This is being banged out between shots, on set, so pardon if it seems a little jerky.
#205 -- one pf my favorites of this season, perosnally -- was an experiment to some degree. Any showruner will tell you 2nd season's the bear. The one where you go from trying to make 13 perfect little movies to making at least 60 of the bastards. That means playing with the various elements of the show. The metaphor I always use is that you're driving down the highway, and you need to be able to change lanes -- character, plot, tone, template, etc -- as many ways as possible to keep from getting stale. Sometimes, you're gonna bang off the guardrail, granted, but it's a necessary process.
So this was an attempt to figure out what we could steal or retrieve for a client that was a bit more ... ephemeral than the standard bag 'o cash. That married up nicely with our desire to take on one of the cable bullies.
The center of the episode is almost thrown away in, well, the center of the episode, when Monica Hunter explains what her job is: "I sell fear." This is one of those things about Pundit Parasites I find particularly offensive (really, John? We had no idea.). I mean, the crime rate in New York is the lowest it's been in 42 years -- it's almost as safe to ride the subway now as it was back when Mad Men was happening, yet nice middle-Americans still treat urban centers as hellholes. Your kid is literally as likely to be struck by lightning as abducted and killed, and yet we're lojacking our kids. We have nice, ill-informed old people with trembling lips begging their Congressmen not to vote for "death panels." All because selling fear, making sure people believe something unspeakable is about to happen at any time is cheap, easy and big business.
There's a general rule we have on the show, in that the villain should be brought down by some version of his original sin. Hunter's sin was selling fear, and that's the fate she earned.
The classic film structure for paranoia is, of course, Three Days of the Condor. Toss that in the bag, add a military base the nice Army Reserve folk loaned us, mix it up, and Bob's your uncle. (For what it's worth, the whole "journalists are lazy"/using the same sources run was mine -- so feel free to address your angry emails in my direction.)
Beth Broderick, as only the second female villain we've had, was amazing. Funny, willing to do anything, and she really got the type of human we were parodying. By which I mean a completely random type of human, not one person. In a litigation sense.
All right, let's dive in to the mailbag. As always, all opinions are mine, this is not an official TNT site, etc., etc.:
@JohnSeavey: How's the show doing on DVD? Happy good numbers? How important are happy good DVD numbers to the continued run of a series on TV?
We won't have DVD numbers for a while, as we have a distribution deal through, I think, MGM. For a lot of shows it makes a difference as -- and this is new -- the studio that owns the network is leveraging shitty ad sales from a low-rated show against the DVD sales of a show with said tiny but passionate audience. (DVD sales are flattening out, however, so that's going to change. ) It's also a matter of building a library for future resale. TV shows accumulate material quickly, rapidly increasing the value of a studio's library.
All that said, we're in a different situation as we're independently produced so the math is skewed.
@ChrisAyers: Many times at the end of a con, the team gives the client a check, presumably for whatever amount he/she/they have coming to them. I've often wondered how the clients explain this sudden windfall to the bank and or the IRS when they go to deposit it...not to mention the kid getting a full fledged business in the ultimate fighting episode. Seems like that much unexplained money showing up could raise several thousand red flags.
Madoff ran a fifty billion dollar Ponzi scheme. For ten years.
All joking aside, Hardison's primary (if visually uninteresting) skill set is moving money around and working within the confines of the modern financial system. He's got the clients covered in complicated lease-to-own agreements.
@Jodih: Last season in the Miracle Job Eliot made mention of a nephew... Are we ever going to hear about him again or find out some other tidbit about Eliot's family?
They live in the shadows as immortals, so it's tricky ... Every time you introduce a family member, you're closing another story avenue. I'm leery of it. In this particular show, we like to keep the characters' backstories as blank-slate-y as possible.
@Bryan-Mitchell: Will there ever be an episode where the issue isn't so black and white? Where maybe it isn't as obvious that the bad guy is "bad" or that maybe the team members are split on if the issue warrants their involvement?
Eh. We'll probably do that at some point (one could argue the Hurley story was one), but as I've mentioned before, we're a pulp show. People tune in to watch banter and evil-smiting. We're pretty happy living in that world.
@catchester: I think the isues of good and evil and the team being split have already been dealt with a lot, considering there has only been 17 episodes. Like in the nigerian job, where the good guy client turned into the bad guy. Or the 12 step job where the bad guy was just mixed up and had good intentions. Or the wedding and beantown bailout jobs that Nate didnt want anything to do with. Then there's the stork job where Eliot thinks kidnapping a child isnt what they do and Parker later goes against the team decision and tries to rescue all the children. Or the fairy godparent job where Sophie and Eliot both object to using a child in their con. Most of Leverage seems to be a gray area to me. Thats one of the things i like about it.
Or ... that. (I honestly answer these questions one at a time, without reading them first, so there you go)
@Anonymous: What PR genius decided to advertise Nancy Grace's new book during this episode of Leverage? This is either idiocy or evil genius.
To be fair, they buy that ad time months in advance. And besides, our show had nothing to do with Nancy Grace. No-thing.
@Samantha: 1. Where do all the characters live in relation to one another? It would be weirdly hilarious/codependent if they all lived in the same building. 2. Parker's bizarre--sexual tension, I guess? with ladies is A+++, but will there ever be a payoff? Or is it just a throwaway gag? 3. Will there be a gag reel on the s2 dvds? My need for outtakes burns with all the blue-white intensity of an O-class star.
1.) Boston's not that big. Although we never establish it, in my head: Hardison got a place near Nate, Eliot got himself a place out on the water, probably Quincy, out on Hough's Neck (rides his motorcycle in to avoid the traffic) Sophie's in one of the new downtown condos, and Parker ... Parker's living arrangements are kind of special.
2.) I think she just has a weird energy with everybody. Although you're not the first person to have mentioned that.
3.) Geesh, wish we were rolling on that take where we opened the door on Beth and Geri and they were making out. I could have knocked off questions #2 and #3 in one go.
@Nicole: My question is this: Is Sophie's leadership suffering this time around because of Nate's control issues (jumping in on her, where while he was drunk he'd be more laid back) and because of her break up? Don't Hardison and Eliot compliment her leadership abilities in Second David Job (which was after the building blown up, to be fair...). I'm just a little confused about how that character arc is tracking...
Running a crew's a bear, and Nate poking her doesn't help. Also, this is her first time running a con where she's not stealing anything. Much trickier. But yeah, with one or two more under her belt, Sophie could run the crew. Although in a high stakes situation that'll be on in the winter, it's actually somebody else who steps into the big chair ...
@adc1966: And was Beth Broderick really climbing that fence herself in a skirt and heels? What a trouper.
Yep. She took the hit from the cop, too.
@cliff: Golf claps for "Project Destiny", good sir.
Hey, you have something from an old movie that's also a decent stripper name? You use it.
@Antisocial Butterfly: Quick Question: What is Area 52? Or at least what do you imagine it to be? Also I love that Eliot knows the truth about the government conspiracies. I'd expect that of Hardison, but it makes sense now that Eliot would know it too.
Area 52 is where they're building the cyborg from Global Frequency -- which would have been episode 13 of the first season, btw. And of course Eliot knows about this stuff. Let's just say that Hardison's phone is not the only one Eliot carries with him at all times. (I may have to hit Warren up to make that canon ...)
@Ashley: Question. Was the scene with Eliot wearing the apron and snapping on the plastic gloves taken from ShowTimes "Dexter," or was it just a coincidence?
It was just meant to be as creepy as possible. Not intentionally Dexter-y, but I don't think you can avoid the comparisons, honestly.
@Gordon: Question time: Monica Hunter was obviously quite substantively based on the Queen Bottom Feeder, Nancy Grace. Given HN and TNT are part of the same corporate "family," how did this help, hassle or hinder your creating the character?
I have no idea what you're talking about. Anyway, I think there are a fair number of cable humans who could reasonably pass for Monica Hunter. For a bunch of corporate overlords in suits, TNT are pretty cool about letting us nail whatever corporate overlord in a suit catches out passing fancy.
@heartspeed: Is Parker really that gullible? I wasn't sure if she was just joking around with them in her strange off beat way or she really was totally going for it all Area 52 and The Council lol. / @Kes: Does Elliot actually believe the moon landing was faked or is he just playing with Parker's head?
Parker's knowledge of anything non-thief related is sketchy (much like Sherlock Holmes). I think the answer is whatever you find most entertaining.
@Anonymous: So Parker is "killed" right outside the studio and then gets up and walks away while everyone watches? And this miraculous recovery never gets back to Hunter? Hmmm....
Ah-HA, my friend. No one else at the station met Beth, Hunter leaves that location directly, talks to the Nate, is then only back in the studio for five minutes before she freaks out, and the rest of the episode rolls out without interruption. No time for pipe, Doctor Jones!
@SapphireSmoke: How is it that all of the characters can act as well as they do? Most people have difficulties acting, especially under stressful situations. And even Parker, who at one point couldn't act to save her life... for being so socially inept and always bluntly honest, she seems to have progressed so far with lying/acting in such a short time. Granted, she's still not the best, but I just find it a little unrealistic that all of them can do it as well as they do.
Each one can act in very specific contexts. You can not let Hardison do the long con (as will be made painfully clear in Ep #208), as much as he wants to. Parker's okay as long as the character is meant to be off-putting, and she has Sophie in her ear. Eliot, ironically, is the second best grifter after Sophie. But, again, in very specific circumstances.
@sjrSpike: General question -- Nate is Nate, Eliot is Eliot, Sophie is Sophie, Parker is Parker -- so why is Alec Hardison? They all call each other by first name, except Hardison.
There's something about "Hardisonnnnn" through gritted teeth that makes it funnier. Honestly, just by sound. I also have a habit of calling people by their last names, so some of that probably blended in.
@VideoBeagle: Something that ocured to me.. the pilot made "we're funding this with an alternate revenue stream" was gonna be a reoccurring phrase...yet it didn't. Does the team still play the market to make the money to keep them funded and keep the toys coming in?
Yes, and they take a small percentage for operating expenses.
@Coren: But I want [the song from "Twelve Step"] now! How might I go about this? Also, are there more? If so, gimme!
I'd love to do a soundtrack, actually. We'll look into it.
@NancyH: (1) Was the reference to Area 51 & Area 52 an intentional play on the containers in "Homecoming?" (2) Is there a good site to see what the viewer numbers per episode are?
1.) No. 2.) You know, I don't know. If you follow the #leverage Twitter tag, somebody usually throws up a link.
@McDevite: my boyfriend and I, both of whom work in politics, wanted to know how much of the latter half of the Hunter story was influenced by Glen Beck?
Even Monica Hunter isn't as crazy as Glenn Beck.
@Anonymous: if Nate worked art fraud for IYS, how did he end up chasing Hardison? Did Nate work computer fraud or did Alec steal some art?
Nate ran across Hardison as the financial mastermind in a couple complicated insurance scams, more as a back-end facilitator.
@Alexandra: the cons seem to be moving further away from "stealing stuff" and closer to mind control (Order-23 and this one, though the Tap-Out Job had hints of it as well). While I love this direction, I'm wondering if this season will bring us just a straight up stealing-lots-of-money-from-somebody episode?.
That was, as mentioned above, intentional. A big part of the show's moral satisfaction comes from the villain's suffering, not just losing an "amount." And hey, 60 episodes, at some point in the low 30's you stole everything interesting you're gonna steal.
That said, we steal a lot of stuff over the course of this 15 episodes. Money, diamonds and a Russian artifact all coming up in the back 6.
@Bates: How much of your casting process is the standard casting director/auditions/etc. versus approaching a particular actor? (Or, for that matter, even creating a role from the get-go with someone specific in mind?)
Pretty much all of it is through casting directors, although we have a combo burrito with Lana Veenker in Portland and April Webster and Scott David in LA. Occasionally we have actors in mind, but usually we submit the breakdowns or scripts and let the casting directors do their jobs. We've brought very, very few actors in from other cities -- generally one an episode -- so almost everything goes through straight casting.
The only role I can think of that was written for a specific actor was Sterling. We did the full-on casting dance, but we intended for Mark Sheppard to play that role and fate decided to reward us.
@Calos b. (and others): Why was Nate wearing a black-and-white urban camo uniform (which isn't worn by the Army) when all the other soldiers were actually wearing the correct uniforms? Was this meant to add to the "black ops" conspiracy theme, or was this just the only uniform you could find in Portland?
We found plenty of real uniforms in Portland -- as a matter of fact, all the soldiers at the Army base are Reservists wearing their own uniforms. Portland has yet to disappoint on any aspect of the film-making process.
No, our problem was a purely production-oriented one: we didn't want to buzz Nate's hair and live with the look for, oh, say, five damn episodes. As a result, we really couldn't put him in a standard general's uniform. We almost spiked the character until, nicely enough, our former Army/spook dude consultant let us know that the Special Ops guys back from Afghanistan often sport long hair and beards when they return from working abroad, and don't cut it between assignments. We matched that with the black and white urban camo -- which checked out with our guys, but hey, YMMW -- and went with that look. It seemed to mesh nicely with the conspiracy tone of the episode. So, it was as close as we could get -- which, I will remind everyone, I've stated will never, ever be quite right.
@619: I personally HATE fanfic so I was wondering..... 1)How do YOU feel about fan fiction? 2)Does it irk you that so many people "borrow" your characters and use them in their own crappy stories? 3)Do you think of fanfic as a form of flattery? 4)Do the other writers and the actors feel the same way?
1.) I think fanfic is the sign of a healthy show. Here's what it boils down to: you're telling me that in today's crowded media space, our show made someone love it so much they take time out of their own life to talk about it? Holy. Crap.
To be fair, I have a somewhat different attitude toward media/fans than most people. I think what TV/corporate media had wrong for a long time was how they understood the idea of a "water cooler show." They saw it as making the audience talk about their show, on their terms. So any fan-created media is them losing control of their material. I see this more as the natural evolution of culture in a shared digital age. I will be blunt -- other than the satisfaction of our own creative urges (and all that entails: the quest for perfection, artistry, craft, etc), our job in media is to give you stuff to talk about in your conversations, to integrate into your social circle in whatever way you see fit. I doubt that's TNT's official stance, btw, but they are much cooler about this stuff than most companies.
2.) As far as "borrowing" our characters -- to paraphrase Alan Moore, they didn't go anywhere. There they are, sitting right up on the shelf. Waiting for us to let them loose again. Besides, how many people read a fanfic story? A couple hundred, tops? We have, on average 3.5 million viewers, well into the 4 million range when you get the DVR numbers in. I just don't see someone taking control of our Ideaspace through sheer force of Slashfic.
Sure, a lot of fanfic is crap. Of course it's crap. It's written by people who are not professional writers. If I paint, what I paint is crap. Does that mean I should give up painting and displaying stuff in my neighborhood art show?
3.) Is fanfic flattery? Again, depends on how you define flattery. If someone's writing fanfic with intention of currying favor for some ... er, frankly unguessable benefit, then they're really engaged in an exercise in futility. If you mean flattery as in: it's flattering to think someone is so entertained by our work that it inspires them to talk about it and create around it, then aces.
4.) Most writers and actors don't feel this way. Some, including writers I both like personally and greatly admire, hate the idea of fanfic.
Look, end of day, you should always be trying to create your own material. But fanfic, etc, is a different process than original creation -- which I think is the source of a lot of the controversy.
People who do original creations assume the fan is taking some sort of unearned ownership, somehow implying their act is the same/as difficult as the original act of creation. Which, of course, tees them off (doesn't tee me off, but I'm a very relaxed and often drunk guy).
And some fanfic humans are under the impression that creating fanfic is the same creative process as creating original material -- and are sometimes frustrated that they're not accorded the same respect as the original creators. That's also wrong. Fanfic to me is spiritually much closer to the fan-created music videos.
The basic rule I follow here is one I learned in stand-up comedy: Always punch UP. I am a relatively successful typing human whose words are physically produced using millions of dollars and is distributed nationally by a massive billion dollar corporation to millions of people. Exactly how is a free web page with a 1000 word story about Eliot and Hardison fighting a trans-dimensional incursion of Elves hurting my brand, exactly?
Tell you what -- if some fanfic writer is so good they manage to amass a million-person audience with their web-distributed free stories using my characters, I am going to consider that evolution in action and hire that bastard. Or, at the very least, urge them to go create their own show. But odds are it ain't gonna happen. And that's okay. We write for different reasons.
Wow, that response could be its own blog post. I may break it out later, and shine it a bit.
@catchester: There was a brief overhead shot used when Eliot told Parker he couldn't discuss the council. Until the tap out job that angle was used to show them separating. In the tap out job it was used to show then becoming a team, following each other after a disagreement. I cant see the point of this shot though. Does it have any significance, or do i need a life?
Nope, just an interesting angle. Dean recently retired that shot from the show's vocabulary, coincidentally. It'll be a long time, and in a very specific context, before you see it again.
@Kerri: Was the Parker/gas mask moment a nod to Doctor Who? Or was that just me? Are you my mummy?
Beth found the gas mask among the props and improv-ed that moment.
@Anne: Obviously, the relationship between Nate and Sophie has been foregrounded for much of the series, and has gotten a lot more focus and screentime than any other relationship. Will there ever be an episode or plot arc that puts more significant focus on the (non-romantic) relationships between the other three?
Ep 2o8 comes close, and we have been trying to break the Eliot/Hardison "Defiant Ones" for two damn years. You'll certainly see more of that as the show progresses.
@Shelley: Different sort of questions: How does Emmy nomination work? Is the show eligible with a split season? Do you as the creators and production team decide to send in material for consideration or does the network?
It's a mix between network and studio, I think ... you know what? I never asked. Let me get back to you on that, and ding me if I forget.
@Anna: Are there any plans for a con in Chinatown or some other place like that? I loved Sophie speaking Mandarin!
Ep 209 kind of, although that's a pretty high-concept one that doesn't really live in Chinatown. That one's a bit odd, to tell the truth, to have it as our winter season opener. Although it's a fine ep, if we'd known that was the slot it was going to have, we probably would have developed it differently.
Natalie: This is an odd, random question, but I was wondering about Parker's dating/sex life -- it doesn't seem as if she's had a serious boyfriend, as emotional attachments are probably hard for her, but she's probably not still a virgin. Random hookups, maybe?
... you know what? Gonna pass on that one. But I will say no, no serious boyfriends. I think. I'll check with Beth Riesgraf to see if she agrees. Beth is the Guardian of Parker.
@Jocelyn: Does Eliot really require the use of glasses? (And in turn does Christian as well?) Or are they just something he uses to help build a type of character for a con?
Christian doesn't require them, Eliot does. Although he recently went for lasik -- without anaesthetic.
@Lesley: there was a mention of "stars and bars" when Sophie was coaching Nate on how to get onto the Army base with a stolen ID. If that was actually the line, then why "stars and bars" instead of "stars and stripes"? Here in the South, the stars and bars are the rebel flag. Maybe there's a military meaning that I'm not familiar with. Or Sophie is British and doesn't know the difference. Or I got the whole quote wrong.
By "stars and bars" Sophie meant the general's stars and his medals, or bars. It's a passing beat, but that level of familiarity with military culture shoudl not go unnoticed.
@Mary Sue: Question: Did y'all purposefully dress Parker up like Corky Sherwood-Forrest from Murphy Brown?
@briddle: Regarding the 'competence porn'; will they go back to an 'office' setting? It's just not as sexy sitting around Nate's living room. Or are you focusing on the family dynamic instead?
You know, people seem split on the "living room"/"office" choice. Oddly, I'm not sure the couc area works, but I love having a kitchen for them to hang out in. Of course, after the season finale, everything will be different anyway...
@Anonymous: Did Eliot teach Parker how to fake getting hit by a car? I remember he got himself hit in the juror job too. Also, will Hardison ever get to beat someone up? Aldis is a hunk, let him use those muscles! ;)
They're cross-training a little. And while Hardison does not lack bulk ... well, high CON, low DEX, and leave it at that.
@Tania: My question: is there a line you aren't going to cross re the 'baddie' of the week, either because you aren't 'allowed', or you think it would change the tone? For instance, would you take on a paedophile, or a Homeland Security power misuse?
First off, your spelling reveals you're torrenting. Consider yourself spanked. Second, there are villains we talk about who are a bit grungier, but they don't generally have anything interesting to steal. Tone is more important than offending the Man, but also systemic abuses are harder to "go after" than corrupt individuals. We tend to make certain individuals representatives of a corrupt system, and tackle things that way. The Congressman in "The Homecoming Job", for example.
@Jocelyn: Any chance there could be a cast only commentary on the season 2 dvd set of Leverage?
We couldn't have the actors on last year because they were still filming while we were prepping the DVD commentaries. They should wind up on a few of the S2 DVD's
Whew. Okay, I'm going to go watch Tim Hutton yell at the other actors. And I mean YELL. Nate Ford is not in a good place by the season finale, and he's not making very good choices. In a field where bad choices can get somebody killed ...