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.