Tonight brings the first of the two parts of the first-season finale of TNT’s “Leverage.” We’ve commented on the show in the past here on Premium Hollywood, but after a slight false start in the early days of the series, it’s become an enjoyable blend of action, drama, and comedy that allows the viewer to escape into a world where the little guy actually gets to win once in awhile. We had a chance to talk to Christian Kane, who plays the rough-and-tumble Eliot Spencer on the show, and quizzed him about how the show’s gone for him. (We also snuck in a quick “Angel” question and checked on the status of his music career, too.)
1. If you can approach “Leverage” as a viewer rather than a fan for a second, are you surprised that “Leverage” was able to find an audience? Because a lot of series are in, out, and done in just a couple of episodes, but you guys found an audience quickly.
Yeah, we did, man. Y’know, it’s always surprising to me what works and what doesn’t work. I mean, I can’t believe that some of the stuff that’s on right now is on, and I can’t believe that “Arrested Development” ever went off the air. (Laughs) But it wasn’t surprising to know the track record of the people behind it. I mean, it was Tim (Hutton)’s first series (since “Kidnapped”), and I felt comfortable with that, but also John Rogers is an unbelievable writer, and Dean Devlin has had unbelievable success in the entertainment world, so we came in with a couple of big guns pulled out, unlike maybe some of the other people. So I felt confident in that. And then I started watching, and I got more confident. But then I remembered that, with the economy the way it is and the way the entertainment business is going… (Laughs) …it got a little bit scary for awhile, y’know, because you start thinking of stuff. But then when I went back to the economy stuff, and I went, “Y’know what? In this day and age, when The Man is sticking it to everybody, I think people are really going to want to sit back on the couch and really be part of the team and watch some people go out and stick it back to The Man.”
2. The “Ocean’s Eleven” comparisons that were being thrown around in the beginning were obviously really, really apt. Do you think the series has found its own identity yet, or is it still finding it?
I think it has. You know, Dean will tell you that a lot of that stuff is based on that kind of a show, that we wanted to bring the retro back and still run very, very fast-forward into the world of technology, which is hard to do. But they’ve found it. I think that it stands on its own now. But I think you should still compare it to “Ocean’s Eleven.” You could even compare it to “The A-Team.” It’s like a modern-day “A-Team” to me. And I was probably the biggest Mr. T fan in the world, and I’m actually getting to play the B.A. Baracus on this show, so it’s a gift for me. (Laughs)
3. How much do you think the show requires viewers to turn off their minds and accept highly unlikely events? Because, y’know, when the group dropped off a truckload of money to the hospital at the end of “The Homecoming Job,” I know that a couple of folks at our site were, like, “Oh, come on, give me a break, you couldn’t have put it in an account for them…?”
(Laughs) Exactly. But, y’know, the thing is that we could just go through and do all of that stuff, but I think we would lose some of the people, because we can read it, but a lot of times what comes in a script doesn’t come through on television. John Rogers and the writing team have been very smart to do what we call “pipe,” which lets the viewer know exactly what’s going on. If we had just shown up and said, “Here’s an account number,” not everyone would’ve gotten it. It’s more fun for television to drive up with the truck. Remember, this is not real life. We’re entertaining. So it’s good to see all of the steps happening, and it’s fun to sit back and not have to…well, you still have to work your brain, because it’s a smart show and it’s created by some very intelligent people, but at the same time, you can sit back and relax at the end of a long day with a beer and invite us into your home. And that’s important.
4. Setting aside the finale, what’s been your favorite episode of the season?
I liked “The Bank Shot Job.” I liked the one where we were in a bank; I loved the fight scene in that. It was a lot of fun for me to do, and the fact that…Eliot’s such a precision fighter, and he’s always, like, really quick, in and out with the punches, and he’s done. This was a fun one for me because I got to really bring some heat; they were beating up a woman, and they were beating on someone who was a mother figure, and I loved the fact that Eliot comes in with some hard hitting. I mean, he’s not just trying to put these guys down real quick; he’s playing with them and trying to hurt them as much as he possibly can. So that was fun for me. And I loved the character that Jim developed, and Michael O’Connell was in there, and he’s a friend of mine that I’ve worked with before, on “Secondhand Lions.” He played the bad guy. And Dean directed. It was just a fun episode.
5. Who’s been your favorite guest star?
Oh, God, there’ve been so many, it’s really hard to choose from them. Sam Anderson was a great friend of mine; he was actually my boss on “Angel,” so it was a great pleasure to work with him. Saul Rubinek…I’ll tell you, we were dangerously close in the pilot to having Saul steal it from us. He’s a good friend of mine, and it was good to work with him. I wish he’d come back. But like I said, Dean Devlin’s involved in this, so we’ve been getting unbelievable guest stars who are lining up with the guy. It’s also fun for Tim, because the stature that he has, people trust the show because of his track record, so he’s brought a lot of great stuff as far as guest stars wanting to be a part of it. (David Boreanaz) would be too on-the-nose as a guest appearance, but I’m trying to talk him into coming over. I just talked to him a couple of days ago, and I might try to figure something out for him to come over and direct. You know, he directed me a couple of times in “Angel,” and he’s directed a couple of “Bones,” so I’m going to try to get him over to direct an episode of “Leverage.” Everybody there is a fan of his, anyway, so hopefully he’ll come over and direct.
6. I know Alec Hardison is the resident geek of the ‘Leverage’ team, but given the “Doctor Who” references in a couple of the episodes, who’s the resident geek on the ‘Leverage’ writing staff?
(Laughs) Every single one of them are geeks! You’d be surprised. Every single one of our writers is a geek, and they’re self-proclaimed. That’s why we have a successful show. They’re all Trekkies and anime fans and all this other stuff. Digital tech fans. It’s great. It’s really great for me, especially having been on “Angel,” because those guys knew my work!
7. The finale is a pretty emotional affair for Nathan, bringing us full circle with more knowledge about his son’s insurance claim that’s central to the pilot. How do you think Eliot has grown over the course of the season, and where would you like to see him head in the future?
Um…gosh, you know, I don’t know that much about Eliot’s background. I mean, Eliot’s a meat-and-potatoes type of guy. If you were to ask some of the other players, I’d bet that they would have a situation about where their characters would go, but I think Eliot’s just happy at this point to be a part of a team. He has people around that he can talk to. I think one of the reasons that Eliot’s so aggressive is because he always works alone. When you work alone, as I know, you tend to start talking to yourself. Speaking from experience, you live in your head…and I don’t even want to be in my head, so I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Eliot’s head. I think he’s got a release valve now that he can use, by talking to people, which he didn’t have that before. And I think he’s growing, and I think his heart’s a little bit bigger. But, look, there’s nothing in the background to say that. They haven’t given me anything about it. Eliot’s just a puncher. I’ll just keep punching people. I don’t need a back story. (Laughs)
8. Kevin Tighe plays the big villain in the season finale, and he’s about as good at playing the villain as you can get. Were you a fan of his work?
He is, man. And I’m a big fan of his from “Roadhouse.” I brought in Anthony Delongis, who’s the sword master who taught me everything I know about blades, to play the Russian guy, and me and Kevin were talking about that, because he was one of the bad guys in “Roadhouse” as well. I think he even had a fight scene with Kevin! Especially for me, playing this character, I grew up watching “Roadhouse” over and over again…I’m sorry to say, but I did…and Kevin was one of the guys. And he’s the bad guy in the finale, and he plays it so well. He’s just an incredible actor. And it’s fun to watch him get into a character. No-one’s going to get to see that, because you aren’t there, but it’s fun to watch him put his mask on.
9. One “Angel” question: what did you enjoy most about working on that show? I know you were already friends with Boreanaz before then.
There were two best things about working on that show. Number one, I got to go to work every day and try to kill my best friend. (Laughs) And number two was to be a part of something like Joss Whedon’s world, where it’s fresh, it’s new, it’s crisp, and…it was something that we usually only get to dream about. Most people never get to fly around on cables and see vampires and demons and weird spells and sorcery and things like that. Hardly anybody ever gets to do it, but I got to do it. It was there. And it wasn’t all CGI. I was watching stuff happen right in front of me. I lived in a make-believe world for about five years, and to me, that’s just…that’s something that’s unbelievable to have been a part of, to have lived in Joss Whedon’s head.
10. Lastly, how’s the music going? Your Wikipedia entry makes a comment about your Columbia Nashville deal which doesn’t exactly sound optimistic, i.e. that it was from 2008 to 2009.” Are you still signed with them, or are you on your own now?
I’m actually in the process right now of redoing a couple of songs on the album. This is the reason why I’m in Nashville right now. I’m trying to…especially since we got picked back up, because we go back in April, I’ve had to put a little bit of a rush on stuff. I told someone this the other day, but there will be a song out before I go back to work. There’s no way in heck I would ask people to stick around that long without a song. I have the best fans in the world, and most of them come from “Angel” and know me from that, but they’re only going to stick around for so long if I keep promising songs and don’t deliver. (Laughs) So I’ve got to get one out there, and one will be coming very soon. I’m not on my own right now. I can’t really talk about it, but I’m not on my own. There’s some restructuring going on all over the place, especially in this town, but…I can’t really talk about it. As for the song, I’m sure it’ll be on iTunes – that’ll probably be the first place you can get it – but hopefully it’ll be available…well, again, I’ve got to wait. I can’t talk about it yet!