Zachary Levi on Mental Health, Shazam!, Chuck, and Video Games

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Zachary Levi with a microphone at his Q&A panel at FanExpo Canada in Toronto on August 24, 2019.

Levi is best known for his roles as Chuck in the tv series of the same name, and Shazam, in the recent superhero film Shazam!

In his Q&A panel at FanExpo Canada in Toronto on August 24, Levi repeatedly brought things back to the topic of mental health and the importance of self-love. He tells fans that it's the most important thing on earth.

Levi talked to fans with empathy and honesty, encouraging them to love themselves and to seek professional help for their mental health, saying that we could all use help with something in our lives.

He speaks openly about having dealt with mental health issues himself, and the importance of seeking help in order to grow.

Being Cast as Shazam

Levi told fans the story of how he was cast in the role of Shazam and says that he couldn't have gotten the role if he hadn't had a serious breakthrough in therapy first.

He says that he didn't think that he was worthy of or right to play Shazam.

Levi says that his agency got him an audition for the lead role in Shazam! two months before he got the job.

Levi says that at that point, he knew that The Rock had already been connected to playing Black Adam and he knew that Black Adam and Captain Marvel (Shazam) were essentially like doppelgangers.

He looked at the email about the audition and wondered why he was auditioning for the part of The Rock's twin and says that he thought it didn't make any sense.

Levi said that he thought they would be looking for “super jacked” and/or super famous people for the role.

He felt like he would be wasting everybody's time, so he politely passed on the audition.

Two months later, after going to therapy that Levi says was life-saving and taught him how to love himself for the first time, Levi got another email. He says that it came the same day he had a major breakthrough in therapy.

Levi’s agency told him that there was an audition for a supporting character for the movie Shazam!

The job was quick, easy, and totally in his wheelhouse, so he put an audition on tape and sent it in right away, on a Friday.

The same day, he got a call telling him that they thought he was right to play the (lead) role of Shazam.

Levi said that his jaw hit the floor.

By the following Friday he had been flown into LA, had camera tested, and got the job.

He says that he didn't think he was going to ever get that job because he didn't think he was worthy, but after he learned to love himself and stop being his own worst critic, he was ready for it.

Levi says that he thinks that he got it because he was made to be the perfect fit for the character.

He jokes, "After their extensive search of trying to find a 14-year-old boy in a man's body, they found him."

Levi says that he is so grateful that they trusted him with that role because it's been one of the most life-changing and important things he's ever been a part of.

Video Games

When asked about his role in Chuck, Levi joked that he wasn't really acting in Chuck.

As an example, he tells the crowd that when he was filming the pilot episode in a big box electronics store, they were shooting all night long.

He brought his Xbox and Gears of War and played with co-star Joshua Gomez between every take.

When asked more about what games he likes to play, Levi shared a list of favorites with his fans.

He was a big Mortal Kombat fan for 1 and 2 when he was young (he liked to play as Sub-Zero).

Levi says that he could have mortgaged a home with the quarters he spent as a child playing fighting games in arcades.

He played Street Fighter 2 on both Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis (because yes, there was a difference, and he had to have both).

Nowadays he likes more immersive stuff. He is into first person shooters or action/adventure games.

He enjoyed the first Red Dead Redemption, but was frustrated by his inability to defend himself sometimes without getting a warrant issued for his arrest.

Levi says that Fable was like the adult Zelda and adds that in any game where you can be good or bad, he wants to get to the end of the game with 100% completion as a 100% good guy.

He restarted Fable so many times because he wanted to be good.

Levi loves all of the Borderlands games and extensions and even says he would absolutely love to do a Borderlands movie.

He liked Destiny 1 and 2, but said there is a bit too much grinding in them.

Levi's favorite game or pieces of visual art/entertainment that he has experienced on any screen of any size is The Last of Us.

Mental Health

Throughout the panel, Levi kept bringing things back to the topic of mental health.

He reminds fans to talk about mental health, and to understand that they are worthy of love and worthy of occupying the space they are in.

Levi truly believes that everyone in the world could use some help with their mental health, and that if we could heal peoples' hearts and their minds, every problem in the world will go away.

Levi asked fans how they speak to their family and friends, and if they forgive them for mistakes they make. Then he asked how they speak to themselves. Are they as kind and patient with themselves as they are to their loved ones?

He says that he used to be horrible to himself, in his own thoughts. He eviscerated himself.

He had to learn to reprogram himself and to overcome all of that negativity he was feeling so that he could be someone who loves himself and is a happier person.

He also reminds fans that it's ok to express emotions, and to cry, and says that he often cries like a baby in his panels, and allowed emotional fans to take all of the time they needed to collect themselves and ask their questions.

Levi is an ambassador for the nonprofit Active Minds, which provides mental health resources and help and education to anyone on over 500 campuses in North America. He thinks that college is a very important, formative time in people's lives, and that it's important to support people with services like this.

Levi's panel was a whirlwind of laughter, tears, and excitement. He is a highly entertaining speaker, and seems like a very kind, caring person.

Fans can look forward to seeing more of Levi in the second Shazam! film, which is currently in development and is expected to start filming next year. 

Zachary Levi at FanExpo Canada in Toronto. Photo by Sam Hodder.

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