Why you'll see Chuck's Zach Levi with a bunch of CG Chipmunks

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Zachary Levi, star of the television series Chuck, told SCI FI Wire his next role will be playing opposite Jason Lee and three CGI chipmunks in the "squeakquel" to Alvin and the Chipmunks. "That will be out at Christmas, and hopefully it will be gangbusters, like the first one was," Levi said in an exclusive interview Thursday in Santa Monica, Calif. It will be good to be part of a film that's a big studio film that does really well, that kind of opens those doors."

The original Alvin and the Chipmunks starred Lee as Dave Seville, a struggling songwriter who strikes gold when he takes in three chipmunks. Levi revealed that he plays a relative of Lee's character. "I play kind of like the new Dave," he said. "Dave is still in it—Jason Lee is still in it—but something happens that prevents him from being able to take care of the Chipmunks the way he normally does, so I have to step in as the burnout cousin of Dave Seville who really just wants to play video games all day. Art imitating life imitating art."

Levi said that the shoot gave him enough time to master the game his character played in between takes. "Literally, they gave me a [Nintendo] DS with only one game, and I was so bummed," he said. "I was like, 'Really?' It was like this cheesy racing game, and I destroyed it. Because they had this one scene where I was just supposed to be playing it and then turn it off, but you do it so many times that in between takes I'd be like, 'I'm right here.'"

Levi also said that the film's use of CGI for the chipmunks presented him with new challenges as an actor. "Well, you're working with stuffed animals and thin air, which is more than I get from some actors I work with," he joked. "No, I'm kidding. I had a great time doing it, and hopefully it will do well—and I think it will. They've done an amazing job of protecting this franchise; they've always maintained the integrity of it and the fun of it, and it has both child entertainment and content that adults can have fun with because they're bringing their kids." Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel opens Christmas Day.