June 27, 2013 1:30pm PT by Philiana Ng
'Graceland's' Serinda Swan: The Entire World 'Gets Turned Upside Down' (Exclusive Video)
Graceland's next mission? Stop a dangerous drug ring.
The USA Network drama from creator Jeff Eastin revolves around a group of law-enforcement officers from the DEA, FBI and U.S. Customs who live together in an undercover beach house in Southern California.
Serinda Swan, who plays DEA agent Paige Arkin, pulls together a new mission when she's hot on the trail of a drug ring. The Hollywood Reporter debuts an exclusive clip from Thursday's episode, "Pizza Box," where Paige recruits the help of Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) and Johnny (Manny Montana).
As the season progresses — and Mike's (Aaron Tveit) investigation into Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) goes deeper — "The entire Graceland world gets turned upside down," the actress tells THR.
The Hollywood Reporter: Can you recall a memorable moment in filming your very first episode?
Serinda Swan: The first time I ever met Aaron [Tveit] is the first scene that I get introduced in ["Guadalajara Dog"], in the karaoke bar. It wasn't written in the script, but I just slapped his ass. (Laughs.) Obviously I couldn't see his face cause I walked out of the room, but I actually got to see his face in this episode, and he totally didn't expect that — not in the slightest.
THR: What was it like jumping into the fray in episode two?
Swan: This seems to be my thing. With Breakout Kings, I didn't shoot the pilot; I came in during the second episode. It's extremely flattering and it's a lovely way to do things if you don't have to go through the process of getting a pilot, shooting it, waiting to see if it gets picked up. Mine was a six-day process and it was one of the fastest reading to shooting experiences I'd ever done. But it's nerve-racking. You feel like the foreign exchange student on the first day of school where you're not sure if anybody's gonna like you or if they're gonna be upset because they've switched up the cast. I don't think they had much choice in accepting me or not; I just went in slapping people's asses and making jokes. They made me feel comfortable, and they're such lovely people on and off set. The transition was seamless, and I think that's how I went from being a three-episode guest star to one of the series regulars.
THR: So when you went first went into it, you were under the impression that it would just be a temporary stay?
Swan: When the project first came to me, it was a three-episode guest star. Then it became a three-episode guest star with an option attached. When I eventually went in, they had me sign two contracts -- one for the three-episodes and [one where I] sign away six to seven years of my life as a series regular. They got the best of both worlds. If they didn't like me, they'd be like, "See ya later!" And if they liked me, then they'd have me locked down.
STORY: 'Graceland': Manny Montana on Being the Comic Relief, 'Rollercoaster' Season
THR: How would you describe your character, Paige?
Swan: She's got a huge heart; she has tons of fun. Yes, she's a party girl, but she keeps you on your toes. She's extremely intelligent. She's not dark, which is interesting for me because a lot of the characters that I've played have tortured pasts and that's where this angst comes from. When I talked to [creator] Jeff Eastin about it, I asked him, "What is your idea of Paige? What do you want to feel when she walks in the room?" He said, "Sunshine and happiness and laughter." It's all of that with an edge.
THR: What are Paige's biggest obstacles as we navigate through the season?
Swan: Keeping the house together because it's her family. She loves everybody. She doesn't want to see them get hurt, and she's fighting with that and fighting against the house rules and what they all live by. You kind of get to see that where certain circumstances come up and normally how she would react is one thing, but now she's having to bend that a bit. In her case, it looks like love wins, and that's really interesting for her.
THR: One of the bigger questions is Mike's investigation into Briggs. What can you hint at in terms of how that plays out?
Swan: There are all these twists and turns, and you'd think that Mike's gonna keep it to himself and build this case against Briggs, but you start to see the family that's created and see that family mentality, which is hard for him because he's investigating one of us. As he gets deeper, we also get deeper with him, so he starts to become more [a part] of our family. As this relationship with Briggs and Mike goes on, you're going to see Paige spiral out of control.
THR: How close does she get to Mike as the season goes on?
Swan: I can't tell you what really goes on in that sense because we're pretty tight-lipped on that, but everyone's relationships get a lot closer. Some get closer because they're undercover and they have to be, some get closer because there's actually feelings there. There are many different types of relationships that happen within the house.
THR: In this week's episode, Paige teams up with Johnny and Jakes for a case. What can you say about what their mission is this week?
Swan: It was one of the most fun episodes that we shot all season. It's a lot of action, it's got some great comedy. We laughed so much. It's got a really fun story; it focuses on a drug ring, which brings in the DEA, but it's the first time we get to see Paige in action. It was funny for me because it was my third episode and I was just like, "Do I get shot in the head?" If I live through this, I know that they're renewing my contract. (Laughs.)
THR: Do you have a favorite moment or scene from this particular episode?
Swan: There's one scene where you get to see Paige's skills. She has to go up against this drug ring. My favorite, which I think is now in the outtakes, is Jakes and I in a truck, and it's a fun, light scene. And Manny takes his shirt off, so for the ladies out there, there's some hot, sexy shirtless boys in this episode.
THR: How would you describe her journey for the rest of the season? Where do we see her at the end of this season compared to when we first met her?
Swan: You definitely see the cracks of this facade. For her, it's heartbreaking as things get revealed, as people start to spiral downward. It's interesting because as an undercover agent, the closer you get to the person that you're after, usually the worse things you have to do. In order to actually bring somebody down, you have to question yourself and ask, "What side of my moral compass am I going to be on? If I cross that, can I ever really come back?" You're going to see us all do things at the end of the season that you would never imagine us doing at the beginning of the season. It'll be interesting to see -- knock on wood -- if we get a second season, where they're going to go.
Graceland airs 10 p.m. Thursdays on USA Network.