Beth Reisgraf on ‘Leverage’ Season 5

The actress behind "Leverage’s" quirky hacker promises us she’s not crazy, and tells us about a childhood horse mishap.  

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I’ve been waiting five years to talk to Beth Reisgraf. I’m not sure why it took quite so long, but this year I got my opportunity when she called me from the "Leverage" set in Georgia where they were shooting an episode from season five.

On the show, Reisgraf plays Parker, the team’s hacker who always has a shocking random goofy thing to say. Reisgraf was every bit as fun in real life, though in a much more stable way than Parker.

CraveOnline: How are you doing on the set?
Beth Reisgraf: Oh, I’m good. I’m actually not on set today.
CraveOnline: Is this your day off and you’re doing interviews with me?
Beth Reisgraf: Yes, isn’t that so special? [Laughs]
CraveOnline: Well, thank you. I appreciate it.
Beth Reisgraf: You’re welcome, no worries.
CraveOnline: I was going to ask what kind of trouble is Parker in today, but I guess I should ask what trouble she’s in this week if you’re not working today.
Beth Reisgraf: I know, it’s very rare that we get days off and I’ve actually been off for two days in a row now so I feel very lucky, very spoiled.
CraveOnline: So what kind of trouble is Parker in this week?
Beth Reisgraf: Let’s see, this week we’re shooting a Christmas episode directed by Jonathan Frakes. She’s been doing the usual breaking into vaults, breaking into some server rooms and the likes of things like that, kind of hacking her way through things she’s not supposed to be getting in the middle of.
CraveOnline: What are some of this season’s great Parker moments?
Beth Reisgraf: Well, this season, I think fans are going to be excited to see Parker and Hardison’s relationship in full bloom. They’re finally together and openly together so that’s really cool. I think it’s fun. It’s not over the top, it’s not forced down anyone’s throat but I think at the same time, people have been expecting something and I think frankly they would’ve been upset if we hadn’t gotten to it.

So yeah, there are developments there between those two. It’s mostly she’s kind of come to the place where she’s socially adapted to situations she could’ve never handled before so this season you’re seeing her comfort within the team, within her relationship with Hardison and you kind of get the sense that she’s still got that dangerous edge and she’s never going to be predictable, thank goodness. You see that maybe if she was on her own, she’d be okay at this point so that’s what she’s been up to.
CraveOnline: In the beginning, on a show like “Leverage,” Parker could have been this sexpot babe in black spandex. Was she ever like that before you got to her?
Beth Reisgraf: It’s funny because I’ve talked about this in interviews before, but the description, I always joke with John Rogers, I’m like, “What the hell was going on?” Because it was like he used every adjective he could to describe her in this breakdown. It was like oozing dangerous sexuality, but she’s the geeky mouse girl inside, clumsy but socially awkward.

It was just all these things and I guess as an actor, you can’t really pay attention to that stuff even though it’s coming from the writer. He always laughs at me. He’s like, “Yeah, it was probably because I didn’t know what the hell I wanted.” I think certainly they had a lot of girls reading who may have gone that route but I guess I didn’t see her that way.

I looked more at the psychological side of it and approached it more from who she was as a person and as a character, instead of trying to portray some sexy image. So yeah, for me she was never that, but you’ve definitely seen me in spandex and thief gear. She has to get through small spaces so sometimes she can’t wear thick clothing I guess.
CraveOnline: Is that part fun too, slinking around in all black?
Beth Reisgraf: I mean, it’s pretty fun, yeah. I’m not going to lie. Everybody always jokes about her being in vents or whatever but I like it because it’s unique to her character. She gets to go in tiny spaces and elevator shafts and break into safes and laser rooms. It’s kind of cool because she’s got her own little space and it’s like her own world. I quite enjoy it actually.
You’re so good at the crazier touches Parker has, should I be worried in real life?
Beth Reisgraf: [Laughs] Thank you, I think. That’s nice. No, you shouldn’t be worried. Hopefully the acting’s doing the trick then. I think I’m a safe person to have around in real life.


CraveOnline: With the relationship with Hardison, did you foresee that relationship in the beginning? How early did you have a sense there were sparks there?
Beth Reisgraf: I mean, I suppose you always sort of get an inkling based on something early on, what they’re foreshadowing. In the pilot it really could have gone a few different ways really. I think obviously we knew Nate and Sophie were going to be together, but I thought there could be something there definitely. I also thought if they put those two characters together too soon it could get boring really fast.

So I like the fact that they’ve let this thing stew for a few seasons between Parker and Hardison. In the meantime there’s been this great dynamic that’s developed between all the characters. Even Parker and Elliot have a very special bond that’s unique to those two. So I kind of sensed it right off the bat but at the same time I thought, “Well, it could go the other way too.”
CraveOnline: What is Parker like as a girlfriend?
Beth Reisgraf: I’m happy to say that their relationship has not affected the dynamic of the team. I can’t really speak for Aldis [Hodge] but I do know that that was one thing that was important to me, to not let it turn into some average normal sort of cutesy relationship and I know the writers didn’t want that either, because they are who they are.

Just because they’re now sort of in a relationship doesn’t mean that they’re going to suddenly be acting differently around the team. It’s been really fun because we’ve had little moments to kind of play with it. She’s a good girlfriend. Like her sense of adventure in what a date should be like is much different than Hardison’s as you’ll see. I think that’s part of the fun of it. They’re like yin and yang in a way.
CraveOnline: So they do go out on dates?
Beth Reisgraf: Yeah, you’ll see an episode that sort of addresses that and the different approaches they have to that.
CraveOnline: When you started doing flashback episodes where you could play different characters, did you like that idea for changing up the show?
Beth Reisgraf:
Yeah, I think any time we go off format it’s kind of exciting because it breaks it up a little bit for us but we’re lucky enough to be part of a show that changes it up all the time. We get to play characters within characters which not a lot of actors get to do on shows that go on for five seasons.

So I certainly enjoy it and I think it gives us a new challenge and it’s sort of exciting to tap into this other world and I know it’s really fun for our costume designer, Nadine Haders, and she’ll build things from scratch based on period photos. She just nails it every time. Then our hair and makeup teams get really excited and the set decs. It’s all kind of like a fun creative break for everyone just to step outside of what we normally do but yeah, I really love it.
CraveOnline: Was kickass action hero something you always dreamed of playing?
Beth Reisgraf: [Laughs] Maybe. I remember being a kid thinking, “Oh, if I could only fly, the wonderful things I could do.” I suppose this is the closest to it I’ll come unless I somehow get in with Joss Whedon and Stan Lee." No, I do remember being a kid thinking how fun it would be to be a superhero in real life and I’m happy to say that I’ve had a good shot at it with Parker. I love doing all those stunts and the wirework. It definitely has been a delight.
CraveOnline: I’m glad that question makes you laugh because I think she’s pretty kickass.
Beth Reisgraf:
Yeah, she is. She totally is. Look, I love my character. I love Parker. It’s such a gift. We actually do talk about it a lot between us on the cast. This may never happen again. We may never have a dynamic that works as well as this one with such interesting characters. We joke, it’s like yep, okay, we’ll see you around sometime and we’ll all be playing lawyers.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that but just the fact that we get to play all these characters that have fights and stunts and comedy and drama and they’re conning, different looks. It’s great to play a character, especially a female character, who’s smart, dangerous, sort of clumsy and funny at times but also she can kick ass and kind of scare people. It’s such a gift. Yeah, I really love it.
CraveOnline: What would your younger self think of you strapped to the bottom of the car in “The (Very) Big Bird Job?”
Beth Reisgraf:
I think she’s be like, “I want to try it!” Yeah, I have a vivid memory of riding on a horse by myself and I wasn’t strong enough to tighten the saddle and it slipped off, and I was literally hanging on underneath the horse. I remember looking upside down the field, so maybe I’d be like, “Oh, that’s what I thought I’d be doing.”