Executive producers Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora, who worked together on Fox’s successful series Prison Break, are staying with that genre in their new show for A&W, Breakout Kings.
The new action-drama follows the unconventional partnership between the US Marshals’ office and a group of convicts as they work to catch fugitives on the run.
Laz Alonso and Domenick Lombardozzi portray respectively US Marshals Charlie Duchamp and Ray Zancanelli take an unorthodox approach to their work: using former fugitives to catch current ones. They include Lloyd (Jimmi Simpson), Shea (Malcolm Goodwin), Erica (Serinda Sway) and Julianne (Brooke Nevin).
Were there things on Prison Break that you wanted to do that you felt were maybe too humorous for that show that you are getting to do here?
Matt Olmstead: Yeah, and also being able to do closed-ended episodes, as opposed to getting off of a serialized show for four years was attractive. Also being able to work with Nick, who I worked with for four years on Prison Break; we love law-breaking. So we just wanted to have fun on the show and keep on working together.
You have these guys who are criminals to some degree. Can you talk about the need to make the week’s bad guy extra bad, to remind us who the real good guys and bad guys are?
Nick Santora: Yeah. It’s integral to do that. You have to have really bad guys, or there’s just no stakes from the beginning of the episode. At the same time, each week it can’t be the Son of Sam, who is breaking out of prison. It will get repetitive. So it’s a challenge, and we have been so fortunate this year with great guest actors.
We’ve had Bob Knepper revising his T-Bag character from Prison Break. We brought him onto the show, which was just amazing. We’ve had Mark Pellegrino come in from Lost. Amazing actors want to do this show and be that featured bad guy each week that our heroes have to catch.
It’s fun coming up with the different ways we can have a bad guy who is just not a carbon copy of the prior week’s bad guy, and we haven’t fallen into that trap at all. Each week is a brand new, exciting chase.
How much of the characters’ back stories are we going to see?
Matt: We do get to know the characters as we go along. It’s a bit of a balance in that you get to know them as they are investigating the case because you can see the show is such that there’s a finite amount of time that you have to catch this fugitive. And so it’s not like they punch out and go home, and then you have dinner with the wife and kids and address their family background in that manner. It’s on the fly and through their interaction.
There is a constant evolving of the chemistry of the convicts and the marshals working against each other.
Nick: Prison Break, you could breathe a little bit more. You could have moments where someone saunters into a cell, sits down, and they have a one-on-one about the plan or the case or what have you. Even that show had high stakes. I feel that Breakout Kings is different in the sense that we don’t have that luxury. We have to keep that pace going. These episodes are a riot. From the beginning to the end, it’s tick, tick, tick.
There is a pace, and what we can do on the show that we couldn’t do on Prison Break. This is a completely different show. It’s really not about people breaking out of prison; it’s about what happens after people break out of prison.
And the nice thing about having a cast like this, having six incredible actors, is we can mix and match. And when we are writing and talking about the story, we’ll talk about the characters, but we’ll find ourselves slipping into talking about the actors. I think we have the best cast on television.
How did the wise-ass Lloyd character, played by Jimmi Simpson, come to your mind?
Nick: We spent a few weeks just breaking down the characters, and we spent a few weeks just talking about who the characters were and what their back stories were before we wrote a single world.
How Jimmi came to mind, I had popped in an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia DVD into Matt’s office. And Jimmi comes up in the scene and Olmstead goes, ‘Oh, sh-t, Jimmi Simpson, I worked with him on NYPD Blue. The guy is a genius.’ It was one of those fortuitous moments. The first person who came into read for the role was Jimmi Simpson, and he walked out and we were like, ‘Okay. That’s one down, five to go!’
What is the tone of the show? Are there things you can do on Breakout Kings that you couldn’t have done on Prison Break?
Nick: We definitely couldn’t do all the humor that we do on Breakout Kings on Prison Break. The tone of the show is a thing unto itself – 48 Hours meets an Out of Sight in the sense that there were stakes.
We are chasing really bad guys that hurt really good people, but you are going to laugh at times while it’s going on, and you are going to feel for our six heroes and what they are going through in that case and how that case reflects on them, their lives, and their relationships.