Tag Archives: Leverage

Leverage – The Two Live Crew Job

Early feedback from tonight's episode of Leverage is overwhelmingly positive, which delights me. I'm so happy to hear that so many people liked it.

If you've seen the show already, you may get a kick out of the pictures I took during production and just added to Flickr, but there are spoilers, so don't look if you don't want to see them. (And no fair complaining at me if you don't listen and get spoiled.)

I'm sure John will have a post at his blog in the very near future where you can ask him questions about the spin-off (with robots!) that I'm getting.*

If you have questions or comments for me about the show, feel free to leave them here and I'll do my best to respond in a timely manner. Seriously, I'll really appreciate the distraction.

*I'm not really getting a spin-off. That's my little joke. Ha! Ha! I am using the Internet!

“Hi, I’m Wil, and I’ll be playing the part of the Orange X.”

Trying to think about something else for a moment …

I'm Wil. I'll be playing the part of the Orange X.

When we shoot a TV show or a movie, we often have to cheat our looks closer or farther away from the camera during our closeups.
Most of the time, the place we're supposed to look is marked with a piece of tape, like an orange X, for example. 

When we shot the "showdown" sequence on Leverage, Aldis and I both had to cheat our looks on most of the shots, so whoever was on camera played a lot of the scene looking at a piece of tape while the other actor stood behind the camera and delivered his lines. There was one set up, though, where I was able to stand just to the side of the camera for him and he could talk directly to me. We were feeling silly that day, so I grabbed some tape and put an orange X right on my forehead. You know, for continuity.  

"Hi, I'm Wil, and I'll be playing the part of the Orange X," I told him.
We all laughed, and I spent several minutes describing the different choices I make for different colors of tape.

 "Playing the Red X is very different from playing the Blue X, and though I've tried my best, I've never really been able to nail playing a Green X." 

My episode of Leverage, The 2 Live Crew Job, airs tonight on TNT.

I did a whole bunch of interviews last week to support tonight's show. If you'd like to read them all, here is a huge list that TNT publicity just sent me. Some of these links include video, too.

(Thanks to Marc Roskin, who took this picture with his iPhone and e-mailed it to me.)

end user: greetings from the future of filmmaking

I took a few minutes away from working on Leverage and writing my short stories to turn in an End User column that’s all about some of the stuff that’s been on my mind since I started working on Leverage:

I’m in Portland, Oregon, shooting an episode of TNT’s prime time drama, Leverage.

Just about every night after we wrap I meet up with my friend John Rogers, who is the co-executive producer and head writer for the show, to have a beer and decompress after a long day on the set. Whether we talk about filmmaking, comic books, nerdy geeky gaming stuff, or technology, a common thread runs through our conversations: it’s pretty awesome to live here in the future, we sure are lucky to get paid to make stuff up and entertain people, and holy crap has the industry changed since we first entered it.

Leverage is totally shot in the future. We use the Red One digital camera, we watch takes right after we finish them to make sure nothing went wrong, and we get our dailies via secure internet connection anywhere we have computers and WiFi. John told me that at least once, they realized they didn’t shoot a single or needed a tighter angle to make something work, and were able to create coverage in post-production, which is done entirely on Final Cut Pro. During production, we could send pictures and updates from the set to Twitter and our blogs, and engage the audience in a direct and intimate way that is unlike anything I’ve ever done before.

I’m not going to lie to you, Marge, the future’s pretty cool.

LEVERAGE: day five

“It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Wil Wheaton,” the assistant director said.

I threw my hands up in the air and yelled into the sky: “NOOOOOOO!!!”

I sadly rode back in the van to base camp, packed up my stuff, said my goodbyes, and took my time walking through downtown back to my hotel, suddenly feeling adrift and sad.

Whenever I finish a job, I feel some degree of sadness and loss. Working on a movie or doing a play gives me months to get to know the cast and crew, and when that journey ends, and we go our separate ways, I’m often the one who’s cryin’ now.

Guesting on a series, though, is a little different: I drop in for a week, and right around the time I’ve learned everyone’s name, established some awesome running jokes, and started to feel like I’m part of the family, it’s over. It guess it should be like ripping off a bandage but it’s more like a different metaphor simile that I can’t create at the moment; feel free to create your own.

As I wandered through downtown Portland I thought about the week, and how much fun I had while I worked on the show. I thought about how much I wanted to spend more time with this cast and crew, and I couldn’t help but wonder how long it’s going to be before I get to be an actor on the set again.

I want to publicly thank John Rogers and Dean Devlin for letting me be part of their world, even if I only got to see a little bit of it. I want to thank the cast and crew for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel like I was part of their family while I was here.

I also want to thank Portland for being awesome. 99% of the people I met here were fantastic, and your city kicks ass.

A lot of people have asked when this episode will air. I don’t know, but it’s the 7th of the season, so if they run them in order, it should air 7 weeks after the season premiere on July 15, so look for it around the end of August.

LEVERAGE: day four

Woke up early yesterday and wrote for about an hour. Met Rogers and walked to a fantastic place for breakfast (forget the name of the place, but President Clinton ate there once and they have something named after him on the menu.) Had a delicious tofu scramble thing, and the most sensational French press coffee I've had since I got here.

Took Rogers to Powell's, because, he said, if we didn't go right then, he probably wouldn't make it there on his own. I couldn't let that happen, for obvious reasons. While we were there, I got a couple of the Fighting Fantasy books I loved so much when I was a kid: The Citadel of Chaos and Seas of Blood. Citadel of Chaos even has little kid writing on the character sheet inside.

"This could have been me," I said to John.

"I would have copied it onto an index card and written all the stats there, to keep the book pristine," he said. I remembered that I'd done exactly that with one of my Lone Wolf books, so I could keep the character more portable.

While we were talking, I had a little bit of a realization:

"I just realized why these books and these games are so important to me," I said, pointing to all the D&D books that surrounded us.

"During a childhood that was completely abnormal, filled with things that I didn't choose for myself, these games were something I chose to read and play. These games were part of my normal."

"Oh, so you were like everyone else who played D&D when they were a kid," John said.

I smiled. "I guess so, yeah."

We bought some books, looked like creeps when I wanted to walk into the kids' section to see if they had any classic Choose Your Own Adventure books (John, a little too-loudly: Why do you always want to go into the kids' section? You're a 36 year-old man! Me, much too-loudly: Because it's a great place to meet new people!) Sadly, they did not.

We walked back through Portland, and got to our hotel about fifteen minutes before a massive rainstorm showed up. I wrote for the next few hours (it always amazes me how much writing I get done when I'm on my own, away from home. I don't think about it too much, though, because I don't want to mess with whatever makes it work) before I met up with my sister, who I haven't seen since she moved here a year ago.

We spent the afternoon together dodging the rain (I sent this to Twitter: "Me: Okay, looks like the rain's let up. Guess I can go outside. The Rain: He's outside again! Resume downpour! AHAHAHAHA!!!!") and catching up. It was awesome, and totally the best part of an already-fantastic day.

I took her to the set to meet some of the cast and crew, and then I went on a local television show called The Square, which was a lot of fun. If you visit their site, you can watch me do my thing and see for yourself.

Then I went back to the hotel, finished reading SHATNERQUAKE (review forthcoming), enjoyed a lot of awesome Star Trek puns from followers on Twitter (UHURACANE, SULUNAMI, SPOCKALYPSE, TSUNIMOY, and DEFORESTFIRE among them search "@wilw" from last night if you want to see them all), and went to sleep happy; I really love being here.

LEVERAGE: day three

I wasn't on the call sheet today, but I went to the set anyway, because I felt like I was welcome to visit if I wasn't in the way, and because we were shooting at the Portland Art Museum, and I was planning to go see their collection on my day off.

I slept much later than I've been able to since I got here, and climbed out of bed at 8:50. I grabbed some coffee and read some news before I got my Actual Work™ for the day completed.

Behold this magnificent bit of information, my pretties: I let the manuscript for Memories of the Future go at about 10 this morning. I say "let go," because this is truly one of those books that I could keep tweaking and polishing until they turn the lights off on planet Earth, and it's really just time (past time, really) that I let it go and move on to some other things.

It's a good sign that parts of it I'd forgotten about made me laugh out loud when I was going over the final pass, and when it was done, I didn't hate it.

After I sent it off, I headed out into beautiful downtown Portland, and made my way to the set.

I can't say anything about this scene I watched them shoot, because it will be a big old spoiler, but here's what I told Twitter:

Watching them put together a VERY cool stedicam shot on #Leverage. This is going to be awesome on TV.

OH: "If you think this shot is awesome, wait until you see what we did in the season opener!"

My respect and
admiration for Gary Camp (camera operator on #Leverage) grows
exponentially with each take. This shot is just unreal.


Rogers posted this SPOILER picture before I left, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon at the art museum, which has a wonderful collection. There is an M.C. Escher exhibition there right now, and I think I spent two full hours looking at the ninety different pieces they have, including one of the original Crazy Stairs lithos (yes, art geeks, I know it's actually called Relativity.) In addition to completed works, they also had several sketches and studies that he did on his way to completing things like Heaven and Hell, and I gotta tell you that it was pretty damn impressive and inspiring to watch his process. If you're in PDX or can make it to PDX before they close this exhibition, I highly recommend it.

I explored the rest of the museum, and then went to Powell's after lunch, where I spent hours looking through their old D&D books and browsing the Sci-Fi shelves.

I stumbled across two books that I can't wait to read tonight: The Pillars of Pentegarn, which I remember reading when I was 10 or 11, and … Shatnerquake. That's right, SHATNER-FUCKING-QUAKE. Allow me to quote the jacket copy:


It's Shatner VS Shatners!

After a reality bomb goes off at the first ever ShatnerCon, all of he characters ever played by William Shatner are suddenly sucked into our world. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the real William Shatner.

Featuring: Captain Kirk, TJ Hooker, Denny Crane, Priceline Shatner, Cartoon Kirk, Rescue 9-1-1 Shatner, singer Shatner, and many more. No costumed con-goer will be spared in their wave of destruction, no red shirt will make it out alive, and not even the Klingons will be able to stand up to a deranged Captain Kirk with a light saber. But these Shatner-clones are about to learn a hard lesson…that the real William Shatner doesn't take crap from anybody. Not even himself!


I read the first chapter in the café, and it was as silly and awesome and wrong as you'd expect. It's a short book, so I suspect I'll have a review sooner than later.

I didn't know I'd been in Powells for two hours until I left and noticed that it had gotten darker and cooler outside. I just love bookstores that much, I guess, and it's easy for time to stand still while I wander through the stacks, especially in a place like Powells, which just feels magical.

On my way up the street, I said this to Twitter:

I just spent two hours in Powells. eBooks are convenient, but I don't want to live in a world without books and bookstores.

That's all for today. I have…somereading…to! do!

LEVERAGE: day two

Today's on-set report actually begins with a moment from yesterday afternoon that was so unexpected, I'm still wrapping my head around it.

I obviously can't go into any details about the plot or characters, so you'll just have to use your imagination to construct what the set looked like. I can tell you that it was awesome, if that helps.

Just about everyone was assembled for this scene, and I lingered near my mark while I waited for everyone else to get their last looks so we could shoot.

Tim Hutton walked over to me and quietly said, "Hey, did you bring any copies of Sunken Treasure with you?"

I felt like I was going to faint. How in the hell does Tim Hutton know about my books?

"How do you know about that book?" I said, totally baffled.

"I just do," he said. "Did you bring any?"

I was so stunned, I couldn't say anything, and I just kind of watched a little beach ball spin around in my head for a few seconds.

"GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, WHEATON!" My brain screamed at me. "ANSWER THE MAN!"

"Uh, yeah, actually, I did bring some copies with me," I said, at once embarrassed and glad that I'd put five of them into my backpack moments before I left for the airport earlier this week.

I don't remember what he said next because I felt completely overwhelmed. (Pop quiz: how many Academy Award-winning actors and stars of one of your favorite shows have asked you about your books? My answer is, "One, as of about 18 hours ago.") I told him that I'd bring him one today, and that it meant a lot to me that he even knew about the book, much less wanted to read it.

I don't know how he knows I write books; maybe Rogers told him, but … it's weird and awesome, and I signed a copy for him this morning, and he may even read it before the end of the weekend.

Today's work was ultra-painless: I was in 1/8 of a page and was in an out of the set like a ninja. We were shooting outside on a beautiful street up near the hills, southwest of downtown, and during one take a very friendly woman somehow got past everyone, didn't realize we were filming, and walked right up to me during a take.

She asked me a question that I can't repeat, because it would be sort of a spoiler. I noticed that nobody called cut, so I just stayed in character, answered her, watched her walk away, and then finished the scene. It wasn't quite "I'm walking here!" but it was still pretty cool.

I don't think we'll be able to use it in the show, because she was a civilian who clearly didn't know that we were filming, but it was exhilarating to just keep on rolling and keep on acting, even though something totally unexpected happened in the middle of the take.

Making television can be grueling, it can be frustrating, and it can be exhausting. I know how very lucky I am to have worked on a couple shows in the last year that haven't been like that, and I'm intensely grateful to be working on another one right now.

I just love everything about this. I love being on the set. I love the creative collaboration. I love working with people who love doing what we do. I love doing work that I'm proud of.

Mostly, though, I love that I even get to do this. This is awesome.

LEVERAGE: day one

Last night, I tried to convince my brain that it should shut the hell up and let me go to sleep early, because I had to wake up at 5am no matter what.

It didn't cooperate. It sang songs to me, wrote little stories, and told me jokes until almost midnight. Yes, I am my brain's bitch. (Don't worry, I plan to get all burning bed on it with some local craft beers before the week is over. HA! WHO'S LAUGHING NOW, BRAIN?!)

I'm on my lunch break right now, marveling at how weird it is to live in the future, where I can post to my blog from my dressing room. I suppose this isn't that strange, really, but I've been doing this since the days when we had to call Buster Keaton "Mister Keaton" and Mary Pickford wouldn't let you look her in the eye unless you were Douglas Fairbanks.

Yeah, those were crazy days, and even though I tried my best, I never got Louise Brooks to come home with me. I still don't think talking pictures will ever really catch on.

…did I mention I got about 5 hours of sleep and I've been working in a hot van while wearing a hoodie since 8 this morning? Everything is incredibly funny to me right now.

Anyway, about my day so far: Most scripts have a scene that makes an actor go, "WOW, I really want to play this character so I can do that scene." This morning, I got to do that scene, and it was as challenging, fun, and ultimately rewarding as I thought it would be. I can't wait to see it in the final cut of the show.

Before we did that scene, I had a brief meeting with the director, because I wanted to make sure that my take on this character and his vision for the character had more in common than not. I performed some of the more important lines, talked about the arc I'd created in my mind, and made sure that we were on the same page.

He nodded while I did my thing, and when I was done, there was a long pause. I started to get a little nervous, and wondered if I was about to be sent home with a set of steak knives.

"You own this guy," he said.

So, I got that going for me, which is nice.

LEVERAGE: day zero

Greetings from Portland! I'm here for the next few days to work on an episode of Leverage, playing a character who I have a few things in common with, as evidenced by something that happened earlier today during my costume fitting.

The costume designer is an incredibly kind and easy going woman. She was talking with me about who this character is, what he's like, and how those things would influence his decisions when it comes to his clothes. I was glad to have the discussion, because the clothes I wear for a show are very important to
me. I always work hard to find something that is appropriate for
the character, but that I'll also feel comfortable wearing.

She pulled a bunch of different shirts and things off the racks, and said, "So we thought we'd dress you like a nerd." She didn't say it unkindly, it was just matter of fact, the way you'd say, "You know, I think fish would be nice tonight."

I looked at the clothes she had in her hands: straight-legged jeans, slip-on Vans, a short-sleeved shirt with a collar and buttons.

"So, kind of like what I'm already wearing," I said.

We had a good laugh about that, and for the next few minutes I tried on a bunch of different costumes, all of which could have come out of my own wardrobe.

When my fitting was over, I got to visit with John Rogers and Dean Devlin for a little bit. I should probably get their permission before I blog about our conversation, but I think it's okay to say this: I haven't seen Dean since we played hockey together about 17 years ago, and it's pretty awesome to finally be working together on something.

They had to go do producer-y things, so I walked into the stage to meet with the prop department. On my way in, I stopped and introduced myself to Christian Kane (Spencer) and Aldis Hodge (Hardison), who were hanging out just inside the stage door.

Um, I need to just get this out of the way now: Leverage is the first non-animated show I've worked on in years where I'm such a huge fan, I've already watched every episode and know all the characters. It was a challenge, but I did a good job of not losing my shit while I talked with them, just like I did when I met Beth Riesgraf (Parker) right before I went into the wardrobe fitting. We only talked for a few minutes before I had to get out of the stage and do some prop stuff, but I liked them right away. I left the stage feeling pretty confident that I'm going to have a great time while I'm here.

Now I'm going to go learn my lines and prepare for filming tomorrow.

… I'm not going to lie to you, Marge: I love this.