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Lethal Lady

Lethal Lady
When a role calls for tricky, potentially death-defying moves, most actors are all too happy to step aside and let their stunt doubles take over. Not Yvonne Strahovski, who plays ass-kicking CIA agent Sarah Walker on NBC's "Chuck."

"I beg to do all of the stunts," she says with a laugh. "Last night I was on wires and hanging off the ceiling doing cool things. It's one of my favorite parts of the show. I grew up really athletic, and I used to rock climb and hike. And I'm a tomboy in general, so all that physical stuff I absolutely love."

Strahovski encountered physical challenges of a different sort when she nabbed a role as a honeymooner stranded in the Grand Canyon in the psychological thriller "The Canyon," opening this week. "We shot in all sorts of conditions," she recalls. "It was boiling hot at one point. Then there were a couple scenes where it was absolutely freezing cold and I had to wear a little denim skirt and a tank top. I don't think I've ever been that cold in my entire life."

Still, the grueling six-week shoot wasn't without its perks: It gave Strahovski, who had just relocated to the United States from her native Australia, a chance to better explore her new homeland. "I got to travel around Arizona and Utah and all sorts of really cool places," she says. "It was really beautiful. It was a good way for me to get to know the USA."

The actor was still living in Australia when she sent in her audition for "Chuck." She had secured management during a whirlwind two-week trip to the U.S. but couldn't make it out for pilot season. "I was shooting a series over there, and I couldn't be here physically," she says. "I used to hire out a studio, and I would put down my own auditions, and then we would email them over here, and that's how they saw my 'Chuck' audition—on a little Quicktime file. Then I came here, and literally the day after I landed, we got the call saying they wanted me to come in for a meeting. It was crazy, because I had a return ticket to Australia that I never used."

A Childhood Down Under

Growing up in Australia, Strahovski showed plenty of actorly promise from a very young age. As a kid, she'd mount full-scale video productions with friends, crafting her own fake commercials and documentaries. After high school, she attended Theatre Nepean, the actor training institution in the School of Contemporary Arts at the University of Western Sydney. She worked steadily after graduating in 2003, earning commercial gigs for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Schick Quattro, and a paper company (you can view that last one on YouTube). She was also featured in the TV dramas "Headland" and "Sea Patrol" and started her own theater company with a friend.

Strahovski always knew she'd end up pursuing her craft in the U.S. but never imagined she'd land a star-making role right out of the gate. And yet, with her arsenal of tough-gal moves and her sweet connection to leading man Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), Strahovski's Sarah has morphed into a clear fan favorite. "I get a lot of lovely letters and some poetry and stuff," she says, chuckling. "It's very overwhelming—the fan thing—for me. I'm pretty shy. It's not something you're used to, it's not something you can prepare for, and it's not something you even think about until it hits you."

Note to those fans: Despite Subway signing on as an advertising partner for the show's third season, Sarah will not be switching her undercover gig—yogurt jockey at mall chain store Orange Orange—to sandwich artist. "No, there's no Subway," she says bemusedly. "I thought that, too, but we ended up at the Orange Orange again. But there are some surprises in store, certainly, and some new love interests for both Chuck and Sarah."

Despite her busy "Chuck" schedule, Strahovski is making headway in the world of feature films: She recently shot the romantic comedy "I Love You Too," which opens next year. She also hopes to return to the theater sometime in the near future. "I'd love to get back on the stage one day," she says. "I miss it. You don't get to do a million takes; you only get one take, and you take the whole show through to the end."

In the meantime, she's enjoying her time on "Chuck"—stunts and all. "I've done so many of them, we don't even rehearse them anymore," she says proudly. "I walk on set the day of shooting, and they say, 'You're gonna do this, this, and this.' And I say, 'Okay.' "

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