A few weeks back I had the opportunity to talk with Timothy Hutton about his new show Leverage on TNT call with other online media outlets on a conference call. There was a little mess-up with call-in number, so by the time I got on, I had no idea what had already been asked and didn’t want to ask a repeat question. So, I ended up asking him about his TV viewing habits, figuring that no one else probably had. You may also be interested in listening to my interview with Gina Bellman and executive producer Dean Devlin about the show. Anyway, here’s what he had to say.
Question: I was wondering what made you want to be a part of the show Leverage?
Timothy Hutton: Well, I read the script last year in the fall and pretty much by page three I thought, this is pretty great.
I like the character I was reading, Nate Ford. And I like the set up. I like the idea, this guy having once been an insurance investigator, now working with these hackers and these thieves and these con artists. And I – it was a pretty well-rounded story for me, a lot of drama, a lot of levity, as well. It felt like a good caper story. So it was something that I was interested in right away.
Q: What about your role have you found challenging?
Hutton: Well, what’s been challenging, I guess, is we just finished the season. We did 12 one-hours. And each one is different.
And there’s a lot about the character’s past that comes back to haunt him every once in a while and threatens to break up the team that we’ve put together. And two very significant characters from his past show up at some point during the season and really start to unravel him.
And everything comes rushing back that he’s been trying to move away from and move on from in his life. Tragedy involving his son and the breakup of his marriage and he was broke and living in his car.
So I guess the challenging part was to understand that that is definitely part of the guy’s existence, but the other part is that he’s able to, kind of, rejoin the world and have a sense of purpose by getting out of his own head and tragedies that have surrounded him by helping other people. And that that’s the satisfying part of what he does.
Q: What’s been your most memorable moment you’ve had from filming Leverage?
Hutton: Gee, probably, I don’t know that I have one. There were a lot of different situations where I got to play other parts while playing the part I was playing.
And how that happened was, we’re in the middle of a con, for example, and Nate decides that organizing a poker game would be a good idea to lure some of the bad guys to the game and that he himself is going to be the host of the game.
So he decides to put on a persona of a card shark from Texas. So I got the accent going and the ten gallon hat. That was pretty fun; that was memorable to play another part in the show. I mean, its Nate doing it, but doing it for the purpose of, like, a sting operation.
Question: I really enjoyed the pilot. I wanted to know, were you surprised at the amount of work that goes into shooting a show like this as opposed to your film work?
And then when we started filming the one-hours, we just finished a couple of days ago, each one felt like its own separate movie. But again, it was so well organized on the part of Dean Devlin and John Rogers and TNT that it was like we were working on a different – every time we got a new script it was like we were handed a new movie script. And it was really a blast to work on.
Question: Would like to know, what is it about a show like Leverage that will make it appealing to viewers? What will lead viewers wanting more?
Hutton: I think the real appeal of the show is getting real satisfaction in the revenge aspect of the show.
Seeing some hideous person take advantage of someone, either by denying them medical claim or taking their home away from them by putting a lien on it or an unfair foreclosure or, you know, there’s a lot of different subjects that we tackle. And I think that the fun of the show, why people will enjoy seeing it week to week, is seeing somebody helped out who’s been deeply wronged.
They come to our team and we figure out a way to get their life back together and take out the person who took advantage of them in the first place.
Question: I wanted to find out – I thought the show felt like a modern-day Mission Impossible, almost, with the technical aspects and the teamwork related to it. What drew you to the character of Nathan Ford?
Hutton: Well, the thing that I liked instantly when I began reading it was, I thought, this is a guy with a lot of demons, a lot of bad things have happened and how he’s handling it is not particularly healthy.
So I thought that was an interesting starting point for a character. Somebody who desperately wants to pick himself up and rejoin the world, but just can’t until he’s challenged in the pilot to go about – take on this case by working with these different hackers and thieves.
All of which he’s either arrested in the past; one of them even shot at him, the Sophie character. So it was intriguing to me that this idea – that’s a great starting point for a character, who almost has nothing, as far as he’s concerned, doesn’t have much to live for broke, living in his car, doesn’t have a job anymore.
And the way he gets out of that is by getting out of himself and helping other people. That’s where he finds redemption.
Question: I noticed that the whole group of you seemed to have gotten really close and I wonder if you could give me a sentence or two on your cast mates and/or their characters.
Hutton: Well, they’re all great group of people. Gina Bellman is fantastic in her character. She must have played not just Sophie Devereaux, but I don’t know, about 12 characters in addition to that character in the course of the first season. She’s a master with accents.
Christian Kane is the enforcer and he did all his own stunts, as did Beth Riesgraf. And Aldis Hodge has just incredible presence and great comic timing. They’re just, really great group of people, very fortunate to be working with them.
Question: I just had a quick follow-up. Do you see any difference in working on a cable drama as opposed to what you did with Kidnapped on NBC?
Hutton: Not – I don’t know actually how to exactly answer that. You just – only because they’re such different shows and Kidnapped feels like so long ago.
It wasn’t really, but it feels that way. I’ve worked in a lot of different things since then. And the other thing to remember is that with Kidnapped, I was only signed on to that show for one year. And it’s unfortunate that that show didn’t work out.
Leverage has just been so much fun to make. Everything about – every possible element from the cast to the crew that we worked with, the fact that it’s on TNT, that it’s Dean Devlin’s company that John Rogers put together this amazing writing cast, and the premise of the show, everything just feels really right about it.
I’m very excited and I think audiences are going have a lot of fun going along the ride and waiting out, you know – seeing the revenge happen along with the team.
Question: How are you able to personally relate to the character of Nate? Do any of your own personality traits come through into the character?
Hutton: Well, you try not to bring any of your own personal stuff – when the role is good and the material is strong, there’s no need to try to input any of your own experiences or personality or anything like that into the character.
This is a character that has very specific things in his past that are haunting him that make him need to, kind of, find a purpose again. And that’s kind of how we meet him in the first show. And then as the season goes on, you really start to see him warm up, more and more, to the group he’s working with and really take an active role in the cons, himself.
And so no, it’s very good character development was there in the script to begin with. And I just, kind of, went with that.
Question: Just a follow-up, why do you think people want to take their time to tune in and watch Leverage?
Hutton: Well, I think if they watch Leverage, they’ll see – there’s great satisfaction in seeing somebody who’s had something taken from or denied – something’s been denied – there’s great satisfaction in seeing this team that we have come in and right or wrong – someone who’s been taken advantage of, we get to the heart of it and figure out how it’s happened and figure out how we can seek revenge and also provide justice.
So I think that’s where audiences will connect. Some of it is very timely. There’s one show we did having to do with wrongful foreclosures, where people were duped into thinking they had one sort of set of mortgage payments, when actually they were duped into paying more than they – it made them go break.
And a lien was put on their home and their home was taken away. So we do a show where we go after a contractor who’s taken over people’s homes, post-Katrina. I think people really get into this idea of getting even. I like the tag, “Get ready to get even.”
Question: I was going to ask you, why this show is especially timely now with companies doing bad things to people, but, I guess …
Hutton: If I can – I kind of look at – it’s not so much the companies, I think its individuals who happen to be in companies. But it always traces back to an individual.
And that’s how we can kind of approach the show; that we’re going after the people that – yes, there are companies that have certain questionable policies. But there’s always – you can always bring that back to an individual or individuals, and those are the people we go after.
Question: I have a question for you, a little about Hollywood. Your dad was an actor and you’d been in the industry quite a while after having won your Oscar, et cetera. How has the industry changed – Hollywood changed in terms of working in movies and TV – if you’ve seen it change or evolve?
Hutton: Well, I think it’s normal for there to be change. I guess, sometimes when you’re in it, you might not see the change as clearly as if you took a step away from it. But I mean, since I’ve been doing it – certainly in the area of television it used to just be networks and now you have so many different cable channels that are doing amazing programming along with great programming on the networks as well.
But the independent film has evolved in quite a ways since I started. You have to wonder if certain films that you did when you were younger – they were, let’s say, more dramatic, perhaps, quiet, intense films. You have to wonder if they would be made by studios today or made as independent films and go the festival route.
So there are certainly changes in that area. But having said all that, to me, there’s not a big difference between how films are made when I started out and how they’re made now.
It’s the same equipment – I mean yes people are shooting digital and all that. But it still feels kind of the same, and I enjoy what I do.
Quesiton: I was wondering, do you get a chance to watch much TV? And if so, what types of show do you like to watch?
Hutton: Well, I just – there was a show that I always wanted to watch but I always missed and that was The Wire. And I just ended up watching all – every season of that; did kind of a marathon. I thought that was just an amazing show.
Right now, I enjoyed watching the second season of Mad Men. I think that’s a great show, and yes.
Question: First and final, what would you like to say to everyone who’s a fan and supporter of your work?
Hutton: I would say, check out Leverage, I think you’ll really enjoy it. From week to week it’s a very fun show with a lot going on.
Leverage premiered on Sunday, December 7th on TNT and begins playing new episodes in its regular timeslot tonight, Tuesday, December 9th. The premiere episode, “The Nigerian Job,” will replay right before tonight’s new episode.