Breaking In star Christian Slater greeted the Sunday convention crowd with a shout of “WonderCon! Yeah!” after the screening of the pilot for the Fox sitcom.
Spinoff Online was in the audience as the actor, his co-stars, and executive producers Adam S. Goldberg and Doug Robinson talked about the new workplace comedy about a high-tech security firm that goes to extreme, and sometimes questionable, lengths to sell their services.
It was Slater’s first time at WonderCon, and he was embracing the experience. “I met the guy who played the Gorn,” he beamed, referring to the reptilian alien from a first-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Slater is a big fan of Star Trek, a devotion that becomes readily apparent on Breaking In, where his character Oz owns Captain Kirk’s chair.
“I’m grateful that we got to get that chair … it sits there in the corner and people are afraid to sit in it,” he said. “It has its own aura.” The chair is one of the few solid things that grounds the otherwise-elusive character. “He’s an eight-moves-ahead kind of guy,” Slater explained. “He’s got his hands in a lot of different pots and he likes to stir things up quite a bit.” While Oz outright lies throughout the pilot episode, the actor promises some truths will be revealed.
The pilot centers on tech-savvy slacker Cameron Price (Reaper‘s Bret Harrison), whom Oz threatens to expose for a scam in which he received seven years of free college education and campus housing. In the eyes of Oz, CEO of Contra Security, Cameron is just the sort of man he needs on his team — provided, of course, he can get him to grow up. “He’s been wasting away in college,” Harrison said. By the end of the half-hour pilot, though, the actor thinks Cameron has “found his people.”
Making it easier for Cameron to stick around is the beautiful safe-cracker Melanie Green (Odette Annable) who, unfortunately, is already involved with Dutch (Smallville‘s Michael Rosenbaum), who sells clean urine on the Internet to drug addicts and drives a bright yellow hummer. As the series opens, the young lock-pick is quite taken with Dutch. “He’s a very thoughtful douchebag,” Annable said. Although Dutch isn’t a member of the team in the pilot, Oz will eventually hire him.
The series concept had its origins in a meeting between producers Goldberg, Robinson and co-creator Seth Gordon, best known for the documentary The King of Kong. Gordon was involved in another documentary about a group that cracks sophisticated security systems to test their reliability, a set-up that Goldberg thought would make the perfect premise for a workplace comedy. “It was a great way to do an office comedy and mix it with action and heists,” he said.
As Robinson explained, “It’s the relatable office comedy, but they get to do cool stuff.”
That workplace also includes the too-nerdy-for-his-own-good Cash Sparks (Alphonso McAuley) and master of social engineering Josh Armstrong (Trevor Moore). McAuley, who was also on the WonderCon panel, thought his character would be out in the audience at that moment. “Cash is definitely a fanboy, he’s into it,” he said. “If WonderCon were a fragrance, he’d be spraying it on and wearing it/ Goldberg was quick to add that a running joke in the series is Cash’s shot-for-shot remake of Star Wars in which he plays all the parts.
“This is what happens when I get a show,” the producer said.
Although the pilot is filled with references like Kirk’s chair, the Internet meme “Boom Goes the Dynamite” and Cash’s Han Solo costume, everyone on the panel wanted to talk up the episode in which the gang goes to a comic convention. “We’re protecting the Goonies sequel, The Legend of Sloth,” McAuley explained. With the Goonies producers worried the film might leak online, the team gets hired to keep it safe. “We get to experience the whole comic-con scenario. We go in undercover and discreetly, but we run into a plethora of characters,” the actor continued.
“It was a way for me to get free toys,” Goldberg joked.
The episode was also an occasion for the cast to dress up. “There’s a wonderful Xena costume I get to wear,” Annabel said.
“I just rocked a mustache,” Harrison added.
While Slater avoided dressing up in this instance, he thought it was hilarious that co-star Moore ended up painted like a Na’vi from Avatar. He also admitted that when the script first arrived he was “chomping at the bit to put a Darth Vader costume on.”
The convention episode was shot at the Sony Studios lot in Los Angeles, but show’s crew set up a convincing replica of a real comic expo. Members of the 501st Legion appeared in full Storm Trooper armor, while the cars from Back to the Future and Ghostbusters sat behind protective ropes. One of the 501st even brought his working R2-D2 prop. The result was so accurate that one of the show’s writers thought it was real. “Do you know they’re having a comic book convention across the street?” Goldberg recalled the writer asking. He replied to her, “You know that’s our show, right?”
Other upcoming episodes include an appearance by NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, a mission to protect the secret “11 herbs and spices” recipe, and a recurring role for actress Alyssa Milano. “There might be a love triangle between Oz, Cameron and her character,” Harrison teased.
The group took a few questions from the audience. One fan asked if the series might reference Slater’s film career or Harrison’s earlier show Reaper. The producer answered, “I love film and TV references. I got Christian to say, ‘We’ve got a broken arrow’ in an episode. We’re filling the show with Internet memes, too. I love references.” In the pilot, Oz even quotes the “greetings and salutations” line from Heathers.
“I feel like, with Oz’s background, that he may have tried to blow up a high school once,” Slater quipped.
Goldberg confirmed for a fan that Rosenbaum appears in every episode of the first season. “[He’s on the show] as long as he wants,” he said.
“I think he’s more like Dutch than he likes to admit,” Annable added. “He’s such a great comedian.”
Slater was asked what his favorite line from True Romance was. The actor said, “I like you, Clarence. Always have, always will” to the delight of the crowd.
McAuley defended the choice for Cash to appear as Han Solo first over other Star Wars characters in the pilot. “He gets Leia and he’s got a sidekick,” he said. “There’s some Dark Side coming, though. There’s some Vader.” His tease continued: “There’s some Chewbacca … might be some Jabba.”
A fan wondered if Oz would go out on missions with the rest of the team. Robinson fielded the question, saying, “He’s out there a lot. Oz does thing that benefits Oz and benefits the team as Oz sees fit.”
“If we get the opportunity to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a Star Destroyer,” Slater added. “Oz will be leading that charge.”
Asked if the one-upsmanship between Cash and Cameron continues, Slater said, “There does come a point where Oz, as the boss, has to come in.” With tensions rising, Oz will set up what the actor called “unorthodox trust exercises.”
Slater also revealed for a fan how he got his cameo in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The actor simply said, “My mommy cast it.” His mother Mary Jo Slater is a casting director who arranged for her son’s appearance. After the laughter died down, the actor offered one other bit of lore about his connection to that series. “The other thing, too, is that it was William Shatner’s costume from Star Trek II that I wore. I stole it. I’ve got it in a box.”
Breaking In premieres Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
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