Timothy Hutton on ‘Leverage’ Season 5

The star of TNT's longrunning series tells us all about season five's missions and guest stars.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

The fifth season of “Leverage” is off to an impressive start. The team has relocated to Portland, OR (where the show is actually filmed) and tries to go off the grid. Immediately they found a mission worth taking, and they used Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose airplane to fool a corrupt airline exec (Cary Elwes) in the first episode back

We spoke with Nate Ford himself in a phone interview with Timothy Hutton, and he didn’t keep any secrets from us.

CraveOnline: Did you get to work with the real Spruce Goose?

Timothy Hutton: Yeah, it was the real plane and it was kind of amazing how that happened. Once the writers decided that the Leverage team was going to leave Boston and actually operate out of Portland, where we film it, all the writers came up and together with a location scout, they were brought around to these different places that might be possible shooting sites, that stories could revolve around. One of them was this aviation museum, Evergreen Aviation.

They walked in there and there was the Spruce Goose and everyone just flipped out. They said, “Well, we’ve got to do a story involving the Spruce Goose. Maybe somebody who has always dreamed of owning it and the leverage team cons the guy.”

So not only did we film there for a week, but all of the scenes that take place inside the Spruce Goose are actually inside the Spruce Goose. That’s myself and Cary Elwes sitting in the real cockpit of Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, in the same chairs that he sat in and all the instrumentation. We got a whole tour of the plane. It’s a very impressive site so yeah, we filmed there and we filmed inside it.

CraveOnline: Did you know all the way back in season one that Nate would be moving towards going off the radar and moving offices?

Timothy Hutton: No, no. It’d be great to say we had a whole schematic, we had a whole plan of where it was going to go all the way through. I think that John Rogers, who is one of the creators of the show and the main writer, I think that he had things mapped out in his head that are very consistent with where we are now, but I think that a lot has just developed by itself, the way the characters ended up being played.

I think that as much as it’s been mapped out in the writers’ heads, particularly John Rogers, I think that he’s been very much flexible in the way he views the characters and the possibilities of where the characters can go. If you look at the Parker character, the Hardison character, Eliot, Sophie, Nate, each one of them, I think that the writers realize there’s endless possibilities what you can do with these characters. There’s no reason to lock them into any one thing.

CraveOnline: How much harder is it to execute missions while staying undercover this season?

Timothy Hutton: That’s one of the reasons why they decided to move out of Boston, because it just didn’t make sense that the team could operate that openly and still do everything in Boston. It’s something that’s addressed in the fifth season, how the team has to be much more careful because there’ve been a lot of cases, there’s been a lot of people that are onto them and a lot of people gunning for them trying to close up shop and destroy what the Leverage team does.

So there’s a lot of that in season five, just the very careful steps they have to take to operate effectively while they infiltrate various industries to try to correct wrongdoings.

CraveOnline: Are you amazed at the life a TV show gives you as opposed to a film, with fans who follow you every week?

Timothy Hutton: Yeah, it’s much more immediate. You do a film and the film comes out a year later. Usually it takes about a year for the film to come out. A film has a sort of life over time whereas a TV show comes up in your living room and it’s immediate and people write about it.

They write about films as well online in various blogs and forums, but it’s pretty amazing over the last five years to really see what kind of response people have had and how loyal the “Leverage” fans have been and how carefully they follow the characters and the plots and everything, the questions that they have. It’s wonderful.

CraveOnline: What other upcoming missions are there in season five?

Timothy Hutton: Well, there’s one involving the world of semi-professional hockey and Treat Williams is in that one. There’s one involving intellectual property and piracy and the Leverage team convinces some guy who’s been stealing ideas who happens to be fascinated by extraterrestrial life and has been trying for years to make first contact, the Leverage team cons this guy into thinking that he has made first contact.

So that’s a fun one, and then there’s one called “The French Connection Job" and it’s the world of cooking schools. The Leverage team uses very rare truffles to bait an evil chef into some missteps that expose him. And then there’s the world of competitive cheerleading and how cheerleading in some state schools is designated as sport and most states dedicated an activity. The Leverage team gets to the bottom of what the difference is and it turns out that if it’s designated a sport then there’d be more state funding for it and also insurance companies would have broader coverage of it if it were deemed a sport rather than an activity. So they go to Washington and they try to change a bill in Congress that’s on the floor that would help that out, much to the chagrin of a company that profits from it not being designated a sport.

Then there’s one called “The D.B. Cooper Job.” That one, the Leverage team goes back in time to try to solve the disappearance of the hijacker D.B. Cooper. There’s one that takes place in the world of vintage cars and car auctions and corruption that’s going on in one particular case there. So there’s U.S. engineering, manufacturing, clean energy, batteries, dream, reality manipulation. 

Timothy Hutton: Then there’s one called “The D.B. Cooper Job.” That one, the Leverage team goes back in time to try to solve the disappearance of the hijacker D.B. Cooper. There’s one that takes place in the world of vintage cars and car auctions and corruption that’s going on in one particular case there. So there’s U.S. engineering, manufacturing, clean energy, batteries, dream, reality manipulation. 

CraveOnline: When you say go back in time, do you mean in flashbacks where the actors play older characters?

Timothy Hutton: It’s flashback storytelling where the people used in the flashback are played by the Leverage characters.

CraveOnline: Do you get to play D.B. Cooper?

Timothy Hutton: No, I can’t reveal who actually plays D.B. but it’s quite fun. I think people who like the show are going to really love that episode and all of them that we’ve done this year. They’re all very, very distinct and change it up quite a bit from what we’ve seen in the past.

CraveOnline: Is Sterling going to pop back up in Portland?

Timothy Hutton: Yes, Sterling makes an appearance in Portland in quite a powerful way, so we’ll be seeing Mark Sheppard again and Steve Valentine and Danielle Bisutti and Neil Hopkins, Treat Williams, Cary Elwes, Ronny Cox, Fred Ward, Matthew Lillard, Adam Baldwin.

CraveOnline: What have you enjoyed about all your guest stars?

Timothy Hutton: It’s been great to work with all of these people. I’m a fan of so many people’s work. Treat Williams and I have been friends for years. To finally get to work together was great. Steve Valentine I think is a great actor. It was great to have him on the show and Cary Elwes and Matthew Lillard.

To have these people come in, it’s just a lot of fun. Just doing the show is a blast but then when someone shows up, like right now our guest star for the show is Hart Bochner and I’ve known Hart for years. Just seeing him yesterday on the set, wow, I get to do a scene with Hart Bochner today.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing a scene with Treat Williams. It keeps everything fresh and people come onto the show and I think they have a really good time.

CraveOnline: Is the relationship between Nate and Sophie going to develop any further?

Timothy Hutton: Yeah, absolutely. The relationship between Nate and Sophie is going to really evolve this year into a much more comfortable at times and challenging at times, but they go through a few crises together regarding their relationship. But there are some unexpected very romantic moments for people who like the Nate/Sophie dynamic.

CraveOnline: Do you get a thrill out of all these stories where you’re holding bad companies and villains accountable for things?

Timothy Hutton: The show is a lot of fun that way because you go into these different worlds like I was talking about competitive cheerleading. It’s all meant to be good natured but I think audiences take away a sense of satisfaction seeing this Leverage team go through all these elaborate plans to change the way a company operates and change the way some bad guy is treating people. So yeah, it’s a very fun show to do in that regard.

CraveOnline: How many more seasons do you see “Leverage” going?

Timothy Hutton: Well, I see it going another five if it were up to me. I definitely want to keep doing the show. It depends if people show up to watch it, like any show. That’s the reality. These decisions are made by outside interests and as long as there’s interest in the show, I think that the show will continue to be produced.

CraveOnline: Do you get all new feedback on movies like Taps and Ordinary People now that people are discovering them through DVD and streaming?

Timothy Hutton: It’s nice with a TV show like this, you reach so many people every week. Even in the off season, people are streaming the show or buying the DVD sets and new audience comes to “Leverage” every year we’ve been doing it. Then what happens is that people get interested in other work that you’ve done and you start to get mail or you see questions on some of the message boards about other films and discussions about other films and there’s a whole new set of people that go back over the body of work that you have.

It’s nice, particularly with younger people that are in high school or in college, just starting their life as adults, they’re discovering and being moved by or influenced by a movie like Ordinary People or Taps or Made in Heaven or Beautiful Girls. It’s nice to see that, especially when they take something positive away from the experience of watching a film that you’ve participated in.

CraveOnline: Did you know when you were making those films that they would have a lasting effect years later?

Timothy Hutton: For me personally, that’s not the kind of person I was back then. When I was doing Ordinary People and Taps, I never wondered if it would have a lasting impression. I was just wanting to make the best film we could and do my part in that and be true to what my responsibilities were.

Really that’s how I approached it. I think as time goes on, you realize and you start to learn that film can have that kind of power, it can be relevant 30 years later and find audiences. But when you’re doing it, you just don’t know and it’s such a thing just to be doing it when you’re doing it, but of course later on you realize it really can have that reach.

Back in the day, I didn’t know. There are films that you think could have the potential to really reach people, like Ordinary People because the book was so powerful and the script was so powerful.