TVOvermind Interviews Oscar Winner Timothy Hutton From Leverage

TVOvermind was fortunate enough to be able to take part in an interview with Oscar winner Timothy Hutton, where he shared much more than I actually thought he would in terms of where the show is ending its first season, and where he thinks it should go next season. I always expect actors to be so guarded and mysterious about their current projects, and it was so exhilarating to see his passion for Leverage, and his willingness to be open with the members of the press about the direction he believes the show, and his character, should take.

Timothy Hutton is an actor who has that rare ability to transform from an “everyman” to a villain; oftentimes in the same project, such as Stephen King’s The Dark Half, where he literally gets to play his evil twin. In King’s movie, he is, at heart, an artist wrestling with his creative demons. This is extremely similar to the role of Nathan Ford in Leverage, with Mr. Hutton getting to flex his creative muscles to play characters, both good and evil, all in the name of The Con. It is not just his job as the head of Leverage Consulting that affords him the opportunity to act out such differing personas; his real life is full of tragedies that effect every aspect of who Nathan Ford is.

Leverage provided the perfect role for this versatile actor, and it was awesome to get a glimpse into Mr. Hutton’s thoughts on the first season, what direction he sees The Team moving in, and, obviously, the journey he feels Nate Ford, as a highly flawed and haunted individual, should be on during the run of this magnificent show.

The first question on everyone’s mind seemed to be the same: Does Timothy Hutton feel a connection to Nathan Ford, in terms of his own life? The answer should not come as a huge surprise to anyone, but it does give insight into how he, as an actor, chooses roles:

Well, I mean in so much as playing the guy. But, no, I mean as far as, you know, what he’s going through, and the specific story points of his life, not really. Which, of course, makes it interesting to play because it’s not something, fortunately, I’ve lived through or experienced. And, you know, but it’s a fascinating character to play, I’ll tell you that!

Timothy Hutton has always been an actor who vacillates between television and the silver screen, and the question was asked if he considers it to be more fulfilling to work in television or movies, to which he replied:

You know, you get to develop a character over time. You don’t wrap up a character in two hours or three hours. But, you know, you have these different story lines where the character can kind of go to different places over the course of a season, hopefully more than a season. We’re very fortunate we got picked up for a second one! And, you know, I think that the writing for cable shows, it’s just really quite incredible. And, you know, you look at shows like everything from Monk, to Burn Notice, to Mad Men to, I’m forgetting the name of the show that’s on after Mad Men on AMC.

Yes, there’s really great writing in the show. And, you know, you look at the scripts, and everything, and that’s what you want to be doing. You don’t think, ‘This is TV, I wish this was a movie.’Or when you’re doing a movie, you think this would be better if it was TV. You know, you don’t really think that way. You just kind of go where the writing is. And there’s great writing in movies obviously right now, and there’s, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time for writing in television, and I think that’s what’s attracting so many people. And not just people that are doing the shows, but people that are watching the shows!

Continuing on, how did he decide that the role was one that he was interested in pursuing? From the mouth of the man himself, concerning the character of Nathan Ford:

Well, you know, from the beginning, from the outset, when I first read the script, I thought it was a great character, a great starting point for any actor to read a character like this and say,’Wow, he has so much going on, so many demons, and so much of a dark place that he’s been living in, you know, how does all of that shape this guy? How does he interact with other people?’

And he has this opportunity to sort of get on his feet again at the beginning of the season, with Leverage; he finds it very satisfying to be working with these other…these thieves that he’s known from the other, for so many years, for the purpose of helping other people. That becomes his reason to kind of get his life back together. You know, he understands very quickly that the best way to help himself is to help other people.

From this arose the obvious question about the nature of the business that Nate has started with his band of thieves, for lack of a better term, and how Mr. Hutton feels he fits into the group, and how the group responds to him as the ‘straight man’. He responds in a typical, well thought out fashion:

And then as the season goes on, you know, he realizes that it’s quite complicated working with these others. There’s personality issues. There’s trust issues. There’s ways that they go about doing things that Nate probably thinks could have been handled better. They probably think that Nate could have handled himself better in terms of, you know, him disappearing from time to time, and drinking, and letting the team down, and almost blowing apart some of the operations they have going.

So by the time we get to the finale, which we’re really with last night being part one, and next week being the end of the season; it really left in kind of an interesting place, I think, where nobody is quite sure if they want to continue. And you’re going to see a lot of kind of revelations. I think the audience is going to see a lot of things being communicated between the five of them, and they get a lot closer and by doing so maybe they can’t be around each other because they open certain doors.

As a huge fan of Leverage, I immediately wanted to know what this meant for the future of our rag-tag group of thieves, turned modern-day Robin Hood and His Band of Merry Thieves. If they don’t trust him, and he can’t trust them, as was brilliantly brought up with the character of Sophie Devereaux, seemingly out for herself and no longer for the good of The Team in this week’s episode, ‘The First David Job’, where does Nate stand in being able to continue to carry out his mission of redemption? After all, the entire group has aspects of their lives in which to seek redemption; Nate obviously has a problem with drinking after the death of his son. How does this affect Mr. Hutton’s view of how the redemption arc of Nate will play out? His response:

As far as what Nate might or might not want to do in terms of continuing on, I think that he’s learned a lot about how deeply satisfying it is to help others, and therefore, sort of find a way out of his own dark past and guilt and the demons that he has, that the great antidote for him is helping other people.

And I’m sure he’s aware that the drinking really has to get under control. But he’s probably in denial about it, and thinks a little self medicating, as long as it doesn’t mess with any of his functioning and his ability to continue running these cons and these elaborate schemes, then it’s okay, and it’s really nobody’s business, but the rest of the team knows better. And I think that the second season will kind of go into that, and perhaps Nate will find another vice.

What I found to be very interesting was that Timothy Hutton fully believes that it would be boring, not only as an actor, but for the viewers, if Nate does not get a handle on his drinking. He does not want this aspect of the character to go on, simply because we, as viewers, have seen it time and time again, and Leverage really is a better show than that. As anyone with an addiction can tell you, it is not going to be an issue that can be resolved by Nate suddenly throwing out the bottle and never having another issue to confront in terms of his demons, but what will Nate turn to next to fill the void left by the death of his son, among other things? Mr. Hutton responds:

I don’t know. I mean, there are some interesting ideas being kicked around. But you know, I’m personally not really interested in playing a character who, when he is having a difficult time, turns to the bottle. I think that has a certain shelf…that idea has a certain shelf life. I think that the demons don’t go away, but how he deals with them, and what his way to shut down or escape those thoughts and feelings has to kind of transform into some other type of behavior to keep it interesting.

This interviewer (and rabid fan) thinks that the obvious relationship between Nate and Sophie, and the triangle that was introduced with Nate’s ex-wife, is the obvious next step for Leverage, in terms of moving Nate along his path. Mr. Hutton was not coy about whether or not the viewers would be treated to a love triangle. In fact, he was downright blunt:

Well, no, I think that more of that is going to reveal itself as time goes on, and certainly in the second season. We’re going to learn more about the space between when [Nate and Sophie] first met, and they sort of reunited. This show has kind of exposed a lot of that already. But I think there’s going to be more. And I think that we haven’t seen the last of the Maggie character, Nate’s ex-wife. I think that she might come back in to the mix a little bit, which might create a rather complex triangle.

As to the issue of what influence the other members of Leverage Consulting have had on Nate, does Mr. Hutton believe that he is entering morally ambiguous territory himself? The answer may surprise you:

I don’t think Nate really thinks that he’s become a thief. I think he’s just trying to…he’s playing a role [like an actor would] a little bit. I mean, that was my take on it anyway.

At the same time, I think that he has come to terms with the fact that his life will never be the same again. He will never be part of that former self or world that he once inhabited. He has become a different person. He’s learned a few things along the way. He’s come to trust and appreciate and admire this team he works with, even though he doesn’t really have the ability…seemingly have the ability to show it, express it.

But…and I think that he actually, underneath it all, gets quite a thrill out of doing the work that the others have done their whole lives. He likes the idea of, you know, sneaking into an art gallery and, you know, disappearing a bunch of paintings, and slight of hand, and conning the best con artist in the world to help people that have been ripped of. I think that he really, really enjoys that. And it’s what’s saved him really.

The message of Leverage, overall, is ‘sticking it to the man.” In these economic times, no one really wants to turn on the TV and be reminded of the fact that these are difficult times, while seeking moments of relief from reality. Leverage addresses many issues pertaining to the state of our world, and Mr. Hutton shared his thoughts on how the show deals with reality while keeping entertainment at the forefront:

Well, you know, I don’t think that the show should become a mirror, you know, exclusively. You know, there has to be a difference between the depressing headlines that you see when you pick up the newspaper versus the storyline when you turn on Leverage.

But, at the same time, there are a lot of things going on right now that can make for some compelling stories that really expose some of these people that prey on others. For example, one of the shows that I thought was really good in the first season was the one about the contractor who puts a lien on the house and then takes ownership of the house. I think that was the ‘Snow Job’it was called. I’m sure that the writers are going to keep their ear to the ground.

But at the same time, they’re not going to in any way turn Leverage in to you know something that is…a documentary based on how terrible the times are right now. I mean, it is meant to be an entertaining television show that also exposes, you know, things that are going on. But ultimately, his message is, you know, revenge is deeply satisfying!

What I wanted to know, and I’ll bet a lot of you want to know as well, are which episodes Mr. Hutton enjoyed the most. I, personally, would have been answering this one for the next year, but Mr. Hutton got an answer out fairly succinctly:

Well, you just brought up the ‘Bank Shot Job’. I really liked that one a lot because I really liked how the team was able to, kind of, go into plan B, plan C, and then plan D based on unforeseen events that happened. They had no idea that this bank would get held up. They’re in the middle, or the end of, finishing a con, and how they think on their feet, and how they communicate with each other, and how they have to quickly come together as a team, and each one take a role in kind of diffusing a very difficult situation, diffuse the crisis.

So, I like that show. And I also like the idea that it was basically one location. And you really…it really kind of, you know, raised the stakes, I felt, and the tension of the show’s drama.

I liked the ‘Snow Job.’I liked ‘Two-Horse Job’. I liked, very much, the episodes where all five of us at different points in the show play other characters as part of the con and assume different roles. And, you know, you have all five of the characters in different places, and they’re all communicating to each other. And thinking on their feet, and things don’t always go as they thought they would. And the most fun shows, I thought, were the ones where they had to go plan B. I would always say to everybody, ‘Let’s do more plan B shows!’

The final question posed is clearly critical to the survival of Leverage Consulting, and that is: Who or what comes after Nate and the rest of the team next? Again, Mr. Hutton did not hold back on what he feels the direction the ‘arc of redemption’will take:

Yes, there will be some people that come out of the woodwork because the more this team has gone and turned over rocks and exposed some pretty slimy people, as we’ve seen in the first season, the more public their operation has become. And let’s not forget, with the exception of Nate, the other four of that team is wanted by, you know, everyone from Scotland Yard to Interpol to FBI.

I mean, there are people all over the world that look at Eliot as a suspect for something that happened some years back, Sophie for something that happened, Parker for something. And this has been alluded to in the first season. But the more that they’ve carried out these missions, the more public they’ve become. And I think that what might be interesting in the second season will be how they can continue to do these operations and help people without, you know, compromising themselves.

How do they stay underground, and operate above ground at the same time? I think that’s something that’s going to be kind of interesting to do. So, as far who they might go up against in adversaries, I think that a lot of people are going to come out of the woodwork that have been looking for each one of them.

For the record, the cast of Leverage, comprised of Mr. Hutton, Aldis Hodge, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, and Gina Bellman do get along as well off-screen as on. The pilot was filmed entirely on location in Chicago, and they got to spend a lot of time off set just getting to know each other. They are having as great a time making the show as we are watching it! They have all had a lot of fun learning many useful skills, such as slight of hand, which means we should probably all keep our hands on our wallets if we are ever lucky enough to meet any of them in real life.

From my perspective, Mr. Hutton rightfully belongs in that elite group of actors, populated by the likes of Tom Hanks, who the public can look to for a truly spectacular performance. He’s never the same character regurgitated, and retains a mystery about him that I, personally, find refreshing in Hollywood these days. Thank you so much to Mr. Timothy Hutton for this interview opportunity, and to Turner Entertainment, particularly Michelle Sisco, for including TVOvermind. Whatever comes next, we will be solidly glued to our couches, waiting to see how The Team gets out of the next mess they find themselves in.

Tune in to TNT, Tuesday, February 24, at 10:00 pm Eastern time for the finale of Leverage. If you have missed any of the episodes, TNT is running a marathon leading up to the finale at 10:00 pm EST. I strongly suggest, in fact I would insist, if I had that power, that you tune in and catch up! Leverage is a fantastic show that is not to be missed!

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