The Fox comedy series Breaking In has had quite a roller-coaster ride during such a short run on the air. The show debuted last April, with the reality powerhouse American Idol as a lead-in, although the ratings weren't quite to the network's liking, and it was canceled in May. 99.99 percent of the time, a cancellation is final, but, as we have learned from Family Guy and Futurama, some shows do get a second chance, and Fox made the surprise move of renewing the series in August for a 13-episode Season 2. The show has found a plum spot in the network's new Tuesday night comedy block, airing at 9:30 PM ET after the freshman comedy New Girl.
Last month, I was invited to the Sony Pictures lot to check out the set of this comedy show, which centers on Contra Security, a lovable team of misfits who pitch their services to prospective clients in the most outrageous of ways. Christian Slater stars as Oz, the group's fearless leader, with Bret Harrison portraying the hacker Cameron, Alphonso McAuley as the gadget genius Cash, and Odette Annable as lock-picker/safe-cracker Melanie. Unfortunately, Odette Annable was only able to appear in a few episodes this season, due to her commitment on House, but the show has upped the ante in a fantastic way with Megan Mullally coming on board as Veronica, the new boss lady at Contra, whose by-the-book tactics don't sit quite well with her new underlings.
When we got a chance to sit down with the actress, she revealed they are trying to turn the series into an edgier brand of workplace comedy, by focusing on the relationships of the Contra co-workers.
"They're trying to focus the show more on the interactions between people in the office, to make it more of an office comedy, rather than the actual business of the office, going out on missions and capers."
While she revealed there hasn't been a love interest for Veronica so far this season (they were filming the ninth episode out of 13 when we visited the set), she did tease an upcoming guest star on the show... and an intriguing pitch for future seasons.
"There is an episode where one of my favorite ex-husbands appears, played by Fred Willard. I really wanted Fred Willard, and he was kind enough to agree to do it. But yeah, so far, I don't have a romance going on. I mean, I'm the oldest person on the cast, so I don't have a romance going on with any of the regulars. I'm not getting a sex change. That might not be a bad idea, actually. Maybe, if we get picked up, I'll play the rest of the seasons as a man."
The other main addition to the show is Molly, played by the lovely British actress Erin Richards, who is Veronica's long-suffering assistant. Since Erin Richards wasn't on the set that day, I asked Megan Mullally how that relationship would evolve throughout the season, and she teased an intriguing plot point for Episode 9.
"I keep putting her in a very compromising position at every turn. I'm not very sympathetic. As a matter of fact, the episode we're shooting this week, she's going to be deported, because I forgot to fill out the paperwork. When she tells me she's being deported, I'm only worried about who's going to clean out my purse. I'm not worried about worried her in particular. I am, but my first reaction is more selfish."
Alphonso McAuley's Cash is not only the resident gadget guy at Contra, but he's also the prankster around the office, and he let us in on one of his favorite pranks this season.
"Cash literally takes Cameron's (Bret Harrison) desk and makes a cement block out of it. The screens are coming out of the cement. It's pretty funny. That's my favorite."
The actor teased that he has a bit of a love interest/crush this season with Molly ("I might like a little English muffin"), and he revealed what sorts of things Cash looks for in a woman.
"He looks for someone to understand his nerdisms, you know. He probably looks for somebody who really gets his world, because he's got his own world of toys and figurines and comic books, and you need a certain type of woman for that. Not every woman is going to be cool with that."
Aside from his burgeoning acting career, Alphonso McAuley has also directed two short films, and I asked if he would ever consider directing a Breaking In episode.
"Well, it would be nice. I feel, at the moment, I'm learning a lot about the way single-camera TV is shot. Of course, if they allow me to do that, it would be cool. Actualy, in the first season, they were like, 'It would be really cool if you were to direct an episode.' But, of course, all the stars have to be aligned."
The actor also shared a quick list of iconic characters he is dressing up as this season, which should provide for many a memorable moment.
"I can tell you this season, Cash is dressed up as everybody. Here's a quick list, Indiana Jones, I don't know if you're ready for that, but you might be. I've got leather on and everything. There's a whip... actually, there's a mouse as my whip. There's that, there's Marty McFly, Black to the Future, Sho'Nuff from The Last Dragon, Lando Calrissian, Jack Sparrow, and Darth Maul. They put these red contacts in and these horns. Literally, no one knew it was me."
As our day on the set wound to a close, Christian Slater came riding up on a bicycle to discuss what's up next for Oz this season, but first he started by expressing his gratitude for getting another season in the first place.
"This show has had a very, very interesting history. It's kind of fun and kind of exciting, and for something like this to succeed or continue on, hypothetically or potentially, would be a phenomenal laugh, kind of, at the industry, and how they will take things away before they are given a chance to grow and shine, to build an audience."
With Veronica now entrenched as the new head honcho, Christian Slater spoke about Oz playing second fiddle at Contra.
"The first season, in the identification of this Oz guy, this international man of mystery, it's a fascinating idea, but I don't know how accessible that is to audiences. I think they wanted to make Oz somewhat more relatable, somewhat more human."
The need for Veronica to come on board in the first place stems from Contra's financial situation, and Oz living well beyond his means. Even though Optimal Consumer Products (the conglomerate Veronica works for) now controls the company, Oz still may have something else up his sleeve.
"Oz was forced to sell his company to this corporation, OCP, which includes Veronica's introduction into the show, but yeah, it's a result of certain problems he has. But then, at the end of the day, Oz is an eight-moves-ahead type of character. I feel like there's always some kind of puppet mastery going on. There's some kind of reason and manipulation, some kind of game behind it, that none of us will know until Episode 13, which if we make it there, I'll be directing."
That about wraps it up from my day on the Breaking In set. The show airs Episode 2.05: Cyrano de Nerdgerac Tuesday, April 3 at 9:30 PM ET on Fox. This is a hilarious, fast-paced series that has hit a great stride with the addition of Megan Mullally and Erin Richards, and I hope it keeps picking up more steam en route to a third season.