HitFix Interview: Alphonso McAuley talks ‘Breaking In’

We’ve all heard the up-and-down “Breaking In” chronology:
Not picked up by FOX in its initial spring, but given a late-fall reprieve.
Given an “American Idol” launching pad, but eventually pushed to a different night and a weaker slot for its low-rated finale.
Cancelled by FOX, but again earning a fall reprieve. 
Returning on Tuesday (March 6) night.
It’s a lot to keep track of for viewers and press, but it’s bound to be even more disorienting if you exist within the “Breaking In” maelstrom, if you’re part of the security comedy’s cast and ensemble.
In January, with production just beginning on the second season, I sat down with Alphonso McAuley, who plays gadget-and-prank-loving Contra Security nerd Cash, to talk about the “Breaking In” journey.
In our conversation, we discuss Megan Mullally’s introduction to the cast, McAuley’s interactions with Mike Tyson and whether or not vampires sleep standing up.
Click through to make sense of some of that…
HitFix: So tell me about the roller-coaster ride that you guys have been on…
Alphonso McAuley: The roller-coaster ride has been awesome. It’s been a roller-coaster without a safety jacket — Just hold onto something, because you never know. It’s been good, man. We’ve been, let’s see… Picked up, cancelled, picked up and cancelled again.
HitFix: Does that include at the very beginning when the pilot wasn’t picked up?
AM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. From the pilot to not being picked up to being picked up to being cancelled to being picked up… It’s been great, man! I don’t know. It’s been a great roller-coaster.
HitFix: But honestly, how has it been for you not necessarily knowing what your job was at a certain point?
AM: It’s normal. This whole business is like that. You never know what’s gonna go. You never know. It’s like they’ll say, “Hey, we’ve got this deal and whatever whatever” and you do the deal and it can be anything. It could be something where they’re like, “Oh, it’s picked up” or “Oh, it’s not picked up.” You can shoot something and they’re like, “No, we’re gonna not air it” or something. You can shoot something and be cut out. It’s a whole deal. You can get something and you can be on your way to shooting it and they just stop the whole thing. I’ve had all of that, dude. So this is nothing new. It’s just like, “Eh. Alright.”
HitFix: You seem so positive now. Were you positive through the whole process?
AM: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
HitFix: Was everybody else?
AM: Uhhh… I’m not sure about everybody else. But I guess from what I’ve been through, because I’ve had a lot of experiences like this… Like, originally I was doing the first “Fat Albert” movie at one point and we went through the whole process and got the whole thing cast and then, all of a sudden, they came out and they were like, “Yeah, we’re gonna stop the production.” We were like, “What?!?” It was a big deal. At the time it was crushing, but then I’ve had a lot of other things like that, where I’ve like shot stuff and they’ve been like, “Nah, you’re cut out” or I get a deal or whatever and they’re like, “Nah, we’re not gonna do it.” So this was kinda like, same old song.  I was like, “Alright. I get it. Yeah. Alright.” Picked up. Cancelled. Picked up. Cancelled. I dunno.
HitFix: What was the communication process like through this? Who talked to who?
AM: I dunno… Some people talk to Buddha… [Laughs.] As far as communication with FOX? When you don’t know, everybody’s like “Mum’s the word.” Everybody’s quiet. They’re not saying anything. It’s just like, “I know nothing.” Everybody knows nothing. “Hey, do you know what time it is?” “I know nothing.” “What’s going on?” “I don’t know anything. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t even know my name. What’s my name? I don’t know.” They know nothing. People know nothing and so you try to get answers from your agent… “Hey, have you heard anything?” “I haven’t heard anything, because I know nothing.” And then once something’s going, then everybody knows everything.
HitFix: So how’d you finally find out the good news when there was good news?
AM: I’m like a dog whisperer, so my dog was like, “Arf! Arf!” and I was like, “Yes. We’re getting picked up, dude.”
HitFix: Your dog has his paw on the pulse of Hollywood?
AM: Yeah. Yeah. He kinda gave me the three syllables. Arf! Arf! Arf! And I was “Break. Ing. In.” Yes!
HitFix: And how much actual professional limbo were you in during this time? What were you doing to keep employed?
AM: Well, I was working at Autozone. I was getting people synthetic oils, radiator caps… No, no. I was doing a series called “Love That Girl,” which is on TV One. We did 13 episodes over there. So I’ve kinda been going back and forth with this other series and this series, so I’ve been keeping myself busy with that, plus stand-up as well. Stand-up comedy, that is.
HitFix: I figured.
AM: Not standing up girls or anything. Or standing up and sitting down. I could sleep standing up, like a vampire, sometimes.
HitFix: Like which vampire?!?
AM: Like… I dunno… The black dude from “Twilight”? With the dreads? Was he a vampire? 
HitFix: Well he was, but I don’t remember him sleeping very much.
AM: I haven’t even even seen it.
HitFix: That’s a lie.
AM: That’s a lie. But… Anyways. Let’s see. What else? That’s about it. Stand-up comedy. Improv. I’ve also been making music on the side. Shhh. Don’t tell anybody!
HitFix: You guys just had your first table read of the season?
AM: First table read and we’ve already gotten into shooting our first episode and it’s great. We’re all back. Everybody’s excited. Megan’s a beast! Megan Mullally! She’s such a killer! It’s been good, man.
HitFix: So at least for the first episode, what is her character’s introduction like to this world and to Cash in particular?
AM: She kinda comes in as this receptionist that’s very annoying and so, for Cash, he’s ready to prank the hell out of her and he comes in with that mission in mind, you know? Then we kinda find out who she really is and we’re like, “What the heck?!?” I don’t want to give it all away, but she’s a little somebody.
HitFix: And what else are you guys hearing about how this season will be developing?
AM: There’s a lot of surprises. We’ve got some great guest stars coming on and then also we’ve got some really cool storylines and we have a little change of pace with some of our capers, our missions that we go through. So it’s pretty cool. I think the audience is going to get even another dose of comedy, but also a fresh take on our heists and our missions. It should be cool, man. I don’t want to give everything away. And then Megan, dude. She’s so funny. I think people are really going to appreciate bringing in this new character, even though we’re missing Michael Rosenbaum’s character, Dutch, which kinda sucks, but at the same time, Megan’s coming in to give the audience what they need, what they want. Oh yeah!
HitFix: Actors on comedies always talk about how it sometimes takes a while for the writers to make the voices of the characters match their voices. How would you say that Cash has been tailored to you?
AM: Cash is so quirky and nerdy. I think the writers really get his voice, particularly our creator, Adam Goldberg. Basically, I’m him, just in mocha form. I’m Mocha Latte Goldberg. That’s who I am. I’m just kinda living that life that Adam is very familiar with, the very high-tech, geeky work, comic fanboy world. I think that the writers have really found that to mesh within what I can bring to the character. So it’s been good. It’s been easy.
HitFix: Is the character’s nerdiness still more Adam’s and less your own nerdiness?
AM: It’s kinda both. Some of the stuff that Adam can relate, I have an affinity with. It’s very much a collaborative effort. There’s a lot of things that I can relate to, because I was somewhat of a nerd growing up?
HitFix: Somewhat?
AM: Somewhat.
HitFix: But you passed through?
AM: I got girls, here and there. They weren’t all Barbie Dolls or blow-up dolls or anything like that. It wasn’t all that. [He laughs.] But it’s somewhat.
HitFix: So where is that overlap?
AM: It’s more with the high-tech stuff. I wasn’t like a tech guy, But other than that? The geeky stuff, that’s who I was — Comic books, big-time fanboy. So it kinda relates with that.
HitFix: Who did you feel like you didn’t get work with last season?
AM: I didn’t get to work enough with Mike Tyson. Dude, he came in for one episode. I really want to work with him some more. He was just so good. He had the voice. You know the voice? [Mike Tyson voice.] “How you doing Alfonso. How are you? Yes. You know, me and wife, we lived in Connecticut at one point.” It was like, “Dude, that’s what’s up!” Come on, dude! But I wanted to work with him some more. We did one scene with him. We had another guest star come on, Zack [Pearlman] and he actually got to do two or three scenes with him and I was just like, “Dude? What? Come on! I want to do some scenes with Tyson.”
HitFix: You have that fine impression of Tyson. When he was on set, did you do it for him?
AM: Uh, no. I don’t wanna get knocked out. I think if I did it right then and there, he would have knocked me out. No, but I did quote one of this favorite words, from the documentary “Tyson.” Well, it was one of my favorite words and I had to quote it to him. I was like, “Dude. Every time you say “skullduggery,” it makes me laugh so much. Skullduggery.” It’s hilarious.
HitFix: Did he laugh or did he threaten you?
AM: He laughed! He actually laughed. He was like, “You like that? I have other ambiguous words.” I was like, “I was like ‘ambiguous words?'”
HitFix: He doesn’t get all the words, but he tries hard.
AM: It’s great. If your commitment is there, it works. I always say, “Commit to it.”
HitFix: How about of the main actors in the cast? Was there anybody who you felt like you had particularly good chemistry with, but you didn’t get to work with enough in those six episodes?
AM: Yeah, we only had six episodes. I wanted to work more with Trevor Moore, as far as some scenes where we could collab on some things. Bret [Harrison] we had a lot of great scenes together and we always have great scenes together. But Trevor, and we’re sad that he’s not coming back this season, he’s very funny, like a genius in comedy. I wanted to do more with him, but that was probably it. But everybody else? We were good. Rosenbaum? We had great scenes together. Trevor would probably be the one.
HitFix: Are there any questions that you have about Cash that you’re looking forward to learning the answer to?
AM: I guess I want to know exactly what his intentions were if he hadn’t ended up working for Contra Security. Did he want to be anything else? Did he have other aspirations in go into any other field or occupation. That’s probably about it. I’m always interested. He’s like this security dude. He’s the tech-gadget guy. But you never know. What if he wanted to be a rocket scientist? What if he wanted to be a mechanic? I dunno. That’s probably like the only background. It’s funny, though, because they’ve started to establish stuff with Cash, like living in his mom’s garage and he’s really, really into “Star Wars” stuff and all of that. But his aspirations aside from working at Contra, that’s what I want to know.
HitFix: Given the roller-coaster, when are you going to feel comfortable with this gig?
AM: Never. Never. Never. You never want to feel comfortable with anything in Hollywood, because as long as you’re on your toes, it’s like you’re good. For me, my comfortability lies when I’m on my toes. If I feel like I’m not on my toes? I’m uncomfortable. 
HitFix: So if the show comes back huge, it’s going to be a big problem for you?
AM: If the ratings are high and all that, whatever whatever. I’m still on my toes. For me, I just always have to be on my toes, because that’s where I’m comfortable. It doesn’t matter what the numbers are, what the blah-blah-blah is, I’m always just like, “Alright. I’ve just gotta stay on my toes.” Like I said, you never know. I’ve been through so much in this business where it’s like, “Nah. I just wanna stay on-point, always keep pushing.”
HitFix: So this is the perfect job for you?
AM: Perfect job. Yeah, dude. It works. You never know. Think about it. It’s almost like a horror film. When it gets too quiet? You’re just like, “Dude. It’s a little too quiet. Somebody’s getting cut. Somebody’s getting killed or slashed.” It’s like that. If it gets too quiet, everything’s smooth sailing? I hate smooth sailing. I’m like, “Nope. Give me rough waters.” 
“Breaking In” returns to FOX on Wednesday, March 6 at 9:30 p.m.