Will T-Bag, he of the one hand, ultimately be done in by his heart? Robert Knepper of Prison Break (Mondays at 8 pm/ET) dropped by the TV Guide office last week to survey his deviant alter ego's fate, take us inside his painful, painful prosthetic, and give those who appreciate and honor Fox's serialized thriller a big "hand."
TVGuide.com: When I heard you were stopping by, I was concerned that this was maybe part of some "Farewell, T-Bag" tour or something. But you're probably in town just to tout the show's return, right?
Robert Knepper: No one can guarantee that any of our characters are around.... But people seem to really like this character, so I think he's going to be around for a little bit.
TVGuide.com: T-Bag has the Hollanders all boarded up and terrorized.... Why doesn't he just give up on this vendetta, cut bait and run off with the money?
Knepper: Because Teddy's got an incredibly deep connection with this woman. It's a love, love, hate, love, love relationship that can't be summed up easily. You saw the episode — he genuinely believes in his heart that she's the ticket, that she is his salvation. If she can just see that, then everything will be hunky-dory.
TVGuide.com: I thought he almost pulled it off, when the kids run in, squeeing, "Uncle Teddy!!
Knepper: Yeah, they really missed him! These last two episodes, and there's one other one that goes with them, were so intense, you'll see. There is so much that comes out about, as he hinted, "You know, my daddy never was around much, so I taught myself how to use a hammer," all that stuff. There's stuff about family that comes out that's just.... [Sighs]
TVGuide.com: Did K.K. Dodds (Susan Hollander) suspect that your paths might cross again sometime during the series?
Knepper: I told her last year, "K.K., you're really good. Really good. Don't be surprised if this story line's not dead. Mark my words, we'll be back." And I was right. Any time you can pull vulnerability out of one of these characters, you've got to run with it, and you can't get more vulnerable than Teddy was with her last year. He genuinely loved her and believed that she loved him, so how could she turn him in?
TVGuide.com: Now, about the "hand": Do they have you wearing, like, a hard plastic mitten? It doesn't seem to be the "bad pirate movie/handheld hook" thing you sometimes see.
Knepper: We have gone through so many things.... They hired a prosthetic company in Dallas to do a mold of my hand. Usually, this would be made into an actual hand that slips over the stub of the wrist. The problem for us is — and I've been offered alternatives to alleviate this problem, but none of them look as good — this hand is so tight on me. Ideally, you would make the fake hand bigger than your real hand, so you could slip into it like a glove, but they made this basically the same size as mine, so I am putting my hand inside my hand, basically. I can only wear it for about 15 minutes at a time, and even then, my fingers come out literally white-tipped.
TVGuide.com: I asked Sarah Wayne Callies (Sara) this same question: Has it been kind of lonely for you this season, being broken away from the other guys?
Knepper: I miss the guys, I really miss them. Even Sarah, and I never had a scene with Sarah, but at least I'd see her on the set. I'm on location somewhere in a house, supposedly in another town, and I never get to see the guys. That camaraderie, I really miss. That was a lot of fun.
TVGuide.com: Is there anything you can tease about the possibility of T-Bag crossing paths with any of the other guys before this season is up?
Knepper: I think we're going to cross paths.... I think things are going to rapidly be crossing in these next four episodes that we have to shoot. We're on Episode 18 right now. I don't know who might cross their paths, but....
TVGuide.com: There'd have to be a plausible reason for it.
Knepper: [Scoffs] It's Prison Break! Anything is possible. No, I was thinking about the world "unbelievable" the other day. There's a difference between "I don't believe that" and "That's unbelievable." You can describe something as "unbelievable" in a great way, and if you really look at our show, you go, "That's just unbelievable." You can say it in a negative way, but you could also say it in a positive way, as in, "I can't believe that can actually happen!" You have to suspend your belief system a bit.
TVGuide.com: It was hinted at TCA that the writers might have come up with that long-elusive Season 3 premise....
Knepper: The doors are not as locked as they once were when you would call the writers office. It used to be like, "They can't be disturbed, they're trying to figure out Season 3!" OK, go ahead! Keep working on Season 3! [Laughs] People don't want to let this show go yet. I don't think Fox wants to let it go, they realize what they have. The disappointment would be to just put a third season out there for the sake of a third season, or a fourth season, or a fifth season. "We're going to make this damn thing work! Get Aaron Sorkin in here!" I think they'll do anything to keep this thing going. I just hope that they keep the detail in it, the good storytelling, as opposed to cheap shots or something that is just appeasing an audience or is so fantastical that you're like, "Oh, come on.... " You can't have too many moments like that in a row. Remember last year [when Michael tied a rope to the tunnel grating], there weren't any knots in that rope. So the next time we all go in there, we went, "We can't climb this rope!" And they were like, "Well, we already shot Michael coming down it." [Muse Watson, Westmoreland] was like, "I just don't think the audience is going to buy this," and at the same moment, we went, "It's Prison Break." It's edited so quickly that I bet you that if even for a moment people were like, "There's no way they could climb up that rope," they give up on being right about that. But if you get too many of those things in a row, people are going to go....
TVGuide.com: I just did a story on how some of the things on 24 this season are unbelievable, as in not believable....
Knepper: Now, Kiefer and I are buddies, and Kiefer [Sutherland] said once, "I feel like I've got to help make sure that this all makes sense." Because if we as actors don't step up to the plate.... They said to me last year, "We don't care how or where you put that razor blade, you've just got to get it out of your mouth and slash it across [Abruzzi's] throat." I said, "Well, I can't do the scene with the blade in my mouth," and they said, "We don't care." I ended up doing a thing where I have it stuck in my sock, and I reach in, and then I put it in my mouth.... It's the same thing with 24. You go, "I, the actor, have to have this make sense to me. if it doesn't make sense to me, it's not going to make sense to the audience."
TVGuide.com: Your name often comes up as a Prison Break cast member who has been overlooked by the Emmys and such. Do you think actors on serialized dramas might be at a disadvantage?
Knepper: It's great to hear that that [is what fans are saying]. I'm not opposed to awards at all, I think it would be great. When we won the People's Choice Award last year, it was a hoot. We had that Rat Pack kind of thing, because Dom[inic Purcell] and Went[worth Miller] and I were out smoking when they announced the award, so the doors opened up and we were literally running down the aisle while everyone else was up on stage. [Executive producer] Marty Adelstein was like, "Guys, where are you?" That kind of excitement would be nice to have happen again. It would be nice to happen to any of us individually, and it certainly would be nice to happen as a group.
TVGuide.com: Could the type of character you're playing be a stumbling block for voters?
Knepper: No, that I don't think has to do with it. People come up to me on the street, and their immediate reaction is about the acting, which to me would be a prerequisite to being nominated. It's about the best acting, not the most lovable character. Any time you're playing someone so different than who you are, it's acting. Megan Mullally and I were classmates [at Northwestern], and while she was doing her [talk] show, she said, "Rob, I got your Emmy screener, and I loved it. You so deserve a nod. But it really boils down to the fact that the show is too new." She said, "Your time is coming, and I think it's coming next year." If you look at what our work was in our first episode last year, and up to this point in what has aired, the changes that each of us as actors have made, how much more deeply we've gotten into these roles, every one of us has gotten better. That episode at the end of last year, when Sara was walking along the lake, contemplating going back to doing drugs? Sarah [Wayne Callies] is a woman walking down that lake, and when she started the series she was a girl. I feel like we were all boys, and now we've moved into the skin of being a man, and that should be recognized. Now I'm still scratching my head as to why we didn't get a nod for the Golden Globe like we did last year, and I'm really scratching my head over why SAG didn't nominate us for best ensemble. The next one coming up is Emmy, and if it doesn't work out... it's OK. When I got out in the next day and somebody comes up to me and says, "I love your show," that is so gratifying to hear. All those Oscar speeches I made up while mowing lawns as a kid? I just say it right to them: "Thank you."
TVGuide.com: Last question: Did you talk to Lane [Garrison, Tweener] either during or since his car-crash ordeal? [Last Dec. 2, Garrison, showing signs of "alcohol intoxication," crashed an SUV, killing a 17-year-old passenger.]
Knepper: I've been very close to everybody I have worked with on the show, and I know he can't discuss the case, and I don't bother asking about it. It's a terrible thing all the way around. I feel so much for that, for the family [of the teen killed in the crash]. That kid's gone, and there's nothing anybody can do to bring him back. Lane is devastated. He is f--king devastated by it. There but for the grace of God go you or I. Nothing is going to bring that kid back, and that's something he has to live with the rest of his life. And he will. It will always be a part of him.
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