Since Zachary Levi was four years old, he has been performing for anyone who would allow him to entertain. Musical theater was an enormous part of his high school and college experience. So, when Disney called and wanted him to pair up with Mandy Moore in their next great animated gem, Tangled, he couldn’t believe his lucky stars.
“I’m a huge Disney nerd. I never thought I really had a chance of getting [this job] to begin with because most big animated movies nowadays if you’re a lead character — you’re an A-list actor. To grab this job was a dream come true,” Levi said.
Levi exclusively sat down with SheKnows at Disneyland, of all appropriate places, to bask in the glow of the entertainment icon and put his appearance in Tangled in perspective. Disneyland was all sorts of Tangled with the entire cast and creative team. Yet, one thing struck us amongst all the Disney deliciousness, Zachary Levi is Mr. Disney. To meet him for our exclusive Tangled talk in the “Happiest Place on Earth,” was truly a thrill.
Tangled is Disney’s take on the legend of Rapunzel — the woman with yards and yards of magical hair who manages to break out of her confined life and experience life at its most real. Rapunzel [Mandy Moore] runs into the village thief Flynn [Levi] as their stories intertwine into a new classic of Disney animated storytelling. Levi, for one, was visibly humbled by the experience. “Come on, we’re in Disneyland talking about a Disney movie that I’m in,” Levi said and laughed. “It doesn’t get much better than this.”
Zachary Levi leaves us Tangled
SheKnows: What does it mean to you as an actor and as an individual to be part of the Disney animated legacy?
Zachary Levi: Pure bucket list, man. I don’t think they [Tangled producers] realize how much it means to me. I am such a Disney nerd. I really am, not just stuff that is my generation like Little Mermaid on, Aladdin probably being my favorite of all that stuff, but going way back to really classic Disney and not just like the big features that everyone knows, but little featurettes like Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, Lambert the Sheepish Lion, Ferdinand the Bull and Suzie the Car. To be here at Disneyland talking to you about a Disney movie, I have to ask myself, “What’s going on [laughs]?”
SheKnows: Your character is an anti-hero almost. It’s unique for a Disney film too because usually the guy is Mr. Dashing Prince. Was that kind of a nice challenge for you to break the Disney mold on heroes — Flynn is a thief!
Zachary Levi: Absolutely, not to take away from any of those characters but they tend to be a little one dimensional — they’re so by the book knights and princes. So when you get to play someone with a little dirt on them and a character that becomes the man he’s supposed to be and falling in love with an amazing girl, it’s really cool to have a role like Flynn.
SheKnows: The challenge of voice acting verses on-camera acting, it’s a different beast. What was that like being in studio? I assume you recorded your lines solo.
Zachary Levi: That was the biggest challenge, honestly, that we didn’t have anybody to work off. I have to picture my character’s world anyway when I perform, so I might as well just picture the person I’m having the scene with [laughs] in an animated movie. Not being able to have a give and take with someone, that was the biggest challenge and the biggest difference.
SheKnows: What were your feelings heading into Tangled, knowing you would have to sing? Did you have to audition, because most people don’t know you sing?
Zachary Levi: Yeah, I had to audition. I sing in the duet with Mandy Moore. I knew I would be singing from the beginning — if anything I wanted to sing more. I grew up singing, I love singing. I did a lot of musical theatre growing up. I was really excited about that aspect of Tangled.
SheKnows: Did you have any nerves about that? Mandy Moore is known as a singer.
Zachary Levi: I definitely had nerves about it. In entertainment, your reputation can really help you out on a personal level because you know going into something that people already are open to whatever that concept is. Mandy Moore walks in to sing a song and everyone goes, “Oh, Mandy Moore, she sings.” Zachary Levi walks in to sing a song, they go, “What? Well okay, let’s see what you’ve got.” All of a sudden there’s this expectation that you’d better be a singer. There’s this expectation of, “Well, he’d better be a singer,” and I showed them. I was definitely nervous. There was a seventy piece orchestra! And to work with Alan Menken and sing his songs was unreal.
SheKnows: Now did you see your character before you went in? Had they finalized what Flynn looked like?
Zachary Levi: Yeah, it pretty much looked just like that [points to the poster]. They made some tweaks here and there but I mean I walked in when I first auditioned for him, I saw a little sketch of him and I thought, “Oh yeah, cool, that’s cool.” You know, I just found out that Disney was trying to make him the best looking Disney guy ever. That was all news to me [laughs].
SheKnows: He is dashing.
Zachary Levi: He is dashing, he’s a lot of fun. I see this movie as kind of a loose comparison, but an animated family-friendly Romancing the Stone.
Zachary chats Chuck
SheKnows: How’s Chuck going?
Zachary Levi: Chuck’s good. We’re wrapping up episode ten which I’m directing. It’s awesome. My mind is on another planet. It’s hard enough just to do the schedule that we have but it’s another to wear two hats. It’s really rewarding at the end of the day. That’s why I decided to put myself through the pain.
SheKnows: Was that your idea to direct?
Zachary Levi: It was my idea, but they were open to it. They allowed me to do it last year. It came out pretty good, so I at least passed the first test and got another one to direct this season. So, gonna wrap that up on Tuesday.
SheKnows: It’s good news to Chuck fans that you got an extended episode order. Were you worried?
Zachary Levi: Yes, definitely. That will take up to next April, May or whatever. With a schedule this long and brutal as ours can be, I try not to look too far forward. It’s like a day at a time. I just tell friends and family that I will be a ghost until the show’s over.