Timothy Hutton

Timothy Hutton talks about the upcoming series finale

Timothy Hutton has returned to the small screen in a very big way. Hutton stars as ex-insurance investigator Nathan Ford in Leverage, which airs its first season finale on Tuesday, February 24 at 10 PM ET on TNT. Hutton held a conference call to discuss the upcoming finale and here's what he had to say.

We understand that this is a band of thieves basically and we're starting to see the consequences of that now with the team kind of falling apart. What can you do to bring them together in the final episode, your character?

Timothy Hutton: Well, I think the final episode, Nate is not quite sure he wants to keep the team together. I think that the team also isn't sure whether they want to continue working with others. They're all used to working along. And they developed a kind of wonderful family dynamic working as a team. But you know over the course of the first season some trust issues come up certainly in the show that happened last night with Sophie, the team sees that maybe she's working towards her own end and not for the team or for others.

So I think the finally is going to show a real conflict for Nate as to whether or not it's worth continuing the way it's been going and certain things are going to have to be expressed. Certain new ways of working together are going to have to be agreed upon. And the conclusion is a very complicated and yet you know compelling one that will bring us nicely into a second season.

So this is a very conflicted guy, Nate Ford, and all of the people around him, I think at one point you have a line "the hitter, the grafter and the thief." So kind of what's your perspective you know like in an acting sense of being this guy, this kind of broken down guy?

Timothy Hutton: Well you know from the beginning, from the outset when I first read the script, I thought it was a great character, a great starting point for any actor to read a character like this and say,"Wow, he has so much going on, so many demons and so much of a dark place that he's been living in you know how does all of that shape this guy? How does he interact with other people?"

And he has this opportunity to sort of get on his feet again at the beginning of the season with "Leverage" he finds it very satisfying to be working with these other - these thieves that he's known from the other for so many years for the purpose of helping other people. That becomes his reason to kind of get his life back together. You know he understands very quickly that the best way to help himself is to help other people.

And then as the season goes on you know he realizes that it's quite complicated working with these others. There's personality issues. There's trust issues. There's ways that they go about doing things that Nate probably thinks could have been handled better. They probably think that Nate could have handled himself better in terms of you know him disappearing from time to time and drinking and letting the team down and almost blowing apart some of the operations they have going. So by the time we get to the finale which we're really with last night being part 1 and next week being the end of the season it really left in kind of an interesting place, I think, where nobody is quite sure if they want to continue. And you're going to see a lot of kind of revelations. I think the audience is going to see a lot of things being communicated between the five of them and they get a lot closer and by doing so maybe they can't be around each other because they open certain doors.

Do you feel connected to Nate?

Timothy Hutton: Well, I mean in so much as playing the guy. But, no, I mean as far as you know what he's going through and the specific story points of his life, not really. Which of course makes it interesting to play because it's not something, fortunately, I've lived through or experienced. And you know but it's a fascinating character to play, I'll tell you that.

Quendrith Johnson: Great show. Thank you.

Timothy Hutton: Thanks.

So one of the things I think has been really interesting about the show is that it kind of started off as Nate trying to redeem this group of thieves, but in the end you know as it's coming into the last episodes it's them, in a way, redeeming him or trying to help him. So I'm kind of curious to hear your take on that. And also does he get some kind of redemption or peace by the end of season finally? And where will that lead him? Because you know a lot about the team, where will that leave him in the next season? Will he still have his alcohol and his problems? Will he still have the skill? Or will we have some peace and be able to move forward?

Timothy Hutton: Well I think you know what you're saying about you know how he kind of redeems them and they end up redeeming him, I think that's very true. I think that it starts out where there's kind of an invisible fence between him and the others. They're thieves. He wasn't. But they're going to go on this common mission come together to try to help this guy who ends up - Saul Rubinek's character in the pilot ends up being the one who is sort of setting them up conning them and that infuriates Nate and off we go.

As the season goes on you know we see that they're all deeply flawed dysfunctional people in their own way, and Nate tries to hold it together and doesn't always succeed. And it's one of the interesting things about the show is that each one of them really have been able to display - the writers have done this so well with the scripts strengths and weaknesses and how as a team you know they're better than as an individual which is very hard for all of to admit. But they've really developed a sense of family.

As far as what Nate might or might not want to do in terms of continuing on I think that he's learned a lot about how deeply satisfying it is to help others and therefore sort of find a way out of his own dark past and guilt and the demons that he has, that the great antidote for him is helping other people. And I'm sure he's aware that the drinking really has to get under control. But he's probably in denial about it and thinks a little self medicating as long as it doesn't mess with any of his functioning and his ability to continue running these cons and these elaborate schemes then it's OK and it's really nobody's business, but the rest of the team knows better. And I think that the second season will kind of go into that and perhaps Nate will find another vice.

I wanted to see what the recent developments with Gina Bellman's character due to the kid of romantic tension between you during the season?

Timothy Hutton: What's going to happen?

Yes. Whether there's a chance of you know they had a relationship in the past and there were some hints that there might be one in the future, is that all on the rocks now?

Timothy Hutton: Well, no I think that more of that is going to reveal itself as time goes on and certainly in the second season. We're going to learn more about the space between when they first met and they sort of reunited. This show has kind of exposed a lot of that all ready. But I think there's going to be more. And I think that we haven't seen the last of the Maggie character, Nate's ex-wife. I think that she might come back in to the mix a little bit which might create a rather complex triangle.

Sophie is a character who's always playing someone new every week and your character is often playing someone new every week too. Is it more fun as an actor to play someone who's always playing someone else, or do you sometimes wish you just had kind of a straighter role?

Timothy Hutton: No. You know I think that when all of this was first came to be when the pilot script was written and we were all working on it each of the characters were really well-written, well-defined and had a certain arc to them and you could see where the potential was for them to go in the first season of the TV show.

I think as we got into filming you know and you have to remember that there was about I'd say about 8 or 9 months between completing the pilot and starting to fill the remaining 12 shows that compromised the first season. So during that time we all had a chance to look at the pilot. The pilot aired you know people responded in certain ways. And you know we then - so during that time we had a chance to sort of all think about where the characters could go.

And for me, one of the things I expressed to Dean Devlin and the writers were - was that it's very easy to just have this character Nate be kind of the serious guy, the former insurance guy who doesn't have a sense of humor and you know nobody can really read, mysterious you know morose. And I said I felt the danger with that is you know you just have a sort of a one-dimensional self-involved character, which he has to be on some level.

I mean he is dealing with things and he is very flawed. But I thought there had to be other aspects and if you were going to do a kind of Mission: Impossible, Ocean's Eleven kind of thing where you have five characters that are running a con against really bad con artists that are really harming people and taking advantage of people that you know Nate should sort of be allowed to get outside of himself. He probably can't stand to be inside his own head and walk around that skin. I mean he's so self-loathing that he would be absolutely compelled to and drawn to the idea of being a little bit like Sophie and the others and kind of playing different parts and being an obnoxious poker player in one episode and a slimy chameleon coming up with a scheme called "Glengarry Glen Death" in another episodes things like that.

So that was something that kind of developed between I think the pilot and you know the rest of the shows that all of the characters would be doing different things. You know Hardison isn't just a computer guy, it turns out he can fight you know. Christian Kane's character isn't just the muscle. It turns out he's an amazing chef and also can play other characters quite convincingly when he plays the - I think it's the - yes, it's the pilot, actually, where we get to see him play you know kind of computer fix-it guy who distracts the assistant.

And anyway so on and so on. This is something that I think has made the show very fun because the characters all have different skills and they're put to play each week.

Do you feel that Nate Ford could risk flipping more to thievery from his original intent as he's gone from the season premiere through the season?

Timothy Hutton: I think he says that to his old boss to kind of mess with his head. I don't think Nate really thinks that he's become a thief. I think he's just trying to - he's playing a role in that scene a little bit. I mean that was my take on it anyway. And he's trying to kind of make his former boss a bit unsteady because he has big plans for him. And if you've seen the final episode you know how it kind of unfolds. But I think he's trying to make the other guy a little bit unsteady by saying that.

At the same time, I think, that he has come to terms with the fact that his life will never be the same again. He will never be part of that former self or world that he once inhabited. He has become a different person. He's a learned a few things along the way. He's come to trust and appreciate and admire this team he works with even though he doesn't really have the ability - seemingly have the ability to show it, express it.

But - and I think that he actually underneath it all gets quite a thrill out of doing the work that the others have done their whole lives. He likes the idea of you know sneaking into an art gallery and you know disappearing a bunch of paintings and slight of hand and conning the best con artist in the world to help people that have been ripped of. I think that the really, really enjoys that. And it's what's saved him really.

I have a couple of questions here. One of them is about you know obviously we're in an economic crisis before you started showing the episodes, but it got really bad after the fact and made the show even more timely. Do you see the next season kind of taking the stuff even more head on? And do you think there has to be a balance so it doesn't get so oppressive and depressing that it still has that light tone without you know going too far? I mean what is your take on that?

Timothy Hutton: Well you know I don't think that the show should become a mirror you know exclusively. You know there has to be a difference between the depressing headlines that you see when you pick up the newspaper versus the storyline when you turn on Leverage.

But at the same time there are a lot of things going on right now that can make for some compelling stories that really expose some of these people that prey on others. For example, one of the shows that I thought was really good in the first season was the one about the contractor who puts a lien on the house and then takes ownership of the house. I think that was the "Snow Job" it was called. I'm sure that the writers are going to keep their ear to the ground. But at the same time they're not going to in any way turn Leverage into you know something that is - a documentary based on how terrible the times are right now. I mean it is meant to be an entertaining television show that also exposes you know things that are going on. But ultimately, his message is you know revenge is deeply satisfying.

Well one of the other things too when I talk to people about the show is that everybody has their own favorite episodes and even during the season I really liked the Two-Horse Job and to me when the The Bank Shot Job appeared I felt that that was sort of the game changer with the show because it showed the potential of all of the different ways where you can be in the middle of a con.

So I'm curious from your perspective, what were some of the favorite episodes for you and why you felt that they worked better than others?

Timothy Hutton: Well, you just brought up the The Bank Shot Job I really liked that one a lot because I really liked how the team was able to kind of go into plan B, plan C, and then plan D based on unforeseen events that happened. They had no idea that this bank would get held up. They're in the middle or the end of finishing a con and how they think on their feet and how they communicate with each other and how they have to quickly come together as a team and each one take a role in kind of diffusing a very difficult situation, diffuse the crisis.

So I like that show. And I also like the idea that it was basically one location. And you really - it really kind of you know raised the stakes, I felt, and the tension of the show's drama.

I liked the Snow Job I liked Two-Horse Job. I liked very much the episodes where all five of us at different points in the show play other characters as part of the con and assume different roles. And you know you have all five of the characters in different places and they're all communicating to each other. And thinking on their feet and things don't always go as they thought they would. And the most fun shows, I thought, were the ones where they had to go plan B. I would always say to everybody let's do more plan B shows.

There's a lot of Oscar winners in TV too, you being one of them. Is it TV that's really compelling because all of these storylines are just - they seem to be stronger than in the past? Or what brought you to - I know you're in The Ghost. I think you signed on to Roman Polanski's The Ghost but in terms of TV what you know is it just that you get to develop this character over time? Or what's drawing you to it?

Timothy Hutton: I think you just touched on it. You know you get to develop a character over time. You don't wrap up a character in 2 hours or 3 hours. But you know you have these different storylines where the character can kind of go to different places over the course of a season, hopefully more than a season. We're very fortunate we got picked up for a second one. And you know I think that the writing for cable shows it's just really quite incredible. And you know you look at shows like everything from Monk to Burn Notice to Mad Men to -- I'm forgetting the name of the show that's on after Mad Men on AMC.

So it's the writing that's drawing you to it then. It's - like you have "Serbian Adoption Agency," you have "Iraqi Mercenary," we noticed some really great writing in your show too.

Timothy Hutton: Yes, there's really great writing in the show. And you know you look at the scripts and everything and that's what you want to be doing. You don't think this is TV, I wish this was a movie. Or when you're doing a movie you think this would be better if it was TV. You know you don't really think that way. You just kind of go where the writing is. And there's great writing in movies obviously right now and there's - I don't think there's ever been a better time for writing in television and I think that's what's attracting so many people. And not just people that are doing the shows but people that are watching the shows.

You own a really good bar and restaurant in New York, P.J. Clarke's. And I'm wondering if your experience with that has any effect on sort of relating to the people you play? Or, specifically, if it affects how you play someone who maybe has issues with alcohol?

Timothy Hutton: Well, yes I mean I can't say that I've sat in P.J. Clarke's and studied excessive drinkers. I like to go in there to have a meal more than a drink. I happen to be - one of the reasons that I wanted to get involved with P.J. Clarke's was that I loved their menu. But you know as far as that aspect of Nate's character, the drinking part you know it's a typical self-medicating kind of thing that's going on with him where he thinks that he can handle it and that it doesn't affect his thinking, his decision making or his relationships, impact on responsibilities, but of course, it does. And it's going to be a journey for him to come to terms with that. And I think we've seen a lot of that in the first season. And you know the rest of the team has just about had enough of it. And you know Nate's going to have to figure that part out and find another vice.

Any suggestion of what that might be? You mentioned previously too?

Timothy Hutton: I don't know. I mean there are some interesting ideas being kicked around. But you know I'm personally not really interested in playing a character who when he is having a difficult time turns to the bottle. I think that has a certain shelf - that idea has a certain shelf life. I think that the demons don't go away but how he deals with them and what his way to shut down or escape those thoughts and feelings has to kind of transform into some other type of behavior to keep it interesting.

So in the season finale then really the whole season you've been going after, well at least in the background Ian Blackbull, if in the season finale you're successful and you overthrow him has there - have you set your sights on a new archenemy for Nate in season 2?

Timothy Hutton: Yes, there will be some people that come out of the woodwork because the more this team has gone and turned over rocks and exposed some pretty slimy people as we've seen in the first season the more public their operation has become. And let's not forget with the exception of Nate the other four of that team is wanted by you know everyone from Scotland Yard to Interpol to FBI. I mean there are people all over the world that look at Eliot as a suspect for something that happened some years back, Sophie for something that happened, Parker for something. And this has been alluded to in the first season. But the more that they've carried out these missions, the more public they've become. And I think that what might be interesting in the second season will be how they can continue to do these operations and help people without you know compromising themselves.

How do they stay underground and operate above ground at the same time? I think that's something that's going to be kind of interesting to do. So as far who they might go up against in adversaries I think that a lot of people are going to come out of the woodwork that have been looking for each one of them.

You can watch Timothy Hutton and the rest of his Leverage crew when the season finale airs on Tuesday, February 24 at 10 PM ET on TNT.