At first glance, they make an unlikely duo: Eliot Spencer (played by Christian Kane) Leverage’s no-nonsense retrieval specialist; and Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), the wise-cracking technology wizard. But paired up for a recent third-season episode, it becomes apparent that the seemingly mismatched characters actually make an engaging double-act.
Off-camera, that chemistry is even more obvious, as the two actors sat down together for a fast-paced, self-deprecating joint interview…
Christian Kane: Good for you, man! Eliot is the fifth wheel! I’m just in the way.
Aldis: You’re getting busy more than any of us! You were the first one to get busy in the first season, so what are you talking about?
Christian: John Rogers likes to put it like this: Eliot’s weekends are not free, so that’s how it goes. I think Eliot is incapable of love.
Aldis: He’s a rolling stone; every season. Dude, I’ve been begging!
Kane: But I don’t see why Eliot can’t be in love. Why can’t he find somebody?
Has either of you been able to make suggestions that affected your characters or the overall tone of the show?
Christian: We make suggestions. If we want to do something, we put it out there. The great thing about going into season three (and hopefully season four) is that we’ve allowed the writers to write. They don’t have to develop characters anymore because we know them better than anybody else.
Now instead of the writers developing the characters, they get to develop their stories 100% because they know who we are. It’s a whole new fun realm we’re into because they can just write the stories and leave it up to us.
Aldis: That’s it exactly. Our job from day one has been to create who these people are, because no one is going to know them better than us. The writers laid out a blueprint and said, ‘This is where we want to go,’ but from the pilot, [creators] John Rogers and Chris Downey said, ‘Okay, we brought you in for this specific reason…’ They brought in Christian to- and this is how John puts it- ‘Eliot Spencer is supposed to be a s**t-kicker, so that’s why they brought in Christian, because he’s going to get the job done.’
For me, Hardison kind of turned into a bit of a loudmouth and I am a loudmouth; I talk smack all day. As long as we get the job done, he’s going to get it done, but he’s also going to tell you how he feels about it along the way. So they allow us to be who we are and allow us to do our jobs as actors to create these characters and they use our personalities and what’s going on in our personal lives to influence these characters. As writers, it helps their job, because they don’t have to work to create the dialogue. Whenever me and Christian get together, they say-
Christian: ‘Go from A to B; we don’t care how you get there!’
Aldis: ‘This is the idea we want to get out of the scene; skip the lines and you two just go!’ Sometimes we will have an entire scene together, especially in an episode coming up where the two of us are together throughout the whole thing-
Christian: And in the script, it will literally say, ‘Eliot and Hardison improv,’ because they know what we’re going to do.
Aldis, your brother Edwin was in this season?
Aldis: He came in [in the episode ‘The Jailhouse Job’] and killed it. I’ve been trying to get him in for all three seasons, but they finally found the right role and it was amazing having him. My brother and I started our careers together. Our first movie together was Diehard with a Vengeance. I played Sam Jackson’s nephew and my brother played my friend in the film, so that was our first job together and our first series together was Sesame Street.
Is there be a danger that your characters can soften up a bit and lose their edge over time?
Aldis: From my perspective, if there’s something you love and care about, something you’re willing to fight for, you may have subtle moments but you’re never going to get soft. We’re going to have our moments when we get down and relax but when we get in these missions, there’s no time to play around.
Christian: It’s exactly as he says. We’re lucky to have writers that allow that. I love what you just said and I believe what you just said, but it doesn’t happen in this show, because as soon as it happens, which you’re getting ready to see, we spin it.
I’ll just tell you about my character, but Eliot is the Tin Man: he’s trying to find a heart, so if you see this episode with Eliot and Hardison, it’s a bro-mance by the end, but the problem with growing a heart is when it comes back to bite you and you’re going to see Eliot go back to what he used to be.
That’s why it’s such a great question, because when the writers start to see that happening, they’ll say, ‘I like where we’re going, but we’re not going to let him get soft!’ and I go back to something that’s almost inhuman.
Where would you like to see the series go in the future?
Christian: These are the roles that we came to Hollywood to play. I would like to see it go a little more dangerous maybe, because those are the episodes that we always have fun in, when our lives are threatened. If you go from season one to three, it’s actually starting to get darker as it goes along. We’re still there to entertain and we have a lot of fun with it, but at the same time it is a dark show if you really look at it.
Aldis: I’d like to see the show continue in this same direction with this continual progression throughout the season. As long as we don’t come back and do the same season over and over again, I’m okay.
Leverage airs Sunday nights on TNT at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)