7 Biggest Takeaways From ‘Prison Break’ Premiere in Austin

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.”

More TV

  • SAG Awards 2020: What You Didn't

    SAG Awards 2020: From Charlize Theron to 'Parasite,' What You Didn't See on TV

    Brad Pitt made a crack about his marriages. Robert De Niro got political. And Jennifer Aniston talked about appearing in a commercial for Bob’s Big Boy. Those were just some of thing that happened on stage at the SAG Awards that were broadcast on TNT/TBS on Sunday night. However, Variety was inside the Shrine Auditorium [...]

  • Edges Unknown

    TCB, Cineflix, All3Media Announce Sales Ahead of NATPE Miami

    Miami’s NATPE market kicks off on Tuesday, but deal announcements are already landing. London-based TCB Media Rights has sold 130 hours of content to Latin America, Cineflix and National Geographic Latin America closed a deal for four titles, and Discovery Latin America picked up popular makeover format “10 Years Younger” from All3Media. TCB’s 130 Hours [...]

  • U.K. Broadcaster Channel 5 Readies Thomas

    U.K. Broadcaster Channel 5 Readies Thomas Markle Documentary

    ViacomCBS-backed U.K. broadcaster Channel 5 will air a 90-minute documentary on Meghan Markle’s father Thomas Markle. Markle and her husband Prince Harry sparked a global media frenzy earlier this month with their decision not to continue as senior members of the British Royal Family. Buckingham Palace announced that the couple are to lose their royal [...]

  • Tony Hall BBC Director General

    BBC Boss Tony Hall Lands at U.K.'s National Gallery

    BBC director general Tony Hall has been appointed chair of the board of trustees of the National Gallery. The executive, who has served on the Gallery’s board since November, takes over as chair from Sir John Kingman, who has been interim chair since Hannah Rothschild stood down from the role in September. Hall said: “The [...]

  • Fox TV Stations Greenlight 'Central Ave'

    Fox TV Stations Greenlight 'Central Ave' From Will Packer, Debmar-Mercury

    Fox Television Stations has ordered the weekly entertainment news magazine “Central Ave,” which hails from prolific film and TV producer Will Packer and Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury. Debmar-Mercury and Will Packer Media will produce two half-hour shows per week of “Central Ave,” which tackles pop culture and other topics from a “socially conscious and diverse lens,” per [...]

  • Frontrunners Emerge As BBC's Tony Hall

    Frontrunners Emerge as BBC Boss Tony Hall Set to Leave Broadcasting Behind

    As the U.K. industry reacts to news of Tony Hall’s intention to depart the BBC this July, top-level executives including Charlotte Moore and Tim Davie as well as external contenders such as Channel 4’s Alex Mahon are beginning to emerge. Variety understands that Lord Hall, who has headed the BBC for seven years as director [...]

  • Gustavo Mello and Ran Tellem

    Boutique Filmes, The Mediapro Studio Team for ‘To Kill a Queen’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — Gustavo and Tiago Mello’s São Paulo-based Boutique Filmes, producers of early Netflix Original overseas breakout “3%,” is teaming with high-end drama powerhouse The Mediapro Studio (“The New Pope,” “The Head”) to produce “To Kill a Queen.” International sales rights on the series will be handled by The Mediapro Studio Distribution. From an original [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content