Jeri Ryan

Jeri Ryan has played her share of lawyers on TV (Shark, Boston Legal, Law & Order: SVU), but none of them was like the one she played in Leverage's summer-season finale.

"I've always played the sort of tough-talking, ball-buster kind of lawyers, but Tara is very much a do-gooder and by the book," Ryan tells TVGuide.com.

Check out photos of Ryan throughout her career

Of course, anyone who watched the finale knows that there is more to the buttoned-up Tara Carlisle than meets the eye. "Part of the fun of Leverage in general is in the twists and turns and surprises, and this one definitely had that payoff," Ryan said.

In the closing moments of Wednesday's episode, Ryan's character reveals herself to be a fellow con sent by Sophie (Gina Bellman) to help her colleagues. The episode launches an arc for the former Star Trek: Voyager star; her character appears in all six episodes of the TNT drama's winter season later this year. But Ryan says that, despite Tara's help in the most recent case, Nate & Co. won't just roll out the welcome wagon.

"They have a hard time accepting her into the group," she says. "Obviously they miss Sophie, and they're not sure what's going on without her. They're a little off-balance, I think."

See photos of the Leverage cast

Naturally, that changes over time. "Tara earns their respect," Ryan says. "They grudgingly accept her at first, until they realize that she does deserve to be there because she is just as talented as they are."

Ryan says the experience of working on the show has been one of the best in her career, particularly because of the flexibility playing a grifter gives her as an actor. "It's fun because every week you're playing something different, playing someone different. It's really, really a blast. I love the color of the show — it's not heavy-handed or too serious. I really enjoy it."

Did you enjoy Ryan in Leverage's season finale? Are you excited to see her back for the winter episodes?