At the end of season one of “Leverage,” Nathan Ford’s ragtag group of talented, redemptive young former criminals were scattering to the wind to avoid imprisonment, despite pulling off a flurry of complex do-gooder capers together.
And Ford (played by Timothy Hutton) had exacted revenge on his cold-blooded former employer, the man who had denied his dying son of health insurance, destroyed his marriage and pushed him into committed alcoholism.
“We planned that first season like we were never going to have a second one,” says series producer Dean Devlin, who oversaw the “Indiana Jones”-inspired “Librarian” movie series starring Noah Wyle for TNT before signing onto do this latest project for the network last year.
“In season one, we broke up the family, and in season two, we’ll put it back together again,” he adds, trying not give away teasers for a new season that will kick off with seven episodes beginning July 15 at 9 p.m., then conclude over the winter with eight more installments.
Of course, one big chunk of season-two info was already disclosed Friday, with “Star Trek Voyager’s” Seven of Nine herself, actress Jeri Ryan, set to join the Nathan Ford Agency in the second leg of the season.
“What you’ll see over the course of the second season is, as the characters redefine themselves, an opening happens within the team, and you realize a brash element is missing,” explains Devlin, who says that Ryan got involved with the show after meeting TNT programming head Michael Wright. “Jeri will come in and fill that hole.”
Opening? Is someone from the team going away? Will the techy Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) confess his obvious affection for the quirky Parker (Beth Riesgraf)? Will Ford get back together with his ex-wife (Keri Matchett), or will he succumb to the longing desire of uber-con woman Sophie (Gina Bellman)? Or will he just crawl into a bottle?
Devlin will only confirm that the team will indeed get back together, and that Hutton’s Ford will – in the absence of revenge – search for a new motivation to lead his covert squad on its Robin Hood-like capers.
“Now that he’s not driven for revenge in a ‘Dark Knight’ sort of way, he will have to find out who he is,” notes Devlin, who says he was significantly influenced by British television in developing “Leverage.”
The U.K. version of “Life on Mars” provided some inspiration, he says. So did the British mini-series “Jeckyll,” which co-starred New Zealand native Bellman.
“I’d seen her in ‘Coupling,’ but I wasn’t aware of the range she has until I saw ‘Jeckyll,’” explains Devlin, who calls the “Leverage” experience the most fun he’s ever had on a set.
Certainly, that joy isn’t wrought out of luxury.
The show’s budget runs about $1.8 million an episode, a fraction of what an ensemble drama running on a broadcast network like ABC or CBS would run.
Meanwhile, each episode is shot in only seven days.
“We use every trick in the book to save money,” Devlin says. “But we’re always trying to do twice as much as we can afford to do.”