TANGLED VOICES. Actor, singer, philanthropist and nerd-wrangler Zachary Levi opens up about the many facets of his life
Did you watch “Tangled” back in 2010? Of course you did. Or perhaps you’ve followed (or binge-watched) hit action-comedy series “Chuck,” or played popular video games like the rebooted “Tomb Raider” from a couple of years ago and the epic “Fallout: New Vegas.” If so, then you’ve seen (or heard) Zachary Levi in action. Yes, the American actor, whose filmography also includes titles like the new “Heroes Reborn” and “Thor: the Dark World,” also does voice acting. And he also does theater, singing (you can’t be in a Disney movie and not sing—that’s just common sense), directing, charity work as well as being a prominent figure in nerd culture. Oh, and did we mention that he’s also into fast bikes and cars? Because of course he is.
Put simply, his talents, passions and interests are so expansive that you can easily find something that you’ll enjoy or that you can identify with. More to the point, there’s never a boring moment when you look into the colorful life of Zachary Levi.
DA MAN: Hi, Zachary. a pleasure to have you with us. So, what keeps you busy these days?
Zachary Levi: Mainly staying busy with “She Loves Me,” the Broadway musical I’m currently doing. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Other than that, trying to keep developing more content, be it for the stage or screen.
DA MAN: Let’s talk about “Heroes Reborn.” What is it like being part of this hit series?
Zachary Levi: iIt’s been pretty cool. It’s a massive world that a lot of folks are really passionate about, so I’m now just trying to do my best and to do right by the fans.
DA MAN: Your character, Luke Collins, goes through quite a lot of character development throughout the show. Was it a fun role to play?
Zachary Levi: It was fun in that I got to challenge myself with a new kind of role, and work with such an exceptional cast. But Luke is a really troubled guy, so staying in that headspace could get pretty dark and sad sometimes.
DA MAN: Is there anything you can tell us about any upcoming plans in the “Heroes” franchise? Will Luke Collins become a recurring character in this universe?
Zachary Levi: As far as i know, it’s only going to be the limited series that it was originally announced as. So, I don’t think we’ll see any more of Luke beyond this season.
DA MAN: And, of course, there’s going to be a “Tangled” series, right? How far into production is the show right now?
Zachary Levi: There is indeed. I’m very excited about it. Right now we’re only about six episodes into recording, so there’s still a lot to do.
DA MAN: “Tangled,” the movie, was a huge hit. But the story already ended with a “they lived happily ever after.” How will the TV series build on that?
Zachary Levi: The series will take place, chronologically, between the end of the film and the beginning of the short that was made a year later called “Tangled Ever After,” which was essentially Flynn & Rapunzel’s wedding day.
DA MAN: Now, “Tangled” was also quite popular among adult viewers. Will the TV show also offer something for grown-ups or is this strictly children’s fare?
Zachary Levi: The series will play in the same space and tone as the film, so it should be something that both kids and adults can enjoy.
“I’ve always been a fan of speed and adrenaline, so anything that helps attain that fix, I’m in”
DA MAN: On a related note, you’ve actually done quite a bit of voice acting, including for video games like the “Tomb Raider” reboot from 2013, “Halo: Reach,” “Fallout: New Vegas” and, of course, one of the “Kingdom Hearts” titles. How did you end up in those projects?
Zachary Levi: I think ultimately it was just a matter of someone working on each of those projects who just appreciated whatever they had heard of my voice acting before, and wanted to include me on their project. Working in the nerd culture space with my company the Nerd Machine didn’t hurt either, I’m sure.
DA MAN: Voicing the main character in a Disney movie naturally means singing—in your case it was “Now I See the Light” with Mandy Moore. What was it like preparing and performing a Disney duet?
Zachary Levi: I suppose the same as I would prepare any other song. The major difference being that we recorded with what was maybe a 40-piece orchestra, which was just amazing. That doesn’t happen every day.
DA MAN: About five years ago, you performed a non-Disney duet with Katharine McPhee for her single “Terrified.” Will we be seeing—hearing—more musical collaborations or perhaps solo work from you in the future?
Zachary Levi: That’s the hope. I really love singing, hence the previous recording I’ve done, as well as the musicals I’ve been a part of. An album has been a back-burner goal for many years, and I am trying to move this to a front burner sooner rather than later.
DA MAN: Looking back, you’ve appeared in quite a few incredible works, from “Chuck” and “Robot Chicken” to “Tangled” and “Thor: the Dark World.” What would you say is the most memorable role you’ve played so far?
Zachary Levi: I would have to say either Chuck or Flynn Rider. Those are what people seem to respond to the most, and as an entertainer, that’s all I’m really hoping to accomplish.
DA MAN: How about the one that you’d consider as your breakout role? Which one would that be?
Zachary Levi: Definitely Chuck. It’s what most people know me from, and what helped launch me into the place I’m in now, career-wise. But here’s hoping that I’ll play an even more impactful character in the future.
DA MAN: Moving on to stuff outside of acting, you’re an ambassador for Operation Smile, right? Can you tell us a bit about this charity?
Zachary Levi: Operation Smile is an incredible non-profit that essentially sends doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists to developing countries all over the world to perform oral surgery, predominantly those involving cleft palates and/or cleft lips, for free to those in need. It’s a bigger and more significant problem than most people in developed countries are really aware of.
DA MAN: You’ve mentioned the Nerd Machine earlier. How would you describe this venture?
Zachary Levi: The Nerd Machine is basically my attempt at creating a lifestyle brand for nerd culture. We have a website that is a hub for so many people who relate to that culture. Lots of community have been built there. Also, all editorial content is written and driven by fans.
DA MAN: We’ve also learned that you’re a bit of a gearhead and that you have at least two superbikes and one supercar. How did this fascination with machines start?
Zachary Levi: Well, I don’t have any superbikes per se. I have a Ducati Monster and a Harley Dyna Superglide Sport, and they are great. My car, however, is a Nissan Gt-r, and definitely makes the cut for supercar status. I’ve always been a fan of speed and adrenaline, so anything that helps me attain that kind of fix, like fast motors and cars, I’m interested in.
DA MAN: The scope of your work and your passion is quite large. So, if you had to pick one trait that best defines you, what would it be?
Zachary Levi: Passionate. [Wink]
To see more images, get DA MAN February/March 2016 here.
Photography Nick Heavican
Styling Marc Sifuentes
Grooming Jordan Bree Long at Starworks artists using La Mer
Photography assistant Darren Nanos
Casting Jonathan Clay Harris (jonathanclayharris.com)
US-based editor Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Location Yotel New York (570 10th ave, New York, NY 10036; +1 646 449 7700; yotel.com)