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Dean Devlin of "Leverage"
"Leverage" is one of my favorite shows. It can
best be described, I think, as an adventure show, but it certainly has
plenty of drama and comedy. I know that a lot of science fiction fans
love it because it has many references to shows like Star Trek, and also
because scifi fans do often love these type of action shows that involve
con artists or thieves or spies. I don't know why, but they always have,
going back all the way to Man from UNCLE in the 60's. It's why scifi
fans love shows not only like Leverage and White Collar, but also Burn
Notice and Chuck.
Dean Devlin is the executive producer of the show, and
he also directs. He is a long-time scifi fan himself, as he cites here
that his past influences include Steven Spielberg and George Lucase. It
was really fun to talk to him and have him answer our geek-inspired
questions! It was very clear that almost everyone on the call was a huge
fan of Leverage.
Moderator: Erin Naman
February 11, 2010
2:00 pm CT
Operator: Welcome to the TNT "Leverage" conference with Dean
Devlin. Today's conference is being recorded.
And at this time, I would like to turn the call over Ms. Erin Naman.
Please go ahead, ma'am.
Erin Naman: Thanks. Hello and welcome to TNT's conference call
with Dean Devlin, Executive Producer of "Leverage." The final episode of
season two of "Leverage" airs on TNT Wednesday, February 17 at 10:00,
9:00 Central. Dean directed this episode.
Today's call is being recorded and the transcript will be distributed
tomorrow. We request that you ask one question at a time and then queue
up for any follow-up questions you may have. Again, thanks for joining
us today. I'll now turn the call back to (Katelyn) who will give you
instructions on how to queue your questions.
Operator: Thank you and at this time if you would like to ask a
question, please press the star and 1 on your touchtone phone. Once
again if you'd like to ask a question, please press the star and 1 on
your touchtone phone. You may withdraw yourself from the queue at any
time by hitting the pound key and we'll pause for a moment to allow
questions to enter the queue.
And we'll take our first question from the line of Anthony Jones from
All Headline News. Please go ahead.
Anthony Jones: Hi, Dean.
Dean Devlin: Hi, how are you?
Anthony Jones: I'm doing good. How are you?
Dean Devlin: Excellent.
Anthony Jones: So I wanted to ask you, the Three Strikes Job
episode last night, it had a lot of twists and turns on its own and
almost would have been a pretty satisfying ending on its own but then I
see the preview for the second part and it looks like things get even
more intense within the group. So what can you tell me about what the
team is going to face during the season finale?
Dean Devlin: Well you know the theme of the whole second season
was really about identity, in other words you know before the season
before season 1 began, these were all loners who all worked by
themselves, who didn't really have a sense of family. In season 1, they
had come together but the question was could they hold themselves
And in season 2 really the question became well, if they're not who they
used to be before they got together, who are they now? And so the real
exploration in this next episode is the culmination of these stories and
a discovery really of who they are in relationship to each other, in who
they're going to be going forward.
You know in this season Sophie had to leave the team to find out who she
was. Nate is trying to redefine himself and he's obviously he's had
struggles as he's fallen off the wagon and trying to understand who he
is. So this will all culminate in next week's episode.
Operator: And we'll take our next question from the line of Brittany
Frederick from thetwocents.com. Please go ahead.
Brittany Frederick: Hi, Dean, I was wondering if you could talk
about the decision to have Sophie as such an active participant in the
back half of the season. A lot of shows that I know would just kind of
say oh, this character has gone off somewhere and never refer to them
again, but you know she keeps coming up and she has these really pivotal
plot moments with Nate. So can you talk about you know how you
approached her absence and how you decided to work it that way?
Dean Devlin: Well you know this was the necessity being the
mother of invention, so as Gina's pregnancy came out, we didn't want to
just move her off the show. We really wanted to try to keep her there as
much as possible. But we had made the decision that it wasn't good for
the character for her to have a child, so we needed to work around her
But she's such an important part of the show that we didn't want to have
her leave the show entirely so we tried to find ways to keep her
involved in a meaningful way and yet still try to work around the
Operator: And we'll take our next question from the line of Mike
Hughes from TV America. Please go ahead, sir.
Mike Hughes: Yes, Dean, they always talk about how you can get so
much depth in TV than you can on movies but thats so apparent in your
career because your movies have been very big and very visual and
"Leverage" is actually one of the thickest and kind of smartest shows as
far as elaborate plots. So could you kind of talk about that, how much
more it gives you to work on when you're working TV?
Dean Devlin: Well you know when I was growing up, television was
kind of the really formulaic place and movies is where you got to do
really more in depth work. But something kind of happened in the last 20
years which is movies ended up costing more and more money, more and
more money spent on marketing, and it became much more risk averse than
So suddenly movies needed to become a little more formulaic and a little
bit more based on other material and because they didn't want to take
the risks. Meanwhile, in television, you had this explosion of channels.
Instead of there just being three channels and then four channels, there
were 500 channels.
And really the only way that they could compete with each other was to
be less and less formulaic and to take more chances, take more risks,
and allow you to go farther and deeper into your characters.
So in a way it's been it's been a real flip creatively for people like
me where when we used to look at television as a place where we couldn't
be that creative, now it's a place we can be much more creative. And
then of course, being able to do, I think we've now done 28 episodes you
know it really gives you a chance to rewrite the movie every week and to
go a little bit farther and a little bit deeper.
And we're blessed with really some of the greatest writers on
television. And John Rogers especially and Chris Downey you know these
guys really you know they pour blood on these scripts each week. They
don't they don't phone it in you know every script is a labor of love.
So we've been able to go to places that I've been very surprised that
we've been able to go to.
Operator: And we'll take our next question from the line of
Suzanne Lanoue from the TV Megasite. Please go ahead.
Suzanne Lanoue: Hi, Dean.
Dean Devlin: Hi.
Suzanne Lanoue: I was wondering, do you know if Jeri Ryan will be
back next season?
Dean Devlin: We don't know yet. I mean, our hope is to have her
come back at least for a couple episodes don't know what her
schedule's going to be. But I think hopefully by the end of the season
her character will be so etched in the lore of our show that the fans
will want to see that character reoccur.
Operator: Thank you and we'll take our next question from the
line of Joe Hummel from popculturemadness.com. Please go ahead.
Joe Hummel: Sorry, (Kate) thanks, Dean, for talking to us
Dean Devlin: Oh, you bet. This is fun.
Joe Hummel: OK. I'm looking at your resume and I see a lot of
action adventure. I was wondering, obviously there was some kind of
influence, what were you doing as a young teenage boy?
Dean Devlin: Well you know as a young teenage boy I was running around
with a Super 8mm camera and I was making little films and starting
little theater projects. But you know all of my influences really were
you know Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis and you know guys like
this George Lucas.
So I fell in love with that type of film making and that type of
adventure on the screen and that sense of wonder, and I've been chasing
that dream ever since. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not so
successfully but it's always in my head of the thing that motivated me
to want to do this in the first place and you know that's the
unreachable star that we keep reaching for.
Operator: Thank you and we'll take a follow-up question from the
line of Mike Hughes from TV America. Please go ahead.
Mike Hughes: Yes, a couple of acting choices that really I was
impressed by. Timothy Hutton, I'd forgotten how good an actor he was
until he got on the show and had so many different things he can do
every week. And Jeri Ryan, I would have never guessed that. I wouldn't
have thought of her as casting here there. Tell me in both of those
cases, what was it that made you think that those were the people for
Dean Devlin: Well you know listen, I have to be honest and say
that it started off as one thing and then evolved because of the talent
of these actors. For instance, when we when we first approached Tim
Hutton, it was because we were thinking about the drama of the character
I mean, Tim Hutton is an Academy Award winning actor and the idea of
this guy struggling to deal with the death of his son while abandoning
every belief he had as far as what's right and what's wrong in the
world, we thought of Tim as the actor who could really pull off the
complexity and the depth.
What we had not prepared ourselves for was how good he was at comedy and
how much fun he could be. And suddenly the character started to evolve
very quickly based on how much he was bringing to the table week in and
And to some degree, that's the same with Jeri Ryan. We you know we knew
we needed a grifter on our show and we knew that there were going to be
several episodes where we really couldn't have Gina Bellman running
around because of her pregnancy, and it was actually the network's idea
to bring in Jeri Ryan.
And we met with her, and again, we had one impression of Jeri based on
her work and soon as we started working with her we realized this well
is much deeper than we had ever thought and then it influenced the
writing. And then the part started to grow really based on what we're
seeing in (dailies) every day. So part of it was fortune on our end, but
part of it was really the actors bringing a lot to the table.
Operator: And we'll take our next question from the line of
Brittany Frederick from thetwocents.com. Please go ahead.
Brittany Frederick: Dean, can you talk about the rise of
popularity of the show? I've been covering it since like the first
episode and it's kind of impressed me how it's just seem to have
exploded into this now you've got the music coming out and you've got
the convention. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Dean Devlin: It's very surprising. The we've reached a kind of
fandom that is normally reserved for genre shows you know for science
fiction or something. But I think that there was this hunger out there
for a show that wasn't just procedural and dry.
While procedural shows can be very compelling, they tend to be cold and
edgy, and I think that there was a real hunger for a show that was a lot
of fun and yet still had something to say that still was going after
something that was interesting, and a show that didn't talk down to the
And we've been embraced in a way that none of us were expecting. I mean,
we were so shocked when all these Web sites started popping up. And of
course when we came up with the idea of doing the "Leverage" convention,
as soon as we put up the Web site, the servers crashed.
So the response out there in the world has been so much faster and so
much more embracing than we were expecting and obviously we're humbled
and grateful for it, but it's been it's been really a shocker for us.
We thought it was going to take a lot longer to earn this audience and
this much devotion out of our fandom.
Operator: And we'll take our next question from the line of April
MacIntyre from Monsters and Critics. Please go ahead.
April MacIntyre: Hey, Dean, I'm late to this call so forgive me
if this question's been asked.
Dean Devlin: No worries.
April MacIntyre: Our readers are very much interested in the
CON-con and if it's going to be serialized in different cities. Also too
in England we're getting a lot of e-mails, a lot of interest from people
from when we posted the news item on this particular event. Will you
push it out other locations?
Dean Devlin: I think a lot will depend on how this goes. I mean,
really, how this started was we were so impressed with the loyalty and
support of our fandom that we said, let's throw them a party to just say
thanks. You know let's make let's make a weekend party for the fans.
And we weren't expecting, again, for it to be embraced this way. I mean,
the amount of people flying in from other countries to come to this
thing, even countries that where our show hasn't shown yet. We have
people coming flying in from Germany and the show's never aired there
yet. So it's been really surprising this kind of support.
So I think if the weekend goes as well as we hope you know we'd love to
franchise this out and and let the party grow and play in other
places. But I think we have to kind of reserve that to see what happens
because it's such an unusual show to do a convention for. I think we'll
have to see you know if people really come and if they enjoy it and
but if they do, then we're absolutely open to the idea of expanding
Operator: And we'll take a follow-up question from Suzanne Lanoue
from The TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.
Suzanne Lanoue: Hi again. I was wondering if you're going to
develop further the relationship that sort of started between Hardison
and Parker? It seemed like there was a romantic thing going on there
Dean Devlin: Well you know we want to be very cautious on how we
evolve the relationships and the character because at their core, these
are people who never trusted anyone. And what we discovered especially
with the Sophie-Nate relationship that that lack of trust in general has
made it difficult for them to have relationships with other humans,
whatnot these types of intimate love relationships.
So one of the things we tried to do early on in the second season was to
have Parker really slow down what was happening between her and Hardison
but of course we still want it to develop. So these things will continue
to develop. All the relationships we want to develop, but we want them
to go at as pace that's organic to who these characters are at their
core which are people who are cynical and suspicious. So hopefully we'll
let those things evolve organically.
Operator: And we'll take a follow-up question from the line of
Mike Hughes from TV America. Please go ahead.
Mike Hughes: Yes, Dean, TV has deepened its attitude towards
alcoholism in recent years. It used to be like Ted Danson on "Cheers,"
former alcoholic. That was it. He almost never had a problem. In your
show, I was really surprised to see Nate fell off the wagon. Dennis
Leary did the same in "Rescue Me." Is this like a richer, kind of more
realistic view and kind of what made you go that way with Nate?
Dean Devlin: Well, I think what we didn't want to do was have
everything be pat and easy. You know battling any kind of addiction is
hard, and there's hills and valleys, and we didn't think Nate should be
immune to that.
But also, what we were discovering as we had taken away the alcohol from
Nate is that he had substituted one addiction for a different addiction
and so suddenly before it was drinking and now it was a sense a need
to control things. And so he needed to get humbled that he can't control
the world and so part of that was losing his ability to control his own
So this is all part of the evolution of Nate coming to terms with who he
is and hopefully you'll see that really reach a climax next week at the
end of the next episode as all of these forces come together in a in a
kind of brutal way.
Operator: And we'll take our next question as a follow-up
question from the line of Anthony Jones from All Headline News. Please
Anthony Jones: Hi, again. I noticed, for example, in the last
episode, you took it back to Nate in the hospital with his son and you
kind of reminded people about you know the core of his struggle. Was
that something intentional and how do you approach this show and its
storylines when you're coming in to direct the episodes?
Dean Devlin: Well, we had we had again, we wanted to show
that nothing is ever totally resolved in real life. You know we think we
get over the death of someone and then in a most unexpected moment it
comes back and hits us again. And just like his alcoholism, he thought
he had beaten it and then it sneaks up back into his life.
So what we're trying to do in the show is while we're look, our show
is essentially a fun con show, but we wanted to show these characters in
a way that had some complexity to it and had their personal problems
influence the story and plot instead of the other way around.
You know it's so easy to just let the characters go wherever the plot
needs it, but I thought we thought it was interesting to say all of
these characters are damaged and the things that are damaged about them
affects their ability to accomplish what they're trying to accomplish
both professionally and personally.
So the more we were able to cook that up, the more interesting our
stories became and hopefully the less pat they are. You know we like to
pride ourselves on trying to do a show where it's not one con a week but
it's actually two cons a week and there's only so many cons so it's a
very difficult task to pull off.
So for us, it was really the character development that could make that
original and unique as opposed to just making the story completely
Operator: And for once again if you would like to ask a question,
you can go ahead and press the star and 1 on your touchtone phone. And
we'll take a question from the line of Courtney Schinke from Raked
Reviews. Please go ahead.
Courtney Schinke: Hi, it's great to talking to you today.
Dean Devlin: Thanks for coming.
Courtney Schinke: I was curious, one of the largest things that
kind of defines this from other shows is that even in some of these very
heavy storylines, even the that like the very heavy personal story
lines like Nate's, you still are able to incorporate this sense of
comedy in there with just one-liners, things like that. How do you do
that from week to week?
Dean Devlin: Well, one of the things I think we discovered over
the course of the show, of our episodes that were more successful and
the ones that weren't quite as successful, is the more we were able to
anchor the story in something that had some weight to it, then the more
fun we could have in the show without it completely going off the rails.
So what we try to do is what the story the underlying story is really
about who our victim is, what's happened to them. You know we want
that to have some weight and we want that to somehow be related on a
personal level to at least one of the cast members.
Once we have that anchor, we've discovered we can have a lot of fun
without the show getting too silly. And that's really been the
experiment here is to see how far we can stretch the fun and yet still
have a drama underneath that is that is resonant.
And that's really been the journey and we've been actually surprised how
we've been able to use comic techniques in a drama such as our
flashbacks, which normally they're used in things like you know sitcoms,
but we were able to actually use that as a way to both tell dramatic
stories and to bring the fun in. So that's kind of tonally been our
challenge and the thing I think we're most proud of.
Operator: And we'll take a follow-up question from the line of
Brittany Frederick. Please go ahead.
Brittany Frederick: Dean, I know you've done some minor acting on
your resume. Any chance we're going to see you make a cameo on
Dean Devlin: I was on last night.
Brittany Frederick: Dude, I didn't see it.
Dean Devlin: In last night's episode, there is a team of sports
writers who are on the radio, and if you look at the photograph, it's
actually me and John Rogers and it's our voices that come over the
Brittany Frederick: I'm going to have to go re-watch that now.
Dean Devlin: So that was my that was my one and only cameo and
probably my last one. I you know I like to not think of myself as a
former actor but more like a recovering actor. So you know every day in
every way I'm getting better and better and I'd like to not go back into
Operator: And at this time it appears that we have no more
Dean Devlin: Well, thank you everyone for coming and
participating on this. We really appreciate your time today.
Operator: That concludes today's conference. You may disconnect
at this time.
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