In the aftermath of Wall Street's fall and in the face of crumbling faith in big business' self-regulation, it seems like the right time for TNT's Leverage. The drama series, which kicks off Dec. 7 (10 pm/ET), follows a group of unlikely allies who team up to right wrongs against average people and get revenge through elaborate con games. Part high-tech spy thriller, part goofy comedy, the rag-tag Leverage crew is helmed by Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton), a former insurance investigator who hits rock bottom before he's offered a con gig that leads him to assemble a team of specialized thieves, martial arts experts and more — and start over with a new sense of purpose. TVGuide.com sat down with Hutton to get inside the mind of Nate Ford and find out what twists are in store for his team in its premiere season. Plus, the actor, who has numerous film projects on the horizon (and in 1980, at the age of 20, won an Oscar his supporting role in Ordinary People), shares what drew him back to TV.
TVGuide.com: How did you arrive at this project?
Timothy Hutton: It was September of last year that I was sent the script. I knew there was a pilot for TNT that was going to shoot in Chicago, and I knew Dean Devlin was producing, I knew his work as a director. It was one of those things, where I started reading it, and I turned to page three and at the top of the page, it said, "We're having fun, people. Let's not forget, we're having fun." It wasn't a line of dialogue, it was just a stage direction. And I thought, 'that's interesting.' As the script went on, I began to see what that meant. ... This guy, who has hit rock bottom, as far as he's concerned he doesn't have a lot to live for anymore. This job he's approached about, and working with these four people, pulls him out of himself. The thing that really hits home for [Ford], saves his life, is turning all that inward energy toward helping others.
TVGuide.com: Is that what compelled you to play the character of Nate Ford?
Hutton: It was. And working with a team of people who are never really going to fully trust each other. And at any moment, it could just blow up. One of them could leave, one could be a turncoat, one of them might not play by the rules. So there's always something in jeopardy in play with that group.
TVGuide.com: Will it be tough for your character to remember that he can have fun?
Hutton: It is difficult for him. The way the shows go, he rides a wave during the first part of the season of feeling really good about where all this is going. But he can't help but have a few things that remind him of the past, and a couple of people come out of the woodwork ... and he has a hard time dealing with that. So, he goes undercover, and gets into disguise for a little while during the middle of the season. He becomes a separate guy from Nate Ford, he becomes a guy from Texas, who's a card shark.
TVGuide.com: Is that a self-protective measure?
Hutton: It's self-protective, and a way for him to have fun, and a way for him to actively be part of the con, rather than just being the guy back at HQ, with the computer, tracking everything with the earpieces. He doesn't want to do that so much anymore, so he gets himself more into the actual sting operations.
TVGuide.com: Does that bring Ford closer to danger?
Hutton: It does, and the rest of the team is concerned about it, but they also see that there's something effective about that. That he's able to run the con by being in the middle of the con. So, there's some shows that get into that area a little bit. There's some shows where he becomes self-destructive, where they don't want to work with him anymore. So, the stories become, how do they get back to seeing eye-to-eye? Every one of them goes off the deep end at some point during the first season.
TVGuide.com: Another interesting aspect of Nate Ford is that he's able to justify all the con games as fighting for the little guy. Is that going to be something that he or members of his team wrestle with, that ethical thread?
Hutton: Yeah, the ethical thread, the inner moral compass he has about justifying if he's doing the right thing. Picking up where the law leaves off, an alternate form of justice. There are many ways that he can justify it. And in the end, nobody can really argue, because they're not doing it for profit. And they're not hurting anybody along the way.
TVGuide.com: Is there ever going to be a case where they weren't right on with their revenge plot?
Hutton: Oh, yes. They're not always right, And they get sent on wild goose chases. They're being monitored sometimes by another, likeminded team, only not for the same purposes. There's a mirror team to ours, including a Nate Ford-type character. And we discover that they've been watching our every move.... So there's some pretty intricate double-crossing going on.
TVGuide.com: What's the one thing you hope audiences take away from this show?
Hutton: I think audiences will really get into the whole revenge part of it. These stories are pretty close to home, for everybody. It could've happened to you, it could've happened to a neighbor, to someone in your family. Denied medical overage. Having your home foreclosed on. Corrupt contractor, nearly breaking bank. All these different stories, and then some, we cover. What I hope is that audiences find satisfaction.
TVGuide.com: What was it that drew you back to a TV show?
Hutton: It was the material and the people involved. Specifically, [executive producers] Dean Devlin, John Rogers and TNT. Everything just lined up really well. I knew that the show would be well looked-after. That's what drew me back — and the material was so strong.