TNT’s heist show Leverage is no stranger to Star Trek, earlier this year TrekMovie talked to Jonathan Frakes about an episode he directed with some Trek vet guest stars. The show also makes regular Star Trek references. This week it has both, with Wil Wheaton coming on for a guest spot. TrekMovie participated in a conference call and talked to the actor about what it was like playing a geek on Leverage (big stretch!).
Will is a geek on Leverage
In his post-Wesley life, Wil Wheaton has become somewhat of a professional geek. He is an early adopter in the world of blogging where he often writes about geek culture and technology. He has published a number of memoirs, including one titled "Just a Geek". So it wasn’t a huge stretch for Wil Wheaton to play the uber-hacker named ‘Chaos’ on this week’s episode of Leverage, titled "The Two Live Crew Job" airing on TNT Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 9/8c.
The episode has the Leverage team headed by Timothy Hutton facing down a rival crew of thieves headed by Griffin Dunne. Wheaton plays the hacker for that rival team as they compete in a couple of heists of high end art, and he faces off against the Leverage team’s hacker Hardison, played by Aldis Hodge. Hardison is often the source of Star Trek references on Leverage, including one in this week’s episode.
Wil on Leverage, hacking, Trek and more
TrekMovie joined in on a conference call this week with Wil, here are some of his comments.
Wheaton on Trek ref in new Leverage episode (contains spoilers):
In the continuity of the show, Hardison is a huge Star Trek fan and makes Star Trek references all the time. In “The Fairy Godparents Job,” he tells Eliot you know if I mention, or sorry not that one, the one in the hospital, sorry I got the titles mixed up, he tells Eliot if I say you know Star Trek with an even number something’s bad, if I say Star Trek with an odd number it’s something good because I’m flipping around you know even and odd Star Trek movies, and Eliot’s like I don’t know what you’re talking about. And that’s part of the gag that Hardison makes these Star Trek jokes all the time and nobody gets them. It just happened to be a cool bit of additional meta-humor that you know I get to be the guy that they call Kobayashi Maru. Which, I got to tell you, it kind of made me feel cool for about 5 minutes.
Wil on how he got involved with Leverage and potentially working with Jonathan Frakes (a regular Leverage director)
I have been friends with John Rogers, the co-creator and head writer for a number of years and I used to play hockey with Dean Devlin when we were much younger. I played on the same team as him from like, I don’t know maybe 1990 to 1991 or something like that. And they told me when you know when the show was getting going, that you know if there was ever an opportunity for us to work together that you know I should be prepared to get that phone call. And I got really lucky that they had a character that I could play at a time when I could work on the show and I was able to go up and spend some time in Portland working on it.
Dean directed my show and Marc Roskin, who has directed some of my favorite episodes of the series, directed a lot of my second unit stuff and I think the only thing that could be better than all of that would be to get to come back at some point in the future and work in a show that Jonathan was directing.
Wheaton on his geekdom
…I spend a lot of time online. I would consider myself an early adopter of a lot of the Internet technologies that a lot of people take for granted these days. I’ve been a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation and I’m a vocal advocate for network neutrality and you know users rights and I’m one of the loud voices in the Anti-DRM movement. I love my computer. I love the Internet. I absolutely love technology and, and it’s still a very, very big part of my life.
Wheaton assessing the geek-cred reality of Leverage
They’re very, very real. The technical aspects of Leverage, whether it’s the like you know computer controlled mechanisms or it’s the slight of hand and pick pocketing or the standard grifting, is all backed up by a team of real life experts that really know that stuff inside and out because they’ve actually done it. You know Kevin Mitnick was on the set when we were doing a lot of our hacking stuff and I was like wow, that’s kind of like pretending to be a hockey player in front of Wayne Gretzky. I better make sure that I have all of my beats down you know? But these guys you know they’re not very different from the computer enthusiasts, we’ll say, that I’ve known throughout my life. I mean and I think all of us, if you spend any time online and you are part of that, this culture that we’re part of, of course you know a guy like Hardison. You know he may not be turning on and off motion sensors remotely and you know moving the funds from a number of bank accounts around,
but he is certainly sitting there you know quoting the crap out of obscure sci-fi movies and then being like physically wounded when nobody gets it.
Wheaton on if today is the best time to be a geek
Wil Wheaton: I wrote a column for one of my first columns at Suicide Girls was called “Have the Geek Inherited the Earth,” and I examined that because I remember growing up and feeling like I was the only kid on my block and in my school that was into Star Trek and you know there were a few kids that were into Dungeons and Dragons but we were at a parochial school so it was something you had to really kind of keep on the down low as they say. I didn’t know anybody else that played the Ghostbusters soundtrack and recreated the entire movie from memory like I did you know playing all the different characters and stuff. I was really, I was really a geek, and it was, I remember I had this book that was one of those like here’s how computers work, and it was like a pop-up book that I bought at a bookstore.
But I carried the thing with me everywhere I went and pretended that it was a laptop before laptops existed and I’d go to restaurants with my mom and she’d be like what are you doing? I’d be like stop mom, I’m talking to Norad because I had just seen you know War Games. And back then I felt like I was the only one and you know I endured the tormenting that we all endure at the playground and in school, and felt like I was alone. If you fast forward to like the last few years, because of the ubiquity of Internet culture and the ability for us to find other people who are like us, it doesn’t feel as lonely and it doesn’t feel as hopeless is it did in the 70s and early 80s.
You know, one of the reasons I love going to science fiction conventions and comic conventions is because I can find other people who are just like me and we are in an environment where not only is it OK to dress up in a costume, but like you want to impress people with how hard you worked to like put the thing together, and that’s awesome. And that sort of thing didn’t really exist before. So I think it’s probably a little bit easier now, especially when you hear that like you know if you’re a kid growing up today and you watch Robot Chicken and then you find out that Seth Green who makes it loves the same things you do, it kind of takes the edge off a little bit. And I think that that does sort of like mitigate a little bit what the whole geek experience was like.
I think that with the advent of personal computers and the success of like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the you know like the Batman reboots and things like that, we are starting to see the creators of mass culture who are not you know the little players like me and the other guys who do this stuff online, but the really big, like the giant conglomerates in the studios, are realizing that there’s more of us than they thought and we’re now a viable market. So I guess it’s a very long way of saying that it’s probably a little bit easier now than it was you know when I was growing up, but I bet you if you were to find some of the kids who are teased today, and some of the kids who are still in school who are you know trying to get people together to watch Dr. Who or whatever, that they would probably tell you that it sucks and that it’s hard, because I think that’s just kind of, the fires that forge geekdom are stoked by the cool kids, and I think that’s going to be like that
forever. And I guess I just hope that it’s getting easier for people now than it was for me when I was a kid.
Here is a clip of Wheaton, showing off his geek chops.
More Leverage to come – with Jeri Ryan
Wheaton’s episode was originally going to be the Summer Finale, but they TNT just announced they have added two more episodes to their Summer season, including the new Summer Finale "The Lost Heir Job" airing September 9th with Star Trek Voyager’s Jeri Ryan, kicking off a recurring role as Tara, a grifter who helps out the team. And will we see Wheaton’s character Chaos again? No plans yet, but Wil says that he is ready to go as soon as he gets the word.