand new, giant five dollar drink, you go-- you’re immediately intrigued-- you go, 'What the hell is that thing that costs five dollars, that must be amazing!'

D: Right.

Z.L.: And, by the way, maybe it is; maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea.

D: But you’re willing to take a chance.

Z.L.: Sure, absolutely. And to me, I think that especially with like prosumer technology being what it is now that almost anyone can shoot whatever they want, wherever they want; you can edit it yourself; you can really make incredible stuff. And you can make it a half hour long. You can make it an hour long. And by the way, not 22 minutes with 8 minutes commercials, an actual half hour. Not 44 minutes with, uh...

D: We’re at 16.

Z.L.: 16 minutes of commercials! Math, math, math.

D: Vacation, it’s okay!

Z.L.: But an actual hour. Oh, by the way, an hour and a minute! Or an hour and two minutes! Or 58 minutes! You know, there are certain constraints on network television that don’t apply to online. Especially if you’re actually selling it. You say, hey if you want this to stick around, you buy it. And if nobody buys it, then it doesn’t stick around. But if you do buy it, it does stick around and to me one of the biggest-- honestly, one of the biggest kind of factors in my philosophy on this was and is Chuck. It’s a show that internationally conservatively ten million people watch. Conservatively. Globally and not just domestic. So lets say ten million people watch globally in a whole myriad of ways, downloading, Hulu, Netflix. Long story short, I really believe in the model and I have for the last, even before I did Chuck, you know for the past seven years or so I’ve been drumming it to my friends and everyone who would listen and then slowly I’ve seen the tide turning I’m like I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy.

D: But in saying that, I mean you said you see what you like and what you don’t like, so let's say you’re developing a series for online, what would you want it to be, in order to make it successful?

Z.L.: Well, honestly what I would do is I’d start with really hitting the demographic that consumes online solely or not solely, but like just the most. And to me...what I would do, I would want to do a movie or a series that’s like me and Jared Padalecki and Nathan Fillion and Seth Green and...

D: Well, shit! Yes!

Z.L.: But by the way, us guys, we don’t get a whole ton of love in Hollywood.

D: No, but I’m saying it doesn’t matter because everybody would buy that.

Z.L.: See I believe so!

D: Because everybody between your fandoms--

Z.L.: Exactly. And we have all these fandoms and I fully believe in the next five years it’s really going to come down to that...I’ve talked to Nathan and Seth about my kind of further reaching ideas. I’ve talked to Jared in passing a little bit. But he’s been doing Supernatural and Nathan’s going to be doing Castle for a while still. I mean Seth and I are both-- you know, we’ve talked alot about taking over the world. And l love what he’s accomplishing and what he’s already accomplished with Robot Chicken and Stupid Monkey and he’s got a great deal with YouTube going on. I really believe that we are moving into a time in entertainment and technology where anybody really could do whatever the hell they want to do. It just really helps if you’ve had or continue to have a following that Hollywood is bolstering. So I’ll continue to do the Hollywood thing-- I want to. I want to do studio films. I want to work with guys like Clint Eastwood and George Clooney or whatever. Until I can get myself to a place where I can make my own content and sell my own content to not just my fanbase but to Jared’s and to Seth’s and to Nathan’s and to Felicia Day’s and to whomever else that kind of exists in that universe where collectively you have millions. You know, millions. And not only that, but what social networking has allowed is a form of communication and marketing that has never existed before that by the way some actors, some stars, some celebrities don’t utilize because they’re giant. But I think they’re kind of missing out. Because I think that it is the best way to communicate what you want and how you feel and to continue communication with your fanbases and keep them pumped and excited and give them insights into your life...

[Editor's Note: Here we took a singing break. Yes, seriously, and no, I will not be sharing the audio.]

D: So you’re not looking at pitches right now? To start this right now? Not that I’m trying to pitch you anything but--

Z.L.: Well, no. I mean, yes and no. I mean, honestly, because it’s been a vision and a dream of mine for some time, I was really just waiting for this chapter of life to close. I have a little bit of time to just breathe, go on vacation, play some video games, which I’ve done a shit ton of. And then also continuing to throw my hat in the ring when it comes to Hollywood and projects and you know, maybe Broadway. They’re not mutually exclusive is what I’m saying. I mean, I think that it would be foolish of me to say 'All right, I’m done with that, I’m going to go do this.' It’s like no, no, I can do both. I mean, I hope. And with The Nerd Machine and continuing that journey and continuing to hopefully bring to life all the vision that I have not just for, and that’s where this all started, this part of the conversation. I want to do online content through The Nerd Machine, but the reason I started with tee shirts and hoodies and things is because apparel is--

D: Easier? More immediate?

Z.L.: I mean, it’s out of my pocket. So I’m not putting out hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode. I’m putting out, you know, a couple G’s to produce some shirts and sell those shirts and recoup that cash. Slow build. Slow build. But Nerd HQ that we did last year at Comic Con was an awesome success, and we’re going to do it again next year, and we’ve already got our sponsors from last year that want to be involved, and hopefully we’ll have even more panels-- raise even more money for charity. We’re gonna go and have an awesome meeting with Microsoft in a few weeks and kind of share our vision with them and hopefully get them on board with some of the things we want to do.

The people that I’ve always respected in this business-- and not even in this business, just in the world-- are people that have vision-- are people that have a lot of different irons in the fire and are not afraid to take a chance on something that they’re passionate about. And, look, acting has always been my number one passion, since I was a little kid, it’s what I’ve always done-- it’s what I’ve always want to do-- but then as I started that journey, I realized quickly that I also liked other aspects of entertainment like writing, like directing.

D: So basically in three to five years you're going to take over the world. Or maybe it won't even take you that long.

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