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Scott D. Pierce: Levi is loving 'Chuck's' new attitude

BURBANK, Calif. — After two seasons of playing, well, the nerd in the middle of a series of spy adventures, Zachary Levi is thrilled with what's happened to "Chuck" (Mondays, 7 p.m., Ch. 5).

He's getting some kung fu action all his own.

"I did sign up for this," Levi said on the set of "Chuck" on the Warner Bros. backlot. "When I read the pilot I was hoping this is exactly what I would be doing.

"I had to wait two years. I mean, I was hoping for all that stuff."

The original premise of "Chuck" was that all the information in a government super computer — the Intersect — was downloaded into the brain of Chuck Bartowski. And, because the computer had been destroyed, Chuck was the only one with all the government secrets needed to fight the bad guys.

But Chuck had no skills. So his handlers — CIA operative Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and NSA operative John Casey (Adam Baldwin) did all the cool stuff while Chuck sort of fumbled around.

But no more. At the end of Season 2, with Intersect 2.0 downloaded into his brain, Chuck suddenly had the ability to kung fu his way out of trouble all by himself.

Except, of course, that he doesn't really have control over his new powers, which are dependent on his emotional state. He has to have a "flash" to activate his powers, and he can't control the flashes.

When he does flash, he's capable of doing what the most highly trained agents in the world can do in terms of martial arts and the use of weapons. But he's not Superman.

"The one thing I would say is that the Intersect does not have super powers," said executive producer Chris Fedak. "Chuck can do what other human beings can do, but there are no super abilities."

But it looks and feels kind of super.

"It's been fun so far," Levi said.

And it has changed his wardrobe a bit.

"Every time I see the black and white in the trailer, I think, 'Yes! We get to do spy stuff today!' " Levi said.

We're assured that Chuck's new abilities will not make him less of a nerd.

"I think if anything it re-enforces his underdog status because the discrepancy between who he is when he's a regular guy and then who he is when he's flashing has never been greater," Levi said. "And because those powers aren't always ready for him.

"And because he still has his heart, Chuck is still a guy who's battling the same issues of insecurity and love and trying to find his place in the world."

SPOT ON? Chuck and his friends still work at the Buy More — a thinly disguised counterpart to Best Buy. And, apparently, a lot of Best Buy employees are fans of the show.

"They all watch the show and love the show," Levi said. "I think what's kind of concerning to me is that the employees love telling me how spot on we are.

"We do nothing in the store! These guys are so lazy. They don't sell anything!"

JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE: Not only has Chuck changed, but his relationship to some of the other characters has changed, too. Like with his brother-in-law, Devon "Captain Awesome" Woodcomb (Ryan McPartlin), who found out Chuck is involved in all the spy stuff.

And Devon has gotten somewhat involved in the spy stuff himself.

"Everyone was like, 'Oh, my (gosh), it so cool that you know about the spy world and might be getting involved. And it's just so amazing,' " McPartlin said. "But I thought, 'Yes, until I get shot in the face.' "

It didn't turn out that way. And, clearly, McPartlin was hoping to have more to do than just play the studly brother-in-law.

"I mean, I was coming in and taking my shirt off, doing some crunches, making some money and then leaving," he joked. "So to go and actually have stunt work and have some good times, it was great.

"I mean, I had to go a chiropractor after I tackled Adam Baldwin a couple times, but, you know. ..."

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com