Last May, nerd-turned-secret-agent Chuck Bartowski and his team of spies faced an enemy more dangerous than they'd ever seen—cancellation. Just when it appeared that Chuck and crew would not escape this fate, an unexpected army came to the rescue. After seeing Subway product placement in one episode, Chuck fans took to every corner of the Internet urging Chuck buffs to buy a Subway sandwich the night of the second season finale.
The network—and advertisers—took notice. Weeks later, NBC announced a third season of Chuck , and Subway signed on as a major sponsor. Series star Zachary Levi says he was humbled by the incredible fan support. "We're fortunate to be kind of in this world of Comic-Con love," he says. "They are the most die-hard-will-stay-with-you-to-the-bitter-end fans and really know how to band together when it comes to the Internet and blogging and vlogging—and any other -ogging, for that matter—and making sure that you don't go down without a fight."
And, Chuck fans won't be disappointed. After two seasons of being told to stay in the car, Chuck has been promoted from the Nerd Herd desk to full-time superspy. "I think that this season very much is like we're building a hero," says executive producer Chris Fedak. "For each season, essentially it's been a process of going from a regular guy to a guy who's going to get out of the car to a guy who's going to have true adventures."
Thanks to the souped up computer (called the Intersect) that Chuck downloaded in his brain at the end of last season, he now knows all government secrets, has perfect kung fu and speaks Thai. "For two years, I kind of sat on the sidelines and watched Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski, [Agents] Casey and Sarah respectively, kick bad guys' butts and was very jealous of that," Levi says. "But now that he has this new Intersect and the abilities that come with that, he is able to kind of lend a hand in the kick butt-ery, if you will."
Still, Chuck's new abilities are something that love interest Agent Sarah Walker must reconcile. "She fell in love with the guy ; she didn't fall in love with the spy," Fedak says. "As she watches the guy become the spy, that's going to be a source of really good angst between the two of them."
As the season progresses, Chuck's new life will affect those around him. Gruff Agent Casey is tasked with mentoring Chuck, and Chuck's brother-in-law, Devon (aka Captain Awesome), will dabble in espionage. Chuck's double life will also take a toll on his relationship with best friend Morgan after they finally get their bachelor pad, and another character will learn Chuck's secret. Guest stars will include Stone Cold Steve Austin, Armand Assante, Smallville 's Kristin Kreuk and Superman Returns' Brandon Routh.
Chuck becoming more of a badass doesn't mean we're losing the nerd we love. "Though Chuck now has these abilities, they're fleeting, they're in and out, they're glitchy," Levi says. "He's still the somewhat bumbling hero, and I think that's what brings so much of the heart and general premise of the show and keeps that there."
The two-hour Chuck premiere airs Sunday, January 11, on NBC. It returns to its regular time slot (8/7c) on Monday, January 12, with another new episode.