Christian Kane enjoys dual career acting on TV show “Leverage,” touring in support of country-rock album
A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Christian Kane keeps finding “Leverage”
The Norman-bred actor/musician continues to star on the popular TV series while working on his second career as a country-rock singer/songwriter/musician.
Christian Kane’s two-fisted career as an actor and musician has become a logistical challenge.
The Texas-born, Oklahoma-bred TV star spends five months a year shooting the popular caper series “Leverage,” which will return for its fourth season premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday on TNT.
As soon as he wraps filming on the show, the country-rock singer/songwriter/musician hits the road playing a different kind of show. He released his debut album “The House Rules” last year, and the second single, “Let Me Go,” hits radio Monday, which also happens to be his 37th birthday.
“Fortunately, it’s become a problem … with the success of this show and with the success of how the music’s going. My time is limited on both. It’s a great problem to have, and I’m looking forward to having to solve it. It is tough, but God bless it, if it wasn’t tough, you’re not doing very well,” Kane said in a phone interview from Portland, Ore., where “Leverage” films.
“And every day on the set or every day on the stage is a gift, so it’s a good problem to have.”
On “Leverage,” Kane plays “retrieval specialist” Eliot Spencer, the heavy hitter on a five-person team of professional criminals who use their skills to help people victimized by the wealthy, the corrupt and the powerful. Led by former insurance investigator Nathan Ford (Oscar winner Timothy Hutton), the team also includes grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and cat burglar Parker (Beth Riesgraf).
“With this character, I get to go back to Oklahoma. I just get to bust heads for a living,” said Kane, who grew up in Norman. “I think you’re gonna get to see a lot more emotions come out of Eliot this year than we’re really used to. But look, I mean, I’m their meal ticket … I’m the guy that doesn’t change. They keep viewers by just having me pound on people’s heads and so that’s what I’m gonna keep doing.
“I know my job,” he said with a laugh. “It’s not that hard. Everyone dances around with their hearts in their hands and stuff like that, and I’m just punchin’ people.”
The University of Oklahoma alumnus enjoys doing his own stunts, working out fight choreography and coming up with new moves. It’s become a challenge to keep the action sequences fresh.
“And I happen to really love, love challenges,” he said. “So it’s a lot more fun than I think it ever has been to try to come up with something new that no one’s ever seen before.”
As tough as his character is, Eliot is no superhero. He sometimes gets pounded in his face-offs with fellow heavies. He promises there will be blood when mixed-martial arts champion Urijah Faber guest stars on “Leverage” later this season in an episode directed by legendary actor/filmmaker Frank Oz.
“There was a fight scene where Eliot needed someone that could kick his a — , and I said, ‘I got the guy,’” he said of his friend Faber. “He did us a really big favor. He’s fighting for the world championship on July 2, and of course, I’m going to that to support him. … To have someone who’s actually that great at the fight game, you don’t know what you’re in for.”
Another of the show’s Season 4 guest stars will look familiar to many Oklahomans: Leon Rippy, who played the scruffy angel Earl on the three seasons of TNT’s spiritual crime drama “Saving Grace,” which was set in Oklahoma City. Rippy will play a powerful nemesis for the “Leverage” crew in a multi-episode arc.
“We’re so lucky to have him, of course, especially for Oklahomans and someone like me. I mean, he played (an angel of) God to a girl in Oklahoma,” Kane said. “He’s a great actor, and Oklahomans really loved ‘Saving Grace.’ So for him to be able to come and play a role, that’s just great news for us.”
Besides high-profile guests, Kane credits the show’s continued success to tight scripts and an even tighter cast.
“We’re still all best friends, and that just doesn’t happen on TV shows,” he said. “After four years, somebody doesn’t like anyone. I mean, there’s a war going on somewhere in the cast. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is.
“We get done with 12-, 13-, 14-hour days and we all get in our cars and go to dinner to eat together. That’s how close we are. It’s a very tight-knit cast. I mean, we are closer than the actual characters on the show.”
Hutton even directed Kane’s first music video, to the raucous title track of his debut, which was released in December on indie Bigger Picture Music Group. The musician will film the video to the passionate ballad “Let Me Go” next weekend. He originally recorded an album for Sony, but the label decided not to release it because executives didn’t think Kane could do both music and television.
“Bigger Picture decided that they didn’t believe that, and they were right, because it’s been a really good marriage for me to be able to do this,” he said.
Kane actually got to let his two careers collide last season on “Leverage,” when Eliot posed as a country singer to run a con against a corrupt studio executive. He got to bring some of his original music to the episode, which featured “Dukes of Hazzard” star John Schneider and became the highest rated in the series’ history.
While he often returns to Oklahoma to visit family, Kane also hopes to bring his next tour back to his home state because “those are my people.”
“Man, if I was any better, I’d be twins,” he said. “Good times. It’s a good time in my life right now.”