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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    'Leverage' star Gina Bellman happy to 'get the band back together'

    Gina Bellman stars as the crafty con artist in IMDb TV's "Leverage: Redemption," a reboot of the popular "Leverage" series. IMDb TV is Amazon's free streaming site. (Alfonso Bresciani/IMDb TV/TNS)

    She may seem elegant now, but when actress Gina Bellman was in school it was a different story. “I was tall and lanky and skinny, and I just felt very unwieldy in sports,” she says. “And I had a report card from my physical education teacher and it said, ‘Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bellman, we’ve very much enjoyed all the characters that Gina played this semester. Unfortunately none of them were any good at tennis.’”

    She may not be good at tennis, but Bellman has proved her versatility with all the characters she’s played since then, from “Coupling,” to “Jekyll” to “Leverage.” She recently returned as the inventive con artist Sophie Devereaux in IMDb TV’s reboot of the popular series “Leverage,” titled “Leverage: Redemption.”

    Though it’s been nine years since the gang of naughty do-gooders cast their nets in “Leverage,” most of the original cast has returned. While they all stayed in touch with each other, Bellman says it was a shock when she got the call suggesting a rebirth of the series.

    “It was completely out of the blue because I hadn’t had any real murmurings about it and (the producer) rang up and said, ‘Hey, Gina, how do you feel about getting the band back together?’ And it was really a kind of fun and dramatic way of putting it. I just kind of squealed and said, ‘Yeah, count me in.’”

    Bellman says that acting wasn’t always her goal. Born in New Zealand, she moved with her family to England when she was 10. “I felt very taken from New Zealand, which was a very outdoor, very nature-driven childhood into a big city. I think more than actually wanting to act, I wanted to explore and see the city, see what this world was like, and see this completely different world. And I think that my falling in love with this profession was a bit more about joining the circus than it was about acting,” she says.

    The more experienced she became, the more fascinated she became with acting, she says.

    Bellman was only 14 when she started performing. Her parents were pretty laid-back about it. “I was in London, it wasn’t the city I was born in, and my parents gave me a map of the city and they said – it was a map-book like the Thomas Brothers maps in America. They gave me that and wrote in it: ‘Happy birthday. If you want to do this you can do it, but do it on your own.’

    “I just used to go on the subway to audition. My mom was like, ‘I’m too busy with two other kids and running a home to go around the studios to audition.’ I used to take the subway to school anyway. It was a different time. My daughter is 11 now, and she wants to take the subway when she starts school in September, and I'm terrified of that but ... ”

    Following a brief unsuccessful marriage, Bellman says she enjoyed the company of an eclectic group of friends (most were not actors.) Among them was international financial expert Zaab Sethna. “We were spending time together and I didn’t really realize we were dating because we’d known each other for so long,” she recalls.

    “It took a friend of mine to say, ‘Hey, you and Zaab are dating’. I said, ‘No, don’t be silly. We’re just friends.’ She said, ‘No, I think he’s taking you to nice restaurants.’ I thought, ‘Well, maybe that was a date.’ I was a bit slow on the pickup,” she smiles.

    They married and had their daughter, Romy. “Falling in love with my husband changed me because I think I had this notion of love before that that was quite tortured,” she says.

    “So I didn’t really settle down with him until I was in my early 40s. And I think falling in love with someone who is a friend was a real epiphany for me because it completely changed my notion of love. So that when my daughter did come along two years later, I had a much more grounded idea of love.”

    Though they didn’t always see eye-to-eye when she was growing up, Bellman cites her mother as her role model. “My mother was diagnosed with ALS 15 years ago,” she explains.

    “She’s so brave and courageous and she smiles and laughs every day and still has an incredible quality of life. She can’t speak or walk, but she has joy in her life. She still cares about getting her nails painted and getting her hair done. My brother took her out for a day trip and sent a picture of them drinking a beer together in this garden, her in her wheelchair. I’ve got a very amazing role model,” she says.

    “She lost my father. They’d been married for 60 years and we thought my mom, being so ill, that she would deteriorate, but she’s still going strong and didn’t catch COVID and is made of titanium — that’s the sort of things that inspire me.”

    reminded me of my grandpa. And he took a liking to me and took me under his wing, and we had lunch with each other almost every day for two weeks, and he would explain things to me.

    “Little did I know I was getting the education of a lifetime from somebody who was basically the hand of God in Hollywood. He advised me to move to L.A. I went home that night and told my mom, ‘I’m moving to L.A.’”

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