LEVERAGE: Dean Devlin on the Show’s Uncertain Fate
December 10, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
There are only three episodes left of LEVERAGE this season, but there’s a slightly bittersweet twist — because TNT has yet to make a decision about whether the show will return for a sixth season, these could be the final episodes of the series, too.
And with that uncertainty in play, the creative team behind the show decided to not take any chances: the final episode of the year, “The Long Good-bye Job,” is actually how they’ve always intended to end the series.
I spoke with executive producer Dean Devlin about choosing to air their series finale now, what fans can expect from these final episodes, if there might be life for these stories beyond the television series, and more…
How are you holding up with the uncertainty of LEVERAGE’s future?
Dean Devlin: We’ve had a remarkable run, and these next three episodes that are about to air are incredibly important to me. And I hope everybody’s going to watch them.
I assume there is no news from TNT about the show’s future since you wrote the letter explaining that the season finale could function as a series finale?
DD: No, nothing has changed.
Is that frustrating? The show is in its fifth season, you’re a couple of weeks away from a potential series finale, and you don’t know where you stand with the network…
DD: I don’t really look at it that way. First of all, to get five seasons of a show in today’s world is really rare. Right now I believe we’re the longest-running show on TNT. And TNT is in a very difficult situation: they have some amazing pilots they’ve developed and they need to see those pilots [before] they decide. It’s not like they can put us all on the air; they only have so many spots.
I know they’d like to do a season 6. But they have a lot of stuff to choose from. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes; that’s a tough call for them to make. They have really big, exciting, bold pilots. So, I think until they look at them and test them and get their arms around it, I don’t think they can make a decision.
I’m impressed with how understanding you are.
DD: You know, they’ve been the best partners I’ve ever had in my life. They’ve supported the show from the beginning, both creatively, financially, they’ve done everything they can to do to embrace us and allow us to tell the stories the ways in which we want. So I have nothing I can complain about in the treatment we’ve got. To make 77 episodes, it’s remarkable. I don’t envy the position they’re in. I get how difficult it is.
But at the same time, we felt we had to make decisions based on what we know, and what we know is we get the rest of this year. So we thought maybe it’s time we do this ending we always planned on, just in case. Because if there isn’t [more], it would be such a shame for the show to just vanish without the proper conclusion we’ve been working on for five years.
That absolutely makes sense. At what point in the season did you guys decide to pull the trigger actually end the year with the episodes you planned to make the series finale?
DD: Even in the best case scenario, we figured there are only two, three seasons left anyway. No show goes beyond that. So we said, let’s start building towards that conclusion at the very start of the season. And then as we got about halfway through the year, we thought, we’re not getting any word, we know how difficult it is to get a season 6, maybe we better not take the chance. So instead of dropping in three or four episodes that were going to lead to the thing [ending the series], literally every single episode from that point forward we started dropping in elements that were going to be essential for the finale.
With all this uncertainty, have you given any thought about where the show would go beyond season 5? Or are you hedging your bets and living in the moment?
DD: I think there are a lot of ways it could go, but quite frankly, there’s too many unknowns to know. There are too many different things that could happen. So, we just felt like, we have to play the cards that have been dealt, we have to honor the people that have stuck with us for 77 episodes. We really need to conclude this properly. If we’re given the opportunity to go forward, it would be a challenge, but a challenge I would welcome.
If it moves forward, would it be a different kind of show? Perhaps have a different feel?
DD: I don’t know. Honestly, I know it sounds like I’m being coy, but the truth is I don’t know. I think if we got the call and said, let’s do it, we’d have to figure out how do they want to do it? Do they want to do another full season, another shortened season, a series of movies? I don’t know what they’d want to do. How many writers will I have lost at that point? Who’s coming back, who isn’t? There are so many things that have to be adjusted. But it’s a fantastic challenge. I love challenges like that. I think that’s what makes our business exciting, interesting, is trying to do the impossible all the time. But we really got to a point where it was like, we only know so much. So we have to do the right thing. And I feel like we did.
Yeah, of course. This season — at least from the outside looking in — has felt like there was a clear trajectory, which may end up being a little heartbreaking, but at least it’s an earned end.
DD: Look, any time there’s a series finale, there’s always fans who are angry, there are fans who love it. Just ask [SOPRANOS creator] David Chase. [Laughs] I hope we’re not as controversial. I hope at the end of this episode, people will feel like, “Wow. I get what the entire arc of the show is now. And this is exactly where it should have ended.” Because that’s how we feel.
On that note, what can you tease about these final episodes?
DD: Each episode this season that had an element that when you get to the end of the [finale] you’ll see, “Oh, I get why that was in those episodes.” The next one is directed by Marc Roskin, the episode after that is directed by Jonathan Frakes, and I directed the last one. The three of us have really been at the heart and soul of LEVERAGE from day one. So, each of us gets our chance to put our last touch on the show. For us, it was the exact way we wanted to go out.
What were the emotions on set as the show’s fate was really up in the air?
DD: It’s interesting, when you watch these next two episodes, they’re very much what we’ve come to love about LEVERAGE: they’re fun, they’re light, but they have some weight to them. The weight gets a little bit heavier by the end of the second episode.
And when we get to the third one, the finale, it’s not a typical LEVERAGE episode at all. It’s a very intense episode. It’s the darkest episode we’ve ever done. It’s the most powerful episode we’ve ever done. But we had to, because where this train has been going has been into this tunnel. It’s a very powerful show. It’s a different episode, but I think it’s the correct conclusion of all the things we’ve been building to.
I know some of the cast has been vocal on Twitter to try and rally support for for another season. Is there any hesitation about that, given that it would be natural to want to go out on top/the way you guys intended?
DD: Well, I’ll be honest: we’re trying to have our cake an eat it, too. We’re trying to do the right thing and end the show properly…but none of us want to get up from the table. We all are enjoying each other, we’re enjoying the show, there are a lot of stories we’d still like to tell. So we don’t feel like we’ve run out. We feel like we could produce a couple more seasons at a quality level that’s as good — if not better — than we’ve done before. So we’d love to have that opportunity.
But without knowing if we were going to get it, we thought, you know, you have to honor what we’ve been given by this really remarkable fandom. A fandom really none of us were expecting to encounter on this show — especially the actors. They’re really blown away by the support they’ve been getting. And me too, to be honest. I’m blown away by how involved in the show they are, how passionate they feel about our stories and our characters. So you have to pay that back at some point. And we felt that if we didn’t get the opportunity to do that and it just vanished, it would have been unjust. And if LEVERAGE is about anything, it’s about justice.
If this is it, is there anything you wish you had the chance to do that just never came up in these 77 episodes?
DD: Only these other stories we didn’t get to tell. You know, and maybe we’ll find another way to tell them if we can’t do the show. There are literally a pile of stories we just haven’t had the time to get to yet. And every year we go, “Are we going to do this one this year? Aw, we can’t, we have these other ones to get to.” There are still several dozen stories we’d like to tell. That’s my only regret.
That actually perfectly leads to my next question: if this is the end of the televisions series, do you see the story continuing on in some other medium, be it comics or something else?
DD: You know, we’re open to everything. That’s the lovely thing about owning the show and not having it owned by a studio — we could do anything. There’s no door we couldn’t walk through if we felt it was appropriate. And it’s been such a remarkable experience to make a show on a network without a studio being involved, and so it’s allowing us to look at it for what it is and also with a mind open for all the possibilities that could happen in the future.
Good to hear. If this is the end, is there a particular episode or group of episodes or season that you think you’ll look back on and go, “When I think of LEVERAGE, I’ll think of the show being like this”?
DD: That’s a great question, because so often I’ve tried to nail down, “Okay, my favorite episodes were these.” And then someone will be like, what about these other ones, and I’ll go, “Oh, yeah, those were great!” [Laughs]
And right now, just because of the emotion and power of it, the series finale is kind of my favorite episode. As brutal and as tough as it is, it felt like, yes, that’s the right ending to this story. But the next two episodes playing…the next one is in a winery and I love that episode. And the one after that, it has to do with toys at Christmas, which couldn’t be more delicious. Especially with Jonathan Frakes directing. So, I don’t know. Trying to pick is like trying to pick which child is your favorite…it’s just too tough.
The final three episodes of LEVERAGE air December 11th, 18th, and 25th on TNT at 10 PM.
Are you hoping to get a season 6, or are you resigned to this being the end?
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