Comic-Con 2010 Leverage Press Room: Conning the Con

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010

Comic-Con 2010 Leverage Press Room: Conning the Con

August 12, 2010 by Ayang  

Leverage was a wholly unexpected, but entirely welcome, last minute addition to this year’s Comic-Con lineup.  It is the story of a modern day Robin Hood and his merry band of thieves who steal from the “rich and powerful” and provide justice to people who have been wronged.  Recently renewed for a fourth season by TNT due to its strong Sunday night showings, the cast and executive producer were thrilled by the show’s reception at the event and talked with reporters after the panel.

Academy Award-winner Timothy Hutton (Nathan Ford, The Mastermind) and Beth Riesgraf (Parker, The Thief) agree that what keeps things fresh after several years of doing the show are the scripts and the characters they play.  They especially enjoy portraying the characters within characters.  Riesgraf says, “As an actor it’s so fun because it keeps your chops up.  You don’t get used to the same thing each episode.”  It is like doing a movie in every episode, Hutton adds, because of all the different characters they get to play.

The actors, however, disagree when it comes to their favorite episodes and heists.  Hutton lists the pilot, “The Bank Shot Job,” as well as “The Snow Job,” as some of the ones he enjoyed the most. While he admits that certain episodes may have worked better in some ways than others, “all of them have just been so much fun to do, every scene.”  Riesgraf likes when Parker is “pair[ed] up with people, when they go in as different characters and pull cons that way.”  Her favorite is “ ‘The Inside Job’ where [Parker] got to hustle on her own though that building.  When we get split up sometimes it’s interesting for the viewer to see everybody operating and you see why they need to be a team.”

Wil Wheaton (Colin “Chaos” Mason), the unofficial King of Comic-Con, returns later this season like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas in “The Ho Ho Ho Job.”  He addresses his earlier career when he “always played sweet, vulnerable guys you were rooting for, but playing sweet and vulnerable is exhausting and it is without reward.”  He is enthusiastic about his recent turns as bad guys in shows like Numb3rs, The Big Bang Theory, The Guild, and, of course, Leverage.  “I kind of have a really great career right now where I get to play wonderfully crafted villains on a wide variety of shows.  It’s almost like being employed full time without the grind that is typically associated with being employed full time.  I still have time to write and I still have time for my family.  And I have these wonderful extended families on the set I get to visit in Vancouver and Hollywood…I’m just incredibly grateful for what I have right now.”  Actors want to be other people and “to exist in situations that you would not normally get to exist in,” he explains. “It’s never not fun to be That Guy.  If that’s who I’m going to be, the guy you love to hate, bring that on.”

Chris Downey (executive producer/writer) maintains that they did not try to model Leverage after Oceans 11, but did note that it is tonally similar.  Previous heist shows “were really dark and highly serialized and just pitch black in tone.  When Oceans 11 came out, people realized heist movies could be fun.  It should be like teenagers pulling pranks.  Ultimately, the show is like an elaborate phony phone call.”  They try to make the show fun by using things like flashbacks, but cannot always do them for financial reasons.

Christian Kane (Eliot Spencer, The Hitter) and Aldis Hodge (Alec Hardison, The Hacker) echo the words of their co-stars in praising the show’s movie every week format and the characters within characters. “We get to put on different hats and masks as an actor.  In that role, we play other actors and that’s the funnest thing in the world,” Kane raves.  Hodge says, “It’s like candy.  You open up your imagination.  You can explore as many roles as possible.  You have more tricks in your arsenal to do whatever else comes at you, you know?  It’s nothing but gaining knowledge.  And I have a voracious appetite for knowledge, especially when it comes to my craft.”

Both Kane and Hodge are in favor of a romance between Hodge’s Hardison and Riesgraf’s Parker.  Kane promises that good things are on the way and shoots down the idea of Eliot and Parker becoming involved.  “That would never happen because Eliot’s kind of trashy and Parker’s a good girl. Parker and Hardison, they gotta be, that’s just the thing.  Hardison’s got a big heart.”  Hodge, who is quick to point out that Hardison is a bad boy who steals things for a living, is looking forward to seeing where Hardison and Parker’s relationship goes and promises that the audience will not be cheated out of it.  “It’s just not gonna happen right now.  ‘Cause then what’s left?  Kids?  No,” he scoffs.

The writers of Leverage are known to incorporate the actors’ real life skills and traits into the characters, which is appreciated by the people who portray them.  For instance, both Kane’s and Hodge’s musical skills were featured in recent episodes, as well as Kane’s love of cooking.  Hodge’s paintings can also be spotted in scenes this season.  Their real life personalities are also on display, according to the actors.  Like his character, Eliot, “I wasn’t a very nice guy.  When it comes to arguing with people, I don’t really talk a lot.  I hit people…” Kane joked.  Like producer John Rogers, Hodge is an ex-stand-up comic.  He began when he was 11 and continued performing for about 7 or 8 years.  He believes that once Rogers became familiar with his “big mouth and sarcasm,” as well as his improv skills, he allowed him “to take [his] character where [he] felt he needed to go with adding the humor and that personality.”  Kane says, “It’s just the greatest thing in the world that we’re doing right now.  The writers no longer have to develop our characters.  They can’t tell us sh*t about our characters. We know ‘em better than they do, so now they get to write.  They get to write their story and trust us with it.”

Fun Q&A:

If you could be a superheroe, who would you be?

Riesgraf would like to be Spider-Man with wings and favors heroes like Iron Man and Wonder Woman.  Hutton on the other hand would like to be the Invisible Man, although he acknowledges that he is not really a superhero.

Favorite characters within characters?

Hodge’s favorites are Iceman and the vet with PTSD and an eye problem from “The Three Days of the Hunter Job.”  Kane, who hates Iceman, likes playing the IT guy, who was his tribute to Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China, one of his favorite movies.

Future projects?

A man of many talents, Hodge is headed to Switzerland to work on his watch company.  He is also writing an independent film.  Kane will be going on radio tour for 3 months after the season wraps. The video for his band’s single, “The House Rules,” features Hodge and was directed by Hutton.

Leverage airs Sundays at 9/8c on TNT

Images courtesy of Ayang and

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