Beth Riesgraf, best known for her role as smart, quirky Parker on TNT’s successful high-tech, conman caper Leverage, is a lithe creative force and she’s looking for a new challenge. This past year in USA Network’s Complications, she played wife to Jason O’Mara’s John Ellison, an ER doctor whose life becomes unhinged when a heroic moment leads him down a dark path. What, for another actor, could have been a lightweight supporting role, in her hands conveyed both depth and vulnerability. “It was nice to be able to play a character that, on the outside, seems to have it all together,” she explains, “but is struggling not to fall apart.” However, despite good ratings and positive reviews, the gritty medical drama was not picked up for a second season. TV land will miss her thoughtful and nuanced performance as Samantha Ellison.
Riesgraf, however, is undaunted and excited for the future. “I have a lot I want to do creatively and this frees me up. I feel sad because I’m not going to see those lovely people on set every day, because it really was such a fantastic group, but I’m looking forward to what’s next.”
She is now in a position professionally where she can be both patient and selective. Photography, her first love, is one creative interest that she looks forward to rekindling. “I’m starting to get back into it. I never fell out of love with photography.” A purist, she regularly visits photography websites devoted to shooting on film and stays active in the community. “Digital is obviously taking over the world but it’s not the same as having a roll of film and the smell of film.”
Acting, her primary focus, draws much from her photography background. “I love candid photography and I love walking around a city and observing pictures in my mind. I make pictures out of everything I see. I’ve always been in love with moving images ever since I was a kid.” She references Henri Cartier-Bresson, in particular, and the way his street photography sparked her interest in acting. “I love being in the moment, living and breathing from one moment to the next. With acting, I think it’s an extension of that mentality for me.”
Even the way she describes inhabiting different characters is photographic in design. “Acting is like little windows into people’s existence and I find it fascinating. I’m always learning about the world through other people's’ eyes.” She has great respect and understanding of the craft of acting. “It’s stepping into different skins. And I love being challenged and scared. It keeps me on my toes and it keeps me moving.”
Movement, in fact, is an apt descriptor for Riesgraf artistically. She is no idle creator, but pursues her interests with diligence and absorption, often using her time off to take professional classes and workshops. And her enthusiasm for doing the work is both rare and admirable. She takes her advice to young artists to heart: “It’s really about rolling up your sleeves and staying persistent. And it’s okay to fail. It’s about being open to failing and trying again and not letting ‘no’ stop you.”
She points to her young son as a source of inspiration. “Talking about things with him now, it’s amazing to see what he does with his interests. Because when he wants something, he will persist and not give up until he gets it. His passion is there.”
Like her son, Riesgraf’s passion is palpable. “Your dreams get bigger and more expensive so you gotta work a little harder,” she explains. In 2011, she wrote and directed a short, A Standard Story, and hopes to make another one in the future. “My brain’s been working over a few ideas. Nothing that I’m ready to talk about, but I’m excited. I’ve got a bunch of friends that want to collaborate.” No doubt, Beth Riesgraf will continue to perfect her craft, and surprise and inspire audiences in all of her many creative pursuits.