EXCLUSIVE: Christian Kane Brings the Muscle to Leverage
The actor who portrays Eliot Spencer talks about the second season of this hit TNT series
I don't follow many TV shows regularly these days, since the departure of my absolute favorite series of all time, The Shield, but, despite the vast difference in tone and content, I have found a new favorite in Leverage (CLICK HERE to see how much I loved the first season). The series just came back for its second season last Wednesday and a pivotal part of the show - and a very big part of the latest episode, which airs Wednesday, July 22 at 9 PM on TNT - is Christian Kane, who plays the muscle to the group as "retrieval specialist" Eliot Spencer. I had the chance to speak with Kane once again (we talked about 5 months ago for the Season 1 finale) and here's what he had to say.
I must say, I loved the Season 2 premiere.
Christian Kane: Oh, thanks man. I think we were all watching and I think it was the right way to come in. I was a little bit worried, you know. I mean, how are you going to top the season finale last season? But I'm really really pleasantly surprised with it. People have been calling and telling me how great everything was, so that's exciting. They're a little bit biased, but at the same time, that meant a lot to me.
But yeah, that's very true. It's hard to top that finale and the first season as a whole, so I was kind of curious, when we talked before you hadn't received any scripts for this season yet, so what was your first reaction when you finally got a hold of The Beantown Bailout Job script?
Christian Kane: I was like, 'How is this going to play out? How is everybody going to do this?' I actually felt really comfortable with it, because just right away reading the script, I saw (executive producer/director) Dean Devlin was going to direct it. So he's blowing s&%t up and he knew the characters better than anybody, so it was a very comfortable feeling when I was reading the script. We know some of the directors, some of the directors are there for the first time and you get a little nervous, but everybody steps to the plate and the reason is nobody wants to let Dean Devlin down. So, reading the first script, going into it I knew Dean was directing it and I saw shots in my head and I saw character movements that I know that he likes to do, so it was very calm when I was reading it. And the script was just spot-on. I thought it was the best way to bring everybody back together. These characters are broken, we're talking about broken toys here, and they need Band-aids to remain in the state of mind that they were last year. I thought that was great.
I loved how this season kind of started out the same as the first season, with the whole team trying to convince Nathan to lead them, and Nathan is still looking for a "real job" so how long will that last before he's back full-strength with the team?
Christian Kane: I can't really give that away. That's a huge character arc for Tim (Hutton). But it's funny because the thing about Nathan is, what he didn't understand was when he took all of us, he took all these broken toys, we're all Tin Men and he put a heart in each of us. We're starting to feel more and more like Nate every day. We want to help people. I mean, make no mistake, we do this for the money. We're professional criminals. We really, honestly, do it for the money, but we really start caring about the victim now. Nathan always does that, so we'll see how that plays out. I think you're going to be a little surprised by how Nate starts to deal with that.
Nice. So, last season you guys were set up in Los Angeles, before you blew up the office, of course, so will Boston kind of be your team base for a little while, or will you all be moving around? How does that all play out?
Christian Kane: It is this year, yeah. It is this year. We're filming in Portland, Oregon, and we went out to get some shots of Boston to make sure we have shots of Boston, but we're actually filming in Portland, Oregon. It's still Leverage, so we still go to different cities. Next week we're in Nebraska and stuff like that. So we keep flying around, but, as of now, Boston is going to be the home base. I don't see in the near future where that goes away, but hey, it's Leverage.
That's true. So this next episode up you're playing an MMA fighter and you have a few real UFC guys as guest stars. Did you have a lot of training that you went through for that, or had you dabbled in MMA in the past?
Christian Kane: I grew up as a wrestler in Oklahoma, so I've got that as my base, and the character does have that. I trained with Matt Lindland, who is a UFC veteran and a legend. We trained out of his place, Team Quest, in Portland and we went out on a weekend and choreographed the whole fight. I was in the gym, rolling around on the mat with Matt and we orchestrated all this stuff. Of course, once we got into the ring, we did it, but it was all choreographed. I got to train with Matt and I learned some moves. There are a couple of boys from Oklahoma out here that were fighting in there, and it's been a really good experience. It's good to have Team Quest here, because if I need to buckle up on something, than I can just go into a local gym filled with superstars of UFC. Ed Herman is a good friend of mine and he's in that episode as a fighter. He's actually fighting in UFC 101, which is in Oklahoma City, and he's coming back to do a couple of roles on Leverage. I was really proud when I went into it. I was like, 'Are these UFC guys going to know how to pull their punches?" I'm telling you right now, these two guys, Matt Lindland and Ed Herman are two of the most professional stuntmen I've ever worked with in my entire life, and I've worked with the best, because I was on Angel. I was worried what was going to happen with these UFC guys, because they're not used to missing. They're used to hitting, and they do it so well. It's a little bit scary because you're looking at these guys and going, 'This guy can kill me,' but, I'll say it time and time again, they know what they're doing. Someone might sit there and say, 'Oh, he's fighting an extra,' and it's not that at all. Half the scenes I'm fighting real fighters.
One of the things I loved about the last season was that, besides Nathan, you get these little tiny glimpses of the rest of the team's past. With Eliot we learn a bit about an old relationship and that he's actually quite a cook in the first season, so I was wondering what are some of the things we'll learn about Eliot Spencer in Season 2?
Christian Kane: The thing you're going to find out mostly, about Eliot, and I think about (Beth Riesgraf's) Parker as well, is these are two characters that were born without hearts. I know I've already talked about this, but, literally, you're going to see them start caring a lot more than usual. I mean, Eliot is a contract killer. Parker is a thief. I mean, she blew up her house with her dad in it. So these two characters, I honestly feel like the audience is really going to see a change in Parker and Eliot because they are developing hearts and to watch them go through this is very uncomfortable. That's some of the fun of it, watching these two develop.
So I believe you guys started filming this season in April, so what episode are you filming right now? I actually talked with Timothy a few weeks ago and he said you have a bit of a bigger order this season with 15 episodes, so where are you guys at in that order?
Christian Kane: We're shooting number 10 right now. It's all just starting to sink in because it's gone by so fast. We're having so much fun and we're such a family environment. We're really upset that we're almost done shooting. It's funny because these characters are so much like us in that we're not looking at the glass as half full, it's definitely half-empty (Laughs). We're just like kids right now and we're not looking forward to the end of it because we have so much fun on the set. There's such a camaraderie when it comes to the cast, crew, producers, everybody. There's a big sense of love here. I've been on other shows and I haven't seen this in my entire life where you're just rooting for the other person. I don't care if it's catering, I don't care if it's a grip, they all make sure to let everybody know that they'll take care of each other. We all pat each other on the butt every morning, and that just doesn't happen on a series.
I actually ran into Mark Shepherd, who played Jim Sterling last year, and he said he'd be back a little later in the season. I was kind of curious about his character and when Kari Matchett's character as Nathan's ex-wife will be back this season?
Christian Kane: I can't tell you that, man, but I'm telling you that Mark Shepherd is one of the best bad guys. He plays them so well. But I can't tell you when they're coming back, man. I just can't tell you that information. We are looking forward to their return though.
So are there any other guest stars that you can talk about?
Christian Kane: Oh man. The great thing about this show is that Dean Devlin produces and directs and is the owner of the damn show... and everybody wants to work with Dean. When it comes to co-stars, it's second-to-none. We were actually also very fortunate with some of the local Portland actors as well. We hire a lot out here and there are some amazing actors out here in Portland. They come on and they've done just a hell of a job. We get the best co-stars because everybody wants to work with Dean and Timothy (Hutton) is involved and everybody wants to work with Tim. In that sense, Tim has a list where he can just swoop down and call someone. We've been so fortunate with guest stars. I really don't want to call anybody out, because it would be unfair to the rest of the people that will be on and that have already been on. I mean, Charles Martin Smith did the season premiere. Are you kidding me? He's one of the best actors and it's just so much fun to watch him. He's such a mouth and if you look at him, you learn a lot. These young actors like me and Aldis Hodge and Beth Riesgraf, if we just watch these people we can learn just so much about acting.
Yeah, he was great in the season premiere. I loved his character.
Christian Kane: Yeah, exactly.
So, finally, the show is definitely back in top form and better than ever, so what would you like to say just about Season 2 in general, to get the fans or maybe those who haven't seen the show, to tune in on Wednesday nights?
Christian Kane: Oh, I'll tell you man, right now, I can't really say anything but thank you. We're on a second season because of them, make no mistake about it, it was them. We want to go further, so if everybody just keeps tuning in and gets behind these character and get behind the show, then I promise you this: we will work our asses off to make that happen. We show up every day and we try to get it done and that's the great thing about the cast, it's not for us, it's for them. They're the ones that keep us employed and they're the ones that let us do what we love, so we owe everything to the fans. There's not one credit I can take solo, or even as the cast, because it's everybody out there that's tuned in that lets us do what we love, so as long as they support us, we're going to keep busting our ass for them.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, Christian. Thanks again for your time and I'm really looking forward to seeing what else you guys have in store this season.
Christian Kane: I'll see you soon, brother. Good to talk to you again.
Be sure to tune in to the brand new episode of Leverage entitled The Tap-Out Job, which features Christian Kane posing as an MMA fighter, when the episode airs on Wednesday, July 22 at 9 PM ET on TNT.