EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Yvonne Strahovski
Recently we had the chance to talk with Yvonne about playing a CIA agent on Chuck, a newlywed fighting for survival in The Canyon, her background in theater and much more. Check it out!
YvonneStrahovski.net: Thanks so much for talking with us, it’s such a treat to get you. We’re such big fans!
Yvonne Strahovski: (laughs) Of Chuck?
YSN: Yeah, and of your role on Chuck.
YS: Yeah, it’s, um, it’s a shame we’re not shooting it anymore. The strike has kind of stopped us.
YSN: That is a shame. What are you doing in the meantime?
YS: Just going to all sorts of meetings and keeping myself busy with prospects, like other future projects and stuff.
YSN: Is there anything you can tell us about now, or is it still in the “just talking” stages?
YS: Yeah, nothing I could really talk about now.
YSN: Well we’ll keep an eye out and if there’s news, let us know and we’ll post it for everybody to see.
YS: Yeah, I will, for sure.
YSN: I don’t know if your publicist told you, but we also have a website that’s just devoted to you, because we saw how much traffic there was on our Chuck website where people were wanting more information about you, and we were like, you know, not everything she’s done is Chuck...
YS: Yeah, that’s YvonneStrahovski.net, right?
YSN: Yes, exactly. So you went and saw it?
YS: I did. It’s got a really pretty design.
YSN: Oh, thanks! We have a friend who’s a graphic designer that did that for us and we were really pleased with how that turned out.
YS: Yeah, I thought it was pretty when I saw it.
YSN: Since you’re fairly new to viewers in the U.S., everybody wants to know “where did she come from” and “what did she do before”.
YSN: We know you’re from Australia…
YSN: We actually interviewed Sarah Lancaster a few weeks ago and she described you as “she’s from Australia and quite the adventuress”.
YS: Quite the what?
YSN: Quite the adventuress.
YS: Uh huh. (laughs)
YSN: So what do you do to get a title like “adventuress”?
YS: Um, I don’t know. (laughs) I guess…well, I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of times that we a lot of fun on set. We all get along so well and we always have, um, some crazy moments. Actually a lot of crazy moments. We all got together actually yesterday, because we were shooting some promos. They’re airing the last two episodes that we’ve shot so far on Thursday the 24th. Did you know that?
YSN: Yes we did, and we’re very excited.
YS: Yeah, so we all saw each other yesterday and it was a lot of fun. It was like a big reunion for us.
YSN: I guess you guys haven’t been together since before Christmas, huh?
YS: Yeah, that’s right, we wrapped I think on the 6th of December, so it’s been a long time.
YSN: So what is it the led you into acting? Do you have a family background in acting?
YS: No. My parents are both into…well my mum is into science and my dad is an engineer. My dad used to be in a band, so that’s where the performance side comes from, I guess. And my mother is very creative, actually. She’s always painting or doing some sort of photography or something. But basically I guess I’m the first one to do the acting thing. I dunno, I always wanted to do it. I was always involved in the high school drama productions and musicals. I grew up dancing, as well. From age 5 to 18 I used to dance all the time. And at home, in my free time, I would make my friends kind of come over and we’d get the camera out and we’d film. Make up our own TV shows, make up our own documentaries. Or like, film television commercials that’d we’d made up or that we’re making fun of on the television. Those tapes are very funny, actually, I still have those. (laughs)
YSN: That’s awesome! What kinds of commercials? Did you make up products and do commercials for them, or were they products that actually existed?
YS: Um, kind of. We used to make fun of the morning shows where they would advertise, you know like all the home shopping stuff? You know, like the “tummy trimmer” products and all those exercise things and then we’d make up exercise shows. (laughs)
YSN: Yeah, “20 minutes a week and you’ll look like this!”
YS: Yeah. (laughs) And there was a show, actually, in Australia called Full Frontal, which was a comedy sketch show, and we’d imitate that, as well. So I guess I was always a bit of a show off like that, and then finally after high school, I went straight into three years of drama school, and then I started working in the Australian industry professionally, for three years. And then this is my fourth year, out in America.
YSN: Wow, so you’re not an “overnight success”, but you’ve come a long way in just a short amount of time.
YS: Yeah. It was kind of a surprise, coming here, actually. I wasn’t planning on coming here that early. I mean, I always knew that I wanted to come to L.A. and try my luck here, and I decided to come earlier than I thought and got the job within the week, the first week of being here.
YSN: I heard that you sent the Chuck producers your audition tape over the Internet?
YS: I did, yeah. I was shooting a series at the time, so I couldn’t come as early as I would’ve liked to during pilot season. So while I was shooting the series, whenever my manager would send over some scripts and some auditions, I would hire a studio in Sydney and put down my audition and we would send it over the Internet, in a QuickTime file. I must’ve just filmed the Chuck audition and flown in in early February. They must’ve just watched it and it all kind of happened very quickly from there.
YSN: Wow, it’s almost like a fairy tale.
YS: It was! I was still jetlagged when I was in meetings. (laughs) Meeting with [showrunners] Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak.
YSN: How do you like living in L.A.?
YS: Um, it’s good. It’s taken me a long time to get used to it because it is quite different from living in Sydney. I mean, everything’s so spaced out here. It takes ages to drive somewhere because of the traffic. And you know, I’ve been working a lot. After the pilot I shot a movie and after that we went straight into shooting the series, so I haven’t had a lot of time off to explore the city or hang out and get to know it. But, I guess now in the last few weeks I’ve had more of a chance to get to do that, which is really good.
YSN: Yeah, that is good because from all accounts it sounds like you’re going to be there for a while.
YS: Yeah. (laughs)
YSN: The show’s getting such a…it’s got a pretty big fan base.
YS: Yeah, it does. It’s going to start over in a whole bunch of other countries. I’m going to Australia, actually, in February for a press tour. That’s kind of interesting as well, because I’m leaving on February 7, and it’s funny because it will kind of be like coming full circle because that’s when I arrived here, on February 7 (2007).
YSN: Oh, that’s cool!
YS: Yeah, and I haven’t been back to Australia, so it’s going to be great.
YSN: Kind of a triumphant homecoming, huh?
YS: (laughs) Yeah, it should be fun.
YSN: I know you get asked a lot about your accent…
YS: Uh huh…
YSN: So I’m not really going to ask you about that, but I was watching your Craig Ferguson interview where you mimicked his Scottish accent and made him call for his mommy.
YS: Uh huh. (laughs)
YSN: Did you study accents in drama school? Are you able to do a lot of different ones?
YS: Yeah, we did a whole bunch of different accents. We did American ones, and the different versions of American like Brooklyn and Southern, we did English accents, Scottish, Irish, Cockney accent, um, you know, some European accents as well, so we touched on all of them pretty much.
YSN: Well I’ve heard three of them so far and I’ve been impressed.
YSN: You know, we Americans, we’re just fascinated by anyone who sounds different than us, you know?
YS: (laughs) Yeah, I’ve noticed.
YSN: Especially when you can then mimic another accent so completely, it’s almost like speaking another language.
YS: It is kind of, yeah. Actually, I don’t know if you know this, but I speak Polish. Polish was actually my first language.
YS: Yeah. My whole family is Polish. They left Poland to come to Australia about 26 years ago, and I was born in Australia. But because my parents are both from Poland, we spoke Polish at home at first. And then I went to school and, of course, grew up in an English-speaking country, so my Australian is better, my English is better, but yes, Polish – I’m fluent in Polish. I read and write, my whole family speaks Polish.
YSN: Wow. Do you think we’ll ever get to see that on the show? Like, Sarah goes undercover as a Polish diplomat?
YS: Yeah, that would be kinda cool. There was one line that I did speak in Polish. That was…it was Chuck vs. the Wookiee, I think it was episode 3. Where Karina, the other agent comes into town and, um, she comes to get me with Chuck, and she says something to me…she’s Swedish and she says a line to me in Swedish, and I respond to her in Polish. I don’t know if many people caught that. It was very quick.
YSN: I knew that you were speaking in another language, but I didn’t realize that you were speaking in Polish.
YS: Yes, yes, I was.
YSN: That’s really cool. You kinda got to squeeze that in there.
YS: I did yeah. There’s gonna be a little bit of Russian in the next episode that’s gonna air on the 24th, and, what else…and there’s some German as well, that I speak while I’m at Wienerlicious. So we throw it in here and there.
YSN: Since you’ve been online some, did you see that IGN named your character the best one on TV in 2007?
YS: I did, actually, I was surprised. It was cool to read that.
YSN: I don’t know if you know much about that site but it’s a major one for entertainment.
YS: I’m just getting to know all these websites and familiarizing myself with all of this.
YSN: We were pretty excited when we saw that. We were like, “Duh, of course she is!”
YS: (laughs) Yeah, she’s a pretty cool character to play. I like her.
YSN: Are you very much like Sarah? Just parts of her like you? How are you guys the same and how are you different?
YS: We’re actually very different in a lot of ways. I guess one of the big similarities is the physical sort of aspect of her. I certainly don’t know how to kill people with one move. (laughs) But I am very active like that. I train, I do kung fu, I rock climb, I hike all the time, I love mountain climbing and I love adventurous things.
YSN: So that’s where the “she’s an adventuress” comes from.
YS: I guess so. (laughs)
YSN: So you work mostly with the boys.
YS: I do, yeah.
YSN: How do you keep them in line?
YS: How do I keep them in line? (laughs)
YSN: Yeah, on the set. ‘Cuz I know, from what I’ve heard, Zac and Joshua and Adam are quite the cut ups. Someone must be keeping them in line there, it must be you.
YS: (laughs) Who else is it going to be, right? No, I often use Adam as my punching bag, actually. He provides for a good punching bag. And Zac and I usually are just disgusting on set.
YSN: So wait a minute, are you telling me that you’re actually a part of the boys club?
YS: Kind of yeah. (laughs) Yeah, I’m definitely more a part of the boys club than the girls club, I think. I’m not really one of the girls who go get manicures and stuff. One of the articles they wrote about me, in one of the New York papers, they published that I had just had my first manicure at the time. And it still is my one and only manicure that I’d ever had…manicure/pedicure, because I just don’t do that.
YSN: I hear ya. I’ve only had two and that’s because I was in weddings.
YS: Oh really?
YSN: Yeah, you know, open-toed shoes, you gotta make your feet look pretty.
YS: I just don’t care for that sort of stuff. I’d rather be climbing the side of a mountain. (laughs)
YSN: I know, it just seems like so much maintenance.
YS: I know! It does.
YSN: I also was reading some more about what you’ve done in Australia and you wrote a play, is that right?
YS: No, I think there’s some misinformation on the Internet about that. Actually, the real story is that I started a small theater company with a friend of mine who went to drama school with me. She’s from Finland, she’d been in Sydney for about five years, and once we graduated she had a few plays that she had seen at a Finland company that she wanted to translate into English. She did that, and then we both sat down and adapted the plays to an Australian audience, I guess culturally, just so the references were there, and edited it and wrote it and grammatically corrected it and all the rest of it, so I guess that’s what the misinformation is because people think I’ve written a play but it was actually adapted a play. Then we would put them up, so we did that a couple of times. The last one as at the Darling House Theater in Sydney. It was called Finn City. It was actually a book which was made into a play, and we made the English version.
YSN: That sounds like an arduous process, but it would be rewarding, I think.
YS: It is. It takes a lot of work to rewrite a play, for starters. Not rewrite it but translate it. Translation is the hard part, making it correct and trying to get the meaning across in the best possible way while keeping the references so it’s understandable to an Australian audience. Then producing it and getting marketing out and acting in it as well, so we would do all three jobs.
YSN: Wow. Do you think there will be more theater in your future?
YS: Oh, definitely. Yes. I grew up on the stage. My whole three years at drama school were all about theater training, I love it. Where I first started was high school, actually. My first Shakespeare play was Twelfth Night; I played Viola when I was in Year 9 in high school.
YSN: You were talking earlier also that you filmed a movie after the Chuck pilot was shot, called The Canyon. What’s that about?
YS: That’s about a young couple who have just recently gotten married. They get married in Vegas, spontaneously, and they go on a honeymoon trip to the Grand Canyon. They decide that they want a guide to take them down into the Canyon. The guide is played by Will Patton, I’m the wife and the husband is played by Ian Bailey. So we go down into the Grand Canyon and we decided to go off into some more remote places, and the guide takes off into all sorts of beautiful places that the tourists don’t go and things start going horribly wrong. I guess it’s a survival story of what happens – I can’t reveal anything else. (laughs)
YSN: It sounds right up your alley, as far as being outdoors and hiking.
YS: Oh, I loved shooting that film. It was amazing. We got to go to all sorts of amazing locations – Arizona, Utah, we spent a lot of time in Moab, and it was gorgeous. We were out in the elements. We saw snow and we were out in really hot, hot desert weather. It was an amazing experience. It was tough, at times, and you had to kind of just let the sand get everywhere, for the whole time we were shooting. (laughs) But it was fabulous. I loved it.
YSN: Is that coming out this spring or have they set a release date yet?
YS: No, they haven’t. I think it might come out in the fall but I’m not sure.
YSN: We’ll have to watch for that, too.
YS: Yeah, definitely.
YSN: I really appreciate you talking to us, and I hope we get to talk to you again, when we have some more new episodes.
YS: Yeah, hopefully we start shooting again soon.
YSN: We’d love to talk with you when The Canyon is getting ready to come out, too.
YS: Yeah, definitely, that’d be awesome.
Thanks again to Yvonne for taking the time to talk with us, she’s a delight! Want more? You can hear an excerpt of this interview on Chuck vs the Podcast, plus read more about what Yvonne had to say about Chuck at ChuckTV.net.