Joshua Gomez as Chuck's Morgan Grimes
When TV audiences were first introduced to Chuck’s Morgan Grimes he was employed along with his childhood friend Chuck Bartowski at the Burbank Buy More. He had no idea that his buddy was, in fact, working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), after the Intersect - the merged databases of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) - was subliminally embedded in Chuck’s brain. It was not until the show’s third season that Morgan discovered his friend’s secret and he, too, was then drawn into the thrilling - and dangerous - world of espionage.
In Chuck’s fourth season finale, “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger,” Morgan puts on an ordinary looking pair of sunglasses and accidentally uploads an Intersect into his brain. Unfortunately, this Intersect is far from benevolent and begins to malfunction, affecting Morgan’s memories as well as personality. Since the end of October and the start of the show’s fifth (and, sadly, final) season, the character has not been quite himself, which was especially evident in last week’s episode “Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips.” For Joshua Gomez, who plays Morgan, these changes have allowed him to further showcase his acting talents.
Last week, Gomez participated in a conference call with journalists to talk about his work on Chuck. The following is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy!
How would you describe your character of Morgan, including his personality and the way he thinks?
When I first started working on the show I was discovering my character along with the writers, Morgan was always kind of a free spirit as well as a little bit impetuous and the captain of his own ship. That’s all still a big part of who my character is, but he’s also grow and matured a great deal. Morgan is very loyal as well as a really good best friend and someone to have at your side during a firefight. Actually that’s not true. He’d be awful in a firefight, but he is a good best friend.
Can you talk a little bit about your work in the episode “Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips”?
“Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips” is kind of the big part of Morgan’s [story] arc and the Intersect. When we left him in the previous episode, #502 [“Chuck Versus the Bearded Bandit”], there was clearly something wrong with Morgan. It [the Intersect] isn’t working correctly in his head. He doesn’t remember who Indiana Jones is or Luke Skywalker, which just isn’t cool in Morgan’s world. There’s also something different about my character's whole attitude and demeanor and he’s somewhat aggressive, too. All that kind of comes to a head in “Frosted Tips.”
You also realize that something is very wrong when you see Morgan’s hair. Some people like it, and I’ve been told that some actually find it fetching. I’m not one of those individuals, but there you go.
So this is a big moment for Morgan and it really tests the boundaries of his and Chuck’s [Zachary Levi] friendship. As I already mentioned, my character has been a very loyal and dedicated friend throughout the seasons and that gets put to the test in “Frosted Tips.” That was fun for me to play.
When did you find out that Morgan was going to become the Intersect and what was your reaction when they told you that they wanted to do that?
If memory serves me correctly, it was while we were shooting the next to last episode of season four [“Chuck Versus the Last Details”]. Chris Fedak, one of the show’s co-creators [and co-executive producer], came down to the set and we just started talking. At one point he asked me, “Have you heard about episode 424 yet?” I said, "No," and Chris said. “Oh, I’m going to be really interested to hear what you think.” I was like, “Oh boy, my character dies,” and Chris said, “No, no, no. Just read the script." So I did and when I got to the last page I thought, "You’ve got to be kidding me. This is insanity. I’m a dead man." In fact, it was really exciting to change it up and try new things.
We’re been fortunate enough to go five seasons with Chuck, and with it, like with all TV shows, there’s the danger of becoming a bit stale, especially as an actor when you’re playing a certain character over and over again. So for me, it was awesome to be able to come into the fifth season with sort of a renewed sense of wonder and thinking, "Oh, wow, this is going to be very cool."
How did you prepare for all the new physical demands that you’re going to have now with all the special powers and things of that nature that your character has?
Honestly, I just trusted our stunt and fight coordinators. At the start of the season they gave me a crash course on some basic Kung Fu moves and other types of stunt techniques. I tend to be pretty active anyway, though. For example I’m an avid runner, so I felt physically good. However, I’m not a dancer or a Kung Fu guy in real life, both of which really help in fight scenes. I mean, Yvonne Strahovski [Sarah Lisa Walker-Bartowski] has a dance background, so her balance is really good, whereas mine is just terrible. I have a weak lower body, so kicking is not my forte. Despite all this, they got me up and running. I also have an amazing fight double so these types of [physical] scenes have been easy enough.
How do you feel knowing that this is the final season of Chuck, and how are you guys approaching it?
You know that’s obviously a question that gets asked a lot and it’s a great question because the end is nigh. And for us as a cast I think it’s really interesting because every time we approached wrapping up a season, we didn’t know if we were saying goodbye for good or just for a few months. So it was always a very tumultuous time.
Now, however, it’s got a different feeling to it, you know? It’s bittersweet and we’re kind of bummed, but there’s also a positive aspect in that we know our fate, which makes it a bit easier to deal with. So we’re just enjoying every minute of it and having a really great time as a cast and crew and kind of taking it all in. It’s actually been quite a fun season, I think, for all of us, despite knowing that the show is coming to an end.
Beyond just the kung fu aspects, how has being an Intersect impacted how you play Morgan?
Another great question, It’s impacted it a lot actually, and especially during this [current] arc of the Intersect not quite working right. It’s been a blast because, like I said earlier, you can sometimes end up playing the same [note] character. Television is, I think, much like comfort food for people, and when people find a television show they like, they want things to kind of stay the same. They want the always pizza should taste like pizza, do you know what I mean?
Again, there’s a chance, obviously, in television when you do enough seasons of a show that as an actor it can become less challenging. You get to know your character like the back of your hand and if you’re not careful it can kind of go on cruise control.
So this was fun because it forced me to switch everything up and I was excited about that. I was nervous at first, of course, for so many different reasons. Just getting the Intersect I thought was fun and something I wasn’t expecting. Then I started to get the scripts and saw this character becoming what he’s becoming and how it was affecting him, and it was nerve-wracking. Our fans are really loyal and they love Chuck, and I’m like, “Oh, crap, I’m going to get things thrown at me for playing a jerk.”
That being said, it’s your job, so I’m going to go full force. As you’ll see in these episodes, especially “Frosted Tips,” you’re not supposed to like Morgan at this point. So I kind of threw myself into that and, again, it was so much fun as well as challenging because it was 180 degrees from the Morgan of three or four seasons ago.
Over these five seasons of being on a show about nerds, have you felt your inner nerd coming out over the years?
Well, it was out long before Chuck. That was always a big part of who I was, which is why I think the role appealed to me so much. Zachary and I have been pretty outspoken about that. Going into this, Zach always joked that we’re not so much playing Chuck and Morgan as we’re playing ourselves.
Again, to a certain degree I think he’s joking, but there are definitely a number of similarities as far as Chuck’s and Morgan’s love of Sci-Fi and comic books being very much a part of who I was. I also love video games and I have a huge collection of X-Men comics. They’re not a lot of things I have time for now, though, as opposed to when I was growing up.
So I related to these characters right from the very beginning. But, yes, it’s been amazing and the sort of acceptance of and push for nerd culture now is pretty hysterical just because it’s sort of in the limelight.
I’m curious to get your take on the malfunctioning Intersect in Morgan’s head. Do you think it’s sort of bringing up stuff that may have been bubbling under the surface in Morgan but that he was afraid to admit or is it just kind of, completely reversing his wires?
Here’s the thing, in the next episode or two I think you’re going to find out a lot of that stuff, so I don’t want to spoil anything or go too far into it. I think that whatever’s happening to him, the Intersect is to blame. It’s clearly not in Morgan’s character to act the way he has been acting and is going to continue to act.
It is, though, pulling out certain things that are inside of him, so there are things that are definitely Morgan and that are now bubbling to the surface. His own personality is sort of interwoven into the madness. Sorry, I’ve probably confused you more, but it’s just that I’m trying to be careful and not give anything away.
Since this is the last season, what would you like to see happen with Morgan that’s not been written in the scripts?
I’ve got to be honest; I have these thoughts a lot now because right now we’re in the middle of shooting episode 11, so we have two more left. Every time I get dressed and put on whatever kooky Morgan sneakers I have to wear, I think to myself that I’m really kind of satisfied with what I’ve been able to do with this character.
I was so glad to get to do this run on the show and start out as sort of a goofy best friend as well as occasional comic relief, and then become kind of an integral part of the whole set-up and to do some of the cool things that Morgan has done. So I don’t really know about an actual ending for the character. As I said, I think he’s kind of done what he was supposed to do, and I feel happy about that.
Do you have anything lined up work-wise after this season of Chuck?
Yes, I actually have another short [film]/pilot I co-wrote and that stars me and my brother, Rick Gomez, who has also been in tons of stuff. We’re in post-production with it right now, so I’m excited to see what we can do with that. Other than that, it’s just business as usual. I have to go out and try to get another job, and I’m excited about that.
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