Streaming popularity helps a TV favourite secure a highly anticipated reboot
CTV DramaIn the near-decade that Leverage has been off the air, the cast continued to harbour high hopes that something would bring this team of do-gooding con artists back together. “This is one of those shows where the characters are so beloved and the fanbase is so loyal and you genuinely have such good chemistry with your group and your crew. I really missed it when it ended,” says Beth Riesgraf, who plays master thief Parker. “I kept hoping and wishing it was going to come back. There were many times when we got really close—a buzz would start, and we’d think, ‘Is there going to be a movie?’ And then it would go quiet.”
Simultaneously, thanks to streaming, the show that ran from 2008 to 2012 was gathering new fans at a rate that finally warranted a second act for the group that specializes in sticking up for the little guy and taking down corrupt corporations. “The more people that found out about the show, the more people started spreading the word,” says Riesgraf. “This is a show that people really do want to see come back.”
CTV DramaIn the years since the team disbanded, a lot has changed, both on screen and off. “The show used to be a lot about revenge and the fun of that. This first season back is more about second chances and growth,” Riesgraf explains.
Bringing these characters back together is a big life event, which also explains the absence of the gang’s original “mastermind” Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) from this reboot. Naturally, that absence is especially painful for Nate’s wife, Sophie (Gina Bellman). “There’s been a huge shift in Sophie’s life that has caused her to want to disappear and she’s a bit lost,” Riesgraf teases. “Parker knows that they have to come together in order to help her get back on her feet.” Luckily, Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) are more than happy to oblige.
CTV DramaTo complete their team, they target corporate lawyer Harry Sullivan (Noah Wyle) as a new potential ally—but not without putting the poor man to the test. “At first, it’s fun for us, because we know this guy’s about to get busted. We’re just sitting back wondering, ‘Should we help this guy, or should we let this guy fail?’” says Riesgraf. “But we find ourselves having a bigger conversation with him and take an interest in him. Over time, as the relationship starts to grow, we find that he needs help and he also can help us. It makes sense for us to bring him on board.”
If joining this team is a bit hit-and-miss for Harry, it was no such thing for Wyle. “I’ve heard Noah say that it’s natural to feel nervous coming into something where the fanbase is so loyal, but he played it perfectly, because he came in and had this beautiful approach of, ‘Let’s play,’ ” says Riesgraf. “His comedic timing is so good. He can land an emotional beat so well. All that stuff was really evident. And he also directs, so we’ve got to see him wear multiple hats. His love for the craft of acting and directing is really admirable. It was pretty apparent right away that it was going to be a good mix.”
CTV DramaRiesgraf recalls originally auditioning for the role of Parker with just seven lines of dialogue. The intervening years have very much fleshed out this quirky thief, but the actress feels there’s still so much to explore. “Parker really didn’t have any boundaries and that was thrilling, and still is to this day,” she says. “It was always really important for me not to normalize Parker too much, by which I mean society’s views of what a normal personality is. Parker struggled with knowing how to fit in, in the real day-to-day situations with family and friends. And now that she’s got that base, she knows that she has a safe landing pad. But there’s still that little moment of unpredictability with her, and it makes me want to have more seasons. We’re really just scratching the tip of the iceberg.”
Even though the core cast had stayed in touch throughout the years, reuniting on the show that brought them together felt special. “It was super-surreal, because everyone’s a little bit older, but we’re all the same,” says Riesgraf. “The moment we had a table read was when it clicked for me. There were nerves, like, ‘How is this going to go? Are we all going to have the same energy?’ And the moment we started reading the lines, it was so apparent that the magic was still there. Everybody was just instantly clicking back into their voices. We knew it was going to be a lot of fun.”
Leverage: Redemption airs Thursdays at 7 p.m. on CTV Drama