Leverage: Redemption: Christian Kane & Beth Riesgraf on the Early Days - VRGyani News and Media

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Leverage: Redemption: Christian Kane & Beth Riesgraf on the Early Days

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Leverage: Redemption, “The Harry Wilson Job.”]

Now that the Leverage crew is back for Leverage: Redemption, in a world where it’s become even easier for the rich to become richer and the powerful to continue to build their power, grifter Sophie Deveraux (Gina Bellman), thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf), hitter Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) and hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), along with the latest additions of corporate lawyer Harry Wilson (Noah Wyle) and Hardison’s foster sister Breanna (Aleyse Shannon), are taking on jobs that are sure to get them into all sorts of mischief. In the second half of the season, which even includes a Christmas episode, the team is really hitting their stride and figuring out how they work best together while they continue to help those who are being taken advantage of.

During this interview with Collider, co-stars Kane and Riesgraf talked about how they first met executive producer Dean Devlin, why they feel Leverage is a show that could go on forever, the collaborative relationship between the actors and the writers’ room, and how much they all love and support each other. Riesgraf also talked about why she wanted to try her hand at directing and how it’s been a dream come true, while Kane shared what it’s like to be directed by a longtime friend and co-star.

Collider: When did you guys first meet Dean Devlin and what were your initial impressions of him? Did you have any idea that you would still be working with him, all these years later?

CHRISTIAN KANE: We’ve both been very fortunate to know this man. I have gotten the opportunity to work with him from 2007 until today. And even Beth can say that because she came in and she was on The Librarians as well. To come back together was fantastic. John Rogers, who created the show with Dean and Chris Downey, was a champion of mine, for some reason, because he’s such a great man and he’s brilliant. He was championing me through the whole Eliot process, getting me to Dean, but I didn’t know Dean. We all had to test for the role. It was mine to lose.

When they sent me the script for Leverage, I opened it and it said, “Eliot Spencer,” and I said, “What kind of name is that?” It said, “He wears wire-rimmed glasses and walks into a bar, sipping tea.” I threw it on the couch, and it missed the couch and hit the wall and slid down behind. My agent called and said, “Dude, what’d you think?” And I said, “That’s not for me.” And he said, “Well, John Rogers and Dean Devlin had you in mind.” I was like, “What?!”

And I dove under the couch and right after it said, “Eliot Spencer wears wire-rimmed glasses and walks into a bar, sipping tea,” he takes out everybody in the bar. I was like, “Oh, my God!” So, I got on a plane, flew to Los Angeles, met with Dean, and I got the role. I met Aldis [Hodge] in the elevator and we did wardrobe together, so we already had a comradery going. But I didn’t get to meet Beth until we landed in Chicago, and I was pleasantly surprised.

BETH RIESGRAF: I was going through the auditioning process. You do your pre-audition, and then you get your call back. My callback was actually with John Rogers, on tape for him and Dean. I didn’t have that many lines, but as we know about Parker, her behaviors and the way she thinks are so much of who she is. One of the main scenes, I had five lines or something, but spread out, so it was all about how she listens and does stuff. I remember going back the second time for John, and I did the audition and I was talking about some stuff, and he was like, “Yeah, we can end here.” I went down to my car and I was like, “No, I can do better than that. Nope, I’m gonna go back up. I know I can nail it.” At the time, I had a three-year-old and was single-mom-ing it and was hellbent on getting the job. I went back up when I asked casting, “Is he still here?” And they said, “Yeah, he’s just in a session.” And I said, “Well, I’ll wait.” So, I sat in the waiting room and I waited for John to come out, he wrapped up and came walking out and saw me, and I grabbed his shirt collar and went, “I can do better! You’ve gotta believe me!” And he went, “Okay. Kid, you got it. Trust me when I say you did good.”

Then, cut to the test, where you have a little meet and greet with the producers before you test for the network, and the first time I met Dean was in that room. He had seen my tape and I had my notebook and my pen and I was ready for all the notes he was gonna give me for the test. And he was like, “You can put that down. All I wanna say is just do exactly what you’re doing. You’re in the wheelhouse. You’re there. Just trust yourself because we love it and we love what you’re doing.” I was like, “That’s it? Oh, wow, okay.” I would say that sums up my relationship with Dean. From the day I met him to today, he’s always trusted in me and my talent and my instincts. That’s why I love my professional relationship with him. He knows when the artist knows and he backs you up, and he’s always done that. And then, personally, we’ve become such good friends. He’s always had faith in me, as a director and an actor. It’s cool that my first conversation with him was one of total confidence. That was really cool.

When did you decide that you wanted to try directing? Was it something you’d been thinking about for a long time?

RIESGRAF: Yeah, for 25 years. I was president of my photography club in high school, so I was always excited about being behind the camera. And then, as a kid, I was fascinated with filmmaking. As I started to work as an actor, I would take advantage of any opportunity I could to shadow on a location scout, or sit in on a production meeting, or follow the steps of a wardrobe fitting, and how you prep for all that stuff. As I made short films on my own with friends on no budget, I’ve held boom, I did craft service, I had to do hair and makeup and costumes. I think that collaboration and that mindset has always been really fascinating to me and I’ve always loved it.

So, when the opportunity came to shadow Dean on Librarians, he had seen me with a camera around my neck, for all of the original Leverage, I did that. Everybody knew that I loved photography and wanted to do this particular thing, so when we were coming back around this time, Dean said, “I know you’re ready and we’re gonna give you a shot.” And then, I did “The Bucket Job” and I had to tick all the boxes and prove that I could do it. There was one episode left, and I was given that episode because they were happy. It was a really great time for me to see my dream come true and to have that goal met and know that I’m on my way. It was really exciting.

Christian, what’s it like for you to be directed by somebody that you’ve worked with for so long and to have Beth Riesgraf step into that position?

KANE: I’m very fortunate because Noah [Wyle] had come over to Leverage and Noah had directed me on several episodes of The Librarians, so I was used to having someone in the cast direct me. It wasn’t a big transition for me. I didn’t really ever see her in the light of the director. She’s my friend. We’ve played these characters for so long that she trusts me with the character. The very first one up that she did was “The Bucket Job” with LeVar Burton. It was a very emotional time for me, but it was also an emotional time for the character. We’ve never really seen that deep into Eliot’s past before, and she helped me with some of the emotional stuff. I never really looked at her as a director because she was so busy setting up frames, and all of that stuff. That’s not my job. My job is to show the inside of Eliot in the episode, and she helped me with that. It didn’t feel like she was directing me. She was actually talking to me as a friend. It was a pretty flawless road for me, when she put on that hat. It was very fun. I love that episode so much. It’s one of my favorites that we’ve ever done. And of course, I’m rooting for her. She’s my sister. I love her, so I want her to do well. We always give everything we’ve got, but for some reason, your pep is a little bit higher when someone like her comes in because you wanna just do the best job you absolutely can for her.

RELATED: ‘Leverage: Redemption’ Gets Action-Packed Official Trailer

RIESGRAF: And knowing that I had the trust of my actors before I started was huge. That’s such an obstacle for a lot of people that I speak to and my director friends. You really have to earn that trust with your cast. Knowing that I had that, and they knew that they had that in me, they knew I wasn’t gonna try to steer them in a direction. I trust them. I know they know what they’re doing. They know best, on these character moments. It’s like, “Now, let’s play and let’s try it this way or that way.” That’s just how we work together, regardless. Sometimes it was really amazing because I know Christian is a genius when it comes to coordinating fights and stunts, and then weaving in this emotional arc for Eliot, and he was also drugged, he had all of these layers. He’s lived in the shoes of this character for however many years, so watching him fly and soar was amazing. If anything, it was just validating what was already there and that authenticity he was bringing. That felt so great to do. As a friend, but also as a director, to say, “You’re crushing this,” was so fun.

KANE: And she did say that. That was fantastic. When I got that note, I was like, “All right, I’m on the right path. I’m just gonna keep going.”

RIESGRAF: It wasn’t even a note.

KANE: You just said, “You’re crushing it right now.”

RIESGRAF: I was just acknowledging you.

KANE: I saw it in her face, how happy she was. And Dean Devlin happened to be there that day. Our boss was sitting right behind her – and he’s more of a friend than a boss, but at the same time, that’s her boss – and she was in the ring. It was fun to see her do her work. I was thoroughly impressed. I knew it was gonna go well, but I didn’t think it would go that well, I have to be honest with you. It was first time for her, and it seemed like it was the 20th time. When you get somebody like that, whether it be Noah or Beth or whoever, you wanna do well for them. You wanna make them smile and you wanna hit it out of the park. You just work harder. There aren’t some times that we don’t work hard. We always work hard. But you work harder when you love someone like that.

RIESGRAF: We bust our asses with every episode. No matter who’s there, we always show up for each other and the director and everybody. It’s almost a level of awareness because we know each other so well. The compassion and the care factor is just a little more. You have a sensitivity to it in a way that maybe you don’t with a new director coming in. For me, at the end of the day, you’re gonna try to help them make their day, no matter what, but when it’s your friend, you’re like, “How can I help? What can we do?”

KANE: Well said.

This feels like the Leverage we all know and love, and it feels like having this warm hug when you’re watching the show, but it still feels fresh and new because you have new people there. It would clearly be a shame, if you don’t get more seasons. Do you still have things that you feel like you haven’t learned about these characters and do you have things that you still want to explore with them, in possible future episodes?

KANE: Yeah, absolutely. These characters are so in-depth. There’s a whole past for everybody, especially Eliot and Parker, that nobody knows about. We have secrets that we don’t even share, as characters. I have a whole backstory. I know exactly what happened in this guy’s life. I can go back to when he was a kid, and I’m sure Beth can as well. We think about it. It’s fun because we can put those ideas out there and say, “I’ve always thought this happened.” We have such a good writing staff that they’ll write some of our ideas in. We have 50% of the character on screen, and 50% of it comes out of the writers’ room. About 50% of Eliot’s background is something that I came up with in my head, or from talking to John Rogers about, and they end up filtering it in. There’s a lot of stuff they can still put in there, for all of these characters. We haven’t really begun to know Breanna yet, and having Harry there. So, we could go for 10 more seasons, easy.

RIESGRAF: Yeah, I agree. Knowing that we didn’t get Aldis for as many as we would have loved to have him for, I’m really excited to explore the Parker-Hardison connection now, in present time, and how they’ve grown. I’m looking forward to more development with Parker and Breanna. This first season, we really had to establish Breanna’s role and Harry’s role on the team and why they’re there and really figure that dynamic out. Now, I’m excited to dive into that more. We’ve grown up now together as characters for awhile, but we had a life before that. I love having secrets that I don’t tell anybody about Parker. They might write something, but I may still be using my secret. That’s the fun of being an actor. You can play with that. And then, when you have an idea, we’re lucky to have writers who like to collaborate and they know that we know the mind of our characters. Pitching an idea is very exciting. There’s so much more to tap into We were criminals before came together and we have not even tapped into the other crews that we’ve been running internationally. That’s a whole other book of stories. So, there’s a lot to explore and I think this show could go forever. It’s amazing.

You leave the end of the season in a way that feels like maybe Harry could go off and do his own thing, but you also see how he could easily be reeled back in, and you see everybody trying to figure out what this new dynamic is.

KANE: That’s the beauty of working for somebody like Dean Devlin, and also having John Rogers consulting and being there for us and it. John handed these characters off to us, years ago, and even told us, “These are now yours.” Some writers don’t have the balls to do that because writers are very particular. That’s why it’s great having Dean as a friend. He does listen to us and he comes up with these great ideas. They’re not so cocky in the writers’ room that they don’t let us play it, and that’s one of the successful things about the show. We’ve always ended every season that way. The great thing about our fans is that they start coming up with where they think the next season is going. Sometimes they’re right on the money and sometimes they’re completely off, but we always leave a big hanging ball out there, for where we could be. They’ve done that every season. That’s what’s so great about Dean Devlin.

It’s just so lovely to watch these characters together because you can tell the characters enjoy being around each other, you can tell you guys love each other, and you can tell that you love your characters. That just makes it so much fun to watch.

RIESGRAF: Thank you so much.

KANE: I came to Hollywood to play this guy. If I was gonna pick any role I could play, it would be him. And there’s not a lot of people out there that could play Parker. She’s a strong woman, and we need that these days. We root for these characters personally, as well as on screen.

Leverage: Redemption is available to stream at IMDbTV.

KEEP READING: 'Leverage: Redemption' Review: Cast Changes Don't Hold Back One of TV's Most Welcome Revivals



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