By David Gallaher
A “Mission Impossible”-styled TV show with the ensemble edge of a Joss Whedon series, cult-favorite “Leverage” is set to kick off its 5th season this Sunday on July 15th. MTV Geek chatted with the show’s star Timothy Hutton about his character Nate Ford, what twists and turns we can expect this season — and what stuff makes him “geek out”!
MTV Geek: You play Nate Ford on “Leverage” — a former insurance investigator. What initially attracted you to both the show and playing this particular character?
Timothy Hutton: Well, when I first read the script — for me — I thought is was a fun read. I thought all of the characters were incredibly well-developed. I saw great potential with many, many stories for the characters, Nate and his crew. It had an interesting blend of comedic elements and dramatic conflicts in everyone’s lives and in particular with Nate and where he was coming from. As an actor, going into it there was an opportunity to deal with his past and his present and what he is going to do with his life and with these people righting wrongs in the world. It was a great script. We did the pilot. And everything has just come to together so well after that.
Timothy Hutton as Nate Ford in “Leverage”
Geek: I remember your work in Nero Wolfe. The character you played in the series — Archie Goodwin — had a certain dangerous charm to him. Nate Ford seems to also have that same level of roguish charm to him. Do you see any similarities in the characters?
Hutton: I’ve never heard anybody put it like that. Perhaps they are the same height?
Archie Goodwin felt more like he was from a different time, with different missions. He never really asked any questions. We was always doing the bidding of Nero Wolfe. Nate is much more about process. Archie was a bit more of gambler.
Geek: Nero Wolfe paired you with Kari Matchett — who now plays your ex-wife, Maggie, in “Leverage”. We saw her in the Season 4 finale. Do you think we’ll be seeing her again in Season 5?
Hutton: I’m not sure we’re going to see her in Season 5. We’d all love to see more of her around, much more than just an episode. There was talk about her coming aboard with a much more of an expanded presence, but unfortunately she’s doing “Covert Affairs.” So, I don’t think we’ll be seeing her this year, but she is referred to quite a bit. And there is a nice set up in the future — if “Leverage” keeps going to bring her back.
Geek: Season 4 ended with the “Leverage” crew assembling their own crew — almost like their own team of “Avengers” with guest stars from previous episodes (such as Wil Wheaton). Are there any other previous guest stars returning for season 5?
Hutton: Well, yes. Adam Baldwin will be making an appearance. And also Mark Shepherd will be making an appearance in a VERY VERY interesting way that will make fans of the show really happy. So that’s two I can give you.
Geek: This season finds the team setting up shop in Portland, where the show has been filmed since Season 2. What makes Portland different than say shooting in LA or New York?
Hutton: Once you get past all the economical reasons and how it makes sense for the production reasons and all the great advantages to shooting in Oregon. The city of Portland itself is just and incredible place to shoot in — you can look in any direction and find something different. Right now, I’m looking out a window and there are seven different bridges. To my right is a mountain of forests. On the other side of that is another river. There’s a whole range of interesting buildings. It’s an incredible, very well-maintained city — and you’re not too far from very rural environments.
For the writers, they can write pretty much any scripts. You can write a script about the team going to Vienna. There’s a section of Portland where you can really get away with downtown Vienna. There’s a story where we go to wine country, and of course Oregon has incredible wine and vineyards, and that’s the episode we’re shooting now. So there are so many different locations that are possible. It’s all about that they can come up with. The writers have made a list of possibilities of all the locations that are possible — and they write to those possibilities.
We get to tell stories about vineyards and a win company that’s gone bad. And there’s an incredible aviation museum where the Spruce Goose is being kept. When the writers found that out, we did a story about the air freight industry and corruption going on there and con the guy into buying the Spruce Goose and being conned by the Leverage team into being the only guy after Howard Hughes who would be able to fly it. Cary Elwes in in that.
Geek: The premiere suggests that we’ll see a shake-up in the personal dynamics of the team — with that, I’m sure comes new uncharted territory for character development. Are there any new acting challenges you’ve discovered with your role of Nate in “Leverage’s” fifth season?
Hutton: Well, you know I think when you play a role for a while it can be a challenge — a fun challenge — to find a balance and keep it new and interesting between the lighter moments and the more dramatic moments. And it’s been a great season because of the different shifts that are happening through the season. You really start to see how Elliot and Sophie work together — specifically those two. How Nate and Parker work together. Hardison and Parker are coming together in a way, and have developed a relationship. And you really get a sense this season that new things are on the horizon. Are the five of them going to continue to be able to do this? Do they want to do this? Are they going to want to branch off and do other things? The first episode really touches on that at the very end. And opens up a lot of questions about where Nate seems to think things are going.
Geek: What is one of your favorite scenes from either the season premiere or the upcoming season that you can share with us?
Hutton: This has been everybody’s favorite season so far. We did an episode that’s either the second one shown or the third one shown — it’s pretty early in the schedule. And it’s a hockey episode. You’ve got Elliott infiltrating a hockey team. And tracking down a number of hockey teams to get to the bottom of some evil owner of a hockey team, who tries to hurt his players and permanently injure the enforcer on the team. So, that player’s kid comes to the Leverage team and says ‘there’s something really bad going on here.’
So the Leverage team does their thing. Nate becomes a rival owner. That was really fun to do. And Treat Williams is in that one. He plays the owner the team we’re trying to take down. That was a great one to shoot. We had the stadium — with a professional hockey rink — for five shooting days All trying to look the best we could on the ice. Christian was putting in a lot of hours trying to get ready for that one. And he became a great hockey player. I was was trying to do my best. And Treat Williams had done a lot of hockey in his past and he was out there looking good. We just had a great time filming that.
We did another one — ‘The French Connection Job’ — which was a lot of fun and about a cooking school. The Leverage team using truffles and the scarcity of truffles during a particular time in the year to use and bait to set the bad guy in the school up for a big fall.
And there is another one that was really fun to shoot that Jonathan Frakes directed. It’s called the ‘Give Me a K Street Job” about lobbyists and all that, but really centering on a competitive cheerleading company that puts underage girls at risk. And theam must tackle their most corrupt foe yet — Congress!
Geek: You’ve also developed quite a fan following that’s usually unique to the more genre-type shows. What’s been some of the most rewarding response that you’ve gotten?
Hutton: Well, the most rewarding response is when people talk in great details about specific episodes. Or a moment where Parker looks at Elliott a certain way. OR brings up a certain thing. And two episodes later there’s a similar set up. A lot of times it’s really accidental. But you really get a sense that people following the show aren’t watching just for the stories, but are really interested in the characters. They are fascinated by how the characters relate to one another. To see people recall something in Season Two where Nate mentions something and then refers back to it in Season Four. There’s a level of insight into the show that none of us have. We’re just sort of doing it episode to episode. But to see people so interested in the characters and really appreciate the more comedic moments of Parker and Hardison or be interested in the Nate and Sophie dynamic — all of it — that level of response …you can see they really enjoy being on this “Leverage” ride. It’s really fantastic.
Geek: The series is known for it’s comic book and geek culture references. Growing up, was there ever a superhero you particularly admired? Or any secret geeky hobby you followed?
Hutton: I watched Superman, Batman & Robin, The Thunderbirds. And yeah that was fantastic. But, you know I was always more of a sport kid than I was into comic books or anything like that. I had a big baseball card collection, and I’d try to catch every game. And me and my friends all we’d always talk about were the stats, the plays, and trade possibilities.
Geek: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
Hutton: Thank you. That was a fun interview.
The Leverage Season 5 premiere debuts on Sunday July 15th on TNT!