Christian Slater is starring in a new comedy, Breaking In, premiering on FOX, Wednesday, April 6 at 9:30pm ET. The series will run seven weeks in the post-American Idol time slot.
Breaking In is an offbeat half-hour workplace comedy about a high-tech security firm that takes extreme, and often questionable, measures to sell their protection services. The series centers on a team of uniquely skilled oddball geniuses hand-picked to work for a manipulative mastermind, Oz, played by Christian Slater.
I took part in a Q&A press conference call with Christian Slater to talk about Breaking In. He seemed very excited about his new series.
The character of Oz that you play feels a lot like you. I was wondering if there is any improv going on?
There’s definitely been a little bit of improv going on. When I first got the script, the character of Oz hadn’t been clearly identified. So when I sat down with the creators, we started talking and I figured I’ve got nothing to lose so why not just throw out some options and some things that I would like to particularly do in a show and see what these guys think. They ended up popping everything I suggested into the script and I was like, “Oh boy,well this is pretty exciting. If we can actually pull off getting the Captain Kirk chair in the show that would be wondrous!”
Was that Captain Kirk chair your idea?
Yes. A buddy of mine had gotten me the chair as a birthday present about a year ago. I thought this chair would help represent who this Oz character is. He is definitely the captain of this particular ship. It does have a throne-like quality and it also has a little bit of a throwback-type quality as well.
What can you tell me about Bret Harrison and working with all the other actors on the show?
Bret is a total gentleman and quite hilarious. Really everybody involved has been a total dream. I’m having a great time. Great people. I get to wear shades and smoke a cigar and sit in the Kirk chair. Life is good.
What continues to be appealing to you about working on television?
I like the consistency of it. I like the pace of it. With the first two experiences I had, I really did respond well to the schedule. It’s a very, very fast moving train. I don’t like sitting around. I really like to get in there and do the job and get it done and feel good about it at the end of the day, and that pretty much seems to be the vibe on all the sets that I’ve gotten to be a part of.
You have to love the fact that you’re following American Idol, I mean from a business standpoint it probably doesn’t get any better than that.
Sure. Absolutely. We are all very thrilled and certainly happy with the support from FOX. I kind of feel a little bit like Goldilocks. I tried out the one bed, it didn’t fit. I tried out the other bed, it didn’t fit. This bed here at FOX feels just right.
What attracted you to that character of Oz?
I like the fact that he’s an eight-moves ahead kind of guy. He likes to have fun and doesn’t really take things all that seriously. There’s definitely a lot more going on beneath the surface than he’s revealing. I also like the fact that he has the ability to kind of find these little diamonds in the rough, you know these people with these great skills that aren’t really using them to their full and utmost potential. He picks these people, like Cameron’s character who’s a brilliant computer hacker and really gives him the opportunity to kind of flourish and have fun.
Well, I understand there are a lot of pranks on the show. Do you guys have some of that going on behind the scenes as well?
Behind the scenes, not yet. So far there have been so many pranks in front of the camera that it’s been difficult to get things going.
With all of the different projects you’ve done, is there one particularly special to you?
I think so. Usually when I’m doing radio interviews, it always reminds me of Pump Up the Volume. I loved that character and had a great time.
You’ve played a lot of really morally ambiguous characters. What tends to draw you to roles like that?
I love characters with edge. I love characters that are a little bit more dangerous, unpredictable, offbeat and twisted. I think they’re just fun to play.
What would you say has made a career as an actor rewarding for you so far?
The opportunities to experience so many different things. To get travel and see things. I’ve had the opportunity to go on USO tours and go to Bahrain and Djibouti, and visit the Walter Reed Medical Center. These experiences are quite remarkable and certainly perspective-changing.
Did you always want to get into this industry while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?
I did not get many opportunities to think of other professions. My mother was a casting director and my father an actor, so pretty much show business was something that was ingrained into me at a very early age.
I’ve seen the premiere and I really enjoyed it. You and Bret Harrison, especially, are terrific. And Alphonso’s character is just the perfect prankster.
Oh, he’s adorable. I’m so happy and proud with the work everybody’s been doing and I’m telling you it just gets nuttier.
What made you decide you wanted to do this genre [comedy] of TV?
I did a bit on Curb Your Enthusiasm and something on The Office and I was pretty much playing a version of myself in those particular shows. This was an opportunity to create a character from the ground up and really make somebody come to life in a comedy-esque type fashion. It is something new and different. It feels more geared towards my strengths and things that I really do enjoy doing.
I definitely prefer doing comedy. I think comedy is vital in our world. It’s very important and we need excuses to laugh at this particular time.
Can you give them a couple of good reasons to tune in?
It’s the greatest show ever made. You’d be crazy not to watch. There’s two reasons right there.
Is this the most extreme, zaniest thing you’ve ever done?
I think so, certainly on screen or in this particular venue. When I started my career I did movies like Heathers, which was a black comedy and very twisted. So, in a certain respect this is a little bit of a nod and a wink to, some of the earlier things that I started off doing.
Can you tell us anything about yourself that would totally surprise or shock any Christian Slater fans?
I’ve gone from a “bad boy” to a “dad boy.” “Dad boy” is definitely more a fitting moniker for me now. I’m going to LEGOLAND on Thursday to check out the new Star Wars exhibit. I’m not going just myself, of course, I’m taking my son.
What would be your advice to actors?
I think not taking yourself too seriously is vital. This is a job; it’s a gig. Building a life outside of the business is extraordinarily important. It can’t all just be about this business.
Have you been clued in on Oz’s past and what he’s really all about?
Yes, Adam (Goldberg, creator) exposed me to Oz’s timeline, which makes it a lot easier for me to understand the character and see the direction he’s going in. Although I am sworn to secrecy, I will say that the guy who’s going to end up playing Oz’s father is pretty phenomenal.
How do you relate to all the high-tech security elements in the show? Like, are you a tech-type of guy in real life?
I do love the tech stuff. I enjoy the iPad, iPhone and have a Mini Mac hooked up to my TV. I’ve got an Xbox, a PlayStation and a Wii. I’m insanely techie and I love to play all that stuff with my kids.
As you get older, what do you like most about the roles that you receive now, as compared to early days?
Well, it’s funny. I mean I’m now the boss, which is very interesting. For me, to kind of—have been around long enough to get the opportunity to be the guy who can actually appropriately sit in the captain’s chair is quite shocking, but I guess that’s just what happens when you keep breathing.
Breaking In premieres Wednesday, April 6th, 9:30/8:30 Central following American Idol.