Breaking In's Christian Slater and Megan Mullally on Second Chances, Cast Changes, and Creative Control

Making a TV show is hard. You pitch a show, you cross your fingers that a network eventually buys it, and once that happens (if it happens), you risk spending every night weeping in the fetal position because the network has usurped your creative authority and taken your story in an entirely different direction—one that happens to please test audiences, and test audiences, only. And more often than not, you get canceled.

But what happens when you make a TV show, that TV show gets canceled, and you convince the network that canned you to give you another shot? What happens when you break back in?

The cast and creators of Fox's Breaking In know e'zactly what I'm talkin' about. During a recent visit to the set, I sat down with Alphonso McAuley (Cash), Christian Slater (Oz), and Megan Mullally (Veronica) to talk about what it's like to work on a show with such a complicated, albeit short, history. Here's what they had to say...


On the lady-centric changes to the cast:

One thing the show's creators (most prominently, producer Adam Goldberg) and Fox have agreed on is that Breaking In is desperate for chicks. Season 1 was heavy on the pop-culture and techie references that are generally more appealing to men than women, and the cast wasn't exactly brimming with femininity. The decision to add the characters of Veronica (Mullally) and Molly (Erin Richards) prior to Season 2 was explicitly directed at attracting female viewers.


"It's part of the business, it's just how it goes. I loved all the actors who were here last year, they were all great. But it was a little boy-heavy. They needed to balance things out and introduce some femininity into the show. I was willing to do a few [episodes] in drag, but that wasn't the way [the producers] wanted to go, so they brought in Megan! And Erin Richards. And I couldn't be happier that they're part of the team." —Slater


On the school of Megan Mullally:

According to Slater and McAuley, Mullally is both an inspiration to the younger cast members and a joy to work with for the pros like Slater. So if you're wondering whether the addition of her character, Veronica, might've have a negative effect on the cast's morale, the answer is a resounding "No."


"Megan is a BEAST! She's a comedic genius. Just watching her as she does her thing, you know, it's pretty cool. It's a classroom, if you will." —McAuley


On the ages-old battle between show creators and network execs:

Networks generally want a say in the creative choices for their shows, but with Breaking In's unique history of being canceled and then un-canceled, it's my understanding that, as work began on Season 2, Fox had a solid grip on the creative throttle. And the consensus on the set was that the network was taking the show in the wrong direction. But by the time Episode 5 was being fleshed out in the writers' room, the show creators managed to get back behind the controls. From the actors' perspective, this change will make all the difference for fans.


"In the first three or four episodes, I did more improv because I was a new character coming onto the show. But also, between what the creators originally wanted to do and what the network wanted, there was a little bit of a discrepancy, and then it all changed around to what the creators originally wanted, but by then they'd already written the first four episodes. So we tried to steer [the improv] more toward the creators' vision in those first few episodes. And I do think there's a shift between the fourth episode and the rest of the series." —Mullally


"This show has had a very, very interesting history. For something like this to succeed or continue on would be a phenomenal laugh at the industry and how it will take things away before they're given a chance to sort of grow and shine." —Slater


On Season 2's character-driven focus:

All three cast members agreed that the biggest change audiences will notice in Season 2 is its emphasis on character development. Breaking In will spend less time focusing on the characters' heists and more time on their internal hijinks and interpersonal relations at the office. It's an attempt to make not only the characters, but the show as a whole, more palatable to the masses—even those who aren't pop-culture-obsessed techie gurus. According to the cast, the decision to move in this direction was made by the show's creators; whether or not Fox had other intentions isn't entirely clear, but Mullally hinted that it may have been the case.


"I felt like [Breaking In, during its first season] was a show that was just about to hit its stride. It had so much potential in so many ways and now I feel like, if they leave us on the air long enough, it will really come into its own." —Mullally


"In the first season, this Oz character, this 'international man of mystery,' was a very fascinating, very interesting idea, but I don't know how accessible that was to audiences. So, [producers] wanted to make Oz somewhat more relatable, somewhat more human, and they were open to suggestions on how to make that happen. There are certain character defects that I was able to bring to the table and suggest for them, and Adam [Goldberg] has proven to be somebody who's really open to these ideas. It's really fantastic." —Slater


Upcoming plot points to get pumped about:

– Look forward to a love connection between Cash and one of the other characters.

– Victoria's ex-husband will make an appearance this season, and will be played by none other than Fred Willard.

– Christian Slater is slated (pun!) to direct Episode 13, if the show makes it that far.

– If the series gets picked up for a third season, Mullally said she'll force her real-life husband, Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec's Ron Swanson), into guest-starring.


A few more miscellaneous tidbits:

– Mullally confirmed that a Party Down screenplay is in the works, and that the entire cast is on-board.

– Alphonso McAuley refers to Breaking In producer Adam Sandler as "The Dark Knight" because even though Sandler is often on-set, McAuley has yet to cross his path.

– Mullally said that film—not TV—is where she'd like to see herself in the future. Her words, when asked about her recent role in Smashed, a sobering film that premiered at Sundance this year: "I mean, [film] is what I want to do. I've always wanted to do that, and I feel like it's something that I'm good at, but people only know me from TV and comedies. I was thrilled to be a part of Smashed. So, yes, I do want to do more movies, if you know of anyone. Call me, I'm available this summer."


Breaking In airs Tuesday nights at 9:30pm on Fox.

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I've just seen season 2 episode 5...I loved season 1 and have now come to the conclusion that this show needs to be cancelled and some people at fox need to be fired for having no idea what they're doing.
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By adding all these absolutely unfunny new characters, especially Megan Mullally, and creating a totally new (boring) focus, Fox just try to tell us (fans of the 1st season) "See? That's all you get when you complain about the cancellation of your favourite show! Take it now! Don't like it? Don't ask for the renewal! When we say "Cancel!" it means "F...k off!"
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Sometimes it seems that Fox killed the 2nd season just to prove their point of view.
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This will be the last season for this once great show. Putting a loser like Mullally in was done by someone obviously on heavy doses of drugs. SHE IS NOT FUNNY IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM.



On her stupid comment about the show now hitting it's stride, it already had hit it's stride, she just became a huge speed bump/concrete barrier. I can see the rest of the originals heading for the doors after episode 4 and the show will be dead before the season ends unless someone with some working brain cells dumps the idiots responsible for this mess and lets the back door smack Mullally in the backside on the way out..
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Can they just cancel this show already? The first season was awesome, and whatever it has become shouldn't even be called Breaking In.



The attempt at lady-centric changes were stupid. Geek girls weren't alienated, they were part of the loving target audience. The biggest insult is that geek girls aren't enough.



Megan Mullally is terrible. She's never funny, always interrupting the natural order of the show and the poster child for bastardizing a TV show in the hopes for better ratings.



Just like Christian Slater's castration on the show, it's obvious creative control had been taken from the writers in a sad attempt to gain ratings. I'm sorry the target audience wasn't good enough because I was actually excited to see this show return.



Their attempt to claim character driven focus is laughable. Most of the new characters are one line jokers which get rephrased every week. The exception being Erin Richards, who would have been a welcome member to the show had the first season's integrity stayed intact.



I don't care if Cash screws the sandwich girl. I don't give a shit about Victoria's ex-husband. Christian Slater probably won't get to direct episode 13 and most importantly, Megan Mullally is the cancer that killed Breaking In.
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Hehe, as others have already said, I felt season one was so much better.



I really hope Mullally isn't pulling my leg about the show going in a different direction after episode 4.
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I look forward to the new direction of the show. The main way to bring people back to a show is to have loveable characters, and a good way to progress any show is to have a balance of plot and character development. One of my favorite episodes of first season is "Breaking Out", and though it is a bottle episode, it does the great job of fleshing out all of the main characters. And sure two of those characters disappeared in season 2 but hopefully Mullaly and Richards will even it out, and they've even added a couple side-characters to continue to showcase the absurdity of Contra Security.
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When I say this show was coming back on the air, I went on line and watched a few of the episodes from last season. I found it extremely boring. Not every one finds 'pop culture' interesting. Usually it means you aren't creative and can't come up with new ideas. I went ahead and watched it when it came back on the air just to see if the new additions would help. I was pleasantly surprised. The show is so much funnier now. Oz needed a foil, and Mullally plays it great. I could not stand the character of Oz last year. Now he at least seems human instead of overbearing. I realize fans from last year would not be overjoyed with the changes, but since it was cancelled once obviously it wasn't that good. Is it better now? Much! Will it still be able to stay on the air? That remains to be seen. However, if it doesn't the fault can not be laid at the feet of Mullally, who most times is the only funny thing about the show. By trying to mix so much of the old with the new, it displeased the fans who seem to be too rigid to accept any change, and tried to fit too much of the old stuff that new fans probably find boring.
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The first season was great. However, they didn't or haven't yet been able to recapture the zaniness from last year. The two additions are both good and bad. Molly, I feel is a good addition her OCD and overall quirkiness can be a source of great comedy, and the actress playing her does so without stepping all over everyone else in the cast. The same can't be said for Mullaly's character, the loudness, the overbearing and the character's overall grating is a detriment to the show. It overwhelms the rest of the characters and in a way neuters Slater's character in Oz as the mastermind that knows everything.



Hopefully with the show back in the show runners hands it will get better.
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I loved the first season. It was nerdy and wacky, just like me. So far, the second season has been good, but not as awesome as the first season. The new characters are growing on me, especially Molly after the second episode.



The first season was only five or six episodes long, so just having a longer second season should help bring in some viewers. At least, I'd assume so.
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So you've just read that the creative control was handed back to the creator/writers after episode four, but you'll not watch beyond episode four if it's like the previous three?



Makes perfect sense.
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I used to love this show.... The first season was ab-so-lutely epic, and I knew by that alone that it was doomed, because ratings these days mean a show is either mainstream, camp, or an SNL spinoff venerating harrowingly excessive akwardness as if it were funny.

I used to love Megan too, tbh, but that was in Will & Grace. I gave Party Down three episodes to wow me, and was literally unable to watch even ten minutes of an episode right through without having to pause to avert a panic attack in displaced embarassment for the cast.



Sadly, this akwardness-centered horsemanure is exactly what Megan has brought to Breaking In, and that effect only seems to get stronger with each episode. They didnt revive this show... it died. What they're doing now is shredding the carcass into pink slime to sell to the lowest common denominator audience.



Lets hope this revolting trend eventually dies down, along with the notion that spray-on tan orange is the new white, halogen teeth look natural, smoking is worse than mass-mutilation of children by nazi pedophiles, women anorexic to the point the spine can be seen from the front are prefferable to those gifted with natural curves, and there's such a thing as "clear-tasting" water without comparison to the Ganges, Amazon, or Yangtze rivers.
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I'm eager for the skeletal look to go away. Not just because I'm overweight, but because it's probably not very healthy. Undereating can be just as bad for you as overeating.
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Once again, network execs demonstrate they know nothing about how to make a good show. They forced two annoying characters into the group, lost two very funny characters, have now lost the best female from the show (Odette Annabel) and completely abandoned the tight, witty plot format of the 1st season that made the show so fun. All those things they said made the show too "dude-centric" like the heists (the show is called BREAKING IN), the techie/geek/pop culture references, the pranks, etc made the show great (and yes, I'm a dude, so I'm biased, but I know what I like). Apparently I wasn't alone - over 7 million people tuned in most episodes last season. So what if they're mostly guys. That's a lot of viewers for a FOX sitcom in this day and age.



I hope wresting creative control back from the network will work out starting with episode 5, but they might have lost too many fans by now for it to make any difference (and those that loved Odette Annabel, like me).
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"...the techie/geek/pop culture references, the pranks, etc made the show great (and yes, I'm a dude, so I'm biased..."



I'm a dudette who loved the geeky, pop culture references.
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I'd expect nothing less from a Geek_Queen! :)
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Me too. Also, I never thought the show spent too much time "focusing on the characters' heists". I actually would have liked to see more of them as they're part of what makes the show cool, so I'm disappointed they're turning this into an Office-type character-driven sitcom.
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I don't want the series to become just another office sitcom, either. I want to hear them discuss the heists and I want to see them put their plans into action. The show's titled Breaking In after all. We need to see them do a little breaking in from time to time.
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The only show that is more obsessed with obscure pop-culture references than Breaking In is Psych. It's like the Master Control Program trying to one-up Skynet. And I LOVE it!
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Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Psych are tied for pop culture obsession.
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