Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION has been renewed for a second season. The entire first season of the sequel series to LEVERAGE (2008-2012) is now streaming for free on IMDb TV. Both shows are created by Chris Downey and John Rogers and executive-produced by writer/director Dean Devlin.

On LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION, the team of altruistic scofflaws who bring down rich bad buys to help poor good guys has relocated to New Orleans. New members of the group include Noah Wyle as reformed corporate lawyer Harry Wilson and Aleyse Shannon as ace hacker Brianna Casey.

Beth Riesgraf (pronounced REES-graf), who plays master thief Parker, made her TV directorial debut with the LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION episode “The Bucket Job,” which guest-stars LeVar Burton as a kindly small-town librarian with a secret. Riesgraf also directed another episode, “The Great Train Job,” which sees fellow regular Gina Bellman as con artist Sophie Devereaux impersonating a German aristocrat.

Christian Kane, who like Riesgraf starred in both LEVERAGE and LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION, playing ex-military/ex-mercenary Eliot Spencer, says he got to express new aspects of his character in the second half of the season.

Both Kane and Riesgraf, together on a Zoom call, talk about the second half of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION’s Season 1, and especially about Riesgraf as a direction.

ASSIGNMENT X: Ms. Riesgraf, I understand from all of your coworkers that you did a great job as a director. You were a photographer before you became an actor. Can you talk about, was directing what you expected it to be, and for the scenes you were in as an actor where you were also the director, did you rely on anybody else to say, “Bigger, smaller,” or did you just trust your judgment there?

Beth Riesgraf in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

Beth Riesgraf in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

BETH RIESGRAF: I trusted my judgment, but I think you always collaborate, right? So, the best idea wins. I think being flexible in that way is really important as a director, and then knowing where your integrity lies, and the shots you have in mind. You have to stand strong on those, and fight for what you want as well. So, I think it’s kind of a combo.

But to start at the beginning, yes, I started out as a photographer, and then throughout the years, I was president of my photo club in high school, and then twenty-five years later, I got my first shot at directing television. But I had done shorts before that, I had been a photographer for years, and it was always something I wanted to do. So, I was hustling, shadowing [other directors] wherever I could, asking as many questions as possible.

The first people I always introduce myself to on any job are the camera guys, and I pick their brains about everything. I am fascinated by every aspect of it. And so, I had sat in on meetings, wardrobe fittings, gone on location scouts whenever I could, shadowed Dean on THE LIBRARIANS. [Directing has] always been a passion of mine, and Dean saw that in me, and he has always really believed in me as an actor, but also saw how hard I was hustling, and when this opportunity came about, he said, “I want to give you a shot at this, and you’re ready.” And so, the first episode was a dream.

And I think I had to tick a lot of boxes. The pressures – you don’t see what directors go through as an actor, right? But knowing how many meetings and how many decisions, and just how every single thing has already been discussed a million ways by the time you get to set, the freedom then that you have to play is just phenomenal, even though it’s a hustle, and it’s like you’re sprinting to make your day, especially on a show this big, in the small amount of time we actually have.

But ultimately, I was so excited to have the tools and the means to make something on this level. When you’re making shorts with friends, you’re holding boom, you’re getting the burritos for everybody, you’re gluing feathers on costumes. So, to be able to work with a pool of talent this large, and everybody comes with a vast amount of experience, that, to me, was the most exciting part about it, and to see what I could do with that in certain moments, with that collaboration with people who’ve been doing this for way longer than me. I gobbled it up, and I loved it, and I’m hooked.

AX: Mr. Kane, do you work differently with her as a director than you do with other directs, especially when it comes the fight scenes? Because I know you have some contribution to the choreography of the LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION fight scenes.

Christian Kane and Aleyse Shannon in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

Christian Kane and Aleyse Shannon in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

CHRISTIAN KANE: Well, Beth knows what I bring to the table when it comes to choreographing a fight, so that was pretty easy. That was actually the first conversation we had. She was like, “You’re tied to a chair, and you’re drugged.” And I was like, “All right, what if …” We kept going over ideas, and like she said, the best idea wins. I said, “What if I’ve still got the wood on my hands, and I break the chair, and then it’s Wolverine.” And she gave me my Wolverine moment, and I loved it.

But being directed by Beth, it’s more like she’s just a friend. I’m trying to give her everything that I can, but I never really saw her wearing a director’s hat. It was two kids in a candy store, is actually what it was, and it was so much fun, and she had so many great ideas.

It was very important for me, because on “The Bucket Job,” at least, where we see inside of Eliot in a place that we haven’t really seen before, and she was fantastic about bringing the emotion out in me that I really wanted to come across, and give Eliot a different side than what we usually see. And it was great, because LeVar Burton was there, and only LeVar’s character saw that. He doesn’t know Eliot Spencer as well as everybody else, because he would never break down in front of any of them. He was able to break down in front of LeVar’s character, and be vulnerable, and Beth did a really good job of bringing that out.

And she was rooting for me, and I felt like she was my wingman, I had a fan in my corner, instead of just a director. A lot of times, if a new director comes in that I don’t know, I’ve got to be a little more forceful on what I think the fights should be. There was a time when LeVar and I were in the library and fighting, and I looked at Beth, and said, “This fight’s going to be way too long, it’s going to be almost impossible to film.” And she said, “Can you make it shorter? Can you cut it down?” And I said, “Yeah.” And she trusted me with that. Some people don’t have the luxury of doing that, but she has known me for so long.

But it’s easy – we know these characters already, so I wasn’t trying to find out who the character was, I was playing the character as normal, as usual, and then, because I’m not so great at playing Eliot vulnerable, she came in and gave me notes, and coached me through the whole thing, and made me feel at home, and made me feel at ease. And when that happens, I watch it back, I watch it almost like a fan, to be honest with you. And I’m very proud of what I did, and it was due to Beth.

Beth Reisgraf, Aleyse Shannon. Christian Kane, Gina Bellman, Noah Wyle in LEVERAGE - REDEMPTION| ©2021 Electric Entertainment

Beth Reisgraf, Aleyse Shannon. Christian Kane, Gina Bellman, Noah Wyle in LEVERAGE – REDEMPTION| ©2021 Electric Entertainment

RIESGRAF: Well, and you [laughs].

AX: For both of you, who were the guest stars that you most enjoyed in the back half of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION’s first season?

KANE: Well, I think we’re both going to say the same thing. It’s got to be LeVar Burton. We had a little piece of American history with us, man. It was someone who I’ve always looked up to and respected, and when he came in, you’re thinking, “Wow, there’s this guy that’s this huge star.” And he immediately took that and threw it out the window, and became a friend to both of us, and was so eager to go to work. And he’s such a good actor. He gave all he had, even in takes where he wasn’t on camera. The man gives you everything, every single time. As an actor, unbelievable. As a first-time director, for Beth, that had to be a gift she did not know she was getting.

RIESGRAF: Yeah, it was incredible. Growing up watching LeVar, it was a real pinch-me moment to be there, and also, kind of intimidating. When you know an actor is also a director, everyone has their process. I knew the rest of the cast very well, and I knew LeVar as this legend, but I didn’t know him personally, and he came on set and was just generous and kind from the get-go, and fully made me a comrade in directing, and he never treated me like a first-time director of TV. He treated me as an equal, and I really respected him for that. So, that was just such a gift.

I also directed “The Great Train Job,” and the local talent that we were able to get on both episodes as well, phenomenal actors. Aury Krebs plays Emily in “The Great Train Job,” and that was her first time ever acting on TV, and she was amazing. And then Jon Fletcher, who comes from a Broadway background, theatre, has done a ton of stuff, we were lucky to get him, and his chemistry with Gina was flawless.

And what the two of them brought as theatre actors in a pinch, when we had an hour to get this scene of them in the train car, the fact that they had been rehearsing and talking because of their backgrounds – they know the importance of a good rehearsal. We don’t have time for that a lot of times. So, they took it upon themselves to do it, and by the time we got to set, they nailed it in one take. So, I feel like knowing the quality of actors that are available, it was such an honor to bring in people who I knew and was a fan of already, but also, to discover the new and local talent was amazing.

LEVERAGE - REDEMPTION key art | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

LEVERAGE – REDEMPTION key art | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

AX: What would you both most like people to know about the second half of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION Season 1?

RIESGRAF: I would say that you’re going to have even more fun the second half than you did the first half, and you’re going to enjoy the ride. We hope you do. What else would you say, Christian?

KANE: I there are some of my favorites in the second half. [This season], you’ve got two new [regular] characters. You’ve got Noah Wyle coming in as a character, Aleyse comes in with an unbelievable character, and you have to develop those characters, you have to introduce them to the world. Well, we’ve introduced them, and now they get to run free, and they get to run with us.

And so, I think that’s why the second half is a lot faster, it’s a lot bigger. People may disagree with me on “better,” because I honestly think everything is great that we’ve done this season, but the characters get to move quicker, and I think that that gets you on the edge of your couch a little bit faster as well. So, the stakes are higher, and it’s a fast-driven, very fast-paced second half, and I think people are going to enjoy that. It’s LEVERAGE, we’re back, is basically it.

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Article: LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION: Stars Beth Riesgraf and Christian Kane on the second half of Season 2

 

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