From executive producer Dean Devlin, who has also directed episodes of the series, the Leverage crew is back for Leverage: Redemption, now in a world where it’s become even easier for the rich to become richer and the powerful to continue to build their power. The familiar team is back, as grifter Sophie Deveraux (Gina Bellman), thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf), hitter Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) and hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) are joined by new blood — corporate lawyer Harry Wilson (Noah Wyle) and Hardison’s foster sister Breanna (Aleyse Shannon), who’s got some tricks of her own. Together, they take on a series of new jobs that are sure to get them into all sorts of mischief.
During a press junket for this new iteration of the series, co-stars Bellman and Wyle (who also directed the episode entitled “The Tower Job”) talked about finding out about the show’s return, picking up the cast dynamics again, the fun of working with this ensemble, what it’s like to direct this show, why Sophie feels like the character that’s changed the most, and the Halloween episode.
Collider: I had so much fun watching this show again. It feels modern and current while still giving us the characters that we know and love, and adding some fresh blood to the whole mix. Gina, with so much of this show really being about cast chemistry, is it scary to come back to the character that you haven’t played in awhile and find those rhythms again?
GINA BELLMAN: It wasn’t scary because we’re all friends. We’ve all stayed in touch and we’ve all checked in with each other. We’ve all discussed this wonderful trajectory of the fan base really pushing for a new imagining of the show. And so, it wasn’t like we were coming together after a long hiatus and seeing each other, like a deer in headlights. The joy of picking up on those rhythms that you’re talking about and picking up on each other’s quirks as performance is really fun. I just laughed. I remember laughing a lot in the first couple of episodes, seeing Christian scowling and seeing Beth’s inquisitive face, and then getting to meet these two new, great characters who came to join us. It was really great to be able to rediscover our own characters through their eyes. It was incredibly helpful for us, as actors, but I think it’s also a really great dramatic device for the show.
Noah, what was it like for you to join this group? You’ve certainly been in some pretty great ensembles yourself, over the years, but this has a very different kind of rhythm. What was it like to find where your character fits into that?
NOAH WYLE: That was the challenge. That was the exercise. Where do I fit? How do I lend my voice and harmonize with the rest of these guys? We’re all working for Dean Devlin, and we’ve all worked for Dean for so long. I feel like it starts with Dean. He has a vision, he has a sensibility, and he has a sense of humor. And then, John Rogers, who’s also been a partner on The Librarian and on the Leverage franchise, also has a singular voice. And because we were all marinated in John Rogers and Dean Devlin soup on our shows, it seemed like we fit very well together. There wasn’t a lot of transition difficulty. It was really fun, and we could tell that it was going to be fun, right from the first table read, which is so indicative of how an experience can go. Usually, it’s a microcosm snapshot. We were all isolated in different rooms, not even at one table, and yet, as soon as those characters started talking to each other again, you could just see how much they love each other and how much this was going to be a pleasurable experience.
Gina, it’s one thing to hear Dean Devlin talk over the years about wanting the show to come back, but it’s a very different thing to actually get financing, get a production together, and get a show going again. Did you really believe that he would do this, at some point, or were you surprised when he said this was actually happening?
BELLMAN: I remember getting the call. We were not in the habit of phoning each other. I adore him, but we’re not phone buddies, and he phoned me out of the blue. He was like, “Hey, Gina, it’s Dean.” I was like, “Hey, Dean.” And he said, “How do you feel about getting the band back together?” I remember screaming and being so excited about it. And then, obviously, these other challenges came along, including the pandemic. I just remember, there were so many moments where my husband would say to me, “Oh, I didn’t think it was going to happen.” I just went, “It’s Dean Devlin. If anyone can pull this off, it’s him.” He’s unstoppable. He’s got so many tentacles and so many fingers in so many pies. He’s constantly hustling, learning, developing. It’s great to work with him. I watched him as director on the first [time around], in the early days of his directing, and working with him as a director on Leverage: Redemption was so different. We’ve all developed over the years, but he has this confidence and swagger. I really think he’s become a hero of mine.
Noah, you also directed for the show. What was unique about directing this show compared to other shows that you’ve directed?
WYLE: This show has a really specific tone. It tackles very serious issues, but handles them with a very light touch, and that’s really tricky. It’s a tricky souffle to not have fall on you. You don’t want it to fall to sentimentally or to too serious or too jokey, so that was the challenge. It’s really predicated on pace. The show has to live at a really fast metronome to keep the engagement alive and keep the plot turning. So, when you’re directing, what you’re most conscious of is the balance between comedy and drama, and the metronomic pace of making sure that everything is flowing and moving the way that a Leverage episode needs to, in order to have a satisfying payoff because there is a built-in musicality to it.
Did you intentionally not want to direct in the first episode or two, so that you had a little time to figure out where you were as an actor in this show before you then also jumped into it as a director, or did you have no say over that?
WYLE: I didn’t really have much of a say. I didn’t really care. Dean, obviously, was going to direct the pilot because he was the general and he should direct the pilot. He landed the army on the beach, and we built the fortifications and started pushing inland. And then, wherever it fell was going to be fine. Sometimes you want to follow an episode that your light in as an actor, so that you have more time to do the prep, but that’s not always the case. You tend to want to just be as flexible as possible. You never know what’s coming, so you’ve just gotta ride the wave.
I love that this show brings two of my favorite things together – New Orleans and Halloween. The Halloween episode is awesome. What was that like to do? Gina, what was your favorite aspect of the Halloween episode and getting to do a job with the three women working together?
BELLMAN: I’m so pleased that you picked that one because that’s one of my favorite episodes of the first part of the season. I love the pilot episode, meeting everyone and coming together, but I really love that episode too. I’m so glad it turns out well. It’s a formula. We did a girls episode in the original show, and then we’re doing girls and boys nights with this season. That was something we got excited about because even though we’ve done it before, it was cool that we got to do another girls episode.
It’s fun because, even though we’re an ensemble, the girls are close and the boys are close. Noah and Christian have their gaming in common and sports. We’re quite in our archetypes, so it’s really fun to do. I really enjoyed watching the boys episode, which I think is going to be in the second half of the season. That was really fun to watch. I really enjoyed working on [the Halloween episode]. I liked that I got to do a funny voice. I got to do that really extreme Southern voice. It was nice to pay homage to that aspect of New Orleans. We were there and it was so dramatic. Because we were there during the pandemic, we couldn’t go and see music and we couldn’t really get to know the character of the city that’s so legendary. So, the fact that we were able to do a Halloween spooky New Orleans episode was really exciting and fun to do. We had so much fun in that final scene, when the boys come back into the headquarters and we spook them out. A lot of the team moments, when we’re an ensemble together, are improvised and it’s a lot of fun to come up with these improvisations where we tease each other. A lot of that is not scripted. There was a lot of unscripted stuff in that episode that came through and that I think works really well.
Noah, we see that this guy is somebody who clearly wants to make amends for things that he’s done in his past. How much of his soul would you say he does get back by the end of the season? Does he get to a place that he’s happier in?
WYLE: Definitely. There’s a wonderful sense of internal growth over the course of the season. The journey of his redemption is the spine of the season in a lot of ways. The midway point is the midway point of his journey. It starts off where he thinks, “If I can just take down some of the guys I used to work with, then my conscience will be cleared and I’ll undo some of the karma.” And then, he slowly begins to realize that it’s not about a single act of contrition or bit of atonement. It’s a lifelong practice. It’s about showing up every day and doing the right thing, and recalibrating your morality in a slightly different way.
Gina, in what ways would you say that Sophie Devereaux has changed the most since the last time we saw her, and how would you say she’s exactly the same?
BELLMAN: In a way, I think she’s changed the most of all the characters because I feel like, without giving any spoilers, even though she’s at a fragile point when we meet her, in the hiatus years, she’s experienced real love and commitment and stability, and all of the things that she was fussing against in the first iteration of Leverage. I feel that she’s really matured, instead of looking for the next thrill and the next adrenaline rush. She’s trying to stand still and figure out where she’s going to find land, where she’s going to find meaning in her life, and where her journey is taking her, in a more meaningful, soulful way. There’s a little bit of conflict and a little bit of resistance, but you have to watch the whole season to see where she learns. It feels like a different, more mature, more evolved Sophie to me.
Was it fun for you to be directed by some of your co-stars, with both Noah and Beth Riesgraf taking on episodes?
BELLMAN: I didn’t know Noah very well, so working with Noah was a bit like just working with another director. With Beth, it was slightly different because obviously I’ve known her for a long period of time, and we’ve worked together as actors so much, and we’ve collaborated a lot. We have a long history. The thing about Leverage is that we do toss each other stuff all the time. I’ll say to her, “Oh, I think you should have this speech,” or she’ll say, “Oh, I think you’d do this gag better.” We already have that relationship, where we give each other advice and guidance and exchanges about the scene, so I knew that she’d be a really good direction from a creative point of view.
And also, I know her as a photographer. She’s always been a photographer, as long as I’ve known her, so I knew she had an amazing visual eye. It was incredibly exciting to see an old friend and someone you’ve collaborated with for a really long time, suddenly come into her own. With Noah, it’s different. You’re with a safe pair of hands. You’re with a seasoned director. It was a bit like working with Jonathan Frakes, who’s also one of our regular directors. Next [season], I think it will be different. If we work together again next [season], we’ll have a different relationship because we’ll know each other on a deeper level. Working with Noah was more like working with a seasoned director, whereas with Beth, it being her first, it had a different emotional resonance.
WYLE: The first day of shooting, Beth showed up and most of the crew and the cast were all wearing t-shirts that said Team Beth on them. That’s the level of support that she had behind her when she started. It was wonderful to see.
Leverage: Redemption is available to stream now on IMDb TV.
Season 2 will premiere December 17 on Netflix.
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