Christian Kane, who plays Eliot Spencer, played Lindsey McDonald in Angel (1999). Sam Anderson, who played his boss in Angel, plays Henry Retzing, one of their marks, in the episode "The Snow Job." Kane and Anderson say that they exchanged a wink on camera as a reference to this in one scene.
Though seasons 2 through 4 were set in Boston, filming was actually done in Portland, Oregon. In The Three Strikes Job when Eliot is impersonating a baseball player he makes a reference to having played in Portland. Moreover, the ballpark they are stealing, PGE Park, and the Beavers are in fact Portland's baseball team. In season five, the Leverage team finally makes their move to Portland in the show as they film there anyway.
Parker is named after the famous fictional conman Parker, created by Donald Westlake under the pen name Richard Stark. Just as in the novels, Parker is only ever referred to as "Parker". No first (or possibly last) name is ever given, though both the Leverage character and the one from the novels is known by many aliases.
At the beginning of the Two Live Crew Job, when Nate and Sophie are masquerading as two police detectives, they introduce themselves as Marlowe and Archer. These are the last names of two well known fictional detectives, Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe and Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer.
Both Aldis Hodge and Christian Kane played roles in versions of Friday Night Lights. Christian Kane played Brian in the movie, while Aldis had a small role in the TV series for six episodes as Ray "Voodoo" Tatum.
Richard Chamberlain is in two episodes as the character Archie Leach. That is also the name of the character played by John Cleese in "A Fish Called Wanda." Cary Grant's birth name was Archibald Alexander Leach.
There are multiple references to Doctor Who through the whole series. Nathan Ford's aliases are all names of actors who portrayed The Doctor. Additionally, Harrison wears a bow tie during Season 5, and when questioned, says "Bow ties are cool." During The Frame Up Job Sophie and Nathan introduce themselves as agents Tennant and Smith.
While the Parker in Leverage is a tribute to the Donald Westlake character, somewhat more faithful versions of Parker have been played by Lee Marvin (Walker in Point Blank), Mel Gibson (Porter in Payback) and Jason Statham (Parker in Parker), among others.
While running the wire in The Bottle Job (Season 2) the announcer refers to one of the basketball players as Arnie Risen. There is a real Arnie Risen, who played for the Celtics in the 1950s. He was a center, and is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
In the episode The Studio Job, John Schneider, who plays Kirkwood in the episode, has the melody of the song Dixie play when his cell phone rings. This is a nod to his time as Bo Duke on The Dukes of Hazard (in which the General Lee's horn played the same tune).