TV

'Chipmunks' actor wanted work

LOS ANGELES — Zachary Levi had a simple reason for taking the role as the caretaker for the furry singers in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel." He wanted to work.

The filming of the second season of Levi's NBC series "Chuck" was coming to an end earlier this year and NBC executives hadn't said if it would be back. We now know the show will return Jan. 10, but at the time Levi wasn't sure.

"My agent called and said 'Alvin and the Chipmunks 2.' What do you think?' I said 'Let's go! I need a job,' " Levi says. "So during a lunch break from 'Chuck,' I went in and auditioned."

Given a choice, actors tend to accept roles that have meaning. Levi, a 29-year-old Louisiana native, says he's just trying to find a balance between work that feeds his artistic soul and the jobs that make so much money they raise an actor's cache with the studio.

The first "Alvin and the Chipmunk" pulled in more than $360 million worldwide, and that's the kind of money that gets attention.

So Levi signed on to play Toby, Dave Seville's (Jason Lee) cousin, who's put in charge of Alvin, Simon and Theodore while Dave recuperates in the hospital. The film opened Dec. 23.

It was a quick transition for Levi, who finished filming the last scene for the second season of "Chuck" at 5 a.m., slept for three hours and then headed to the "Chipmunk" movie set.

"It was the weirdest day. I was with a whole different crew. I was a different person. It was like being bipolar, but an interesting experience," Levi says.

Now his attention has returned to "Chuck," as NBC launches the third season with some huge changes for Levi's character. In the first two seasons, Chuck was little more than a walking computer full of secret government information. This year he's been reprogrammed to take all that knowledge and use it to be a superspy. "It's Chuck 2.0," Levi says.

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