Real girls in their own place.
Not too crazy and just a pinch of naughty...
Interview by Falene Nurse
Images by Michael Edwards
It was the day of the Endeavour fly over if I remember correctly. I was thinking about songs with the title name of Beth. There was that Kiss song, "Beth, I Hear You Callin’… “
And then she did!
Beth Riesgraf had a dizzying schedule that day—including picking up her sisters from the airport in hellish space-shuttle-related traffic—yet she still got back in time for our interview. She found a quiet place outside her house to take a moment. Beth is a very interesting cat: she’s the kind of cool that reminds you of a teenage Jodie Foster (in possibly every film she did in the 70’s). All tomboy swagger, cheeky wit and a glint in her eye. You know, that girl you used to want to be, or at least imagine yourself as equally spunky if called upon. Perhaps that’s why she plays the part of ‘Parker’ so well on "Leverage” – she brings a little of herself to the role. I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but “Leverage” is fast becoming one of my new favorite shows (joining the ranks of “Dexter” and “Grimm”). A lot to do with that is the two lead actresses in its ensemble cast: beautiful, smart and deliciously criminal, they thankfully haven’t been beautified to the point of distraction and impracticality. As is the case with most women on American TV today, even if the character being played (i.e. agent, lawyer, assassin, firefighter, etc.) doesn’t call for the actress to be in heavy makeup, skimpy tank top and full pout. I’m talking about you (“Crime Scene Investigation”) and your ridiculous investigative work clothes. I have to say watching ‘Parker’ and ‘Sophie’ is a welcome relief. So much, in fact, that before our call I had gone through a “Leverage” marathon. I had questions – about the sexual chemistry between ‘Parker’ and ‘Hardison’(Aldis Hodge) for one; as well as the numerous songs that the real Ms. Riesgraf might be named after.
Here’s how the caper went down.
Were you named after the Kiss song?
No, unfortunately not, but wouldn’t that be a cool icebreaker: "My parents were rocking out to Kiss one day and it just came to them"
If you could choose your own “Beth Song” out of these 3, having never heard any of them, which would be your theme?
A) Beth/Rest - Bon Iver
B) Beth’s Song (Sing me to Sleep) - Shayna Follington & The Amabile Young Men and Men’s Choir
C) Beth - Kiss
Having not heard any of them, I’m gonna go with Bon Iver.
Yay, now we have a Beth Song just for you.
I LOVE it! YAY! (laughs)
I love the main female characters in “Leverage,” both very beautiful, but the show focuses more on their ability to charm and con vs head turning.
I’m really lucky to be on show where the producer doesn’t come up behind me and say: "That’s not the most attractive face."
(THEY DO THAT????!!!!)
I don’t have to think about what I look like, as I’m acting. Don’t get me wrong - it’s good to know your angles, etc., but at a time when that is more relevant.
Did you deliberately bring a sort of sexual apathy to Parker?
Parker grew up having to survive on her own instincts; part of her quirkiness is that she was alone for most of her life. She’s very attracted to ‘Hardison’ (obviously). Firstly, because he’s so smart and good at what he does, also because he’s hot! I mean, she’s not blind! There’s a definite sexual chemistry there. She still operates from instinct, but she’s not oblivious to her sexuality - it’s just not a big part of her arsenal.
Is it safe to say that she’s a bit mental?
She’s a bit off. A little unhinged, maybe.
I like that though, I don’t 100% trust her. She’s quirky, but not in too cutesy a way.
I’ve really enjoyed her story arc, when you first meet her, the general consensus is this girl is CRAZY! She’s blowing up houses, hanging people over buildings and stabbing them with forks (laughs). As she grows, she learns what is socially acceptable, but she will never stop being dangerous. That’s her weapon.
Is Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) a sort of "mother" figure to Parker?
She does take a maternal role at times: she tries to help her like she would a normal person. Sophie tries to mentor her.
Yet, they are basically criminals. So she has this nurturing relationship, but what exactly is she going to teach her that’s “normal behavior?”
When you step back, it’s a bit nutso (laughs again).
I read somewhere, that in real life there’s almost 8 years between you and Aldis Hodge, wtw?.
Almost, yep. I’m older than him.
But you both look the same age and he’s one of my brethren, so that’s a hard trick to pull off?
(laughs again) He does have a crazy gene where he just doesn’t age and maintains perfect skin, his mother looks amazing.
Well done lady!!!
Thanks! (more laughter) … My mom kept me out of the sun.
Why so many Dr. Who references? Coincidence or deliberate?
It is a fact - there are plenty. The writers once in a while like to throw a treat out for people who will get the reference, it’s a fun game. At one point there were a bunch of Star Trek guys that came on, Jonathan Frakes directs a bunch of episodes and then he brings his buddies. It’s been a great ride, we get all these awesome actors, and we have a great mix of people.
Do you have any pets?
Yes 2 dogs, both adopted. A Chaweenie called Los, it may have been Carlos and we abbreviated it. My sister also just surprised us with a baby Doberman.
What is your one true heart’s desire?
My son, he’s the most amazing being I’ve ever met in my life. I get butterflies when I pick him up from school, I’m so happy to see him.
I love his name, I LOVE a unique name (I’m not bias here at all, honest)
He loves his name too, thank you!
What was the last movie you saw in the cinema?
Oh, wait for it … (long pause) It was Hit and Run with Bradley Cooper and Dax Shepherd (*who Beth worked with on “My Name Is Earl”). I really love movies, I don’t get to the movies as much as I would like.
What was the last movie you saw, that was a huge let down?
I’m so picky about the ones I do go to see, because I can’t go as often. So I haven’t had that experience in a while, I’ve been pretty entertained actually.
3 fave albums of all time?
Ah yes, but it’s hard. Bob Dylan The Desire, U2 Joshua Tree and then maybe between Rolling Stones and Coldplay. No, no, back up, I got it. Beck Sea Change, yeah… (she pauses for a minute, I think she’s genuinely very pleased with her choices)
You are also a photographer, what do you think of the MIMP shoots?
I really like Nina Dobrev's shoot, so natural. I liked that it was really easy to put my stuff together. Saying that, maybe I should have thought a bit more about an outfit (laughs).
Do you have a favorite famous photo that you just love?
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Picnic On The Back of The Mame (in France). It’s the back of a group of people, possibly a family, having a picnic at the river with their wine. It’s such an ideal summer afternoon, it makes me happy.
You were in that Death Cab For Cutie music video with Lukas Haas, how did that come about?
The director Autumn De Wilde called me; we knew each other through friends. I really like her and she’s a great photographer, so I said "absolutely."
Most awful audition EVER?
When I first was getting into acting, for a music video or commercial and we had to line up in bikinis and dance. It was hell with a capital H. You are in there with these 6ft tall…
… 14 year olds?
Yes! (laughs) Just these Amazonian, tall, lean models - it was horrifying.
Worst date you ever had and why?
Oh boy, there was one.
Even if it wasn’t their fault, like the restaurant burned down.
He had just got a tattoo. So there was this big build up, ooh cool a tattoo, I’m into it, I like a guy with tattoos a ‘lil dangerous. Then he showed up, with his ex-girlfriends name.
Doh! Not fun at all.
It was kind of hilarious, but not in a good way.
Do you have to work out a lot, or does hanging from the wires keep you trim and slim?
I do, sort of boring but true answer here, but it’s a balance of exercise and good food. I eat really healthy food, I give my body sweets now and then, but avoid over processed foods. Lots of veggies and water, bit of walking, yoga and Pilates.
Say like Jennifer Anniston, she admitted that she works out about 6 days a week. That’s like the regime of an athlete! I would love those results, but I couldn’t put in that kind of effort in (if I’m completely honest I don’t want to put in any effort at all).
Time management is key: working long hours, I also have an 8 year old, so finding the time to fit in the exercise can be tricky.
(now I feel really lazy)
Boxers or briefs, the girl version. What’s your face underwear to where.
GillyHicks, the cutest underwear ever. Not a thong, not a brief and in silk.
You wrote and directed a short A Standard Story, was that fun to take on a different creative role?
I absolutely loved it, from start to finish. You imagine something then create it, from the costumes, to the script - we built the feather dress from scratch (the costume designer and I), and then having that type of creative control in the entire process was wonderful. The WESC helped produce it too, they sponsor different art projects. Such crazy, fun, people!
In the next life you will be a… tree?
Dogs have a good life, but I want to come back as a princess (laughs). I want to come back happy, healthy and loved. So a puppy or a princess, I’ll take either.
Its official, Beth is my new girl crush!