AMC president optimistic creator will return

AMC prexy Charlie Collier went right to the question on every reporters’ mind at the start of the cabler’s Television Critics Assn. panel on Thursday afternoon: The fate of the net’s Emmy-winning drama “Mad Men.”

The period skein will return for its third season this summer as skedded, despite the prolonged contract negotiations between producer Lionsgate TV and creator/exec producer Matthew Weiner, Collier assured.

“As long as we get the writers’ room up and running over the next few months, we’re fine (for a summer launch),” Collier told reporters after the sesh, adding that he’s optimistic that an agreement with Weiner will be reached soon.

The return of “Mad Men” will lead into the launch of “The Prisoner,” the six-part series remake of the classic 1960s Brit drama of the same name.

On hand for the TCA panel was star James Caviezel, who will star as “No. Six,” the bewildered secret agent who wakes up imprisoned in a strange village in which everyone has a number but no name. Appearing with Caviezel was Ian McKellen, who plays “No. 2,” the mysterious village official charged with extracting secrets from “No. Six.”

Noting that the No. 2 character was replaced every time he failed to extract information from No. 6 in the original – the role was actually passed off between three actors in the 1967 version — director Nick Hurran confirmed that McKellen will be around for the duration of the remake. “Perhaps you don’t screw up,” he noted.

Preceding the “Prisoner” panel, Bryan Cranston led members of the cast and crew from “Breaking Bad” through a round of Q&A. Sporting a head of hair that was absent during his best dramatic actor acceptance speech at September’s Emmys – Cranston shaved his head for the season three shoot – the thesp rehashed the experience of winning his first Emmy for “Bad” after being nommed three times before for his prior series, the Fox comedy “Malcolm in the Middle.”

“I was pretty comfortable with not winning, and I was prepared not to win,” Cranston said. “And the first millisecond of that went by after they called my name, I thought, That sounds familiar. Then I realized, Oh my god, that’s me.”

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