After a seven-year hiatus, the Scofield brothers are back. Fox’s “Prison Break” seemed all but dead when its lead, Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), was presumed to have died at the end of the drama’s fourth season. Now, the character and show have been resurrected — with Season 5 set to premiere on April 4.
Before that happens though, the cast — minus Miller, who had a prior engagement — and the creators held a private screening in Austin (not affiliated with SXSW) for fans, followed by a short Q&A.
Here are Variety’s top takeaways from the conversation.
Dominic Purcell’s big neck saved his life
They were shooting in Morocco for the Yemen scenes and the cast and crew were dealing with very high heat and limited infrastructure and resources. Part of the prison ceiling fell on Purcell’s head and almost killed him. The doctor said that if he didn’t have the strength and size of the neck that he does, that he would’ve been paralyzed. He did split his scalp open down to the skull and his face was pretty banged up, including his nose. “You can tell if you look closely in some scenes,” he says, “one second my nose looks great and then it’s all f—ed up in the next scene.”
Getting the family back together has been the best part of the reboot
Star Robert Knepper got emotional following the screening.
“I’m going to try and not cry here, but I didn’t know how together we were until we just saw that,” Knepper said. “It was my first time seeing it. It is so powerful to be in the midst of this company and such a feeling of pride.”
Purcell agreed that returning to the series was akin to being back home.
“It brings back that family and friendship that we all experienced doing the original series,” Purcell added. “The choices that we were making as actors have changed, the intensity and the gravitas of the show has dramatically increased. I think that’s about us getting older and making more informed decisions.”
With age, comes wisdom … and better acting
“I was really proud of everyone. There’s a sense of cheering each other on,” star Sarah Wayne Callies said. “I love what Rock[mond Dunbar] was doing, and Dom, it’s some of the best work I’ve seen you do.”
Knepper said being more experienced this time around proved to be liberating.
“When we did this show years ago, we were constantly trying to prove to ourselves that we could do a good job,” Knepper said. “This time we weren’t trying to prove anything, we just were. And what was great about getting out of our own way this time was that I was really aware of you all cheering. And you gotta remember that it all looks like we did it, but we didn’t. We just took the words that Paul Scheuring gave us.”
Changing with the TV times
“Prison Break” creator/executive producer Scheuring said the new TV landscape allowed them to lower their episode count from 22 to nine.
“TV has evolved since 2005, it was 22 episodes and we were churning them out,” Scheuring said. “We did 80 consecutive episodes. Subsequently, TV has really changed — limited run series, shorter series — it became very appealing to tell this close-ended story, this event series in nine episodes. So it wasn’t a matter of having enough material, it was a matter of not having enough time. This thing is so dense, a massive narrative in nine episodes.”
The idea for the return of “Prison Break” happened on “The Flash”
“It was fate. We started talking about old times and there was something there. Once we decided to move forward we went to Fox and as soon as we got to Paul that was it, it was a go,” Purcell said. “That was one of my concerns and Wentworth’s — we needed Paul to do it. And as soon as he decided that, it was a very quick process.”
There will be feelings — but also bombs — exploding in this season
“Bringing back the original characters and Sarah. We’re going to have escape and we’re going to have action and adventure and twists and all that, but at the core of it is a story of relationships,” Scheuring said. “Wentworth and Sarah’s relationship was nipped in the bud at the end of the Season 4. It was unrealized, especially because his child was born, so there’s a lot of unfinished business in that relationship. In a lot of ways, that’s the core runner through this series — that motivation to make that relationship right. Of course, we blow a bunch of stuff up along the way.”
Escaping prison is not the same as escaping one’s self
Callies described the season as one “about not being able to escape.”
“With this season, each character has, to a greater or lesser extent, tried to get away from themselves. They’ve tried to be a better person, a different wife, or a different brother or a different pedophile [looking at Knepper],” Callies said. “In a way this is a season about not being able to escape. We try, we fuss, we fight, and wrestle with that soul, but at the end of the day there is something in you that is essential.”
“I think that’s important, too, because they’re all trying to find a way to a better version of themselves,” she added. “And including T-Bag, believe it or not, T-Bag is not just honing his skills as a pedophile, but he’s trying to move towards the light. He’s dealing with his own scars and the transgressions he’s had in his past, and he’s earnestly seeking the light just as the rest are. There’s this soul underneath this series.”