On A&E’s new original drama series Breakout Kings, actress Serinda Swan plays Erica Reed, a sexy expert tracker who learned her trade from her bounty hunter father, prior to ending up in prison. Now, she is part of a special task force for the U.S. Marshals, run by Charlie DuChamp (Laz Alonso) and Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi), that uses former fugitives to catch current ones, in exchange for shortening their own sentences, as long as they follow the rules and don’t try to escape.
During a recent exclusive interview with Collider, Serinda Swan talked about being the only female out in the field with all of her male co-stars, getting in on the action and kicking some butt, and how excited she is for people to get to see so many different sides of herself, as an actress. She also talked about the experience of having been involved with such big sci-fi projects as Tron: Legacy and the television series Smallville. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
SERINDA SWAN: I actually originally auditioned for it in the beginning, when it was the Philly (Nicole Steinwedell) character that you see in the pilot. I ended up testing for Philly as well, and it just didn’t work out. I always had this vision of this character and was like, “Oh, I just think she would work so well in there.” So, when it came back around again and they were looking for another female character on the show, my agents got a phone call that they wanted to see me. I went back in and brought this character that I just thought worked so well and that they really had written for. Lo and behold, it was an easy process after that.
Next thing I knew, I was in the office of (executive producers) Matt [Olmstead] and Nick [Santora], talking about the character and getting ready to move to Toronto. It was great. The group of actors that I’m with is amazing. It is mainly men. Brooke [Nevin] is in all the bullpen scenes, but anything outside of the bullpen, it’s little old Erica with the rest of them. They’ve written such a strong character that she can really hold her own. It doesn’t matter if she’s with a group of guys or a group of girls. She’s pretty bad-ass.
Is it fun to be able to participate in that action and be out in the field with the guys?
SWAN: Yeah, absolutely. I love that they do that. I love action and I love doing my own stunts. I love that sort of thing. For me to get a chance to do them is great. What I love is that they could write it very typically where Shea (Malcolm Goodwin) runs after the guy and tackles him, but they give it to Erica sometimes. They actually use her and her skills, and not in a really feminine way. She kicks people hard and she knows how to throw them around. It’s really interesting that they give her that much credit and they really write into her strengths, which is so much fun.
You’ve done a lot of sci-fi recently, with Tron: Legacy, Smallville and Supernatural. Is it nice to do something a bit more grounded in reality?
SWAN: It’s nice not to have superpowers, yeah. She’s a real character. For A&E, it is real life drama. It is the real life of Erica and the drama that then happens inside of it, and that’s so much fun to play. They’ve given her this amazing skill set that she learned when she was growing up, and then, on top of that, she has a daughter. That is just phenomenal. It’s so much fun. And then, to play being in jail, at the same time, and dealing with criminals is just this medley of really intriguing moments that happen, so it’s a blast.
SWAN: The cons definitely have some really sympathetic qualities that we’ll explore throughout the season. What’s great is that we are not one-dimensional. You will see little bits of us being revealed, as it goes, but we can’t give away too much of it. You really get to see the duality between the real person and their crime, and sometimes their crime isn’t necessarily what they are actually in jail for. That’s even more interesting because you get to see what they’ve actually been doing. 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. Each character gets their own moment to really define their personalities, so I think that viewers will find a lot of sympathy in them because they can relate really easily with us.
Is this a dream job, since you get to do comedy, drama and action?
SWAN: Yeah. And, I get to wear flat shoes the whole time. Do you know how hard it is to play a character where you’re always in heels? Oh, my goodness! So, for me, every day is combat boots. Erica has not worn a pair of heels once, and I am so happy for that. I’m sure there will be some episode where I have to get all dressed up to attract a fugitive, but not yet. I get to stay in my combat boots and I am happy.
Does she mostly use her strength to go after these criminals then, as opposed to her sexuality?
SWAN: I think it’s all in her skill set and bag of tools. Mainly, it’s her intellect and her ability to track and her ability to foreshadow what the fugitives next move is. The thing is that she’s been a fugitive, so she knows. She’s also a tracker, so she knows what it’s like to be tracked as well. She’s got the duality between both, which is so interesting because she already knows this. For her, it’s amazing because she really gets to use all of her skills. She really gets to use everything that she’s been trained to do, and not just fall back on the obvious. She’s a pretty character. You could really do her up and she could just be the seductress, but they don’t use that. She’ll use it once in awhile, when she wants to get her way. You’ll see her flirt with Ray (Domenick Lombardozzi), or turn it on for Lloyd (Jimmi Simpson), or whatever it is. She’ll use it once in awhile, but that’s not her go-to and that’s why I love her. She can, but she doesn’t.
SWAN: In Episode 3, Erica meets her daughter. That one was really exciting and meaningful for me because she was such a great little actress. It was really a pivotal moment in Erica’s story, where you get to see the humanity in her and you get to see what it is she’s fighting for. I loved that episode. Also, I really liked Episode 7. That’s a heavy episode for Erica. You’ll get to see her skill sets come out and see her kick ass, and you’ll get to see more of her backstory. They’re very good at spreading out the stories, but also staying true to them and not dropping them, all of a sudden.
Are you hoping that people getting to see these other sides of you will lead to other types of work for you, in the future?
SWAN: It will definitely create variation. I’ve had diverse roles, but they’ve all had the same underlying sex appeal. This character is not that. She’s totally not. I told them, “I am not afraid to come out with any make-up on, or to not spend two hours in the hair chair. Throw me in a ponytail, get some boyfriend jeans and let’s go.” It’s exciting and it’s a little bit scary, showing that new side, but this is something else I can do. They’re receiving it really well, and I’m just going to go from there. I’m really excited for people to be able to see what else I can do, besides high heels and magic powers.
As an actor, what’s it like to be a part of TV history, having been involved with Smallville, and getting to do a film as iconic as Tron: Legacy?
SWAN: It’s really amazing. It’s where I’ve always wanted to be, and now I’m there. I have a huge journey ahead of me and I’m really excited for it. I find that every day is not about where I’ll be tomorrow, but it’s about what I’m doing today and staying in the moment. By doing that, I’m truly enjoying all of my todays. This is a new step into what my career and my life is going to be like. It’s really amazing. To be a part of something like Tron, good God! It doesn’t matter how big or small your role is, you’re like, “Yeah, I was in Tron.” Going to set and looking at Jeff Bridges, you’re like, “I don’t even know what to do with myself.” What an iconic person, and what a sheer gentleman. And, Smallville was just a blast. What an amazing group of cast, crew, writers, directors, and everybody. It was just a pleasure to be on their set, anytime.