Last year Zachary Levi starred in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, opposite some of the most famous animated characters in this business. Now he’s a cartoon character himself in Disney’s new feature Tangled. Levi voices the role of Flynn Rider, a thief who comes across a strange tower and encounters Rapunzel, a beautiful teenager with really long flowing blond hair and an attitude, who insists that Flynn accompany her on her first journey out of the tower since she was an infant.
Levi is also busy starring on his weekly NBC TV series Chuck, in which he plays a regular guy whose life changes abruptly when he inadvertently has government secrets downloaded into his brain.
After doing The Chipmunks movie did you long to voice a character?
Yes, especially since there were a lot of people who would come up to me who hadn’t seen the movie but knew that I was in the movie and assumed that I had just done a voice.
They were like, ‘What was the voice-over for Chipmunks like?’ I was like, ‘Clearly you haven’t seen it.’ At least this helps that. I can actually talk about an experience of doing voice over.
Mandy Moore said you have the quintessential hero voice.
We’ve been arguing about this. She was saying that she had heard our voices the first time and said, ‘Oh, I sound so shrill but he sounded like classic Disney.’ I was like, ‘No, no. I sounded nasally and you sounded fantastic.’
We just sound like we’re buttering each other up but genuinely I have a crush on Rapunzel. I don’t know if anyone else does, but between the freckles and the giant green eyes and just the overwhelming enthusiasm and purity and heart, after the first time I saw the movie I was like, ‘Gosh. I wish she was real.’
Did the producers and directors know that you could sing when you were up for this?
I don’t think they were (aware). Most people aren’t. I’ve sung my whole life. I did a lot of musical theatre and everyday on set I sing songs to entertain no one but myself.
I’ve never really advertised it because I always feel like if it happens it’ll happen and it’ll be organic. I’ve always been afraid of really putting myself out there. The last thing I need is a whole bunch of Simon Cowell’s on my back. But it’s really cool to be able to do it in this way and let it be kind of a surprise.
Who would win in a fight, Chuck or Flynn?
This is like an expose! I would have to say Chuck since Flynn is not even real. I’m kidding. I’d have to say Chuck because he has the added benefit of guns and technology. But Flynn is pretty handy with a frying pan as we come to find out and he’s very crafty and he’s a cartoon.
He can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. He gets beat up in this movie and he’s okay. I mean he falls off a cliff and rams into things and it’s a dagger that gets him? Come on.
On Chuck do you guys still feel like the little show that could? You keep plugging away even if not everybody watches the show.
In short, yeah. Television is so funky nowadays. It’s a completely different landscape. Between all the options that you have on all the other channels, including the internet, it puts us in a position where our numbers are such that we’re just enough of a success where the networks go, ‘Well, at least they’re stable. At least they keep doing a 1.9.’
What I do know is that we have an incredible fan base to maintain that very, very stable, albeit low number on NBC where there are a lot of changes going on. It’d be nice not to have battle Dancing With The Stars every Monday night but it is what it is.
Can you talk about work with Timothy Dalton on Chuck?
You have no idea. Timothy Dalton is unbelievable. You have ideas about people before they come in and work with you and that’s one of the coolest thing about the job, all the different guest stars we’ve had. On a show like ours that can be a bit of lighter fare, it’s not Chaucer by any stretch of the imagination, he comes in and treats it just the same.
I’m directing the episode we’re doing right now and I feel so completely inadequate to answer some of the questions that he has. I’m trying. But he’s put so much time into it. He’s put so much heart and soul.
He’s one of the sweetest guys that I’ve ever met and the long crazy hours that we work on the show and that a lot of times we only get one take, two takes because we’re climbing a mountain every episode, he just jumps in the sandbox and goes with it. We’re so honored to have him on and Linda Hamilton.
It’s just really cool.
What does doing this movie mean to you?
I grew up watching every Disney movie you could think of. I was just such a huge fan and have such love for them and it was a dream, ever since I was a little kid to be in a Disney animated musical, specifically. And to get to sing and act in a movie like this, it’s bucket list. Check it off. Me, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson will all be buried at the top of Everest in little urns!