Timothy Hutton Talks Leverage Season 3

Timothy Hutton returns as Nate Ford for the third season of his popular TNT series June 20th

Leverage returns to TNT on June 20th with Episode 3.01: The Jailhouse Job). The third season of this hugely popular series opens with Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton in prison after having to make a tough choice on his team's most recent con. He could have allowed the gang to be arrested. Instead, he simply gave himself up to his nemesis Sterling (Mark Sheppard), a former insurance investigator now working for Interpol. Nate soon discovers, however, that the prison is corrupt. The only way he can bring the crooked officials down is to get his team to help him stage his own jailbreak. But that's only the beginning of Nate's challenges. He must also contend with a shadowy intelligence agent known only as "The Italian," played by actress and model Elisabetta Canalis, who blackmails him into helping bring down a financier. Between "The Italian" trying to control Nate and Nate trying to hold both his crew and his personal life together, it's looking to be a challenging and twisted summer for the Leverage team.

We recently hooked up with star Timothy Hutton to find out what season three has in store for Nate Ford. Here is our conversation:

What does it mean for you to be a part of this series, and what does it afford you as an actor that your film work doesn't?

Timothy Hutton: You never know how things are going to go. In this case, I had a pretty good idea because of the elements involved. The fact that it was on TNT. They have a great track record on how they present their two shows that I watch. The Closer. And Holly Hunter's show Saving Grace. Dean Devlin was involved. And John Rogers. The writing team they put together was great. I knew going in that everything was pretty good. They had the right ingredients. This was a great character. It was mine to screw up. Fortunately, its been an interesting ride ever since. I am lucky that I can still do both the show and a movie here and there. Since I did the pilot, I have shot five or six movies. This hasn't stopped me from doing other things. It's interesting to play. We've done well over thirty shows, so it's interesting to play the same character through this many storylines. I am really enjoying it. I don't see an end in sight to that.

Coming into your third season, how do you continue to make it fresh and fun on a personal level? You see know end in sight for Nate Ford. Is that because there is always something new and exciting going on with the character?

Timothy Hutton: There are certain situations that the writers put the character in that continue to make it interesting. Season two ends with him saying, "I am Nate Ford. And I am a thief." And he is surrounded by FBI. You enter with him into season three, and he is in a prison cell. There are these starting points and these stopping points that continue to make the character interesting. He is not just the same old guy doing the same thing from week to week. People will come out of the woodwork. Every show is different with a new con. Season three really presents a man on a mission. More so than we have ever seen before. He is fiercely determined to take down anybody that is taking advantage of people. They've created a great starting point for all of these characters.

How do you personally view the character at this point. And how has your idea of Ford evolved throughout the course of the series from when you first started playing him?

Timothy Hutton: The biggest thing that has evolved? In the pilot, Nate was an internal guy who had a lot of tragedy in his life. With the loss of his son and the collapse of his marriage. He was no longer working with the insurance company. As time went on, and he starts working with his team, he gained satisfaction by helping these people who have been ripped-off. This reawakens him. He understands that helping other people is the best way to help himself get back on track with his life. Along the way, more about his ex-wife comes into play. We find out more about his dead son. The biggest thing I didn't expect, and that I had a lot of fun exploring, is this idea that he wouldn't just be the mastermind of this group. He is not sitting back in his office, telling people what to do or figuring out what the strategy is going to be. He is going to get directly involved. He gets to take on different personas as part of the con. This is where the writers and I all discovered that Nate could have a good time. He could be vicious at it too. Taking people down. Those aspects certainly make it interesting to me. To not be the guy solely working out the strategy, waiting back at headquarters.

Do you think we will see a lighter side of Nate this season? Do you think it will be a bit funner for the folks at home?

Timothy Hutton: I think it will be more fun than we've seen before. They are picking up bigger cases, and getting involved in higher stakes. There is more risk involved. They are more exposed and compromised, because more people are aware of this team then they ever were before. Interpol and the FBI know about them. There are various other elements. These guys have to keep on the move. They have to keep things secretive. They each have to take on new roles, and get involved in other areas of expertise that some members of the team are good at. Everyone has to get up to speed in those areas where they are lacking. We'll see that happening in a lot of the episodes. There is a lighter side. There is also a darker side than we have ever seen before. Everybody is very excited at work about what these new shows have been able to accomplish this year. Last year was interesting because of the new characters that came in. This year, we start off strong out of the gate. And everyone is really into where the show is at this point.

Season three opens with Nate in jail. What do you think led him to the decisions he's made leading up to this particular episode, and how is his jailbreak going to shape the rest of the season.

Timothy Hutton: How it sets up the rest of the season is that while Nate is in jail, someone approaches him. She is this mysterious figure that works for an organization that is very secerative. Very underground. A clandestine group that is searching for this one bad guy. Nate gets cornered, or blackmailed, into making a deal with her while he is in prison. He gets out. At some point. I shouldn't give that away, but at some point he will get out of jail, and they will go on these jobs that will lead the team to this guy that Nate has agreed to find. They are not afraid of drug cartels and governments. The stakes are much, much higher. We also have a story where they go up against a pharmaceutical company. The villain is played by Michael O'Keefe. We go up against a corupt Memphis music producer played by John Schneider. Those stories are mixed in, but the table is certainly set in that first episode. Throughout the season there is a determination on Nate's part that is unbelievable. He feels he could go up against anybody just to help someone out. He has become a man on a mission.

Do you ever go to the writers with your own ideas to help push and mold this character? Or do you just sit back and wait for the scripts to come to you?

Timothy Hutton: I am suggesting things all the time. The other actors are too. The writers are wonderfully collaborative. They are always excited to hear our take on it. They encourage us to improvise on set. There are a couple of storylines that I ran by them. That they liked. Those ended up turning into a show. It's been fun that way, because there isn't this great divide between the writers and the actors.

How close of an ear do both you and the writers keep on the ground for some of the weirder stories that pop up in the news? Do you guys find yourselves pulling from the headlines at all throughout the course of this third season?

Timothy Hutton: All you have to do is open up the newspaper on any given day, and you will see a story that has potential for a Leverage episode. It's right there on the page. There was something a couple of weeks ago. Everyone became quite aware of the coal mining situation. We are doing a show on coal mining. A group of people have lost their jobs unfairly. I don't want to give away too much. But it was absolutely from those headlines. We look at everything. Front page. Back page. Things that are buried deep in there. Some of the weirder stories. That's how characters are formed. The writers may not pull all of the aspects from any given story. But one little piece of it can become a subplot. As I said before, the stories in the third season are much bigger. They are much more intricate. They are taking on more powerful people. More evil guys. Men that are ripping you off. This team has become very sophisticated. They feel they could take on anyone, and do just about anything. They will stop at nothing. The first season was about, "Can we do this?" The second season was about finding out that, yes, we can do this. But how do we feel about spending so much time together. The third season is, "Okay, we are a family. A dysfunctional one, but this is all we've got. We need this, and we are going to go for it. We will do whatever else it takes and give it all we've got."

You mentioned that John Schneider and Michael O'Keefe are guest staring. Who else can we expect to see this season?

Timothy Hutton: We have Clancy Brown. Bill Engvall. Richard Chamberlain. Louis D'Esposito. Just to name a few.

How much fun is that for you to have some new blood on set every week?

Timothy Hutton: Oh, it's great. That's one of the unreal, wonderful parts of this job. Getting to work with such wonderful actors. They come up here, and they always have a great time. They always say, "This show is a blast!"

What are some of the episodes you're excited for fans to see this season?

Timothy Hutton: I am so excited for the first episode of the third season, which is going to be on June 20th. That is the one to tune into. You get two episodes in this two-hour premiere. It really sets the table nicely for everything that falls after it. Every episode we've done this year has been off the charts great. The show I am working on right now is the ninth show. There is a very mysterious figure that comes out of the shadows. He presents us with a past that we'd really rather not deal with.

Leverage returns for an all-new season starting June 20th with Episode 3.01: The Jailhouse Job. Only on TNT. And be sure to pick up Leverage: The 2nd Season [4 Discs] DVD, which was released May 25th, 2010.