She may be playing a crime-solver instead of a convict, but after two years kicking butt and taking names as Erica on Breakout Kings, Graceland star Serinda Swan is well aware that she's seen in a certain light. And she loves it.
"I'm not quite sure why people think I'm some murdering psychopath tough chick. I'm wondering why I'm typecast as this badass," she tells TVGuide.com with a laugh.
Swan stars on Graceland as Paige Arkin, a fun-loving DEA agent who works as hard as she plays and uses her party girl image as "a great cover to get into the worst cartels and the worst situations," Swan says. Although she may still be packing heat and throwing left hooks, Paige is a far cry from the dark Erica. "When I talked to [creator] Jeff Eastin before I took the role, I said to him, 'What is the feeling that you want to evoke in the audience when Paige comes on screen?' He said, 'It's a ray of sunshine,'" Swan recalls. "I was like alright, I've never done that before. I've never been that beach-y, all-American, fun girl. ... She's a really strong woman, but it's a different way of portraying it."
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However, the most recent episodes of Graceland have been anything but sunshine and rainbows for Paige after Mike (Aaron Tveit) confessed to her that he was placed in the house specifically to investigate their roommate Briggs (Daniel Sunjata). "She's totally thrown. She's on the fence about it," Swan says. "But she's still open to hearing what he has to say. I think that's because she knows who Mike is at the core and knows he wasn't doing it maliciously and he probably had no idea that's why he was there at first. That's kind of the saving grace — she knows him. And she saw how sorry he was. But the fact that he's still here for that reason still pisses her off and hurts her."
On Thursday's episode (10/9c, USA), Paige goes one step further and agrees to help Mike with a part of his investigation. "She can't decide whether or not Mike is an enemy to Graceland or a friend that's trying to figure out what's really going on," Swan says. "There's that one side where she's keeping an eye on him, and then there's that other side that's just straight curiosity. There are a lot of things that just don't add up. Paige is an amazing agent. That's something that we really haven't gotten to develop yet but at the end of the day, there's a reason that each of these characters are at Graceland."
However, things quickly get complicated when Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) also agrees to help Briggs. "Lines are drawn in the sand. It's really interesting to see how the dynamic in the house changes because we all team up, and as we do it, we all smile with one another," Swan says. "We're all trying to be normal and we're all trying to pretend that there's nothing going on, but every single person in the house is now investigating somebody else in the house or helping somebody investigate somebody else in the house."
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Although Paige may not completely trust Mike, or Briggs for that matter, her intentions are very pure. "She wants Mike to turn up nothing. She wants Briggs to never know they were investigating him," Swan says. "She wants a few more days for everything to settle down and be fine and have her home and her family again."
That sense of family seems to be shared among the cast when the cameras stop rolling as well, as evidenced by Swan's memorable first day on set when she had to film Paige performing karaoke. "Not only am I singing, I'm singing in Korean in a tiny little dress and I have to shake my boobs in Mike's face," she says. "The whole cast showed up to watch me sing. I was mortified. But they were all super supportive and came up and gave me big hugs afterwards. I was like Mike at Graceland — everyone just kind of welcomed me in."
The addition of Paige into the group was a particularly surprising one considering the role was originally a guest star part with an option to recur. The night after Swan read for the role, the role was upped to a three-episode arc and then to a series regular. "It was definitely a bit hard, especially because I had to pull out of this other movie and it was one of the biggest roles I had ever got. It was a tough one to swallow. But at the end of the day, the pilot was the highest-tested pilot in USA history so it's kind of a no-brainer when you look at it," Swan says. "I always joke that it's the easiest job I ever got."
Watch full episodes of Graceland
Although it may have taken a few episodes for Paige to find her spot within the group, she's now one-half of Graceland's most-shipped couple. "I think Paige and Mike have a certain relationship that nobody else does," Swan says. "She knows there are no relationships in Graceland, but if she were to get into a relationship, I think it would definitely be with Mike."
So is there hope for Paige and Mike? Swan says she doesn't know what the writers hold for the twosome. "I'm open for everything," Swan says, "but I kind of love this weird awkward thing that they have. You know that they both have this weird little crushes on each other, but at the same time, neither is acting on it. It's bizarre situation. I'm very interested to see how the writers are going to navigate that."
Graceland airs Thursdays at 10/9c on USA. Do you want Mike and Paige to get together?