Hey, you all showed up, and you brought some friends. Thanks.
Right, I won't lie -- this one was a bitch. I mean, we were ecstatic, but we'd been picked up for the summer -- which was an honor, a real vote of confidence from the network -- with little prep time. We'd literally written ourselves out of a show premise. You see, we' sworn to ourselves we'd tell a complete story in Season 1, in case we never made an other episode of Leverage again. No cliffhanger endings for our story!
Well then, too clever by half.
So we started wrestling with how to bring the team back together. The natural reunion is a "help, I'm in trouble" call. It gets you in hot, it immediately covers any motivations, it solves a multitude of writing problems ... and so, perversely, we dug in against it.
Besides, we were basically writing a "second pilot" for all the new summer season sample viewers. A "help I'm in trouble" episode almost always is about one of the characters or a loved one. But the point of Leverage is that they help ordinary people, people who've stumbled into the giant machine of finance and corruption and power. For a "second pilot", we should use a traditional victim.
Not only that, these are characters who are not touchy-feely. Were we going to cheat and say the end of Season 1 really meant "And they never saw each other again ... except for weekends and holidays..." No, they broke up. For reals, as the kids would Tweet. It had to be accidental and awkward. Simultaneous heists? Well, we were saving that for something else ...
Downey joked that he'd like to find a way to get the team back together again during the opening credits. I'd laugh ... and then wistfully sigh. What we arrived at was the accidental reunion of damaged friends, none of whom could summon up the emotional maturity to just come out and admit they needed each other. Instead, once given permission to be together by fate, they could hack away awkwardly, fall into their old family relationship and pretend that hey, it was just a good way to work out the altruism kinks, until the jones passed again.
All except Nate Ford, of course. Nate closed his arc in Season 1. Done. He got his vengeance agasint the men who he felt were responsible for the death of his child. He was forgiven by his ex-wife. Didn't need to drink anymore, conquered his demons ...
Nate Ford ... well, we know Nate Ford a little, by now. Add a line Downey and Berg wrote in "The 12 Step Job":"Maybe I'm a bigger bastard when I'm sober? Did you think about that?" and you begin to understand that it takes a certain kind of person to baste his grief and rage in a furnace of booze and come out the other side as an obsessive, vengeful guardian angel. And that sort of person doesn't go away when the booze does. Hell, the boze was what was keeping the edge off. What happens to a brilliant, obsessive control freak when you take vengeance away from him? Those gears don't just spin down ...
Nate Ford has a very definite idea of who he is and where he belongs in the world. He is, of course, wrong.
Season Zero was about what happens when a nice, stand-up guy with a very black-and-white identity and worldview collides headlong with reality, and reality wins. Season 1 was about that man crawling out of the gutter using what was left of his skills. Season 2 is about Nate Ford realizing that he isn't that nice, stand-up guy anymore. He's changed. Or, maybe, he's just not so good at lying about who -- or what -- he really is.
At the same time, Sophie's coming to a realization herself. How Nate and Sophie each react to their new sense of identity form the first and second "season" arcs of Season 2.
And along the way, we'll watch Eliot, Hardison and Parker deal with "identity" in their own ways.
This season, as you probably know, shoots in Portland, which has turned into a fantastic experience for us. The city is shoot-friendly, looks gorgeous, and the people of Portland have really taken us into their hearts. The show is going to shoot on location quite a bit more than we did last year, and I think it opens us up visually, gives us a little more scope.
The plot of this episode came about because, well, we were just too steeped in crime, after a year, to look at anything in a non-cynical way. Basically, as we were developing the 2nd Season, the government announced the $700 billion dollar bailout deal. We looked at each other and said: "There is no way that you're going to turn $700 billion loose into the world and not have somebody try to grift a piece of it. " Soon after we started filming, the government began prosecuting the first of the bailout fraud cases. Not prescience -- a simple faith in the gravity of corruption.
Bank fraud's a ... little dry, to say the least. I was casting around for a crime story to glue onto the idea (Downey was breaking what would become #203, Berg working on what would become #207) while going over my notes about moving the show to Boston. "Remember The Departed" was scrawled in my notebook, a reminder to use State Police in a story, since audiences would already have a mental shorthand for those sorts of characters. The bleak, joyless existence of the modern mob juxtaposed agasint the luxurious lifestyles of "honest citizens" like Madoff and Sanford pretty much fell together, all of a piece, in an afternoon. Once you know who you want to talk about, the crime stuff comes a lot easier.
Of course, as soon as the actors showed up, it all fell into place. We really are kind of in the business of dropping these characters into trouble, and then getting the hell out of their way.
For the record, first shot of the second season was Kevin Chapman -- who'd been a doorman at Nick's Comedy Club in Boston when I was doing stand-up -- settign up the meeting with Nate Ford over his cell phone. And my favorite line is "... but we usually use a razor blade." Annie Kroy may be my favorite Gina character yet. I could write 12 episodes for that voice alone.
Right, onto the questions.
@scott: It's great that the Season 1 DVD is out, but what about Blu-Ray?? when can we expect the first season in Blue-Ray format???
Don't know. The DVD's are distributed by Paramount, and I think we're hacking out a Blue-Ray option now. It is a shame, as we shoot digital, but I think it still looks pretty amazing, at least for human eyes.
@Stefan Jones: The Oregonian says the new season is supposed to be taking place in Boston. No love for Stumptown?
We always said Nate Ford was from Boston, and it's the home-base culture for both Tim and I. If Nate Ford was going to go anywhere to try to re-assert his old identity, it was home. We will see, however, that he probably didn't really think that out ...
@Robert M: Any idea whether we might see Leverage streaming on Netflix soon? I prefer life without cable, and iTunes has some serious drawbacks as a delivery method for TV.
It's up now on Netflix streaming, although there are a few Season 1 eps missing that are currently streaming on TNT. I assume they'll become available very soon. I do love the Netflix. I keep every ep of Rockford on my Play Instantly queue at all times, just in case the whim strikes me.
Personally, I'd go with the DVD, because then you get all our drunken, ranting commentary.
@Darkrose: Will S2 be available on iTunes, and if so, any idea what the turnaround time will be?
It's up, and looks like it'll be a 1 day turnaround.
@Jenni: Here in Sunny Florida, in Miami there is a big problem with Medicare fraud, maybe Nate and the team could come in and clean that up for us!!! Eliot can kick their ass for people selling their social security cards and companies taking the money and run and not helping anyone.
Is he kicking the asses of the elderly? I think Kane might have an issue with that. Although we haven't done a proper wheelchair fight yet. I think we just shot the meat cvleaver fight last week ...
@Michelle: I had to laugh when Elliot made the new door way. Does this mean that they are all moving into the building? (like a big frat house?)
God, no. Although Nate's not exactly sure where the hell Hardison is sleeping, because he always seems to be in Nate's loft. Always.
@Matt: Did you really need to beat us over the head with the briefcase thing at the end, though?
You know, we're never sure. Testing indicates -- and I'm not kidding -- that about 30% of our audience never understands the con at all. Doesn't stop them from enjoying the show, but particularly for a "second pilot", better safe than sorry.
@Becky: Are we going to get to see what everyone was up to for the 6 months, or was the brief mention in tonight's episode it?
You'll get glimpses, but we're kind of saving those months for something special. We did have a series of flashbacks -- again, not kidding -- picking up the story of Eliot's mysterious monkey. But that's for another day.
@Karie: guess the big reason why everyone split up to begin with is left on the fun train? That's okay, I like the fun train. Will we see more Sterling again this season? Mark Sheppard is a fantastic actor and I love seeing him get work.
I think I covered why the split above, but hey, love to see people embrace the fun train. You can be damn sure Sterling is coming back. After all, he never loses ...
@Calla: I have a question: one of Christian Kane's songs played in an S1 episode - will he get another song in S2 AND might we get to see Eliot sing at some point?
Probably have another song, but both Chris and the writers don't want to push Eliot singing. Does Eliot look like he sings? I don't know. I think he is an artist, and violence is his instrument ...
@Kai: So, it's a very minor quibble that I have, but I'm kind of hoping the little intro credits were a one time deal, sort of a 15-second "you are here" for all the first-time viewers...they weren't terrible, understand, and they were quick, but I have to admit that I liked how season one just went with a quick title and got straight to business.
You will see the intro for a while, but it will probably shift soon. Maybe. At the very least, we're going to play with where it lands.
@Cameron Hughes: How was Nate able to land a job at an insurance company after the events of last year? Also, is Leverage World a year ahead of us the way its been jumping 6 months?
Hardison covered their tracks pretty perfectly. Leverage World is about 3 months ahead of us, but will be normalied to Standard Non-Fiction Time by the end of the Season.
@Mitchy: As an aside, I have to say if I were Nate, having people barging in and trashing my place would drive me straight back to drink. Looking forward to seeing how he continues to cope with the not drinking thing, especially working with this crew!
Nate's grand strategy to stop drinking is basically pitting his own iron will against the booze. In a BAR. Literally staring it down. Yeah, this is going to go well ...
@Shelley: Split seasons, 'eh? Hmmmm. Will this become a habit for future seasons (what, there will be future seasons!) or is this a one-time thing to deal with the quicker turnaround?
If we're granted a third season by the TV Gods, then I believe we'll stay on the split schedule.
@Nato: All in all, big fun TV. You could coast all season on the strength of your lead ensemble, and I'd quite happily tune in. But I'd really like to see you add some nuance and complexity to your villains.
Dude, Bernie Madoff stole FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS. In a PONZI SCHEME. Which is the criminal equivalent of convincing people you are going to fly to the moon in a refridgerator box. The single, unpleasant truth is that most people, particularly criminals, are NOT complex. They are shallow, greedy sons of bitches to whom we attribute genius planning or complex motivations in order to preserve a false sense of order in our universe.
That said, all our bad guys operat ein a world where they are the heroes. You'll hear several different versions of "the evil speech of evil", as we call it, over the next year.
@Micah Seymour: Ok I watched the first episode of S2 last night 'cause you've got a guest star called W.W. coming up sometime. That gets one free viewing, but what I saw last night will at least make me check it out next week.
Wil Wheaton is in, er, I don't remember which episode. Better watch them all. He could be anywhere!
@VideoBeagle: Production question: The CGI car crash. Lots of places, entertainment folk talk about how expenseive CGI is and how long it takes etc...Is it something that's getting to the point that it is though cheaper to make a car flip digitally than to get a car and have a stunt man flip it or are there other considerations that lead to it's use?
Honestly, we just thought it woud be insane to go to Portland and, first day there, flip and blow up a car on a major thoroughfare. Turns out they're pretty cool about it.
Also, we've discovered that old-school miniatures explosions, gussied up with CG, look the best and are the cheapest way to go. You'll see more of those. Although our CG humans did yeoman;s work, I think if we were to do it again, we would have gone practical on the car flip.
@Richard Jensen: (Sidebar: I'm really glad to see Charles Martin Smith still kicking around. I've been a fan since he was hanging out in the tundra in "Never Cry Wolf".)
Sidebar -- Charles Martin Smith is the father of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. By which I mean, he directed the original, unaired premise pilot. Cool, eh?
@Eitan: When will TNT follow pretty much all the major, and some minor, networks and support the Mac OS?
They're actually upgrading this year, and things will be snappy for Mac users such as myself in just a few more weeks, if not days.
@Trent C: The monologue from the banker seems amazingly prescient, given the news story about Goldman Sachs posting record profits after being bailed out by the U.S. government. Reminds me of the senator from The Homecoming job echoing the fall of Ron Blagojevich.
Research is your friend, and greed is universal.
@CindyD1000: Why is Nate wearing a pajama top with a towel?
You know, I'm not sure. I'll ask Tim why he chose to do that. Probably to hide the tattoos.
@JackAttack: Question: When Sophie surprised the guy attacking Nate, why did she adopt a persona (couldn't catch the whole thing but ended with "Stitch this!"). She referenced it to make the con work later on, but it seemed convenient that she went "Irish" ahead of time.
I'm sorry, you think Sophie's voice is that character's real accent? Heh.
@scooter: McRory's is a lot tiddier than any Boston Irish bar I've been in. Maybe you can scruff it up a bit?
I'm drinking and vomiting in the corners as fast as I can, man!
@Rachel: And now I have a question: So when the team meet at the play, we're given the impression none of them have been in touch. Later Hardison tells us he looked for Parker for the whole six months the team has been apart and didn't find her. And yet Sophie managed to contact everyone to invite them to her performance? Is she just that good? Or did Parker maintain contact with Sophie, while avoiding Hardison? I'm confused!
You should be confused. Each one of them has a different relationship with the others. Sophie ... kept tabs on people. Hardison tried to, although he went about it, well, wrong.
Hope that was useful. Now, let's leave with a sneak peek of next week's episode. I actually giggled while watching this the first time; I'd never heard the final sound mix, and Aldis' desperate pleas for help ... just turn your volume way up.