The Marvel's 'Thor: The Dark World' star talks raising money for charity in San Diego, his Tony nomination, and more!
You probably know Zachary Levi best from his role as Chuck in ‘Chuck’ or Flynn Rider in “Tangled” or even Fandral in Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World.” But if you’re not aware, for the past five years Zachary has been offering a free event of celebrity panels, gaming and more in San Diego during Comic-Con to raise money for the charity Operation Smile called Nerd HQ.
We recently spoke with him about what he has planned for this year, who from Marvel has been there in the past and much more!
Marvel.com: First off, congrats on the Tony nomination. That’s awesome.
Zachary Levi: Thank you, man! That was super weird and cool and humbling. It was a ride, but I’m happy to be on the other side of it and it was all kind of — the stress and the pressures and the things. It’s like “Oh My Gosh” and you finally get there and it’s like, “Alright, done cool, great,” let’s go dance and party the night away” so I did that. I did that well.
Marvel.com: So we’re here to talk about Nerd HQ. Did you ever think it was gonna become as big as it’s become now? I mean this thing’s getting huge.
Zachary Levi: I don’t know if it’s really that huge or at least not the footprint of it. I mean we’ve maintained a pretty similar footprint even from the first year. It’s definitely gotten bigger in the minds and hearts of people. I guess to answer your question, yes. I always believed that it could be really awesome and that we could stand the test of time and we could be solvent and do well as a company while simultaneously raising a whole bunch of money for Operation Smile and making fans and celebrities really stoked. That’s like the mission statement. How do we make money as a company? How do we raise money for OpSmile? And how do we do all that while giving everybody an awesome experience where everyone walks away from it going, “That was [expletive] awesome! I loved that, that was super cool!” And to that extent, I think we’ve succeeded pretty well.
I mean, there’s been a few hiccups here and there and some people had some complaints like with anything, I guess. But we always tried to remedy that as best we can and you can’t please everybody, but you know, starting in Jolt’n Joes six years ago — and I can’t believe it’s the sixth year we’re doing this.
But The New Children’s Museum — we have an entire building, but we had the entire building at Jolt’n Joes and Block Sixteen too. It’s 200 people in the panel room, one panel room. It’s parties every night on the dance floor, it’s video games — we probably have more video games now than we’ve ever had before, which is nice.
But now, in addition to live streaming just on our YouTube, we’re live streaming again with IGN, but also on Facebook and Xbox Live so people can watch — we have four options where people can watch the live streams. And what else? Uh, photo booths are back, Smiles For Smiles. But this year, which is a really cool kicker… so Johnson & Johnson have been a supportive sponsor of Operation Smile for many years so I met with them, I figured this out at some other Johnson & Johnson event that was benefitting OpSmile. They created this Donate-A-Photo app where they basically for every photo you donate, one per day, you can raise a dollar for the charities they’re supporting at the time and I was like “Listen, guys. We do Smiles For Smiles, these photo booths at Nerd HQ. Would you guys wanna like partner with that? And we could do Donate-A-Photo, Smiles For Smiles you know at the same time.” And they were so game so they came in as a sponsor so now we’re raising even more money with Johnson & Johnson while we’re simultaneously raising money just doing what we’ve already been doing so that’s baller.
We got a new app this year because, you know, you always gotta update your apps. And you can book all of your video game play and stuff through that. We still have our RFID so again, admission to HQ is free. But you just gotta come up and register, get your RFID so we can keep track of how many people are in the venue at any given time and Bob’s Your Uncle, you know? It’s similar to what we’ve had in the past, but just kind of turning the screws and getting it tighter. Just making it a more streamlined thing.
Marvel.com: And for fans who are going to Comic-Con, the museum is really close.
Zachary Levi: Oh yeah, it’s right there in the Gaslamp! It’s directly across the train tracks from the convention on the north west side if you’re looking at the convention center! Right there in downtown. And it’s an awesome building, it’s a brand-new building and they built it just a few years ago and again, admission is totally free. You just gotta walk up, register and you’re in and you can go play with all the tech and video games that we got to offer and then the panels and the photos all cost 20 bucks per head or whatever, but all that goes to charity and all the Smiles For Smiles will be updated on the app so you’ll get dinged as soon as one of those gets announced and if any panels come up or added things or tickets become available, that happens to the app as well. You know, the app is a really helpful thing to have for all updates.
Marvel.com: Speaking of panels, who from Marvel have you had on panels in the past?
Zachary Levi: Marvel-wise, well we had some of the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” cast and “Agent Carter” cast. Clark [Gregg] and Chloe [Bennet] and then Hayley [Atwell] and James [D’Arcy]. And Joss Whedon, Tom Hiddleston. We’ve had Joss many times and you know it’s just tough. If you’re one of the main stars of a Marvel movie, you’re down at Comic-Con, you’re pretty busy. We have to grab ya and get ya so…
Marvel.com: Speaking of that, what’s up with Fandral?
Zachary Levi: I don’t know, but I’m sure all the questions will be answered soon enough.
Marvel.com: Have you been keeping up with anything Marvel recently?
Zachary: No. To be honest, because the last year of my life has been so nutty I was living in Toronto then back to L.A. real quick and then here to New York and doing the play. And so I haven’t really had a lot of time to catch up on stuff, but I watched a little bit of “Jessica Jones” and I liked that and I’m looking forward to how all of that stuff comes together and how it all plays into the film world but I’ve been real behind the times, man. There’s so many movies I have yet to watch and so many shows I have yet to watch. I mean, obviously we’re getting to the Infinity series or Infinity War. I don’t know exactly how Marvel is gonna bring it all together necessarily because I read all those comics and that’s the whole world. It’s great that Spidey’s back but clearly we’re going into the Infinity Gauntlet conflict so it’ll be interesting. I’m looking forward to it.
Visit Nerd HQ and Operation Smile for more information and follow Zachary on Twitter here.