A&E’s new action dramedy Breakout Kings, produced by Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora, who created the popular Prison Break, follows the unconventional partnership between US Marshals’ Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) and Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi) and three criminals they once caught, who are now working for them finding and capturing other escaped fugitives.
The trio of cons are, Lloyd Lowry (Jimmi Simpson) a former child prodigy and behaviorist/psychiatric expert; Shea Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin) an ex-gang banger who knows how to work the system and Erica Reed (Serinda Swan) a sexy expert tracker who learned her trade from her bounty hunter father. Joining them is Julianne Simms (Brooke Nevin) a civilian who acts as the ‘funnel’ for the group – all information, tips and data go through her.
This creative group of con artists talked with us about their new series!
Have any of you watched Prison Break?
Jimmi Simpson: I’ve seen a few episodes. I was blown away by the pilot, and every episode I caught after that.
Brooke Nevin: I think for all of us, the success of Prison Break, and the really interesting drawn out characters in that show was a factor in us wanting to work with Matt and Nick because they did such great work on Prison Break.
Jimmi, you are known for your role on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, how comedic is this show for you and your character?
Jimmi: I think what’s great about the show is that it’s somewhat of a procedural, but it’s also really character-based. So it provides a platform for each one of these characters in this cop show to develop their personalities, and yet Lloyd Lowery is a bit of a wise ass. He’s kind of funny sometimes. He’s a little annoying sometimes. The show, because it has the freedom of character, allows for comedy within this kind of structure.
Can you say what makes your characters sympathetic?
Serinda Swan: Matt and Nick have written some amazing back stories to our characters. So we are able to not only be the con, we definitely have some really sympathetic qualities that we’ll explore throughout the season. We are not one-dimensional.
Tiny bits of us will be revealed as it goes along. [We’ll] also see their crimes. And sometimes their crime isn’t necessarily what they are actually in jail for. So that’s even more interesting. We are real people in difficult situations, and sometimes those difficult situations are what put us into jail just because we made the wrong decision.
Brooke: There’s a fine line between the idea of who is good and who is bad. We have basically two groups on each side of the law, it’s not clearly defined that these are good people and these are bad people. These are just people that all have strong intentions, and they are thrown into a really high-stake situation.
Serinda: I think what makes our show different is it’s a drama, but it’s like a dramedy – it’s high energy, but you do get the comedic relief, each character gets their own moment to really define their personalities. So in that, they can find a lot of sympathy as well because they can relate really easily with us.
Malcom Goodwin: I also think each con has someone they are trying to get home to. You see what they have to go through inside the prison as well, because, after we catch a fugitive, we have to go back. And if that information every got out amongst the other prisoners that could be it for each and every one of us. But what we are trying to get home to is so big and so important to us that it’s worth that.
Jimmi, when you have to do these long speeches of very precise psychological terms, how hard are those to memorize.
Jimmi: No matter how long it is, if it makes sense and if it’s logical and if it’s well written, it’s easy to memorize because it just makes sense to your brain. And so, luckily, when there happens to be a two-page or a full-page monolog, it’s not that hard to memorize because the writing is so good.
Did any of you check out what it would be like to have a prison experience?
Serinda: I had to spend eight hours in jail one time for unpaid parking tickets, which was absolutely horrific. If anyone knows Vancouver, the East Cordova Jail is probably the worst one you ever want to go to, and that’s where I was. So I think I am kind of the badass of this group.
Malcom: I made a few phone calls. I grew up in Brooklyn and Harlem. So a lot of this information about prison life was really a phone call way, certain cousins and friends. That was my direct source for a of information.
Jimmi, is there some point where you realize this is a series that could go on for a long time?
Jimmi: Yeah, in the reading of it. I haven’t really focused on television series regulars too much, especially in hour-longs. A lot of it is kind of formulaic, although it’s somewhat entertaining. And then this script came along, and it was the character that jumped out first and foremost.
I just thought it was really fresh and original, and it seemed like it was written in a way that opened it up for some kind of breathing room, and it just seemed like an actor’s role in the middle of a weird pilot season.