The con is back on, as TNT’s Leverage uncorks its fourth season this Sunday at 9/8c. When last we tuned in, Nate the Mastermind (played by Timothy Hutton), Sophie the Grifter (Gina Bellman), Hardison the Hacker (Aldis Hodge), Eliot the Hitter (Christian Kane) and Parker the Thief (Beth Riesgraf) had overcome assorted obstacles – including perceived betrayals and MIA members – to at long last arrive at a place of team spirit. But sure enough, a puppet master-like entity is about to steal that confidence out from under the gang, setting up what Hutton calls the best batch of episodes yet.
Hutton spoke with TVLine about Season 4′s icy-cold kick-off, the tricky road ahead for newly coupled Nate and Sophie, and one mysterious… potato?
TVLINE | When I recently spoke to Christian and Aldis, they raved about some new writers who have joined the show. What would you say they bring to party?
Yeah, they came to the job as fans of the show, having had seen every episode multiple times. So they pitched some ideas and got the job, and the energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the scripts is amazing. They have so much fun fleshing out the characters. When we read these scripts, we’ll call each other and say, “Did you read that scene where Parker does this? And Nate does that? And Hardison…?” That’s been the case since the first script, because the show is fun, but there’s something especially great about this year. I didn’t think this was possible, but the show is better than it’s been, and we’re in our fourth season.
TVLINE | Is there any theme to this season?
Perhaps that the team has come together as a family, that they all now trust each other. But just at the moment that they finally kind of trust one another, confident that no one is going to bail or go AWOL, they find that they’re being watched by a very powerful group or person that is wanting to control what the Leverage team does, for their own gain. Once they begin to figure out that they’re being manipulated, it becomes this really complex web of, “Who’s doing this and what do they want?” And then they realize that it’s not a black-and-white, good-versus-evil kind of thing. Perhaps there’s someone out there who has found a legitimate way to benefit from what the Leverage team does. It’s not very ethical, but it creates a dilemma for them as far what they do about it and how they can possibly use this entity to find more people that are ripping folks off.
TVLINE | Tell me about filming the season premiere — just how much snow did you all have to deal with?
Oh, that was a blizzard. Somebody said that about 60 inches fell in three days [on location at Oregon's Mt. Hood], on top of a base that was already five feet. It was all real [snow] — all those snow drifts, everything — and we had a blast. Snowballs fights, sledding, just hanging out at that mountain…. It wasn’t fancy at all, in that we didn’t have dressing rooms or anything, people were getting changed in hallways, inside the cabins of Caterpillars, and for lunch they’d throw everybody a half a sandwich…. [Laughs] It was absolutely amazing to start off the season that way.
TVLINE | At the close of last season the show finally tackled the sticky wicket of the whole Nate/Sophie thing. [Watch video clip here.] Did you like how they handled it?
I thought it was fun the way they did it, to have this elaborate job –- the one where they kind of rigged an island election -– conclude with a wild night, and then Eliot knocking on the door saying, “We’ve got to go!” Did he see Sophie under the covers…? Did he not see? It was a nice visual –- there they are, in bed. I mean, it was a couple years of them flirting and dancing around it, so it was fun to just have them end up there.
TVLINE | The Leverage team is pretty smart, they’re bound to piece things together….
Yeah, yeah… I think they’ll start to understand what’s going on a little bit. And maybe some bad guys out there who have been watching Nate and Sophie have some evidence against them. But it’s something that Nate and Sophie have to deal with. They can’t just casually go on thinking there are no consequences. Is it going to interfere with work, and the roles they play in the cons?
TVLINE | Is there a persona of Nate’s that you’re especially fond of?
Nate has found a way to speak to a potential mark in a way that doesn’t allow the person to get in a word edgewise. It’s a sleight of hand, using words, to manipulate people with the rate he speaks, the words he chooses, and the things he subtly indicates. But it doesn’t always work! Then he has to go to Plan B.
TVLINE | Before we go, one final tease about the new season?
Keep your eye out for the stolen potato!
TVLINE | For real?
Watch this TNT video diary for more on the fr-fr-fr-freezing season premiere shoot: