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

LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION returns for the second half of its first season on October 8, streaming for free on IMDb TV, as well as for Amazon Prime customers.

Like the original LEVERAGE, which ran 2008-2012, LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION was created by Chris Downey and John Rogers, and executive-produced by writer/director Dean Devlin. Reformed criminals turned helpful heisters – grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), muscle Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), and thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf) – are aided by new team member tech expert Brianna Casey (Aleyse Shannon), foster sister of master hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), who appears in several episodes. However, previous team leader Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) has passed away, and his widow Sophie spends the season contemplating whether she wants to return to the group full-time without him.

Erstwhile ruthless corporate lawyer trying to earn, well, redemption by joining the group is Harry Wilson, played by Noah Wyle, who starred in Devlin’s THE LIBRARIAN telefilms and subsequent TV series.

While the first LEVERAGE was based in Portland, Oregon, LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION is set and shot in New Orleans, Louisiana. Making the series was no minor feat during COVID.

Devlin and fellow LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION executive producer/co-show runner Kate Rorick get on Zoom to discuss reuniting with their altruistic thieves.

ASSIGNMENT X: For Kate Rorick, are you new to the LEVERAGE universe?

KATE RORICK: I am new to LEVERAGE, but I’m not new to Dean Devlin or Electric Entertainment. I worked with them on THE LIBRARIANS for four years previously. But I was a fan of LEVERAGE originally. So, when Dean first pitched this idea to me, I was like, “Yes! I miss my con and heist show! I miss being able to have a little bit of catharsis by triumphing over evil in the world.” And I don’t think I’m the only one who felt that way, which is why our fan response has been so amazing.

LEVERAGE - REDEMPTION key art | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

LEVERAGE – REDEMPTION key art | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

AX: Conceptually, when you first did LEVERAGE, there was much more credence in the idea that if you exposed evil, you would get rid of it. Now, unfortunately, we know that sometimes when you expose evil, it just sits there and goes, “Nyah, nyah, nyah.” So, do you think that LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION is even is more cathartic, or do you think that it’s less plausible than the original?

DEAN DEVLIN: [laughs] Well, I think o that we tried really hard in this to exposit exactly what you just said, that we can’t just tell the press and hope everything works out, that we have to be a little bit more vicious in our takedowns this year. And I think it’s one of these things that, by pointing it out, it makes it more satisfying.

AX: As far as things you wanted to touch on, for example, with the episode about the Internet influencer/self-help guru, is that sort of a sideways dig at people who take ivermectin instead of getting vaccinated?

RORICK: It is a dig at that whole culture of doing your own research and distrusting medical advice, and making yourself vulnerable to con artists. The wellness culture does have a lot of that in it. The more we dug down into it, doing our research, the scarier it got for us, so we really wanted to do what we could to shine a light on that.

DEVLIN: And this isn’t new to the COVID era. We’ve seen this with desperate people dealing with cancer, or brain tumors, and there are charlatans who will go out there and exploit that fear, and we think that’s horrific. And so, we wanted to take a shot at it.

AX: Were all of the things you went after in this season of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION things you were thinking of over the years, “I really want to go after that,” or was there anything you found in your research more recently that you went, “Well, this is scary, let’s deal with that”?

RORICK: [Series creators] John Rogers and Chris Downey, who were consulting producers, had a big file of all the things that they’ve had been collecting over the years, of articles for potential LEVERAGE heists. So, we do not want for material, let’s put it that way.

DEVLIN: And the one thing that you can count on in our world is, we never run out of rich bad guys. They seem to pop up every couple days, and I think the waiting list of rich bad guys that we want to go after will provide us with episodes long into my grandchildren’s lives [laughs].

AX: You directed the first two episodes of the series, and then the season finale. Is that because those were the ones was closest to your heart, or is that because you just didn’t have time to do any other ones?

DEVLIN: Well, I’m very selfish that way. I did want to start and finish it, for completely selfish reasons. But also, poor Kate was put in such a difficult situation on this, and because the show had been delayed so many times before we could start, because of COVID and hurricanes and everything else, our writers’ room had actually ended before we started the show. So, once we were kind of in the middle, I felt like I needed to help out as much as Kate would want or allow me to.

RORICK: I begged him for help.

[Devlin and Rorick both laugh.]

Beth Riesgraf in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

Beth Riesgraf in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

RORICK: No. Dean did a fantastic job on the first and last episodes. Really, what that does is, that sets the tone for the show, and it really helps cap it off, but Dean is also very busy producing the whole thing over the course of the rest of the series in the middle there. So, I think that that probably took up a lot of his time.

AX: Have the LEVERAGE action sequences gotten even more Rube Goldberg than they were before?

DEVLIN: I think the thing is, one of the staples of LEVERAGE has always been that it’s not just a fight or an action bit. It has to exposit character while you’re doing it. So, it often will be more of a Rube Goldberg thing, in that we’re trying to always accomplish two things simultaneously. It’s never just, “Let’s stop the show for the fight,” or “Let’s stop the show for the car chase.” Something about it has got to move the story forward, and tell us a little bit more about the characters.

AX: Since the writers’ room concluded before you started shooting, were there a lot of spontaneous rewrites to deal with production exigencies, or any other factors?

RORICK: Well, I will say that we were not really sure what we were capable of filming in a COVID era until we actually started filming. So, what happened was, the scripts that we had, everything that we had written so far, we had to go through and do a COVID pass on. And while we got to tell the stories that we wanted to tell, which I’m really proud that we never had to shift the stories, we did have to shift, “Well, maybe we can’t film here, maybe we need to make this scene here, and have this character not show up until a little bit later, because we can’t have that there.” It was more rearranging than anything else, but it was still a lot of stuff [laughs].

AX: How was shooting in Louisiana during COVID?

DEVLIN: Because we were one of the very first productions to go back to work [after the production shutdown had lifted], we had actually created our own COVID protocols, before the unions had. And later, when the protocols came out, we found that ours were actually more restrictive than what we were being asked to do by either the state or the unions. But because we felt such a responsibility to not screw this up, we stayed with our protocols. And I happy to say that nobody got COVID on our set, and we made it all the way through. But it was difficult. We had to divide the crew into five different pods that couldn’t cross-pollinate, we had to put up shields in cars and limit how many people could be in a vehicle, which meant we had to have more vehicles, we had to limit how many hours a day we shot. It was expensive, and it was difficult. But we kept everyone safe.

AX: Why did you decide that Nathan Ford should not be a living character in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION?

DEVLIN: Honestly, I think the thing is, I had tried, in my feeble attempts over the years, maybe forty different versions of the show, to find a way to bring it back. And the version that really excited Amazon, and IMDb TV, was this idea of a new character coming in that needs redemption. And it gave a kind of an engine for the show. The Nate Ford arc, which went over seventy-seven episodes, really had a fulfilling conclusion. This was a damaged character who was seeking revenge for the death of his son, and by the end of those seventy-seven episodes, he found peace. To just get him pissed off again seemed a little bit weird. So, we’re real happy with having a new fuel to this fire to start it up again.

AX: Was Harry Wilson specifically written for Noah Wyle, or did you come up with Harry Wilson, and then go, “Oh, Noah Wyle would be a great fit there”?

RORICK: The latter. We had Harry Wilson in mind, and we were writing outlines, and trying to find our way to the character. And then Dean pitched the idea of Noah, and when he came on board, it really started to click for us – how he’d sound, how he’d act, how he’d look.

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

AX: Noah Wyle directed several episodes of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION. He’d earlier directed for you on THE LIBRARIANS. Cast member Beth Riesgraf is also directing this year. Is this something she’d wanted to do previously, or is directing something that, when everything came back, she raised her hand and said, “I’d like to do this now”?

DEVLIN: Well, what a lot of people don’t know is, before she was even a model, she was a photographer. And she’s always been a remarkable photographer. But back when we were doing THE LIBRARIANS, I remember one week, I got a phone call from Beth, saying, “I’m really interested in directing, could I come and shadow you on an episode?” And so, she flew herself up to Portland, she put herself up in a hotel, and she shadowed me every day of preproduction, all through the shoot, and even came into the editing room to watch what we were doing. And so, I knew then that she was very serious about this. This wasn’t just some vanity thing. She was really seeing a future for herself as a director. So, when LEVERAGE came back, it was a really good opportunity for me to see if she could do it. And she knocked it out of the park with the first one, so we gave her a second one [laughs].

AX: Aldis Hodge is only in a few episodes of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION. Was he unavailable for more, or did you just want to save Hardison’s appearances up for some reason?

DEVLIN: Aldis Hodge is the hardest-working man in show business. [Recently] I think he’s done four or five movies, plus his TV series [Showtime’s CITY ON A HILL], and is now starring in a giant DC movie [BLACK ADAM] for Warner Brothers. The fact that he gave us any time at all was a miracle. I remember the first time I called him, I said, “You probably don’t have time, but we would love to have you back if you’d do an episode.” And he said to me, “Dean, I’ll come and do as much as I can, whenever I’m not previously committed. I’ll do as many as we can squeeze in.” And that’s exactly what we did. It was so generous of him, and it really shows the kind of person he is. It wasn’t about his ego, it wasn’t about money. He loved this show, he felt a connection to this character that he wasn’t ready to let go of, and he came and gave us as much time as he could. And hopefully he’ll have more time in Season 2.

Christian Kane and Gina Bellman in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

Christian Kane and Gina Bellman in LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION | ©2021 Electric Entertainment

AX: Do you know if you’re going into a second season of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION?

DEVLIN: We hope so.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about the back half of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION Season 1?

DEVLIN: It’s even better than the first half.

RORICK: There’s so much fun to be had, there are so many cool guest stars, there are so many cool locations that we went to, that it’s going to be a lot of fun for people.

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Article: LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION: Showrunners Dean Devlin and Katie Rorick

 

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