Breakout Kings may sound like a reincarnation of Prison Break — the executive producers are the same and a Prison Break character will even appear on the A&E series — but producers Nick Santora and Matt Olmstead insist it is not the same show.
"It's a completely different show," Santora said at Friday's Television Critics Association's winter preview sessions. "It's really not about people breaking out of prison; it's about what happens after people break out."
The drama, which was passed over by Fox — Prison Break's former network — stars Malcolm Goodwin and Jimmi Simpson as convicts who are pulled out of jail to help track down fugitives in exchange for lesser sentences.
What sets the series apart from Prison Break is the fast-paced storytelling and deeper character development, which lends to a lot of humor, Santora says.
"We definitely couldn't do all the humor on Prison Break that we do on Breakout Kings," Santora says. "We're chasing really bad guys that hurt really good people, but you're going to laugh at times while it's going on. You're going to feel for our six heroes."
Unlike unsympathetic characters like Prison Break's T-Bag — a role Robert Knepper will reprise for an upcoming episode — Kings' cons will be relatable.
"They've really written some amazing backstories to our characters," star Serinda Swan says. "We definitely have some really sympathetic qualities that we'll explore throughout the season... You see the duality between the two, which is the real person and also their crime."
To balance the audience's empathy for the cons and the criminals they are hunting, the writers were forced to make those who broke out of jail even more evil. "You have to have really bad, bad guys or there's just no stakes from the beginning of the episode," Santora says.
As such, the series will be very fast-paced, as the characters have around 72 hours to catch their prey. "[In] Prison Break, you could breathe a little be more," Santora says. "Even though the show had high stakes, I feel like Breakout Kings is different in that we don't have that luxury. We have to keep that pace going."
Breakout Kings will debut March 13 on A&E.