If you’ve seen the promos for Season 2 of A&E’s Breakout Kings (premiering Sunday at 10/9c), you’ve gotten wind of the big twist that’s coming: One of the Kings falls. But that shocking send-off not only packs an immediate emotional punch, it has a ripple effect on the surviving team members, making them more cautious, but also, contradicting enough, bolder in the actions. Meaning, rules are gonna be broken as the ragtag team of crafty cons help the U.S. Marshal service hunt down escaped prisoners.
Serinda Swan, who plays the deadly sexy Erica Reed, spoke with TVLine about Season 2’s changes, where she stands on “boobs out, ass out” characterizations, and the new threat that promises to keep the Kings on their toes all season long.
TVLINE | Is there is a theme to Season 2 of Breakout Kings?
We have this through line of Damien [the season premiere’s elusive target, played by Roswell‘s Jason Behr], which is pretty cool. But the main thing we heard from the fans last year was the desire to know more about the characters’ stories, about their lives, to see them interact more. And I think [series creators] Matt [Olmstead] and Nick [Santora] and the whole writing team did a wonderful job listening, because this year they did that. As a result, we got to have more fun, and we get more laughs. For example, there is a lot of humor in the breakouts. You’ll have [a convict] running naked across a field, while all of us are staring at each other like, “What exactly is going on here?”
TVLINE | And in the premiere there’s this utterly random flirty moment between Erica and some guy who accidentally gets off the elevator at their headquarters.
We relax a little bit more — because in the first season, it’s difficult to do that. That about coming together as a team, and now we are that team, which is a lot more fun.
TVLINE | Would you say that the Kings are more empowered this season?
We proceed with some caution based on the fact that one of the kings falls [in the premiere] — that puts a bit of hesitation in us — but yes, we definitely get different kinds of privileges. You’ll see a few rules, like “No cons get weapons,” get broken. We push the boundaries a bit.
TVLINE | Good, because having an extra gun handy could have changed how the premiere ended.
I think they address that really well in the [second] episode, because that was a problem. In the first season, I know I got a gun twice, and I think Shea (played by Malcolm Goodwin) got a gun once… but it was always in very live-or-die situations. And yet you have to remember who you’re working with – Shea the gang-banger, Lloyd the super-eccentric brainchild (Jimmi Simpson), and Erica the rage-issue mother who is a murderess. Put all of them together and it’s organized chaos.
TVLINE | In Season 1, we touched on Erica’s daughter, and her bounty hunter father’s death. There will be more of that?
There’s actually another storyline that comes into this season that’s quite interesting — a possible love interest comes into her life, and that shakes things up. She gets her game on. I can’t say who with, but.. she’s definitely getting something that I don’t think she’s supposed to be! [Laughs]
TVLINE | Well, let’s talk about Erica’s innate sexuality. Is that something you’re OK with because she owns it, and more often than not she is being badass?
That was one of the main things I talked to Matt and Nick about before I did the show — Who is Erica? And how do they see her using her sexuality? Because if it’s very overtly sexual and she’s just sort of this campy girl, I wasn’t really interested in playing that. That’s in her bag of tricks, but it’s not her go-to move. She’s not always dressed up, boobs out, ass out. When she has to be feminine – you see her go undercover this season in a tiny little dress and in heels – it doesn’t bother me, because it’s just a part of her repertoire. It’s not just, “I’m sexy, I’m sexy, I’m sexy.” I get to do a scene in a dress and a wig, and in the next one I’m punching a 6-foot-6 monstrosity of a man 20 times in the face because I have rage issues. That’s the type of diversity I love.
TVLINE | It’s also fun to note that while she’s been deducting time from her sentence doing captures with the Kings, she’s also had time added….
Yeah, for bad contact time [in prison] – “BCT.” This season she gets a little more punchy. She doesn’t really take any bulls–t. But at the same time she’s not as much of a spazz. You get the more calculated side of her.
TVLINE | When we get done with this interview, you’re off to Cambodia, as part of your effort to raise awareness about human sex trafficking. What brought this cause into focus for you?
I saw a documentary on CNN about it, and I knew there was something that I had to do. And as soon as I was done shooting [Season 1], I booked a ticket to Southeast Asia to travel thru Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand, where it’s a huge problem, to see firsthand what was going on. After I got back, I put on a fundraiser called “18 for 18,” which involved throwing myself out of a plane at 18,000 feet to raise $18,000 — and in 10 days we had raised over $38,000.
TVLINE | And how does that chunk of change possibly help?
There’s a group in Cambodia called Voices for Change, and they go to front lines and to brothels and do rescues, and they needed a van. We also did donations for computers to educate, because they do a three-year reintegration program [with rescues]. And there’s medical supplies, security for the sanctuaries and the rescue centers…. Tonight I leave for Cambodia, where we’re [bike] riding out of Phnom Penh, raising funds for Somaly Mam. I also have a nonprofit called Friends to Mankind. Nowadays people in the entertainment industry can have a louder voice than politicians and I think it’s important that they use that voice to say something positive, or to give a voice to somebody that’s had theirs taken away.