Tonight, TNT's Leverage returns to finish out its fourth season - and stars Beth Riesgraf (Parker) and Timothy Hutton (Nate) joined me recently to talk about what's headed our way.
Leverage was one of TNT's early successes in scripted television, following The Closer and Saving Grace but predating the likes of Dark Blue, Hawthorne, Men of a Certain Age, Memphis Beat and Rizzoli & Isles. Led by Academy Award winner Hutton, the talented ensemble cast - which also includes Angel's Christian Kane, Coupling's Gina Bellman and Friday Night Lights' Aldis Hodge - has led us through four seasons of lighthearted capers and heists, and will be back for a fifth.
Here's what Beth and Tim had to say about the end of season four...and even where they might see their characters at the very end.
We've been looking forward to Leverage's return for awhile now, but are there any specific scenes from these upcoming episodes that you particularly enjoyed?
Timothy Hutton: There are some scenes in the season finale that I liked very much. I enjoyed doing some scenes with Tom Skerritt [who plays Nate's father Jimmy Ford].
There's also an actor named Drew Powell - he was in a show that we did in season one ["The Twelve-Step Job"] and he comes back. There's a lot of the episode where it's just me and Drew Powell - Nate and Hurley out on the road, trying to run away from trouble. I enjoyed very much doing some scenes with him. That was fun.
At the end of the day the scenes that I like the most are when the five Leverage folks are together trying to figure out what to do when there is a crisis. When Plan A doesn't work, and we have to shift into Plan B, Plan C, Plan D. All these different things start to come up and you see the characters at their best and at their worst all at the same time. Those, I think for all of us, are really very enjoyable to do.
Tim, you just kind of hit on my next question - there are quite a few returning characters in the back half of season four. Was there anyone you were particularly excited to see come back?
Timothy Hutton: There are some interesting, really wonderful actors that are coming back who created these kind of great characters on the show - Wil Wheaton [as Colin "Chaos" Mason], Richard Chamberlain [as Parker's mentor Archie], and as I mentioned, Drew Powell.
Beth, you get to do some pretty outrageous stuff as Parker - not just the stunts but also the various types of comedic situations she gets thrown into.
Beth Riesgraf: I love doing comedy, and I love the physicality of both the stunt work and the comedy that I get to do. In "The Experimental Job," it's a mix - dealing with [Parker's] relationship with Hardison, and also there's a fight scene where I got to break a chair over a guy and then took another one in the face, and do all kinds of fun things. I feel really lucky that I get to mix it up as much as I do. The writers are really generous with giving us lots of interesting material to work with.
Is there anything you'd like to see for her in the future?
Beth Riesgraf: I want to see her strengthen by being more certain about herself and the people she is around, being able to trust them and loyalty and all those things. I'd like to see her just keep getting stronger and better at what she does. I love that. I just want to see her continuing to develop without normalizing too much.
I think that it is important to keep Parker unique and quirky and dangerous, because without that she's not Parker. I want to be sensitive to that. I want to make sure we're careful about it and that the adrenaline junkie in her stays there. I definitely want to be aware of the things that need to be kept true.
You've also developed quite a fan following that's unique to usually the more genre-type shows. What's been some of the most rewarding response that you've gotten?
Beth Riesgraf: Between the writers, producers, actors and the crew, we all have had someone come up to us at one point or another and say the show has somehow affected them in a positive way. I've heard families [have started] to reunite by watching the show - that's happened a few times. I've gotten messages on Twitter about people seeing some content on the show and they were in a similar situation, whether it was trouble with a bank or their house or some sort of immoral injustice happening, and seeing it on the show sparked some idea and they were able to go find help and do something about it which is pretty major.
I feel like I am a part of something that represents justice and helping the little man. And right now in this day and age it's really important to create hope and a spirit of play for people and I feel like our show does that. That has been incredibly rewarding. Obviously it's the entertainment industry, and I'm not coming up with cures for all diseases or anything like that, so I know the context of it, but I also know that people have shared things like that with us and that really makes all the difference.
Leverage is known for surprising the audience; was there anything in these upcoming episodes that surprised you when you read the scripts?
Beth Riesgraf: There are actually a few things that surprised me. We broke format quite a bit this year in general, but in the back half of season four, we essentially do a spoof of The Office, in the episode "The Office Job."
We experiment a little bit with what Parker and Hardison would have been like had they gone to college - pushed some of those buttons and because they are not like normal people, the way they react [is] in different ways than maybe your average college kid.
There's another one that I really like - it's actually two episodes. It's "Girls' Night Out" and the next week is "Boys' Night Out." Both episodes take place on the same night, but you get to see what the girls were doing and then, [the] next week, what the guys were doing at the same time. I think fans are going to get a kick out of it, because if they're paying close attention, they'll catch a few things that are pretty funny.
In the season finale, we actually call on some old friends to come back, and I loved the idea and the way that the writers approached that finale. It's something we've touched on before, but they brought it to a whole new level.
Speaking of finales, you guys will have done at least five seasons, which is a very healthy run for a TV series these days. Although we certainly don't want you to go anywhere, have you two thought at all about where you'd like to see these characters wind up at the end?
Timothy Hutton: I was going to say on a happy farm.
Beth Riesgraf: With all of us raising chickens.
Timothy Hutton: Yes, just sort of a happy farm somewhere, all together with their families and their significant others. (laughs) Probably as far away from each other [as possible]. I don't know - they're just starting to work together really well and then there are little interpersonal situations going on between some of them. It'd be interesting to see. The writers have some pretty amazing ideas about that very thing.
Beth Riesgraf: I'd like to see them all very rich. Not that money has anything to do with it, but I think as long as they can keep pulling their cons off, they will be able to help people and sort of do what makes them feel good, and travel and do all the other things they love doing together or separately.So just seeing the agency prosper I guess. I want to see them all succeed on many levels. I think we all probably want that.
Well, hopefully we'll see them for quite a few more seasons. Leverage returns tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on TNT with "The Experimental Job." Stay tuned following the episode for my review!
(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.