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Exclusive: Noah Wyle and Gina Bellman on the revival of the caper series Leverage: Redemption

Noah Wyle on the set
Noah Wyle. Pic credit: IMDb TV

Everything old is new again, and that is true for TNT’s series Leverage, which has found new life on IMDb TV as Leverage: Redemption. In the eight years since the series last aired, the world has become a more difficult place for the have nots and when our crew is reunited by the death of Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton, who opted not to return), they decide to pull one last caper for old time’s sake.

Other than Hutton, the original crew is back — grifter Sophie Deveraux (Gina Bellman), thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf), hitter Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), and hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) – and they are joined by two fresh faces: corporate lawyer Harry Wilson (Noah Wyle) and Hardison’s foster sister Breanna (Aleyse Shannon), who is a hacker in her own right.

The other new note is the series moved to New Orleans for filming, which also gives it a fresh look and some interesting storylines.

“We couldn’t have shot in New Orleans without having a paranormal episode, so we did a paranormal, spooky episode, and I get to play real Southern,” Bellman tells Monsters & Critics, slipping into a Southern accent, in this exclusive interview. “That was a lot of fun.”

But the show also made sure to add fresh elements to make it feel timely in 2021.

“Leverage is always very good about taking cases that were torn from the pages of today’s headlines to make it seem very contemporary, and that’s certainly true of the cases that we took on this year,” added Wyle. “There’s everything from Bitcoin cons to wellness gurus and shoddy construction contractors that result in on-the-job accidents.”

Monsters & Critics: A lot of the shows that are getting revived have been gone much longer than Leverage. What is it about this one that it is coming back so soon? Is it the Robin Hood appeal to this show?

Gina Bellman: I think in the former iteration, the original Leverage, the Robin Hood theme was very expansive, and there had just been the financial crash, so I think it really resonated, but I think there was a feeling of hope when the show ended with the new administration.

I think in the intervening years, things didn’t quite pan out as expected. Things didn’t turn out as positively as we might have hoped and there has been so much since, such as social unrest, the global pandemic, people feeling anxious.

I think the power imbalance has become so magnified now that the idea that there might be this affable group of bounders that would come and address the balance between the powerful and the powerless is very appealing. People originally connected with that, but I think it’s just built momentum as the years have gone by.

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

M&C: Noah, you’re the straight man to all these characters. What was it like to join the cast and do you enjoy being the straight guy?

Noah Wyle: I was very excited to join this cast, some of whom I’d known and worked with before. He’s the straight man, but he’s also the comic relief. He’s a Swiss army knife character, and that’s really what he needed to be this year.

Occasionally, you need him to be heroic, sometimes he needs to be the fool, sometimes he needs to be the expert, and sometimes he needs to be the moron. He doesn’t know what’s going on at all, and sometimes he’s just the cheerleader.

I really like parts like that, which are serviceable parts to the overall storytelling and yet they also gave me a really wonderful personal arc to go on. This guy is looking to redeem himself for the crimes that he unwittingly had a hand in committing, and now he realizes that he’s really responsible for some horrible things and doesn’t really know how to atone.

By the end of the season, he realizes that it’s not about saying eight Hail Marys and a couple of Our Fathers. It’s about changing your life and your perspective, recalibrating your sense of reality and your sense of justice. I think that it was really rewarding to play both of those things, playing the straight man but also to play a kind of moral through-line as well.

M&C: Gina, what was it like to step back into Sophie’s stilettos?

Gina Bellman: It felt very powerful. Often when you get a job, you’re starting off from zero, so when you’re building a character, you’re a bit of a punt. It’s a gamble. But with her, there was no risk factor involved in building the character. She was already there, so it felt really nice to slip her on and take her to the next level. I think she’s really matured. She’s more grounded. She’s experienced love and stability in her hiatus years. She’s really softened up around the edges and that was fun to develop her that way.

M&C: We have this big bad opioid guy in the first two episodes. What else can we expect to see for this season? Or, if you prefer, what cons are we going to see?

Gina Bellman: We get to create these fantasy worlds. We shot on a casino riverboat, we did a Medieval fair with Sophie actually gets to go on stage again and read a sonnet, and she gets to experience performing again. I think that’s what’s so fun about the show. We create these little microcosm worlds as well that the audience can disappear into every week.

M&C: What was it like working with Beth Riesgraf as your director as well as co-star?

Noah Wyle: It was great. It was wonderful. I think Beth is an extremely talented artist. Not just as an actress, but she’s a really wonderful photographer. She has a really wonderful eye, and I knew that she was going to be terrific. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind.

The very first scene, she had choreographed this very intricate shot that was one of those shots where everybody is sort of going, “Are you sure this is what you want? Are you sure this is going to work?” but she knew it would work. We did it and it worked perfectly.

From that moment on, I knew, “Just listen to her, just trust her. She’s got it in her head. We don’t have to second guess at all.” It was wonderful to watch her be anointed as a director. I know she is going to have a huge career ahead of her.

Gina Bellman: When we work together as actors, we’re very collaborative anyway. For example, we will be doing a scene together where I might have a speech and I might say, “Beth, this speech plays to your strengths better.” Or she might say, “I have a joke, but this works to your strengths better.” We are quite good at giving each other advice, or I might go to an actor and say, “I can’t make this line work,” and we all help each other.

And because I’ve known her for so long as a very visual person and as a photographer, for me, it made perfect sense when they said Beth was going to be directing this season because I already knew her so well as an actor and as someone who gave me good advice as a scene partner. I knew she would be able to marry that with her visual eye brilliantly.

M&C: Gina, your character is going through the most. You’ve lost Nate (Timothy Hutton), so you’re in mourning, but you are also taking over his job as leader. What’s this growth like for Sophie?

Gina Bellman: That’s an interesting point. I wrote down some notes about what am I going to talk about in the press and what I wrote down for Sophie is she’s a bird in flight. I’ve always felt that she’s always been ready to take off and go into a nest and wrap an earring and fly away. I’ve always felt she is running from something.

I really love that in this series, Leverage: Redemption, she doesn’t feel like she’s running from anything. She’s actually looking for a reason to stand still, and for me, that was a really motivating factor of being able to give her new life because, in life, we’re not always on the same trajectory all the time. I felt, for me, this season is about her finding her place, her home, finding her journey, finding her purpose, rather than running towards the next shiny thing.

The first eight episodes of Leverage: Redemption are now on IMDb TV.

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