Our first episode without Gina, which ironically allowed us to highlight how important it was to have the team together.
Some people had pointed out that Hardison, when playing a character, tends to go a bit over the top. Our answer to that is: "Absolutely." That's intentional, and this was our chance to pay that off. There's a big difference between being able to fast talk your way out of a two minute confrontation and the long con. Sophie's skill is that of a good intelligence agent working an informer. She can read moods, knows exactly when to lay it on and back it off, can adapt on the fly and most of all make the mark always feel that he's the one in charge without ever letting the mark be in charge.
Grifter, hitter, hacker, thief -- they all have Thief 101 skills, but when they're a man down, it shows. It's not only important for the show premise on a meta-level to reset this idea occasionally, but worth reminding us there's a reason the characters stick together -- they've never had anyone to cover their blind spots before, and the work they're doing now is a level of artistry (and emotional satisfaction, although they'd never admit it) they've never approached on their own.
The episode was born, of course, of the Wired article about the famous Antwerp diamond heist. New crimes are a rare thing for a writing staff that's already parsed through the classics; the day after this issue of Wired hit the stands, literally the entire staff scrambled into the room, each clutching the magazine, screaming "MINE!" like the gulls in Finding Nemo.
This is one of the few episodes to work backwards. We knew we'd have the heist as acts 4 and 5, but we needed a context that would make sense. We ran through several permutations, different hostages to force the team to break into the vault -- Maggie was in this episode for a second and a half -- all balanced against the idea that this would be the winter season opener, and so should be as streamlined as possible. I'd always felt-- even then, in the middle of the season -- that I'd overcomplicated the season opener with the crime plot, the character back-and-forth, etc. This was designed to be as pure an episode of Leverage as we could muster, using the simplest, cleanest plot and focusing on the family vibe that the fans really seemed to dig.
What was interesting here was how the minimalism of the episode kind of re-sparked the writing staff in the middle of a very stressful season. Even watching the first cut, I was thinking ,"I am just watching Beth Riesgraf break into a vault for close to 15 minutes. And I am totally cool with that." It was a good reminder that while we can sometimes get lost in trying to over-plot, end of day you want to watch characters you like doing what they do well. This episode was alllllll competence porn.
The tech side of the diamond/laser business was fudged, of course, although the Gemological Institute of America was so impressed with how we treated the business side of the system that they dropped the director a nice note. I'd also add that when the writing staff was researching the process, we got lots of very patient, very technical help from the GIA. Spec-monkeys: Research is fun and people want to tell you all about the fiddly bits of their profession. Don't skimp.
There's another interesting beat in here, one that recurs through the second half of S2. Bringing up Parker's past heists is part of a pattern; we wanted to remind audience members -- or introduce to new audience members -- that these characters had reps out in Crime World, that this is not a Super-Team, but in this fictional universe considered the Super-Team. In particular, Parker's past and Eliot's life of violence are highlighted several times in eps 208-215. Although the lines are dropped as an afterthought, we wanted to remind people that funny, cranky Eliot Spencer is a guy who killed people. Professionally. Not gleefully, but professionally.
Okay, let's go to your questions:
@Nicole: Did Chris work in "the fun train" comment, having picked it up from the writers? Or did y'all work that in on purpose?
On purpose. I think by that point it never even occurred to us that it wasn't a common metaphor and just wound up slipping in.
@Anonymous: However, Sophie and Nate continue to break my heart...make them stop that soon, ok? I was actually yelling at my screen when he hung up the phone like that at the end. Fail, Nathan, fail.
@inconstant Reader: My whole family was yelling at Nate during his phone conversation. My son asked why he was acting like such a douche (I'm paraphrasing here). I said Nate's addicted to control, and he can't control Sophie *or* his feelings for her. Am I even warm?
You know, Nate's divorced for a reason. From a woman even Parker likes. He's not good at this.
That's a pretty good read, Inconstant. The entire second half of S2 is about Nate's control issues.
@Melissa in St. Louis: Questions -- 1) How did the Eliot is Mute come into play. Hardison just going overboard? 2) How many takes did you have to have for 'Hugging it out' scene? I can just see them burst out laughing at that one! 3) Do the cast and crew watch together on Wed nights? ... 4.) what did Eliot say to Hardison right after Hardison and Parker busted through the floor? I couldn't make it out.
1.) We were just coming up with the most arrogant, annoying things Hardison might do that were still within his character. It's worth noting that Eliot is actually much better at the con than Hardison. That was a burst of insecurity on Hardison's part.
2.) I think the broadcast take was the first take. Honestly, when you turn the camera loose on the three of them doing a mini-scene, you just get the hell out of their way.
3.) The cast and crew were working all the way through the summer broadcasts. The cast comes into the studio for special screenings. We just had one for the two-part finale this Wed.
We did watch this episode, 208, on the night it aired, in the hotel where we shot the finale. People kept running in and out of the hotel room where we had it playing on the TV, in between takes.
4.) "Det cord." Explaining how they blew the floor (also part fo the frame-upo, which may have been cut for time)
@Anonymous: Is Eliot actually annoyed with Hardison, or is he annoyed with the fact that he knows he won't hit Hardison no matter how much Hardison screws up? I really loved the little "family" moments in this episode; Parker moving around on the empty couch and irritating the others, Hardison calling Sophie-Mom for help when he's in trouble, Hardison and Eliot snapping at each other as Hardison pretends to beat him up.
Oh, Eliot is epically annoyed at Hardison. What most annoys him about Hardison is that Hardison manages to annoy him, in a weird circular way.
This came across as a real "family" episode, not just because we wrote it that way but because it was actually the first we shot without Gina being on set every day. The other cast members were genuinely uncomfortable at her absence. A lot of the emotions you're seeing on screen were real.
@Nicole: Is Sophie waiting for Nate to ask her to come back or is she really just taking a well-needed break?
A well-needed break. How long that lasts does not depend on Nate stopping his asshat ways, but it is informed by his behaviour.
@Antisocial Butterfly (and @Alexandra): I have to ask, did you expect to get that much mileage out of that deleted scene of Parker trying to pick up the mark in the bar? Do you have lots of those little flashbacks that have been edited for time in storage? Do you plan on pulling them out in season 3? I suspect that I am not the only one who would like to see that.
Honestly, it just happened to coincide with the character beat we needed. (The scene was deleted from the pilot, and included on the S1 DVD set) I can't see any of the other cut ones showing up, although it seems a shame that only those with the DVD get to see Hardison in braces ...
@Sapphire Smoke: ... And I also loved Parker's break in scene, the girls got serious skills and it'd be awesome if we could see more of that... AND GOD. YOU EVIL PEOPLE WITH THE PARKER/HARDISON ALMOST-MOMENT. Jeez. You just keep giving us teasers.
More Parker in rigging, lots of thief-y goodness in the back S2 episodes. As far as Parker/Hardison ... What's interesting for me this year is what Beth and Kane have decided to do with Parker and Eliot's relationship. We gave them several scenes with that pair, and they wound up playing them almost like ... outside the team. Like there's an awareness that their relationships with violence make them unique among the others. Watch for it during the upcoming episodes.
@Dante: Similar the the Canada question in a previous post, is there any chance of Leverage being aired and/or getting a DVD release in the UK? I feel bad for getting it from the internet, but I see no other way.
Still working on it. The Hustle cross-over really hurts us. Although the two shows are nothing alike in plotting or tone, TV real estate is very thin on the ground in the UK right now, and I understand the buyers' apprehension. Hopefully we will have a resolution for this situation soon.
@Matt: Eliot's use of "fun train" is a decent segue into a question I was going to ask anyway: How much influence, if any, does the conversation here have on the show? For instance, do the questions that come up here give insight (that you wouldn't get from other sources) into what worked and what didn't? Also, fanboys the world over thank you for putting Beth in that dress.
The conversations here and on Twitter tend to reinforce, rather than evolve ideas on the show. The unexpected love for the conference room scenes is the best example. We have an unusually positive fan base online -- when I worked in comics, the general rule was that forums ran 3 to 1 negative as a baseline, and that needed to be taken into account when looking at internet feedback.
It's also a matter of timing. By the time you folks are seeing the episodes, we're close to wrapped. 208 aired while we were shooting the finale.
And you're welcome, fanboys. Although for me, the highlight of the episode is her riding the safe door.
@Anonymous: ust one question (apologies for my ignorance) what's the hoo-haa about "the fun train"? I don't get it.
The "fun train" is an expression we picked up from another show, meaning that we're all here to watch a fun heist show, and sometimes the niggling logic questions just interfere with the ride. You cannot use the fun train as a catch-all excuse, but there are times when we're hurtling down the track and exposition is optional/unnecessary/look-Parker-in-that-dress-and-Eliot-punching!!
@alikitty619: Question- Does Beth like the dress up stuff or is she happier w/ Parker's regular wardrobe. Cause I have say, Beth ROCKED that dress.
Beth never complains about anything we put her in, but she tends to prefer Parker's normal wardrobe, because it's Parker's normal wardrobe. If that makes sense. Parker happens to look good in those dressesa, and we have to be careful not to let how blown away we are as producers when we see Beth in those outfits to change how we see Parker in those outfits.
@David Wintheiser: If the alarms were triggered by the seismic sensor going off when the explosive punched through the floor of the box where Parker and Hardison were hiding, how does Parker have time to get back out of the box, pick the lock, and get down so that Eliot thinks they came down together? Or is Hardison just that lucky?
No, this explanation got cut in editing, and we could never figure out a way to get it across without being stuck with the longer, undoable sequence. There was a longer bit where Hardison distracted the Russians, Parker picked the lock, and then the dealer comes into the vault. Just editing chuffah.
@CindyD: 1.) Who opened the box with the diamonds in it and how/when? 2.) Why did the idiot Russian thug bring it to the attention of the cop? 3.)Why did Sophie drop the phone in her drink? There are various reasons, I guess, but I just wasn't clear about that.
1.) Parker, although I think we screwed up showing how. By which I mean I screwed up.
2.) He was just generally trying to bluff, didn't mean to draw Bonanno's attention to the box.
3.) Sheer frustration.
@MelodyAnne88: Also, right before Parker and Hardison fell through the vault floor... the look between them.. it was easy to tell how Hardison felt but was parker feelin it too? Or was she still annoyed at him for taking credit for all her work? I couldn't tell.
Parker's emotional landscape is a mystery to all. But I'm betting she was surprised by how relieved she was to get Hardison out of there ...
@Cat: Was the accent an acting choice on Aldis' part or was it scripted?
@Gordon: So, how many times has Hardison seen "Snatch" and does he really think he's Vinnie Jones?
We wanted an accent, and Aldis went out and crafted that one. That was a brutal challenge -- he had to do an accent that Hardison would do when going over the top, without going over the top the wrong way. I thought it was perfect. And Aldis gets to do a flawless Scottish accent in the finale ...
@Gordon: Burning question of the night: Glinda the laser? That's got to have a story behind it. Right?
I think that was an Aldis improv.
@Save-vs-Dm: I had a giggle when I noticed that the armored car robbery at the beginning took place right on Naito Parkway. I happen to know that there are several train tracks quite near there. Did you guys have problems filming around the train noise (not to mention the Portland weather)?
The train noise wound up killing us only once, during the finale. And the rain only got us twice -- once during the season opener, when we got rain and hail all on Day 2, and during the rooftop scene when Parker and Tara ... well, that'd be telling. Let's just say Jeri Ryan's a trooper, hanging off a roof in gale force winds and soaking rain. You won't be able to tell it's raining in the shot, but yeah, that was a tough one.
@Darkrose: 1.) Was Hardison really saying "I'm sorry I've been kind of a dick?" to Parker there at the end of the job, and did she get it? 2.) Will we ever find out what Sophie was doing while she was gone? 3.) Aldis mentioned at the Vancouver SPN con that he'd like to have Zoe Saldana as a better, rival hacker for a love interest. Can you make that happen plskthx?
1.) Yes, and she got it. There's a lot of complicated emotions going on in that trio.
2.) No. Well, a little, but not until S3.
3.) Dude, everyone wants Zoe Saldana. She's Zoe frikkin' Saldana. But no, there's no way I'm breaking up the Hardison/Wil Wheaton dream team.
@Rayhne: A second question, part of the first. Nate doing Sterling ... Is that how Sterling really is or is that how Nate sees him (or wants to see him.)?
It's actually the impression of Sterling Nate used to do at IYS Christmas parties.
@Improper Bostonian: Just an odd question. Have any of them actually been arrested? Thanks for the skyline shots.
Sophie's been arrested, Hardison's definitely been arrested, Eliot's been in prison in a lot of places where due process isn't a big part of the culture, Parker's never been caught.
@Michael: so .. I'm supposed to believe that a red laser running CW is really a pulsed UV laser? seriously? Come on man, you're a fellow PHYSICIST! show some physicist love, man!
Yes. Look into my eyes and believe -- SLEEP! SLEEEEEP NOW!!
@Nato: I notice that thus far this season, Parker and Hardison's most honest, intimate moments have come when they're in bank vaults (and when Hardison is wearing a costume and using an English accent, oddly enough). Given Parker's almost sexual attraction to money, is this deliberate? Does the presence of all that loot make her feel secure enough to let down her guard even a little bit?
That's ... interesting. At the very least, she's probably a little more emotionally open and happy when she's in the Heist Zone.
@Tequila Kaniac: i notice that Christian is wearing his Cherokee braids and beads...is there gonna be a bit of back story on Elliot to explain thischoice of hair decoration?
S3, I think.
@briddie: My only question, which you probably can't answer yet, is if using Sterling's name is going to come back to bite Nate. "Speak of the devil" and all that.
Nope, he gets away with it this time. But let's just say that after this season, I doubt they'll ever use Sterling's name as a joke, even a nervous one, ever again.
Sterling. Never. Loses.
@catchester: Okay, now i have a question. Why on earth did Nate pick Hardison to be the grifter? I know it's kind of necessary for the plot but Nate is supposed 'to know what all of them can do' which gives him his 'edge'. He had no choice but to give Parker the girlfriend role as she's the only women left but both Nate and Eliot are better grifters than Hardison. Hardison should have been the insurance guy instead.
Nate needs to be outside the grift to call the plays, and with the Russians in play they needed Eliot free to operate as muscle. Also, Nate puts a lot of paternal faith in Hardison, which does not always pay off.
In the comments, David Hunt really nailed it:
"Sidenote about Nate assigning himself the background Mastermind role: It even makes sense in a lot of ways. If he’s in the middle of it surrounded by Marks, he can’t give hints/suggestions/info/orders to the rest of the Team. From the background he can prompt them with info and suggest/order them in various ways to keep the con moving. Finally, it gives him the option of stepping in as whatever character is needed to pull anyone’s *cough* Hardison *cough* fat out the fire.
That’s all rationalization, though. Nate is controlling from the background because Nate’s a control freak. Plus I sometimes wonder if Nate trying to keep his face out of things as much as possible because he doesn’t want to be remember as a thief even by the Marks. Afterall, he’s still an Honest Man. The rest of the team are Thieves!"
That fact -- Nate doesn't consider himself a thief -- is a big part of the last few episodes of this season.
@Matthew E: I live in Canada and I've still never seen an episode of this show. I just ordered the DVDs, so that's fine... but I had to order them from amazon.ca, the fourth place I looked. Chapters/Indigo doesn't have them listed. Future Shop doesn't have them listed. Zip.ca doesn't have them listed. It should be a lot easier to get somebody to take my money.
All of the other alternatives are specifically Candian distributors, where we don't have a deal. But I agree.
@Jocelyn: I was just curious, when you were plotting out each character in the beginning how far into detail did you go? Like to the extreme of what each person's birthday is and place of birth? Or was it more of a general outline? I only ask cause what do you get a person for their birthday when they can just steal whatever they want.
General outlines. What their motivations are, how they react, what their relationships with the other characters are. It's always better to build the characters' pasts to serve the stories you want to tell once you're in the weeds of plotting a season. Not to mention the actors' input is crucial. Aldis really evolved Hardison's Nana while talking to us, and I think I mentioned earlier that Gina had a backstory for Sophie that was so cool we immediately made it canon. Kane seems genuinely amused at the shit we drag up from Eliot's past -- however, the cooking thing is something he brought to the part. Not every show works this way, but we tend to keep it vague and let the show fill in the spaces. It seems to create a more organic character.
For example, I don't think we ever had a good sense of who Nate Ford's father was before S1, while this year it became crystal clear who the man needed to be in order to tell the Nate stories we wanted to tell.
@David Hunt: My question: I am I right thinking that Hardison is beginning to take his and the Team’s invulnerability for granted? I remember in watching him “run” surveillance on the food company in the Top Hat Job sitting around balancing that ball on his head instead of paying attention. Now he gives the Team this mess. And if he learned anything at all from this particular goatf**k, he’s hiding it real well.
This was a wake-up call, particularly with Sophie gone. You'll see Hardison's attitude arc quite distinctly from this episode through the finale.
@Anonymous: Is Nate going to get some kind of comeuppance for repeated undervaluing Eliot? I remember in The 6th Juror Job, Nate asks if anyone else on the team plays chess, and when Eliot says he does, Nate gives him this dubious look and says, "Of course you do," in one of the most patronizing tones I've ever heard him use. And there's the "Did you think all I could do was bust heads?" "No . . . well, yeah," exchange in The Wedding Job. Then, in this episode, it seems like Eliot's trying to get himself placed in the grifter role in the beginning, and Nate shoots him down in favor of Hardison, who then sucks . . . Just seems like there might be some tension/resentment building up there, at least on Eliot's side.
Oh, you misread that beat in "Juror" -- that was Nate reminding himself that Eliot is, essentially, Batman (also, remember that in canonical order "Wedding Job" is ep 103, very early in the run). Nate's learned his lesson, and we specifically address that in ep 212.
@Transcriptae: So, the tall skinny black guy with the British accent (even if it was intentionally horrendous) gave me serious flashbacks to Mickey Bricks in Hustle. The color scheme in the pool hall was a lot like the one in the bar in Hustle, too-- intentional shout-out to an influential show, or accident?
Accident. That bar was a location, we used their own lighting, so it was a coincidence.
@SueN: And now I have an actual question of the vehicular nature. The pickup that Eliot and Parker leave in while Hardison is having a moment with his Ferrari … Kane's or a prop?
A prop, but that's Eliot's official vehicle. Kane drives something similar, if I remember.
@Lynsy: This s kind of random, but which world currency is Parker's favorite?
@Calla: And everyone's phone calls to Sophie made TOTAL sense, except Eliots. "How? I'm back up. They can't rely on me." I think he's talking about his role in the con, rather than on the team. But, I really wish I knew what Sophie's end of the conversation was, because I definitely think I'm missing why Eliot felt the need to call her.
While everybody else was calling for guidance, Eliot was calling to bitch to Sophie that they were driving him crazy. Sophie was urging him to help out -- and she's come to realize that she's going to have to step in if she wants them to stay safe.
@briddie: Just a general question - how much of the actors' wardrobe, jewelry, vehicles, etc are used in the show? I know Gina mentioned her Jeep showing up in Mile High, and Dean's Tesla in the opener, what else is personal and not prop?
Not a lot, to tell you the truth. Our Wardrobe Goddess consults with the cast, but she works hard to create the looks for our little movie every week. The only person who crosses over a lot is Mark Sheppard -- those are his suits.
@Topher: I may have heard incorrectly, but I heard that you actually have Dungeons & Dragons character sheets of the main characters. As a long-time D&D player, I must see these. Is there any chance you could scan them? Or have scans of them for the second season's DVD? Or something. Feel free to redact any and all information about storylines and background information, but I am very curious as to their stats/level/skills.
Nope -- wrong system, anyway. D20 Modern, maybe, but I think those levels are too discreet. Personally I'd use Savage Worlds or True 20 (although Cortex is kind of interesting, I'm reading it now) ... one reader sent me some kick-ass character builds in the FATE system used by the pulp game Spirit of the Century. I may toss those up.
@Anonymous: This is a somewhat off-topic question, but I've noticed a reference in an earlier answer to "CON" and "DEX" and Hardison has a strange addiction to Orange Crush. Are you intending to be a massive D&D geek- or am I just the geek reading too much into your comments?
Let me tell you about my character ...
@True: 4) I LOVED reading about where you got the heist idea from (http://www.wired.com/politics/law/magazine/17-04/ff_diamonds) is there a chance of finding out what other real life stories spawned some of your ideas?
5) Final comment, my boyfriend and I decided you need to bring back the Hebrew woman that had that awesome mental fight with Eliot. Please have them brawl again only this time naked or as near to naked as possible. I feel safe to say this will please everyone in some fashion. tia
We need to be careful about what our inspirations are because, well, we do not cast these people in a positive light. Indeed, we cast them in a legally actionable light. We'll do some posts on general con research, etc. later in the year.
I think it's safe to say the League of Evil Leverage will be back.
@Anonymous: Was Parker sexually abused during her time in foster care? It's obvious someone (more multiple someones) messed her up pretty bad, but is Parker's heightened discomfort with men who are interested in her a result of that, or is it just innate in her personality?
We don't answer questions about the characters' sexuality here, generally, but I'd say no. That's not necessarily the answer Beth would give you.
@Stefan Jones: And HEY, ROGERS! "Royal Pains" is good stuff. Maybe there's some sort of sore feelings or legality that keeps you from discussing it here, but for what it's worth, I'm liking it.
Different John Rogers, as improbable as that may seem.
@Erik K: OK, not a question specific to this episode, but as a Portlander I gitt ask when will we get to play ourselves rather than being Boston or even frikkin Nebraska?
Possibly very soon. We're talking about doing a different crime show, and setting it there.
@Courtney: How long does it take to create an episode? I'm talking from coming up with the idea for the episode to the finished product. How long does that generally take?
The ideas generally kick around for a few weeks, either as fully formed plots or just "I want to do an episode like X." Sometimes the ideas go on the shelf for months -- the idea of doing crew vs. crew has been kicking arouns since before S1 even started. In a best case scenario they take a week or so to break, two weeks to write, one week for notes and me to do my pass, then the writer does the notes that come up during the week of pre-production and also -- being on set -- handles any changes necessary during shooting.
This year things got crazy for a variety of reasons, and we broke and wrote a couple of them in a week. There's a process you use for that sort of deadline, every showrunner knows it, and we all have to pretend it never happens or the WGA gets pissed off.
Well, you guys certainly dug that one. Now we'll take a week while I'm roasting my pale Irish ass in the tropics, bang out the questions for #209, and then we'll see what goodies we can cook up to keep you people hooked 'til the Jan 13th return of the winter season. As always, thanks for your time and enthusiasm.