Yvonne Strahovski: How to Manage Being an Overnight Success

TORONTO -- Has this ever happened to you? You travel halfway across the world to break into Hollywood, and three days later, you're the star of a hit television show.

Didn't think so.

But it did happen to Yvonne Strahovski, the long, blonde spy-babe on NBC's Chuck and the lone pretty face of Killer Elite, the assassins' smackdown opening Friday.

"L.A.'s been kind to me," the Sydney, Australia, native told The Price of Fame at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

If "kind" means prime-time stability, a growing list of credits, and a paycheck with lots of crooked numbers, then, yeah, Strahovski's got it made in La-La Land. Overnight success introduced her to the showbiz version of personal finance -- a gaggle of handlers who keep Yvonne & Co. up and running while she clocks long hours on the set.

As soon as Strahovski signed on for Chuck -- just 72 hours after landing in California -- an associate told her she'd need the full-service team, the whole megillah: publicist, manager, agent, accountant and masseuse. (OK, we threw in the last one.) Warned that it would be impossible to tend to financial details herself once the cameras started to roll, Strahovski rapidly went from "Why do I need all these people?" to freshly minted Tinseltown pragmatist. "I saw the beauty of it very quickly, and I really don't know what I would do without a team of people around me to help me forge my career," she said.

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That career is clicking along nicely. Strahovski, 29, begins her fifth season on Chuck (premiering Oct. 21) as a super-spy who looks after a high-value target named Chuck (Zachary Levi). And she's now married to him. Chuck struggled with ratings last season but has a devoted core following. On hiatus, Strahovski managed to squeeze in the Killer Elite gig as Jason Statham's farm-bound chickie. Clive Owen and Robert De Niro also star in the film.

She says she didn't sign up for the movie to expand her demographic following, but an A-list testosterone fest certainly won't hurt. "I'm looking forward to reaching out to other fan bases and other audiences through the film and through the other actors," she said. Anybody who's on "Bob" terms with De Niro gets our vote of confidence.

Her life wasn't always a trans-hemispheric trip to fame and fortune. Strahovski once worked a series of cafe waitressing jobs. Then, she ushered in a Sydney movie theater, but left the silver screen -- or at least the candy-sticky floor in front of it -- for a gig on Australian TV. She never worked a day job again.

All the while, she knew she would have to learn an American accent if she wanted to make it big. Strahovski took dialect classes long before she boarded her flight to the States. "You have to have a good American accent," she said with Down Under flourish. "Hollywood is the be-all and end-all for large-scale productions."

She also got there without succumbing to the pressure of having to keep up with the Joneses. Just like an overnight success should. Said Strahovsky: "I've never really bought into stuff like that."

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