Timothy Hutton has had a long and distinguished career in films and television, including Secret Window, Taps, The Dark Half and the upcoming film, The Ghost Writer. Hutton was also the youngest actor to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, which he claimed for his part in Ordinary People.
In 2008, Hutton garnered a new following on the TV series Leverage as Nate Ford, a man who assembles a team to act as a modern day Robin Hood, targeting only wealthy criminals. “Leverage” returns this Sunday, June 20 on TNT for its third season.
Hutton recently spoke with the press about the upcoming third season and how Nate Ford will change and react in the months ahead.
Q: We’ve heard that season three begins with Nate in prison. Did you film those scenes in an actual prison? And how did you prepare for that?
Timothy Hutton: Well yes, season three begins with Nate in prison and we found this amazing place that was built and never finished here in the Portland, Oregon area this very high tech prison that they never completed. But this one wing was and now it’s used — a lot of the prison is used for office space, which is kind of unusual but this one sort of wing we took over and there weren’t any real inmates.
But we had many extras for those scenes and we filmed those scenes here in Portland. And it was you know it was – each show is a 7 day shoot and I think we were in the prison 5 of those 7 days and it was a great, For me it was a great way to start the season three to have Nate in jail. And if he’s going to get out of jail it has to happen after he takes care of something that’s very important to him that’s going on inside the prison.
Q: Will Nate be little wilder this season as he was in the first or will he be more together as we saw in season two?
Timothy Hutton: I think with season three you’re going to see very determined Nate Ford: a man on a mission. He gets in jail and he’s determined [that] once he gets out — if he gets out. We don’t want to really say whether he does or not. But he’s determined to really take on much bigger cases and to get the team reunited and kick off season three as sort of a man on a mission.
So the drinking and being disheveled and not really being in control of anything is something that is going to be put aside for the time being. It’s certainly comes up again during the third season based on issues that happened in Nate’s life that sort of come out of the woodwork. There’s sort of a haunting figure that we never thought — never expected we would see but someone comes out of the shadows and comes back into Nate’s life and we really learn a lot about why Nate is the way he is. And that’s going to perhaps put him into a state again that we’ve seen before.
Q: “Leverage” has always made a distinction between being an honest man and being a thief. Now that Nate has declared that he’s a thief, how will that change the way he acts this season?
Timothy Hutton: Well, yes, I think that the biggest change once he declared at the end of season two “My name is Nate Ford and I’m a thief.” Once he declared that, I think what we see in the beginning of season three is a much more determined — sober in many ways — man who is just absolutely determined to help as many people as he can.
And to take down the worst, [the] most horrible people that are ripping people off taking advantage of people. He doesn’t care how powerful they are or even who they are or what they are. You’ll see in the third season that the team takes on drug cartels, takes on governments, they’ll take down anybody and they’re just — they’re fearless. And the means by which they do it are very clever and very dangerous.
Nate Ford, now that he’s declared that he kind of accepts who he is he is, [he is] absolutely a man on a mission. And he will stop at no end. He’ll just keep at it until he can square things off with people who have been ripped off in some way.
Q: Can you tell us more about the comedic elements that you bring to the role of Nate Ford? And how do you balance that with the dramatic plot?
Timothy Hutton: Well, one of the things that the show — it sort of has evolved into — is it’s not just strictly this heavy drama or a caper show [or] pulling off these cons and heists.
I think it started with the kind of the chemistry and the rapport that the cast had with each when we were shooting the pilot in Chicago. We used to just crack each other up and pull pranks on one another and we just had a very easy kind of fun way with one another.
And it kind of spilled onto the set a little bit and we used in the pilot and in season one used to improv and some nice banter started to develop and so that’s kind of how it happened. And the writers picked up on it and thought “Oh okay. Well we can have some fun with this.”
And it’s been great because the show has, for me, has a nice balance between [the two]. We learn a lot about Nate’s back story and there have certainly been some big moments of drama with exploring his life and that character but there is also within the cons with each of us taking on roles within the roles we’re playing I think it’s lent itself to some good comedy moments.
Q: Who are some of the guest stars you get play off of this season?
Timothy Hutton: Well this year we have some really great guest stars — just like last year,. We’ve got Michael O’Keefe, Jen Carlos Espisito, John Schneider, Arry Gross, Richard Chamberlain, Clancy Brown.
Q: Will Mark Sheppard return as James Sterling in the third season?
Timothy Hutton: We’ll certainly see Sterling back. I don’t know if it’ll be the third season or not. Mark is such a wonderful actor and everybody wants him on their show so we’re just waiting in line. We’re hoping that he has time to do our show. He’s been so great in the show and great for the dynamic of the story telling of Nate and Maggie and the way he kind of brought Nate into Maggie getting set up for being held hostage last year.
The writers loved it when Sterling shows up and Nate has a good counter. So I’m sure we’ll see Sterling again. It’s been a real pleasure working with Mark and he brings a lot to the show.
Q: Will we learn more about what the other team members did before they joined Nate?
Timothy Hutton: Yes. One of the things that is happening in the third season which has been great, is the first six or seven shows are very much about learning who Hardison is, where he came from.
There’s a Parker episode where we learn a lot about her past and her background and we meet her mentor, who is Richard Chamberlain. We learn a lot about Sophie in one of the episodes and a lot about Christian Kane’s character, Eliot in a show we did about the Memphis music biz and a corrupt music producer played by John Schneider.
What the writers have done is they’ve really set season three up and really set the table nicely where you’re given, not just in quick little flashbacks but almost dedicated episodes that really explore each of the characters in depth.
Q: Now that it appears that “Leverage” is secure for at least a few more seasons, how comfortable are you in the TV world?
Timothy Hutton: Well to me it’s just a great job. It’s a great work environment. I’m working with wonderful actors on a great network of TNT and it’s just a really good situation.
Great writing and fun character, complex character, so many different directions the show could go in and the group dynamic is wonderful. The fact that they all become this kind of dysfunctional family — I hope it lasts you know a good while longer.
I really like doing the show and it hasn’t taken me away from doing other things. I think since we started doing “Leverage” I’ve done four or five movies when we were on breaks from doing “Leverage.”
So it’s not like I have to do one or the other. I’m going to be doing a play probably next year when we’re on break. So it’s 6 months out of the year and it’s a wonderful 6 months and I really enjoy working on “Leverage.”
Q: Elisabetta Canalis will be appearing in the early part of the season. Do you have any specific memories of working with her on the show?
Timothy Hutton: Well yes. I mean working with Elisabetta was great and she’s going to be doing more shows with us as the season goes on because she’s set up as a very central figure. You know audiences when they see the first show; they’ll see that Nate makes a deal that the rest of the team is not very happy with.
But Nate makes a deal, it’s kind of blackmailed in a way in to accepting the deal to go after someone. And she’s the one who presents the plan. They have these kind of secret clandestine meetings throughout the season.
Working with her was great. She’s just such a lovely person and she brought great excitement when she came to the set. She was so excited to be in the show and she worked so hard and she was worried that her accent was too thick and you know one of the great things is her accent.
She’s working very hard to minimize the accent and we all wanted her to have the accent. So anyway, we’re all looking forward to her coming back. I’ve already seen a couple of the shows that she’s in and she’s just great in the show and she really adds this amazing kind of dangerous — spy in from the cold element to the show.
Q: Will Nate ever find out what Sophie’s real name is? And more importantly, will audience will ever find out?
Timothy Hutton: I think that Nate is absolutely obsessed with finding out her real name. Not just her real name, but who she is in general. And so as the season goes on [there are] some funny moments.
We’ve already filmed [a scene] where Nate tries every possible name he can think of to try to catch her off guard. And he also tries to con the members of the team who know her real name and they all keep it as a tightly held secret.
So it’s — one of the themes throughout the third season is Nate just obsessed with finding out who she is and feeling like an idiot for thinking that her real name was Sophie.
Q: In the second season finale, Nate and Sophie kissed. How will that affect them going into season three?
Timothy Hutton: At the start of season three what happens with Nate and Sophie is they find it very difficult to talk about the kiss that happened on the ship there. And you know Sophie wants to talk about the kiss and Nate wants to talk about the slap. As I said one time before it’s sort of — that’s the nature of their relationship right there. A kiss followed by a slap.
But both gestures [have] quite [a] great meaning for both of them but it’s something that’s dealt with in season three. They come upon it when they’re alone and they sort of dance around the issue a little bit but there’s some nice moments of them trying to figure out what’s going on between the two of them as season three goes on.
Q: How does the rest of the team handle Sophie being back?
Timothy Hutton: Oh the rest of the team is thrilled to have Sophie back. As far as the characters go from the second season, they grow to accept the Tara character played by Jeri Ryan. But it was important for the story telling and for the writers and for all of us to have the characters miss Sophie and feel that she was vital to the team.
So you’ll see that in the third season a real sort of welcoming of Sophie. And the team feels that Sophie is the only one who can really keep Nate in check although that hasn’t gone too smoothly in the past that’s what they believe.
Q: Will Nate’s relationship with Maggie impact his relationship with Sophie this season?
Timothy Hutton: Well yes in season three we’re going to deal a little bit with the Maggie character. And I don’t know how or when just yet, as Kari Matchett who played Maggie is on another show right and for at least the time being can’t do ours.
But I’m sure we’ll see her again just don’t know when or in what way. But that’s a relationship that to me is as interesting and has just as many possibilities as the Nate/Sophie relationship. So I’m hoping that Kari becomes available to do the show and that the writers are inspired to deal with the Maggie/Nate relationship.
Q: How do you feel about the dedicated following “Leverage” has online?
Timothy Hutton: It makes us feel great that people are interested in the show and that they’re following it on message boards and writing their comments. I’ve never experienced you know anything like that.
So it’s quite amazing. Christian Kane said that there was a lot of that on “Angel” show that he did. But we all occasionally check in on that sort of thing and share some of the things that we’ve read.
It’s great and there’s some of us are on twitter. Well actually all except Gina Bellman. We’re trying to convince her too. But you know, we make videos from the set and it’s kind of an interesting time where you know you’re able to kind of put out there directly.
I mean I’ve experienced it where I’ll do a little video from the set from my iPhone and then put it out there as a tweet or a (twitvid) and then boom all these responses come back from people that are watching the show.
It’s really something. If anybody wants to get news from the set or watch any of these videos, my name on Twitter is (@TimHutton). So I post things quite often from the set.