September 29, 1980
Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
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Thanks to playing a computer geek-turned-unwitting government agent on the surprise hit series, "Chuck" (NBC, 2007-12), actor Zachary Levi emerged from relative obscurity to become a rapidly rising star. His portrayal of über-nerd Chuck Bartowski won over both audiences and critics with his over-anxious charm and techno-geek knowledge - some of which mirrored Levi's offscreen persona. Before hitting the big time with "Chuck," Levi landed a role in the made-for-television romantic comedy "See Jane Date" (ABC Family, 2003) and was a regular on the sitcom "Less Than Perfect" (ABC, 2002-06). After a significant supporting role in the comedy sequel, "Big Momma's House 2" (2006), Levi landed his role on "Chuck" and was propelled to stardom, earning accolades from various national critics and adoration from fans who followed the show in an almost cult-like fashion. Because of this sudden popularity, Levi began landing roles more frequently on screens both large and small, becoming in the process an unlikely leading man. Born on Sept. 29, 1980 in Lake Charles, LA, the future actor - who named Tom Hanks as the person he wanted to model his career after - moved around several times with his family while growing up until they finally settled in Ventura, CA. When he was six years old, Levi started acting in school and local community theater productions. After graduating from Buena High School, Levi starred in regional productions of "Grease," "The Outsiders," "Oliver," "The Wizard of Oz," and "Big River." With a struggling actor's salary, Levi took odd jobs to pay the bills, including work as a busboy, as an employee at Blockbuster and at a car wash. "It was character-building," he later said. Levi spent the early 2000s appearing in a couple of made-for-TV movies, including a supporting roles in "Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie" (FX, 2002), which he followed by appearing in the romantic comedy "See Jane Date" (ABC Family, 2003), playing one of Charisma Carpenter's potential boyfriends. Appearances in various shows followed, with an hilarious turn as a bellman in a 2004 episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ) and a short recurring role in the crime drama "The Division" (Lifetime, 2001-04). After spending several years landing minor acting jobs here and there, Levi finally made strides with his career in 2006 when got a "perfect" role, so to speak. For four seasons, Levi made audiences laugh playing Kipp Steadman, a sarcastic, scheming and highly metrosexual magazine staffer who taunts Sara Rue in the brilliant comedy "Less Than Perfect" (ABC, 2002-06). That same year, Levi appeared on the big screen, playing Martin Lawrence's clumsy FBI partner in "Big Momma's House 2." After "Less than Perfect" was cancelled, Levi starred in a handful of indie films in 2007, including "Imperfect Union," "Ctrl Z," and the thriller "Spiral," which he also executive-produced. The success of "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010) and "Heroes" (NBC, 2006-2010) paved the way for a crop of shows that blended genres of action, comedy, drama and mystery. One such series was the Josh Schwartz-created "Chuck," about an unsuspecting geek who accidentally downloads a database of international secrets into his brain. Levi, who enjoyed playing video games and had a charming average-Joe personality like his television alter ego, believed his show was so successful because of its mixture of procedural and serial. Levi also related to his character's awkwardness around women. "Chuck" established Levi as a small screen hero for the MySpace generation, and also helped the actor transition into more feature film projects. In 2008, Levi starred in "Shades of Ray," a romantic comedy about a Pakistani-American man about to get married when his long lost father shows up at his doorstep. That same year, he co-starred with "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) actor Keenan Thompson in the road trip comedy "Wieners," then starred alongside Brandon Routh in the testosterone-fueled "
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