Leveraging the Success of 'Leverage' for Future Portland-Based TV Hits

The crew behind the TNT hit reunites to tell new tales of the weird with 'The Librarians.' Debuts Dec 7

By Jonathan Frochtzwajg December 1, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Nomad

In a Clackamas soundstage built out to evoke an art deco study, Noah Wyle reveals the true cause of a recent seismic spike: dragons. 

A hip-hop-style feud between Eastern and Western dragons, specifically. As cameras track him to a long table strewn with antique books, the baby-faced ex-ER star explains that one serpentine “crew” stole something belonging to its rivals. “Both types are extremely possessive,” Wyle warns. “When something of theirs is taken, they react harshly.” 

Mythical beasts, supernatural disasters, expository dialogue: such is the card catalog of The Librarians, a new Portland-filmed TV series debuting December 7 on TNT. As in a trio of TNT movies dating back to 2004, Wyle stars as a swashbuckling librarian (!) who guards legendary treasures like the Holy Grail (!!). The show also involves many of the creative talents behind Leverage, the TNT series that filmed in Portland from 2009 to 2012. With John Rogers, formerly a Leverage executive producer, at the helm, the new series will rely heavily on the creative infrastructure of its defunct predecessor.

 “It’s only because we did Leverage that we can come close to doing this,” says Rogers, a bearded, crinkly-eyed48-year-old with writing credits on Transformers and Catwoman (read our full interview with Rogers). The Librarians employs many of the same Oregon technical crew members as Leverage. On the same day Wyle revealed the dragons’ misdeeds, for example, veteran production designer Randal Groves was creating a subterranean chamber, ostensibly beneath the Vatican, on the former Leverage soundstage on SE Capps Road. 

But Portland’s big contribution may be architectural flexibility: the city doubles for New York, Dubai, and the Vatican, and Rogers and company even customized scripts around local scenery. Librarians writers set a sequence at the Vatican after Rogers remembered Ankeny Alley from a Leverage shoot. (Take Skidmore Fountain, add Italian cars—and presto!)

“We have a unique situation on The Librarians,” Rogers says. “After 77 episodes of Leverage, we know the Portland area very well. We’ve never been stumped for a specific location.” (Leverage was largely set in “Boston.”)

With Wyle available only for about half the first season, Rogers slapped an “s” on the show’s title and recruited an ensemble featuring Rebecca Romijn (Mystique from X-Men). New characters aside, the show is essentially a return to the Librarian films, campy and uncomplicated—or at least seemingly so. 

“In genre writing, you can do big dramatic moments, or nasty little social commentary, and hide them in the pop and pulp splash of the work,” Rogers observes.

Aside from acting as Rogers’s backdrop, Portland will also get a cameo as itself—a goodwill gesture toward what Rogers hopes will be a long, beautiful friendship. He likens feature films to locusts: they descend on a location, consume everything, then depart. “TV shows,” he says, “are a relationship with a community.”

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