LEVERAGE: Dean Devlin on the Show Feeling Revitalized - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

LEVERAGE: Dean Devlin on the Show Feeling Revitalized

September 2, 2012 by  

One of my favorite parts of summer? Getting new episodes of TNT’s LEVERAGE. The series might be in its fifth season, but somehow, at least to me, it hasn’t managed to fall into a slump that most shows that age have experienced.

When I spoke with LEVERAGE executive producer Dean Devlin, he told me he felt the “whole new brand new energy” to the show, too. “I feel like the whole show is revitalized,” Devlin said.

Keep reading for what Devlin had to say about using Portland as the show’s location this year, their fantastic guest stars, which duo’s chemistry in an upcoming episode surprised even him, and much more…

One of the fun things about this season is that it is set in Portland, where the show actually films. What has that done to the writing staff to actually set the show in that location?
Dean Devlin: It’s done a lot of things; it works for us on three levels. Creatively, because it’s a brand new beginning. A new headquarters, a new environment, so that creatively got everybody’s juices going. And then we’ve been there [filming] now for a few years, so to be able to show Portland as Portland, to put a spotlight on all the local business and people who have helped us, and it feels really good to do that; a kind of way to say thank you to a place that has been so kind to us. And it allows us to shoot locations we weren’t able to shoot before because they were so clearly Oregon. So now, we’ve opened up all kinds of locations for us. It’s really been a shot in the arm for us.

What’s been your favorite aspect of being able to use Portland as the background? Was there anything memorable that stood out?
DD: We were the first to actually get to shoot the real Spruce Goose [which was shown in the season premiere]. That was such an amazing thing to be sitting in the Spruce Goose with a film crew, shooting in this incredible historical artifact. It was such a gift. The owner was so generous to allow us to shoot in the museum and shoot on the Spruce Goose. The audience got to see something they had never seen before. In the past, [other people] had to build a set or a replica and they were never allowed to use the real thing [for filming]. Through the generosity of the owner, we were allowed to bring our crew in there and shoot and the actors got to sit in the real seats Howard Hughes sat in. It was crazy.

That’s amazing. I know you tweeted a picture of filming in what looked like a subway a little while back. What can you say about that episode?
DD: We’ve been there over three years now and I went on this location scout, and someone said, “Have you ever seen the subway?” And I went, “Subway? There’s a subway in Portland?!” So we went down there and it was incredible, and I said, “Oh my God, we have to shoot here.”

I got to direct an episode that has a whole part of the show that takes place in the tunnels. They’re amazing. Remarkable.

Which episode is that?
DD: That will be the tenth episode to air. “The Rundown Job.”

That’s great to hear. So, we do know that Mark Sheppard is returning…
DD: Mark Sheppard returns. We have amazing guest stars this year. Just amazing people have been on the show this year.

Nothing to disrespect the previous guest stars, but it feels like you guys have more guest stars this year than ever. Are more actors reaching out to you guys and going, “Hey, we really want to be on your show?”
DD: Some of these actors come from Tim [Hutton (Nate)], because they’re friends of Tim. And some of them come because people have come to be fond of the show. The longer we’ve been on, the more we’ve been exposed to people. And I’ll tell you, in all strange walks of life, I have people come to me and tell me how addicted to the show they are. It’s really the kind of excitement and loyalty that you see in genre shows, like science-fiction shows. But our fanbase has been so remarkable and so dedicated to the show. And I find a lot of actors love the show and want to be on it.

We tried to design the show that even if you’ve missed a couple of episodes, you can still come in and know what’s going on and know that every episode resolves itself. But at the same time, we try to make it that if you do stick with the show, you get something special. You get something on top of it. There are larger arcs that develop, the Easter eggs for those that stick with us.

Speaking of those kinds of little blink-and-you-miss it moments, Adam Baldwin briefly cameo-ed in the season premiere and will return for an actual guest spot later in the season. What can you share about what his presence will mean for Eliot?
DD: You know, the very first acting job Adam ever had was in a movie my father produced called MY BODYGUARD. And he and I have been friends ever since then. And Adam has appeared in many things I’ve done including INDEPENDENCE DAY and THE PATRIOT.  He was a groomsman at my wedding and I was the best man at his, so we have a long friendship and a long work relationship. And I’ve always wanted to have him on the show, but he was on CHUCK. Now that he has some free time, we were able to work out a schedule and get him on the show. So it was a reunion for us to work together, but it was also great to put him back together with both Christian [Kane (Eliot), since the duo were on ANGEL together] and Tim, since he was also in ORDINARY PEOPLE with Tim.

Will there be any winks to those ties?
DD: No, he plays such a different kind of character. But what it does allow us to do is let us learn a little bit more about Eliot and the choices he made in his life, and what dictates how he makes choices going forward, because he has a history with the character Adam plays and that history really reveals why Eliot has done what he has done and why he’s doing what he’s doing.

Will Baldwin be appearing on the show beyond the two appearances? Or is it left open that he could return?
DD: Just those two this season. [Laughs]

You guys have been good about bringing back past guest stars, probably more so than any other show on television right now…
DD: Yeah, I think the thing that’s really nice is we’ve created a kind of crime world and all these characters in this crime world, so it’s really nice to let them come back. I was so amazed last season when we brought the character of Hurley back, because he hadn’t been on since season 1; the fans remembered him, people were really excited about his return. It’s really great that people who have stuck with us get these added bonuses of knowing who these cast of characters is in this crime world.

Which brings us back to Sheppard. What does Sterling’s presence mean for the team?
DD: Any time Sterling shows up, it’s always a threat. Even if he’s on our side of the threat. We have a little advantage in that he owes Nate a favor, because Nate let him get away last season. But the frenemies relationship between Nate and Sterling is so intense that any time he shows up, our guys are at risk.

It seems like he’s also returning in a big episode for Sophie, so will some favors perhaps be repaid during the hour?
DD: Well, I think Sterling learns a lot more about Sophie, and for the first time, he’s able to appreciate her. And he understands why Nate is involved with her. Because up until now, he’s never understood why Nate has made any of the decisions he’s made. But when he works closely with Sophie in that episode, in a way he never has before, he comes out of it with a new respect for her.

Is he just appearing in one episode this season?
DD: He might end up popping up more than once this year.

At this point how hard is it to keep his appearances a secret? Is it impossible?
DD: It’s impossible! With Twitter and all of his followers and every extra who gets excited when they see him on the set, it’s practically impossible, but I try to do my best…It’s very hard to keep secrets anymore, especially given how beloved that character is. People love to hate Sterling. [Laughs]

He’s delightful to hate. It’s a lot of fun.
DD: He’s really the only foe that Nate has that’s worthy of him. In a lot of ways, he’s kind of the non-evil Moriarty to Nate’s Sherlock.

That’s a fantastic comparison. Last year, you were vocal about the theme of the season being “consequences.” What would you say the theme of this season is?
DD: Renewal. The season ended last year with Tim’s character saying he wanted a fresh start. And that’s really what this is about. Nate is healthier than he has ever been, more sober than he’s ever been. Parker and Hardison are in an actual relationship, officially, now. Eliot is really trying to overcome the demons of his past and accept his new role. So all of the characters came in revitalized and trying to start their lives fresh and letting go of the past.

But on the other hand, Nate and Hardison have a secret, and Eliot seems to be catching on that something is up. So how is that arc going to play throughout the rest of the season?
DD: Well, Nate has a plan. He has a plan for where this could all go. And that plan is going to slowly [revealed] throughout the year, but you really won’t get that until the very end. And at the very end, it will all pay off and a lot of the things that happened throughout the season will start to make sense.

I know you can’t say specifics, but is this a plan that he’s keeping secret for the team’s good? Or will this perhaps lead them to be angry over being kept in the dark? Or could it go either direction?
DD: Well, Nate is a master manipulator. He not only manipulates those he goes after, he manipulates everyone around him. We always like to think it’s for the best of reasons, but it doesn’t always work out the way he planned it. So he has a master plan for the team, and where the team should be headed. And he feels if he shares it with them, it would ruin his plan. So how that plan plays out and how it impacts everyone, I can’t tell you, but it will have a profound effect on everyone on the show.

Will it be impacting the romantic relationships of Nate/Sophie and Hardison/Parker?
DD: That’s not really what plays into it. It’s more the direction he pushes everybody and how that effects their ability to stay together as a team.

Fair. What can you say about those two relationships going forward?
DD: I think they’ve been together enough now that it’s not unknown. It’s just how do you deal with it when your personality types are essentially those of loners. And now they’re in real relationships so they have to give up things that they didn’t have to give up anymore. It’s really about adjustments. It’s not so much a giant conflict of “will they stay together or will they break up?” that we want to show this year. We want to show that all relationships are pretty difficult, but the fun is when people really try and where that goes.

I think the Nate and Sophie relationship evolves much farther than we’ve ever seen it before. And Hardison and Parker are really in a relationship now. They’re not just flirting with each other, they’re in one. And that’s hard for them to deal with. But it’s fun to watch them evolve into those roles and learn how to compromise with each other.

Will either of these relationships be used against them by their foes at any point?
DD: Well that I can’t tell you. [Laughs] That you’ll have to watch.

That’s a big fat maybe. What’s your personal favorite episode this season?
DD: I think my personal favorite is the episode that is all Nate and Sophia. “The Frame-Up Job.” I think that’s my favorite, because I’m not allowed to say an episode I directed was my favorite because that would just not be nice. But I think that’s my favorite because Tim and Gina [Bellman (Sophie)] have a chemistry in that episode like we’ve never seen before on the show. And it’s so addicting to watch. So that might be my favorite.

That must be so interesting for you guys as a team to see a chemistry that you haven’t seen before when you’ve been doing the show for so many seasons. It’s not like you’re in season 1 or 2…you’re in season 5.
DD: That’s what I’m saying, there’s so much energy that has gotten infused with the decisions we’ve made this season. And also, frankly, I give so much credit to Michael Wright at TNT for really encouraging us to cast actors and not celebrities. Because every person on our show is really skilled, and because of that they’re always able to surprise us, they’re always able to take us in new directions. And had we been forced to hire a bunch of good-looking models or people who were famous for sex tapes on the internet, we wouldn’t be able to stretch the way we do every year. But because we have real, high-quality actors, there’s nothing that we can’t throw in front of them that they can’t not only tackle, but elevate to a whole other level.

And we talk about this often, but given how revitalized you feel this year, have you given further thought to the end of the series?
DD: I think you’ll see as this season plays on the direction for where all this is going. But I just love these characters. I’d like to play with them as long as everything stays fresh. As long as it’s fun, as long as it’s fresh, I have no intention of walking away from these characters. And I think from the point of TNT, they just need to see that these numbers continue.

As long as there are greedy bastards out in the world, we’ll be able to come up with episodes. So I think there’s no shortage of them. [Laughs]

Have you been taking a lot of stuff from real-life events?
DD: You know what? I would go as so far as to say that literally every episode of the 77 episodes we’ve made has been inspired by some real-life bastards. Here’s what happens: we’ll be in the writers’ room reading the paper and someone goes, “Oh, I hate that guy!” And we always know what our next episode is going to be.

LEVERAGE airs Sundays at 9 PM on TNT.

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6 Responses to “LEVERAGE: Dean Devlin on the Show Feeling Revitalized”

  1. kathleen on September 2nd, 2012 7:40 pm

    Great Interview!

  2. kathleen on September 2nd, 2012 7:53 pm

    It’s amazing content like this that satisfies our quest for Leverage… [wait, there are celebrity sex tapes on the internet? J/K]… while we wait for word of Renewal for Season Six!!

  3. Reesie Rose on September 2nd, 2012 10:48 pm

    Fantastic InterviewMarisa, just enough to keep tantilizing our tastebuds so to speak, without revealing too much, and keep us wanting more. Can’t wait to see where all this is going. All while enduring the agony of not knowing about renewal for season 6. Waiting impatiently ;), Thanks Reesie

  4. Robert McGovern on September 3rd, 2012 2:53 am

    Great interview Marisa, thank you. Oh than you Dean for doing it.

  5. betty ( as lagoas) on September 4th, 2012 12:55 pm

    Leverage the best serie of the world……greetings from spain

  6. Ang Helton on September 6th, 2012 10:07 am

    As a fan from Day 1, and a vocal supporter as well, when Leverage first premiered we fans knew this show could go anywhere and be anything. It has evolved and grown, yet in 5 seasons, this is the first that has really begun to show each character in a different light, allowing us to appreciate it all even more. Thank You for the article, and Thank You Dean for the answers-we will keep watching and we WILL continue to Twitter #RenewLeverageTNT!