Veteran actor Christian Slater returns to television Wednesday with Breaking In, a new half-hour workplace comedy on Fox.
The series centers on Contra Security, a company that tests its clients’ security systems by breaking into them. The show follows new intern Cameron (Reaper’s Bret Harrison), a lazy but brilliant hacker blackmailed into working for the firm by Contra’s amoral and unhinged boss Oz (Slater). Rounding out the main cast is Alphonso McAuley as the prank-loving fanboy Cash, and Odette Annabel as Melanie, Cameron’s love interest and one bad-ass lock-picker. Smallville alum Michael Rosenbaum also appears as Melanie’s boyfriend Dutch.
A midseason replacement, Fox initially passed on Breaking In, and then quickly reversed its decision and ordered scripts and episodes. Premiering Wednesday, the show airs after American Idol, a lead-in that left Slater overjoyed.
“We are all very thrilled and certainly happy with the support from Fox. I’ve been thinking about it a little bit, [and] I kind of feel like Goldilocks. I tried one bed, it didn’t fit; I tried out the other bed, it didn’t fit. This bed here at Fox feels just fine,” Slater said, commenting on his recent forays into television in series like NBC’s My Own Worst Enemy and ABC’s The Forgotten.
While much of his TV experience has been on hour-long dramas, Slater pointed to his experience with oddball characters like J.D. from Heathers as part of the reason why he was chosen.
“I love characters with edge. I love characters that are a little bit unpredictable. I think they’re just fun to play; I just love these guys that are a little offbeat and a little twisted, and just a little dangerous,” he said, adding, “I definitely prefer doing comedy.”
The actor also revealed he had a large level of control over his character, working with writer/creator Adam Goldberg and producers to develop Oz.
“When I first got the script, the character of Oz hadn’t been really clearly identified,” he said. “So when I sat down with Doug Robinson and Seth Gordon and Adam Goldberg, we just started talking and came up with ideas. … They ended up popping everything I kind of suggested into the script and I read it and I was like, ‘Oh, boy, okay, well this is pretty exciting.’”
Besides adding personal touches to the character, Slater also contributed personal belongings to set, singling out a strange book that appears in the pilot episode.
“[The book] was a prop that I stole from The Name of the Rose, so we figured there’s a good spot for it, so we might as well put it in there and more will be revealed. A lot of the pages on that are very much like they were in the movie. It’s got that poison ink on it,” Slater laughed.
He also pointed out that the chair his character uses in the pilot episode is Captain Kirk’s chair from the original Star Trek.
“A buddy of mine had gotten me that chair for a birthday present about a year ago, so it was really just sitting in my house and I really liked it and I just thought this chair would represent, in a way, who this Oz character is. He is definitely the captain of this particular ship,” Slater said, adding, “It does have a throne-like quality and it also has a little bit of a throwback-type quality as well.”
Continuing on his Star Trek thread, Slater described himself as a huge Trek fan, and compared the themes of Breaking In to those classic science fiction series.
“One of the things I really like about Adam’s concept with this particular show, it’s very much like Star Trek,” he said. “They had a five-year mission to explore strange new worlds. Oz has a five-year plan and he’s hired each of these people for very specific reasons.”
However, the actor laughed when asked whether his chair is really the original captain’s chair from Star Trek.
“Yes, well, what’s nice is that as a way to do some research for this particular show, me and the gang all broke into the Smithsonian and stole the real one, so the one that they have at the Smithsonian is a replica now,” Slater joked.
Despite his joviality, the actor didn’t shy away from comparing Oz’s legal problems to his own troubled past, although he declared that period of his life is behind him.
“I’ve pretty much gone from a ‘bad boy’ to a ‘dad boy,’” he said. “I mean, I’m going to LEGOLAND on Thursday to check out the new Star Wars exhibit they have there.” He paused and then added with a laugh, “I’m not going just myself, I’m taking my son!”
Of course, when speaking to Slater, one would be remiss in not asking him questions about his long film career. Slater thought that Heathers was where his interest in offbeat comedy began, and named Pump Up the Volume as one of his favorite projects before promising that the show would be chock-full of as many in-jokes and references to his work as possible.
Ultimately, Slater was thrilled to be a part of Breaking In. “Really, everybody involved has been a total dream,” he said. “I’m really having a great time. It’s the greatest show ever made.”
With a chuckle, he added, “I get to wear shades and smoke a cigar and sit in the Kirk chair. I mean, life is good!”
Breaking In premieres Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.