Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why The Actor Playing Shazam Looks So Familiar

In Shazam!, the latest addition in the DC Extended Universe, a powerful sorcerer grants superpowers to a 14-year-old boy, transforming him into a mega-ripped, full-grown adult. Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and one of the main reasons for the film's buzz is the performance of Zachary Levi, who plays the superhero Shazam. Donning one of the most expensive super-suits ever made, Levi looks like he literally just stepped out of a comic book — and although he was undoubtedly a slam-dunk hire for DC, it's amazing at how many people still don't know who he is.

From leading parts in long-running television series to supporting roles in major blockbusters, Levi has definitely garnered a good bit of respect in the film industry, and it's high time for him to get a shot at headlining his own major movie. Before you see him soar into action, here's a look back at some of the other works you may have seen Zachary Levi star in. Here's why the actor playing Shazam looks so familiar.

Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie (2002)

For his first-ever film gig, Levi nabbed a supporting role in the TV movie Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie. The film, which aired on FX in March of 2002, was, as Variety put it, "An airball of an attempt to dramatically retell the point-shaving saga of Arizona State's 1993-94 basketball season." Starring alongside David Krumholtz, Jennifer Morrison, Theo Rossi and Tory Kittles, Levi played Adam, one of the guys associated with the gambling operation at ASU.

Although the movie was a dud, it was a great opportunity for Levi to add a film credit to his acting resume. Prior to Big Shot, he had only performed in theater productions. His most well-renowned performance on stage was that of Jesus in Godspell at the Ojai Theater, a role that he "loved playing." As Adam, Levi was able to get his feet wet in Hollywood, which potentially acted as a springboard for his career's next big achievement: landing a recurring role on the television series Less Than Perfect.

Less Than Perfect (2002-2006)

ABC's Less Than Perfect was a moderately successful workplace sitcom that debuted in 2002 and ran through 2006. The show followed Sara Rue's Claude Casey, an employee at a television network. Other big names in the cast included Sherri Shepherd and Andy Dick, who played Claude's coworkers; however, it was Levi who truly made a name for himself as Kipp Steadman, Claude's elitist "frenemy" and primary rival. He appeared in all 81 episodes of the series.

Playing Kipp, Levi started to see his life change. In a 2003 interview with Relevant Magazine, the then-22-year-old opened up about his newfound fame: "You get free stuff; you get to be in the newspaper, in magazine articles and on television shows. It's weird. To me, it hasn't all completely sunk in yet. But at the same, I hope it never does... I hope there's always at least a small part of me that's always surprised, always taken aback, always childlike or innocent in the whole process." Considering that in Shazam! he played a 14-year-old in an adult's body, Levi apparently was successful.

Big Momma's House 2 (2006)

2006's Big Momma's House 2, the sequel to Fox's box-office success from six years earlier, starred Martin Lawrence reprising his role of FBI agent Malcolm Turner and his undercover alter ego "Big Momma." Although its premise is very similar to the first film, the sequel does inject a few new facets and faces to its story. One of those new additions is Zachary Levi, who plays FBI agent Kevin Keneally. 

Although Big Momma's House 2 failed to live up to its predecessor in terms of both revenue and reviews (it was shamed with a gnarly 6 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), it was actually a huge milestone for Levi's career, marking the first time his presence would grace the big screen in theaters. You can safely assume that being on the set of a film with a production budget of $40 million was at least slightly different from Levi's sitcom experience.

Chuck (2007-2012)

If you show a random person on the street a picture of Zachary Levi and ask him who he is, there's a very good chance that person will say, "That's Chuck." No, the stranger is not simply guessing a name; that person is referring to NBC's cult favorite TV series Chuck. In his breakthrough role, Levi played Chuck Bartowski, computer-geek-turned-secret-agent. Created by Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz, the show perfectly showcased Levi's full arsenal of acting chops, from humorously innocent to surprisingly badass. His chemistry with Yvonne Strahovski, who portrayed Chuck's CIA handler Sarah Walker, also proved that he could convincingly maintain a love interest onscreen.

Chuck was a major part of Levi's life, and it isn't a role he's soon to forget. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Levi didn't hide his desire to make a Chuck full-length feature film: "I'd love to do it. As far as I know, I'm the only person who's affiliated with the show that's been trying to make it happen on some level. I've had meetings with various people. There's just so many moving parts. The answer is I'd love to still make it happen, even if it's 10 years down the line." If Levi's career continues to blossom, don't be surprised to see Chuck: The Movie eventually hit theaters.

Wieners (2008)

After the first season of Chuck, Levi starred alongside Kenan Thompson, Darrell Hammond and Jenny McCarthy in the road trip comedy Wieners. In the film, Levi, Thompson, and Fran Kranz play three friends who embark on a cross-country mission to hunt down a talk-show host who's wronged one of them. Oh, and they drive a hot dog-shaped vehicle to get there.

Unsurprisingly, Wieners failed to impress audiences and was possibly a low point for Levi's budding career. However, he had to know that the movie wasn't exactly going to be up for any awards from the start; the hot dog car was probably the first of several clues. Still, Levi apparently added a couple high-profile contacts to his phone book while on set, because in the next year's season of Chuck, Jenny McCarthy played a small role in an episode. Coincidence? Who knows? Sometimes in show business, it's all about who you know.

Shades of Ray (2008)

2008's Shades of Ray is difficult to assign a specific genre. With layers of comedy, drama and romance, it really functions more as a cinematic hodgepodge than an easily pigeonholed film. Written and directed by Jaffar Mahmood, who has directed for popular shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the indie drama tells the story of Ray, whose parents are of different ethnic backgrounds, and his quest to find the right woman. 

In the movie, Levi starred in the title role as Ray, marking his first film appearance as the main protagonist. Although Shades of Ray wasn't a box office hit, it did well on the festival circuit, winning various awards. In a 2009 interview with IndieWire, Mahmood noted that the film's casting director and executive producer put together a "dream cast" — high praise for Levi at a pivotal moment in his young career.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009)

Sure, it's cool to be able to say you've starred in projects alongside Hollywood legends like Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep — but only a very select few have the super-cool privilege of saying they've starred alongside Alvin and the freaking Chipmunks. In 2009's Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Levi played Toby Seville, the video game-obsessed cousin of Jason Lee's Chipmunk-daddy Dave.

The kids movie was a major box office hit, raking in over $443 million worldwide and becoming the ninth top-grossing movie of the year. It was also another first for Levi, who had his first chance to act opposite CGI characters onscreen. In an interview with Syfy, he playfully compared the experience to working with some of his fellow actors: "Well, you're working with stuffed animals and thin air, which is more than I get from some actors I work with... No, I'm kidding. I had a great time doing it, and hopefully it will do well." You'd have to be nuts to say it didn't.

Tangled (2010)

Tangled might be the most underrated Disney movie to hit theaters in the 21st century. It has it all: a top-notch lead in Mandy Moore's Rapunzel, a Broadway-ready soundtrack and score, a plot filled with heart, and witty humor and dialogue for audiences of all ages to appreciate. Of course, every Disney princess needs a prince, and Tangled's is Flynn Rider, wonderfully voiced by Zachary Levi. As a swashbuckling vagabond with more to his persona than meets the eye, Levi's Rider won over Rapunzel — and audiences everywhere.

In an interview with Collider, the self-proclaimed Disney fanatic gushed about lending his voice to an animated character. "I'm a huge Disney nut. I have been since I was a little kid. I've always dreamt of doing voices for Disney animation, especially musicals because I love singing too. So the whole idea was a win, win, win, win." Considering the fact that Tangled went on to pull in over half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, it's safe to say that it was a win, win, win for all involved.

Video Game High School (2012)

"Welcome to FPS 101. My name is Ace, and you can call me Ace." So says Ace, Zachary Levi's briefly seen-yet-memorable character in Video Game High School. In RocketJump Studios' web series, video gaming has become the most popular sport in the future, and Video Game High School (VGHS) is an organization that teaches a wide curriculum of various gaming genres. The series has built up a cult following since it kicked off in 2012.

Although he only appeared in three episodes, Levi's time on VGHS left a lasting impression. His Texas drawl and deadpan attitude makes the introduction to his first-person shooter course arguably one of the best scenes in the show's first season. While his career has evolved to a point where he doesn't really need to appear on web series anymore, Levi showed support for Video Game High School the following year by tweeting: "Ace's Rule #315: make more #VGHS."

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Zachary Levi made comic book movie headlines in 2012 when it was announced that he would replace Josh Dallas as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World. In the comics (and in 2011's Thor), Fandral is a charter member of the Warriors Three, Thor's closest, most loyal battle buddies. Although it was a minor role in a film that already had a very crowded cast, most fans felt as though Levi was a great replacement for the part, and his dry bravado worked well with the Asgardian swordsman.

Although Levi's Fandral had a brief (and fatal) cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, he had apparently already reached his wit's end with Marvel. As he told CinemaBlend, Levi was hoping for his character to be killed off because Marvel had failed to develop any of the Warriors Three, and he was apparently grateful that Cate Blanchett's Hela finished the job in Ragnarok. "Let's say they had me be in the Avengers, I'd probably be sitting in Atlanta for three months doing almost nothing while everyone else [worked]...and then they'd be, 'Okay now we're ready for you and you guys go in.' And then we'd get killed then. So the way it all worked out is exactly the way it was supposed to."

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2018)

In the second season of Amazon's Golden-Globe winning series, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Rachel Brosnahan's newly-divorced aspiring comedienne, Midge Maisel, vacations with her family to the Catskills in upstate New York. It is here that Midge is set-up with dreamy doctor Benjamin Ettenberg, played with memorable swagger by Zachary Levi. Midge and Benjamin have a rocky start, but eventually their undeniable chemistry gets the best of both of them.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Levi admitted that although he'd seen the series' pilot, he actually didn't know that the show was picked up before he signed on: "Then I got an offer to join, so my first bit of homework was bingeing the first season, all in essentially a day, and I immediately wanted to be a part of this. It's so well executed on every level, from the top down, and to get to share screen time with Rachel Brosnahan in that role — that's an offer you can't refuse."