'Chuck': Bonita Friedericy versus the crossover sci-fi icons

bonita-friedericy.jpgOn Monday, NBC's spy romp "Chuck" airs "Chuck vs. the Last Details," the penultimate episode of its fourth season. The Monday after that, May 16, is the season finale, "Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger."

And it may be a cliffhanger indeed, since that very same day, NBC has its upfront presentation to advertisers, where it will announce its fall schedule. So, if fans haven't heard whether "Chuck" is renewed for a fifth season before then, they'll know for certain by the time that episode airs at 9 p.m. ET.

Having just finished her first season as a series regular, Bonita Friedericy, who plays General Diane Beckman -- the commanding officer that leads the spy team of Chuck Bartowski ( Zachary Levi), Sarah Walker ( Yvonne Strahovski), John Casey ( Adam Baldwin) and Morgan Grimes ( Joshua E. Gomez) -- is waiting along with everyone else to see if she has a gig next year.

"I just love working on this show," she tells Zap2it. "I think it was a really good season. I am also a fan, and it's funny, because I don't watch that much TV."

Beckman is usually speaking to her team in its secret headquarters underneath a big-box electronics store in Burbank, Calif., from her own office in Washington, D.C., via a video conference link.

This makes for an acting challenge for Friedericy, and one that almost requires she watch the show when it airs.

"It's probably a good thing," she says, "when you're working on something, to watch it, so that you can see what it looks like on -- particularly when I'm doing so much monitor work, as I like to call it. I have to figure out what you can see and not see, because it's rather static.

"I'm trying to keep it active. I have glasses on, glasses off, folder open, folder closed, lean forward, lean farther forward. But you don't lean back, because that looks really funky."

The "Chuck" cast has featured several actors with science-fiction credits. Baldwin has appeared in multiple sci-fi projects, including "Independence Day," "The Visitor," "The X-Files," "Stargate SG-1," "Angel," "Firefly" and "Day Break," making him, as he puts it, a "crossover sci-fi icon."

Other "crossover sci-fi icons" have guested on "Chuck," which gets its sci-fi stamp from having had computer expert Chuck transformed into a super-spy when a top-secret computer was downloaded into his brain.

Playing Chuck's father was Scott Bakula, who played time traveler Sam Beckett in "Quantum Leap" and Capt. Jonathan Archer on "Star Trek: Enterprise." Playing Chuck's mother this season is Linda Hamilton, star of the first two "Terminator" movies and the "Beauty & the Beast" TV series.

Last season featured an appearance by Robert Patrick, who co-starred in "Terminator 2" with Hamilton, and went on to star in "The X-Files" (in which he shared an episode with Baldwin).

Friedericy has credits of her own, having appeared in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel" and "Star Trek: Enterprise," a credit she shares with Bakula and her husband, John Billingsley, who was a series regular in the role of Dr. Phlox (he also played. Dr. Royce on an episode of "Angel" before that).

And the links don't end with the cast.

"It's funny," says Friedericy, "a lot of the 'Chuck' crew, if you sniff around, one of the first A.D.s, Dave Trotti, John worked with on 'Enterprise,' and a couple of the sound and video guys were 'Star Trek' guys."

At one time, "Angel" and "Star Trek: Enterprise" shot on neighboring soundstages at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

"When I would visit John," says Friedericy, "I would sneak over to the 'Angel' food and bring it over."

Even Robert Picardo of "Star Trek: Voyager" has guest-starred on "Chuck," but as of yet, not Billingsley.

"The only part that was appropriate for John was really the one that Bob Picardo played," says Friedericy. "I think John was going to go in for that, but we were out of town or shooting something else."

Billingsley did try out for a role in the first season in an episode called "Chuck
Versus the Truth," directed by former "Star Trek: Voyager" star -- and now "Chuck" executive producer -- Robert Duncan McNeill.

"John did audition for The Poisoner, as I recall," says Friedericy, "but they wound up with Kevin Weisman. They wanted somebody who was strong, like he could be a gymnast, and John's like, 'What?'"

Friedericy says that Billingsley has offered to peep out from behind General Beckman's desk, to no avail, but he has dropped by to visit, much to the delight of visitors taking a tour of the Warner Bros. Studios, in Burbank.

"One day," Friedericy recalls, "John came to visit because of Scott Bakula, to say hey. In that episode, Morgan Fairchild and Bruce Boxleitner were there. Scott was driving some kind of car, like a hybrid car that somebody had loaned him to try, and everybody came outside to look at it.

"So there were all these people hanging around. It was the end of 'ER,' so John Stamos was working, and he came over to say, 'Hi,' and he was looking at it.

"That's when one of those little tourist trams pulled up. The people, because they were three feet away from this crowd, their mouths dropped open. Zach turned to them and said, 'Yes, yes, we're living, we're breathing, we're alive.'

"It was very funny."