Inside Fox’s ‘Prison Break’ revival

I just meant it wasn’t useful for character research. Purcell: Both of the guys have grown up. Miller: I wouldn’t rule it out. That meant we had to go through Lincoln and experience his confusion, and experience the mystery through his eyes when he hears that his brother could still be alive. Scheuring: I know there will be a desire perhaps from fans, perhaps from the network and some of the actors, I’m sure. Miller: I didn’t [rewatch anything]. Miller: It speaks to what’s happening in the world today, it taps into current events and feels relevant. Scheuring: Breaking out of prison is only the start [for Michael], because then you’re still in a war zone, you’re still in a country run by ISIS. Scheuring: The idea is that you’re a stranger in a strange land where around every single corner in that country, you are paranoid. They’re all in totally new places than where we left them. I didn’t make a concerted effort to reset so that the new fans could understand because one of the other things is everybody can catch up online or OnDemand. At the end of the day, shows like Prison Break or X-Files, they do have a legacy. If you just brought him back in a page and said, “Here’s Michael Scofield, our lead again,” and we lensed everything through him, the audience might feel ripped off. Callies: A huge part of wanting to come back was that Paul was the brain behind it. Callies: I re-watched all of season 1 and 2, most of 4. Miller: We move at a break neck speed, which feels right to me. Purcell: [The story is] very, very poignant and timely, and it’s just going to lend itself to a fascinating spectacle when it airs. Purcell: It’s just quicker resolutions to what we’re doing and it just lends itself to heightened entertainment. This is a retelling of the Odyssey with Michael as Odysseus and you have to remember all of the varied villains that Odysseus encountered on that trip back to Ithaca. Scheuring: I wasn’t necessarily trying to be topical. Purcell: The chemistry and the dynamic between us, it hadn’t really changed. But I also more importantly trusted that Michael was still in me somewhere. At this stage, it’s a closed-ended story for me. I rode that bike for four years so I imagined, just like riding a bicycle, it would come back to me. Where we find these characters at the end of these nine episodes is somewhere that feels right and earned and satisfying. Callies: Paul was like, “You know that Homeric epic, The Odyssey? I would love to do season 6. All of the actors would say that it wasn’t much of a stretch for us to get back into character. Miller: I do think it’s possible to watch the reboot not having seen the original and enjoy it for what it is, but the viewing pleasure will certainly be deepened if you’re familiar with the original. Scheuring and the trio of original stars share how they formulated their (escape) plan. Scheuring: I went back and watched it, and really made sure that we were there with the tone and the dynamism of it, and also the heart ultimately. I looked at my notes from old scripts. Part of the mystery of why Michael’s in that prison is who he “got in bed with” that landed him there. My ultimate goal is to make sure to the best of my abilities what we’re doing now hangs together with what came before. His primary goal is getting back to his family, regaining what’s he lost, what he was made to sacrifice. I made the choice not to, partly that was about time and scheduling. It’s just caged animals, who are actually not in cages, but in these huge spaces, vast environments of just chaos and madness and there’s no real protection. Michael was a guiding force in his life, part of his moral conscience, which has been spinning in Michael’s absence. FOX
3. Miller: I will say that I appreciated how the original series ended: it felt right to me that Michael had to atone, Michael had to make things right. Scheuring: It was critical. I went back and read The Odys­sey again and it’s exactly that: Odysseus fell off the map for seven years after the Trojan War and was presumed dead. She’s moved through her grief to the point where she realized that her grief was an extravagance her son couldn’t afford, and so she decided to make him her life’s work   and honors the legacy of his dead father by giving him a good life. It was smart, it was brave, it was direct, it wasn’t coy. Yeah, we’re just going to do that in nine hours of television.” It’s bonkers. The question isn’t whether he’ll escape, but if the Prison Break reboot can recapture the magic of the original. Check out an exclusive sneak peek from Prison Break‘s return:

Prison Break returns Tuesday at 9 p.m. It was like a homecoming and I really relied on Dominic to ground me in the moment. Find a compelling hook:
Scheuring: [The reboot is] ­ultimately a story about somebody coming back to life. The show has a geopolitical awareness to it this season that it didn’t before in terms of it being much more current. Miller: I love that the show is set in foreign locales, that it’s not just the U.S., that we are telling a broader story and at the same time it remains intimate, essentially it’s about family and sacrifice and brotherhood and loyalty, the very things that made us this international hit. He is tortured by some of the things that he’s seen, that he’s participated in, and the question of, “How do I make that right? Hire the original cast:
Paul T. Purcell: This looks like something out of Midnight Express. Miller: It’s essentially a western, bad guys versus good guys, who’s wearing the white hat, who’s wearing the dark hat, you want to make sure the guy wearing the dark hat is fascinating and terrifying and multi-dimensional so that your heroes, Michael and Lincoln, are pitted against the most dangerous foes imaginable. I wasn’t in 3, so who cares? Dominic Purcell: It was exciting. One, I thought he was dead, and if not, what has he been doing for eight years? I feel like the fans suffered for that, because as some point, you run out of narrative and you start making up stuff that’s lesser quality. At the end of the day, this is not a story about “We’ve got to stop ISIS,” it just happens to be that Michael has gotten mixed up with the worst possible antagonist. Miller: It feels right at nine episodes; it feels tight and satisfying. Scheuring: I really quite like this more abbreviated, limited run schedule because we basically had gleaned it to the bone. Purcell: It was just like putting on an old suit. But if we kept him off-screen [in prison] and made him the object of the story rather than subject, and how he came to be alive again was a mystery, then I thought that that would be a creatively genuine way to approach it. Sarah Wayne Callies: Prison Break meant a tremendous amount to me personally, and I have a job [on Colony], so I only wanted to come back if we’re doing something brave. He had a lot of blood on his hands and it did not feel satisfying or 100 percent appropriate to me that he got to ride off into the sunset with his bride and their unborn child after all the mayhem that he instigated. Callies: I don’t know that I’ve ever seen, of any show, a 22-episode season where there isn’t an episode or two in the middle where you’re like “Eh, come on, you just ran out of s— to do, so you filled it in a little bit.” We don’t have those episodes. I think we probably needed another episode or two. Here in Yemen, the jails are a little bit more hardcore. Miller: Michael’s walked a dark road. Scheuring: The initial instinct for the show was Michael Scofield died in season 4, so we have to bring him back. I did all the archival stuff and then realized that Sara’s changed as much as I have. Prison Break is back for, well, another prison break. I feel like there’s more story there. Miller: It does set the bar high because you want to live up to expectations. Callies: I am grateful to be here. Eight years after Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) died — well, supposedly died — the tatted former inmate of Fox River returns in an Odyssey-inspired tale where he desperately plots another prison break, this time from a Yemeni jail, in order to reunite with his brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), former wife Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies), and the son he’s never met. Wentworth Miller: It’s like a high school reunion. I love the show so much. If this is all it is, this is enough. Happy as far as Prison Break would define happy ending [Laughs]. Creator Paul T. Using J.J. The first season of Prison Break, in my opinion, was just classic, beautiful storytelling. That’s one of his endearing qualities is that he’s a badass, but you can tell that he’s a badass with a heart; he’s not a murderer or a bad human being. Welcome old fans and new:
Scheuring: At the early stages, there was this constant network concern that new fans would not understand it. Miller: That first scene we shot I’m behind bars and Dominic is standing on the other side and it was just like old times. Keep that heart rate up:
Purcell: This kind of genre is best told in limited episodes, because the flow is very fast and it doesn’t drag out. Look to the show’s future:
Purcell: We all know how successful Prison Break is and what a worldwide phenomenon it is, and these nine episodes are only going to enhance its reputation and appeal. Callies: When we left Sara, she was a young woman devastated by losing the love of her life, and she was pregnant, and when we meet her again, she’s seasoned. Part of the problem with the original show was that we had to keep flapping our wings   and keep extending. 1. A lot of these individuals I had had no contact with since the show ended, but they remain a significant part of a significant chapter in my life. Didier Baverel /FOX
5. And if there’s more, I will treat it like a joke until [it isn’t]. Everyone is multi-dimensional up to and including the villains, so while I just said they are kind of tasty and malevolent and dangerous, we also spend enough time with them that we see their human side too. Purcell: People are going to be blown away. Didier Baverel/FOX
4. Callies: Season 1 was the best season we had. It’s down and dirty and there’s danger around every corner. Why has he apparently abandoned the woman that he loves and the child that he had with her? Purcell: Lincoln is much more aware of the consequences of his actions, and he’s trying to become a better person, but the nature of Lincoln is that he manages to find trouble. The weight of the world has been on both their shoulders since we last saw them, so it’s turned them into hardened, tragic figures. Show Full Article Purcell: I’d do years of Prison Break. They’re just all these caged animals roaming around in this prison. Miller: If Prison Break was airing today for the first time, it probably would be a limited series on cable. Miller: Ogygia [prison] makes Fox River look like the Four Seasons. That includes giving him a stepfather, and she’s changed hugely, just as I have. He resurfaced again under an assumed name, Outis, in a foreign land called Ogygia. Is there a happy ending this time around? So maybe that parallel to a western — white hat, dark hat — doesn’t quite hold; maybe it’s a sea of grey hats. Filling in those blanks between what happens at the end of season 4 to now is really fun for all the characters because they’re all different. Miller: I think we find Lincoln without a letter. Scheuring: The time that the show’s been off the air has allowed us to ask the question, what has become of these characters in that time? There’s intimacy there and there’s respect there and I think fans will be thrilled to see some of these old faces on screen. Scheuring: The critical thing was that the audience could recognize this show and say, “Prison Break is back!”
Purcell: It has the same spiritual tone as the first season of Prison Break. There’s no real separation of inmates. You can be bold and think that you can do it without the originals, that maybe you can reset with a different lead, but they were integral to the whole thing. Abrams’ approach — he brought Star Wars back, bringing back some of the old players like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, and yet complimenting them with some new talent — that was really the model here and so we brought back most of the principles, but then also introduced some new characters. FOX
2. We’ve got universal themes that anyone, anywhere can tap into, so the essential DNA of the show is the same even though the characters and the scope have changed dramatically. Miller: It all came back to me, which is not to say that the character is the same as we last left him. I dug out a few old journals. This was always Paul’s baby, Paul kept saying, “I want to get back to what we tried to do that first season,” and what I take that to mean, and what I see in the script, is trying to do something brave, trying to do something that maybe isn’t being done. Especially Michael who is the enigma of all of them. I had a ton of extras, three cameras, there was a lot there to distract, but when I looked through the bars at this man’s face, we’d been playing brothers for 10 years and that relationship is my through-line. I never thought we would be here. It’s really just the essential aspects of the show without any extraneous fat that maybe would not have been rewarding to the audience. I played the guy for four years and I understand him very well, so it wasn’t difficult at all. I don’t think I could play a facsimile of Sara Tancredi from season 1, but playing Sara Scofield in season 5 is both different and I think honest. Totally kidding. ET on Fox. Callies: The challenge is to try and do them honestly, without contriving them too much, and that’s hard, but I think Paul’s done it in a pretty smart way. Miller: There are Easter eggs in every episode and that’s intentional — we’ve got a very dedicated fan base. He’s just one of these unfortunates that the cards are never quite dealt correctly for him. How I wash my hands clean?” is front and center.