Everything You Need to Know About 'Breakout Kings'
by Annette Bourdeau, posted Mar 1st 2011 2:00PM
TV Squad is in one of the seediest strip clubs in Toronto, watching Lauren Velez from 'Dexter' chatting amicably with a tough-looking thug and a pretty young stripper.
We're on the set of the new A&E crime show 'Breakout Kings,' and Velez and company are gearing up to film an intense shoot-out scene. Created by Matt Olmstead ('Prison Break,' 'NYPD Blue') and Nick Santora ('Prison Break,' 'The Sopranos'), each episode follows an unconventional team of two U.S. Marshals and three inmates trying to catch an escaped fugitive.
The rationale behind the unusual arrangement is that "it takes a con to catch a con." In exchange for helping the Marshals hunt down escaped bad guys, the three inmates get a break from jail while they're on the case, and a month off of their total sentences for each criminal they net. This time around, Velez is playing the inmate on the run -– a far cry from her role as the career-driven Lt. Maria Laguerta on 'Dexter.'
'Breakout Kings' stars Domenick Lombardozzi ('The Wire,' 'Entourage') and Laz Alonso ('Southland') as the two U.S. Marshals, Brooke Nevin ('The Comebacks') as the Marshals' office staffer, and Jimmi Simpson ('It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'), Malcolm Goodwin ('American Gangster') and Serinda Swan ('TRON: Legacy') as the three inmates.
We spent a day on the 'Breakout Kings' set and caught up with Olmstead, Lombardozzi, Alonso and Simpson to get the scoop on everything you need to know about prime time's latest crime show.
1. The line between good guys and bad guys is blurred. Mixing cons and cops is a recipe for instant tension. "It creates combustible chemistry," says Olmstead. But the cons aren't all bad, and the Marshals aren't all good, which makes the show that much more engrossing.
2. The first episode ends with a kicker. Olmstead and Santora loved how the 'Prison Break' pilot ended with a bang, and decided to do the same with 'Breakout Kings.' "If you can do a cool 'oh s--t' moment, why not?" says Olmstead.
3. There's no lab on this crime show (we're thankful for that!). This unique crime-fighting unit spends most of its time out in the field (often in pretty cool locations) hunting down the escapees. In one episode, they find themselves in a rock quarry. "It was really cool. It looked like Mars, and it was really cold," says Lombardozzi.
4. The show was originally supposed to air on Fox. The network abruptly dropped it, and the show died for a little while before A&E snapped it up. "We appreciate the show more than ever because it almost didn't make it," says Olmstead.
5. A 'Prison Break' favorite, T-Bag, resurfaces. "A lot of 'Prison Break' fans are chomping at the bit to see T-Bag (Robert Knepper). The beauty is that it also brings closure to some open-ended questions from 'Prison Break,'" says Alonso. "When they finished shooting, Robert burst into tears and said he's been waiting for five years for that closure."
6. There will be plenty of other high-caliber guest stars, including 'Dexter's Velez and Mark Pellegrino ('Lost'). Since the episodes revolve around getting into the escapees' heads, the guest stars get a fair chunk of screen time. "The fact that the guest characters are so integral gives a reason to find great actors," says Simpson.
7. These Marshals aren't your typical crimefighters. Lombardozzi isn't a stranger to playing a law enforcement role. He spent five seasons as Herc, an undercover narcotics officer on HBO's 'The Wire,' but he says his role as Ray is completely different. "Herc was an intimidating kind of guy who bent the rules until they broke. Ray bends on this show, but doesn't break the rules."
8. This isn't the first time Olmstead and Simpson have worked together. Simpson did a guest spot on 'NYPD Blue' when Olmstead was working on the show, and Simpson was hard to forget. He played a snitch-type, and there was a scene where Dennis Franz repeatedly pushed his head into a bowl of chili. The two reminisced about the chili-face takes during casting sessions for 'Breakout Kings.'
9. There's comic relief. Simpson is best known for his roles in comedies such as 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' and 'Date Night,' but he says he feels right at home on 'Breakout Kings,' since his character (the annoying know-it-all Lloyd) is often a source of comic relief. "With this role there's a through-line of comedy. They allow the human part to shine through," he says.
10. There may or may not be romantic tension. Everybody was tight-lipped about the romantic possibilities, but with four men and two women, there's got to be at least some tension. "There are some undertones. I can tell you my character doesn't get lucky," says Lombardozzi.
Fun Fact #1: Simpson is married to the delightful actress Melanie Lynskey, who plays Rose on 'Two and a Half Men.' She was on set the day we visited to support her hubby. Awww.
Fun Fact #2: Alonso wants you to follow him on Twitter: @lazalonso
Fun Fact #3: You can catch bad guys, too, thanks to the free 'Breakout Kings' iPhone app/augmented reality game called GoldRun. Or, play online by taking pictures of any rogue orange jumpsuits you find in New York, LA, Philadelphia, Chicago or San Francisco and send them in for a chance to win cash.
'Breakout Kings' premieres on A&E -- with limited commercial interruption -- on Sunday, March 6, at 10PM ET.