New drama lures Hutton back to TV

LOS ANGELES (AP) - December 3, 2008

He's in character to shoot the TNT drama "Leverage," in which he plays the leader of a motley crew of con artists and hackers who are crusading for truth and justice.

Every new mission can mean new impersonations for Hutton's Nathan Ford and his cohorts: In this scene, Ford is posing as a rehab center patient, while another episode gives him an "obnoxious cowboy from Texas" to play, Hutton said.

But it was the part of Ford, a former insurance investigator soured on his job and life, that drew the Academy Award-winning film actor ("Ordinary People") back to TV after the Nero Wolfe mystery series and a recurring role in the short-lived "Kidnapped."

Ford is "a loner, he's not a social person at all," Hutton said. "He'd rather wake up and start drinking. ... I hadn't played a character like that before."

"Here's a guy who was on the right side of the law, never got a parking ticket," he said, and was an ace at helping insurers avoid pay-outs and uncover fraud. Ford's world is shattered when he loses his son to industry callousness and he finds his calling as a kind of Robin Hood.

His band of merry men and women practice a clever if borderline brand of wealth redistribution in "Leverage," debuting 10 p.m. EST Sunday (Dec. 7) with a commercial-free episode, then moving to its 10 p.m. EST Tuesday slot starting Dec. 9.

The cast includes Gina Bellman, who starred in the original British version of "Coupling"; Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge.

The mix of high drama, high-tech capers and a touch of comedy is overseen by executive producers Dean Devlin ("Independence Day"), John Rogers ("Cosby") and Chris Downey ("The King of Queens)."

Bellman believes the blend should prove a winning one.

"One thing about television in the United States, I think it takes itself too seriously and can be a bit self-righteous and too furrowed brow. I think `Leverage' has a very good sense of irony. Even though it's action-packed and high-tech, it's quite tongue-in cheek," she said, and Hutton, whom she admires as "a very intellectual actor" and one who has made eclectic film choices, plays comedy "really, really well."

Hutton lives in New York and Paris with his wife, Aurore Giscard d'Estaing, and their son. He balanced shooting for "Leverage" with a full film slate, including the upcoming "Lymelife" with Alec Baldwin, honored recently at the Toronto Film Festival. While relishing the bounty of worthwhile projects, Hutton acknowledged that actors are free agents and "the bottom could fall out any moment."

He was a teenager when he tentatively embarked on the profession, following the example of his father, Jim Hutton ("Ellery Queen"). But the elder Hutton, who died in 1979 of cancer, only caught a glimpse of what was to come.

Jim Hutton was hospitalized that year when he saw the TV movie "Friendly Fire," his son's first job, and Timothy recalls getting fatherly compliments but no warnings about the career ups and downs that might await.

"He didn't push his opinions on other people. It was kind of, `Do what you want to do,"' he said.

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