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Exclusive: Beth Riesgraf on the new cast and the new capers when Leverage: Redemption premieres

Beth Riesgraf on the set of Leverage: Redemption
Beth Riesgraf. Pic credit: IMDb TV

The crew from Leverage – Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Aldis Hodge, and Beth Riesgraf — returns after an eight-year hiatus in an updated version of the show Leverage: Redemption, premiering on IMDb TV on Friday, July 9.

This time around, the show is less about revenge and more about redemption, as grifter Sophie Devereaux (Bellman), thief Parker (Riesgraf), hitter Eliot Spencer (Kane), and hacker Alec Hardison (Hodge) come together after the death of Nathan Ford –Timothy Hutton didn’t return – to pull one final caper.

Little do they suspect that it will get their juices flowing, and they decide it’s time to address the changes in a world where the rich keep getting richer, and people without power need their help.

“It’s really a feel-good show,” Riesgraf tells Monsters & Critics in this exclusive interview.  “More than that, there’s a lot of heart. This season it gets dark at times. A lot of the stuff we’re talking about is really happening in the world, and so it’s really fun for us to step aside and say, ‘What if we could actually take that kind of person down? What if we could do something that would actually change someone’s life for the better forever?’”

With that thought in mind, it is a perfect time for the show to return so viewers can vicariously get to live through the adventures of the Leverage crew and go along for the ride.

The team is joined this season by two new members: Harry Wilson (Noah Wyle), a corporate lawyer looking for redemption after practicing law on the wrong side his entire career, and Breanna Casey (Aleyse Shannon), Hardison’s foster sister, who has a knack for computers, robotics, and getting into trouble.

“We could not have found two more perfect artists to join the team,” Riesgraf says. “I think everybody just loved playing and it worked so well.”

Following is more from Riesgraf about stepping back into Parker’s shoes, getting back in shape to perform the acrobatics necessary to be a stellar thief, and what we can expect from the season.

Monsters & Critics: What is it like stepping back into Parker’s shoes after all these years?

Beth Riesgraf: It was such a dream come true. It was kind of surreal to get the call from [showrunner] Dean Devlin. To see our fanbase just grow and grow and the comments on social media, all that support didn’t wane at all. It was growing if anything and the hope was that it would come back, but when it actually happened, we were just thrilled.

To step back into a female character that is so incredibly strong and limitless, she can do pretty much anything. It’s so freeing. There’s no rules with Parker, which is kind of a dream for an actor.

M&C: What can we expect this season? We have the pharma bad guy in the first episode, but also in the third episode, Parker actually plays a character, and she has her card from Hardison with notes on how to react to things. Talk a little bit about what’s going on with her this season.

Beth Riesgraf: I think it was important for us to say, “OK, look. If Parker’s not Parker, we’re not going to like that. She’s got growth, but she’s still got to be Parker.” So, it’s not second nature to her to do what Sophie does or to grift. She’s got be good at it because she’s running a crew internationally and she’s very skilled, but I think seeing her slip into the characters and still have moments of insecurity — even on the con, you see that she’s more effortless with it, but it was important for us to show that she still has to work on those social skills because she still struggles with that. I think that’s part of the fun with her. Is she going to say the wrong thing? Is she going to stab this person?

I think it was a good balance of let’s find ways off duty that we can see … those are some of my favorite moments, actually, when you see characters living real life, whether it’s her eating her favorite bowl of cereal or those things that are real-life moments that we get to bring. So, I loved that card moment. It was actually really cute that Hardison helped her.

M&C: A lot of the shows coming back as reboots have been off the air a really long time, but this one is only like eight years. Do you think it’s the Robin Hood appeal of this?

Beth Riesgraf: Absolutely. Leverage: Redemption is just about that, redemption. Right now, especially when everything happened with the pandemic and everything that we’re still struggling to deal with and move forward from, people are creating connectivity.

That’s one thing that the show has always done for people is brought them together, whether you’re part of the fanbase community or with your family. The amount of people we’ve heard say, “This is the only show I can watch with my kids, and we all agree it’s a lot of fun.” Or, “They don’t get annoyed with me when I say, ‘This is the one I want to watch.’”

Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge on the set of Leverage: Redemption
Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge. Pic credit: IMDb TV

M&C: How together are Parker and Hardison? It seems as if they are together, but then he’s going off to Africa. I know Aldis Hodge is also filming City on the Hill, so that’s most likely why.

Beth Riesgraf: They’re as solid as ever. Better than ever, actually. With time, there is growth. With growth comes certainty. Unfortunately, we had COVID, which pushed the schedule all around. We had other shows. I was on 68 Whiskey and he had City on a Hill and now Hawk Man in Black Adam, so when COVID really pushed everything, it does affect the machinery of the show and you have to adapt it.

We all had to pivot a bit when the schedule shifted, but I think the most important thing to us was to let fans know that Parker and Hardison are together. They are stronger than ever, and not shake that base, because if you shake that base, it is going to shake Parker. He is the one person who she fully trusts for the first time in her life. I think if we had taken that away, it would have been just suicide.

M&C: On shows like 68 Whiskey and Criminal Minds, you didn’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel, so how ready were you to get back into doing the acrobatic stuff?

Beth Riesgraf: As one of my outlets for stress and health, I do workout; we have two big dogs that need to be walked. I’m always trying to stay physically active because it really helps my state of mind and creativity. Training for the show is always a bit more intense, especially when I don’t have access to rigs and repelling gear, things of that nature.

With COVID, too, I just couldn’t call up a studio and say, “Can I come in and get on the ropes with a bunch of people?” So, what I did was work with the amazing stunt crew that we had. They actually had a rigging place, so I could go. Believe it or not, one of the hardest things is hanging upside down for minutes at a time.

On the pilot episode of Leverage, the last scene was me on top of a 44-story building upside down. I’ve talked about this in interviews before, but we didn’t fully understand. We were trying out how long can we get for the take and the wind would pick up or whatever, but it’s really easy to burst blood vessels in your face, and I did. I had a million dots on my face.

So, I learned right away that one of the biggest things that I have to do, whether it’s off my couch or whatever, is I have to start hanging upside down, as silly as it sounds. That’s something I could do on my own, so I started doing that quite a bit.

The cast of Leverage: Redemption posing for a pic
Noah Wyle, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Aldis Hodge, Aleyse Shannon, Beth Riesgraf. Pic credit: IMDb TV

M&C: You have two new cast members this season: Noah Wiley and Aleyse Shannon. What do they bring to the show?

 Beth Riesgraf: I was fortunate enough to be on Aleyse’s audition and read scenes with her for her test and everything. The moment I saw her click into character, I had this amazing feeling because I thought, “She’s so present and authentic and she has great comedy timing and she’s got a thought with every single thing she’s saying.” I know that to come into this group of people, you have to have a real good sense of who your character is so you can forget about it and just play.

So many of the moments that people fall in love with from watching the show are the moments that we find together: chemistry, messing around, and improving. I saw immediately that she was going to be somebody who would just fall in line perfectly and bring all of her own traits and skill set.

We all know how talented Noah Wyle is. He can do drama, he can do comedy, but, honestly, there’s a moment in one of the episodes I directed where I pitched something to him, “You might think this is too far,” and he just took it and ran with it. It’s one of my favorite moments, which we can’t talk about yet, but he is a joy to work with. He’s intelligent. He directs, so he understands. He writes.

The first eight episodes of Leverage: Redemption will be released July 9 on IMDb TV.

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