Q & A: Adam Baldwin Talks ‘Chuck’, the Last Days on Set and Playing a Character for 5 Years

Adam on playing Casey: "I’ve streamlined the ability to be cranky and funny at the same time"

adam-baldwin_chuckFans of Chuck will soon be saying goodbye to their much loved series. Over the past 5 years, as Chuck Bartowski has been learning to use and hone his newfound spy-secrets, he’s been protected by the NSA’s John Casey.

The great Adam Baldwin plays Casey and he said in a conference call that he loved his time on the show. Why? “They gave me a lot of fun shit to do,” he said.

I remember first watching Baldwin in My Bodyguard and have been a fan ever since. From Full Metal Jacket, Serenity/Firefly and the over 60 film and TV appearances, it’s always fun to watch him on the screen.

I talked to Adam and Series Co-Creator Chris Fedak about what is was like to work on the show, playing a character for 5 years and what’s next for the prolific actor.

For more Chuck, check out our interviews with Joshua Gomez and Mark Christopher Lawrence

It’s been a fun show to watch and it looks like it’s been a lot of fun to make over the years. What do you guys take away from this series?

Adam Baldwin: What I take away from Chuck first of all, a five-year run on any show these days is a true blessing and to have been able to go through it with people who are nice and creative and funny and hardworking and just lovable. I mean, we’re gypsies really in this business — we’re circus players — and we travel from town to town it seems like and we travel from family to family on different projects. So to land on one for five years has been a joy and, you know, it’s sad to see it go. But at least we have those five years together and we appreciated it while it was happening. So I just feel blessed and honored to have been a part of it.

Chris Fedak: That’s a great point. And I think the other thing, you know, going off your question this show was a lot of fun to make, but it was also an incredible challenge. It must be one of the most difficult shows to do especially in the amount of time we have. And to do something that challenging to work with such a great team is really, you know, it’s fantastic. To have worked with a great team like this is really one you’re going to measure the rest of your career against.

Adam Baldwin: I don’t and I haven’t envied the work that writers have had to put in, you know. They’re locked in basically in a cage and having to figure out how do we make this – how do we walk this tightrope and for them to have through week in and week out for us has just been – what a great reward.

Oftentimes writers have an idea for their final image or scene or whatever, years in advance. My guess is because of the nature of the way Chuck worked that you guys probably didn’t store stuff up that way or did you?

Chris Fedak: You know, we had a couple of – Josh and I had a couple of big moments that we wanted to get to in the show. You know, we knew, you know, we wanted to do the end of Season 2. We knew we wanted to, you know, bring Morgan into the spy world. We knew that we wanted to explore Casey’s back story and his family. And so we had these big moments that we kind of knew that we wanted to be part of the show each season.

In regard to the very final moment of this season, it was something that we came up with at the end of last season and it was a part of our pitch to NBC, you know, for bringing us back. And so this year we knew we were heading toward this final moment of the show and so that was a year in the making.

Adam, what’s next for you?

Adam Baldwin: Well, we’re working on that. When you’re on a show for five years and then it ends, then you got to find another job so we’re in the process of looking and finding. It’s the beginning of pilot season. Hopefully we’ll land one of those. If not, there’s other things but it’s right now in the period we like to call being at liberty. So enjoying my freedom for now and then, you know, hopefully we’ll, you know, as soon as we know something we’ll say but you don’t want to jinx yourself. There are a lot of possibilities, but nothing in stone yet.

Or you can put, you know, I’ll never work again. The actors lament, I’ll never work in this town again.

What about your character Casey has really surprised you?

Adam Baldwin: That he has emotional ties to – I mean when Mckenna Melvin came on to play Alex, I think is when it really sparked with me. I kept bugging Chris, you know, is Casey ever going to meet his mom, you know, what’s his back story. And Chris can tell how they found Mckenna, I’m sure it’s just an audition process.

But there was a certain spark with her that really it rekindled my love for the character himself because I was looking forward to sitting down with her and just – she’s just very inspirational to me. She’s a smart young woman. My daughter — I have a daughter who’s not much younger than she is — and it just was a joy to play that and that plus my evolving relationship with Morgan was just a pleasure to work with him as well. They’re all so fun, but when you see the height discrepancy between me and them on camera, it’s just hilarious.

Chris Fedak: I mean that’s a great point. I mean I think that the dynamic between Adam and Josh and Mckenna and Carrie-Ann this year, it’s just – he has an amazing chemistry with them – whoever we bring on to play opposite him. And I think, you know, the Mckenna thing was a real discovery and also kind of an accidental discovery because we built a, you know, we built an episode where we could explore Casey’s back story. And we cast Mckenna and she had one line. You know, she said, “Dad.”

That was it and so later that season we had an episode where she was, you know, we got an order for more episodes – we didn’t know that was coming and then we built an episode about her being kidnapped. It was really kind of like do we bring her back in to have her do more lines, you know, how is this going to work. It’s like we weren’t quite certain, you know, what the story was and she came in and she was fantastic.

And there was a scene actually from our finale of that season where we cut it out because of length, but there’s a moment where she growled back at her dad and we just oh she’s fantastic. She’s not only great and emotional, but she’s funny in that same way that Adam brings to his role is like he’s tough, but there’s also just like a great comic underpinning to that.

What does it take to play a character like who is so tough, but at the same time can make you laugh just by grunting?

Adam Baldwin: Well, I learned a while ago to play the positive and with a grunt you can get away with a lot of different nuances. And again, the objective is to be – to win, then you can win no matter what you’re saying. And I don’t know. It’s funny to see it written on the page to Casey growls or grunts or it’s just inserted in there.

Chris Fedak: Well what’s funny is there are a number of different grunts and growls that Adam does, but we would never dare make that choice for him, you know. But it’s a…

Adam Baldwin: I like it when you actually write it down to make it director proof like he growls with animosity.

Chris Fedak: We try to get a little specific. But it was also a discovery in the pilot that there was a moment in the – there was a bridge scene in the pilot in the beginning of Act 5 and Adam was, you know, it was downtown Los Angeles at night and, you know, we’re shooting the scene and there was no growl in the scene. We didn’t know that was a part of the character yet and Adam growled halfway through the scene and the more – we was like “did he just growl” in the cut, it was just something “we need the growl to be louder” and we just worked on it and it became a part of the character. That’s all Adam.

adam-baldwin2Could you talk about what the atmosphere on set was like? How it was different filming this finale knowing it was a finale versus other seasons where you didn’t necessarily know if you were coming back?

Adam Baldwin: There were a lot of tears, a lot of emotion. I didn’t cry, but I watched a lot of other of the younger people cry being a cold-hearted bastard that I am. It was uplifting and bittersweet and yet it was a sense of accomplishment because we had against all odds persevered and been lucky enough and had the good graces of the network and the sponsors to keep us going, you know. And Chris can tell you the back story more than I can, but that was the sense on the set day in and day out was just that, you know, we made it five years when we didn’t even think we were going to make it past the first season let alone get picked up as a pilot. So while there were a lot of tears, they were tears of accomplishment and of a job well done.

Chris Fedak: I agree with everything that Adam just said and I would also say that the tears were a real disaster. There was people crying at every, you know, for everything. You know, people would type into a computer, it would be the last time they were typing into a computer and they would start crying. So it was an emotional shoot. Thankfully we had the rock that is Adam Baldwin who doesn’t have emotions and we were able to do some scenes without constant crying.

Adam Baldwin: Makeup was on an extra detail on that last show.

What are you guys going to miss the most about doing the show?

Chris Fedak: Free lunch.

Adam Baldwin: Being waved through at the guard gate.

Chris Fedak: It’s the small things we’ll miss.

Adam Baldwin: Yes. Now what we’re going to miss are the faces and the names of the crew and the unsung heroes, I think. You know, the cast members they get some of the glory while being on TV but, you know, we have relationships with the crew members who don’t get on camera that you guys don’t know except by, you know, the credits that roll at the end of the episode and they’re really loving, wonderful people. That’s what we’re going to miss the most I think is that family.

Is Casey a character that you’re going to miss out of all the ones you’ve played before in other series?

Adam Baldwin: Well, I think it’s fair to say that while I will miss Casey, he was a fully developed character that got five whole seasons and 91 episodes to arc through. So again I go back to the sense of accomplishment with him. So I would say that while I will miss it, I won’t miss it as much as other characters that have been short circuited where I, you know, would have liked to explored further. So again it’s kind of an apples and oranges comparison. So yes and no.

Adam, how do you feel that you’ve grown as an actor in your time with the show?

Adam Baldwin: I’ve streamlined the ability to be cranky and funny at the same time. I have a shorthand that can get me there more quickly. And maybe I guess my ability – my patience has also increased which I’m constantly striving for is to increase my patience with all things in life and not that there’s any extraordinary strain on patience (of) this particular show as compared to other shows. It’s just that the patience that I have had has been able to manifest itself in the confines of what this was which was a marathon. I always think of series television as a marathon.

This was a five-year marathon whereas my experience previous to this has been less than one season or only one full season. I did a show with one full season and so there was that. So for five seasons able to carry that again patience through is important for actors – for any actor. I think it’s important to have that so that’s how I’ve grown. Just on a technical personal note and I don’t know, they gave me a lot of fun shit to do so. You know, I was able to accomplish that as well so, what can I say?

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