Christian Slater is starring in the new FOX show, Breaking In, an offbeat ½ hour comedy about a high-tech security firm. They break into potential clients offices, expose their security risks and then offers them services. I saw the first episode and it’s definitely a fun show. FOX has so much faith in it that it’s airing right after American Idol.
I talked to Christian on a conference call about how most of his characters are morally ambiguous, how this character reminds him of one of his past roles and sitting in the Captains chair. Captain Kirk’s. From Star Trek. Watch the show, you’ll see what I mean.
Breaking In airs on FOX Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30c
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes
This part shows your great comic timing and it almost feels like it’s you and not written. Is there any kind of improv going on?
Christian Slater: Yes there’s definitely been a little bit of improv going on, certainly. When I first got the script, the character of Oz hadn’t been really clearly identified. So when I sat down with Doug Robinson and Seth Gordon and Adam Goldberg, we just started talking and came up with ideas and I figured, you know what? I’ve got nothing to lose here so why don’t I just throw out some options and some things that I would like to particularly do in a show and see what these guys think. 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. If we can actually pull off getting the Captain Kirk chair in the show that would be wondrous!”
I was going ask, was that Captain Kirk chair your idea? Because I know you’re a fan.
Christian Slater: Yes, well a buddy of mine had gotten me the 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, I think, would represent, in a way, who this Oz character is. He is definitely the captain of this particular ship. It does have a throne-like quality and it also has a little bit of a throwback-type quality as well. I’m a fairly eccentric character myself and the fact that these guys were so open to hiring people and including a lot of their own personal eccentricities into the characters was thrilling.
Do you think that you’re getting the roles and the parts and the offers these days that you really should be getting?
Christian Slater: Look, I mean my ego of course wants to say, “Yeah, I’m the greatest actor who ever lived. I’m absolutely brilliant and I should be doing everything that’s out there.” But I’m going to use this show, hopefully, as an opportunity to exercise every kind of fantasy that I can get away with on national television.
What continues to be appealing to you about working on television?
Christian Slater: I like the consistency of it. I like the pace of it. With the first two experiences I had, I really did respond well to the schedule. It’s a very, very fast moving train. I don’t like sitting around. I really like to get in there and do the job and get it done and feel good about it at the end of the day, and that pretty much seems to be the vibe on all the sets that I’ve gotten to be a part of.
You have to love the fact that you’re following American Idol, I mean from a business standpoint it probably doesn’t get any better than that.
Christian Slater: Sure. No, no, absolutely. We are all very thrilled and certainly happy with the support from FOX. I’ve been thinking about it a little bit, I kind of feel a little bit like Goldilocks. I mean I tried out the one bed, it didn’t fit. I tried out the other bed, it didn’t fit. This bed here at FOX feels just right.
What is it about the character Oz that makes him tick? What attracted you to that character?
Christian Slater: Well, I do like the fact that he is an eight-moves ahead kind of guy. You know, he pretty much knows what the outcomes are going to be right from the get-go, which I really appreciated and I like. I think it’s nice to have characters like that on TV. It makes people feel safe and comfortable. Even though it’s a made up character it still, I think, makes people feel safe that there’s somebody out there like that, potentially. I like that he’s in charge. I like that he likes to have fun, that he doesn’t really take things all that seriously and he’s just kind of a guy—a very mysterious guy, and there’s definitely a lot more going on beneath the surface than he’s revealing.
With all of the different projects you’ve done, is there one particularly special to you?
Christian Slater: I think so. Usually when I’m doing radio interviews, it always reminds me of Pump Up the Volume. I loved that character. I had a great time. It certainly was in the earlier portion of my career. I loved the director and I loved Samantha Mathis, and I just felt that the story was just very good and very rich and very emotional.
In the past, and currently on Breaking In, you’ve played a lot of really morally ambiguous characters. What tends to draw you to roles like that?
Christian Slater: I love characters with edge. I love characters that are a little bit more dangerous, a little bit unpredictable. I think they’re just fun to play. They’re definitely more interesting than just your standard, run-of-the-mill action-y type hero. I love just being these guys that are a little offbeat and a little twisted, and just a little dangerous.
What would you say has made a career as an actor rewarding for you so far?
Christian Slater: I think the opportunities to experience so many different things. To get the opportunity to, quite honestly, travel; see things. At times, I get the opportunities to go on USO tours where if I wasn’t in the position that I’m in I wouldn’t have those chances to get to go to Bahrain or Djibouti, or get to visit the Walter Reed Medical Center. So having those kinds of experiences are quite remarkable and certainly perspective-changing.
Did you always want to get into this industry while you were growing up or did you have other professions in mind?
Christian Slater: I did not really get too many opportunities to think of other professions. My mother talked to me about being a lawyer or a doctor, that sort of thing, but at the same time, she was a casting director so I was surrounded by actors. I would sit in her casting sessions when she couldn’t get a babysitter and I’d have to sit there and watch actors do auditions over and over again and my father was an actor, so pretty much show business was something that was just kind of ingrained into me at a very, very early age.
Oz in Breaking In are different than a lot of your roles up until now in that it’s a comedy rather than a drama. What made you decide you wanted to do this genre of TV?
Christian Slater: Well, Doug Robinson told me that he’d seen me do a few comedy things. I did a bit on Curb Your Enthusiasm and I did something on The Office and I was pretty much playing myself in—well I was, I was playing a version of myself in those particular shows. This was an opportunity to create a character from the ground up and really make somebody come to life in a comedy-esque type fashion. It was something new, it was something different. It was something that certainly feels more geared towards my strengths and things that I really do enjoy doing.
I definitely prefer doing comedy. I think comedy is vital in our world. I think it’s very, very important and we need as many excuses to laugh and be jolly at this particular time.
Because of a lot of your roles, the public sees you as a dangerous, cool guy with a shady past. I know it’s a role but that’s how we always see you. Can you tell us anything about yourself that would totally surprise or shock any Christian Slater fans?
What’s your advice to actors?
Christian Slater: I think not taking yourself too seriously is vital. This is a job; it’s a gig. Building a life outside of the business is extraordinarily important. It can’t all just be about this business.
As you get older, what do you like most about the roles that you do now, as compared to early days?
Christian Slater: Well, it’s funny. I mean I’m now the boss, which is very interesting. For me, to kind of—have been around long enough to get the opportunity to be the guy who can actually appropriately sit in the captain’s chair is quite shocking, but I guess that’s just what happens when you keep breathing.