Fans of Fox's Prison Break can revisit Michael's bold breakout via the Season 1 DVD set, in stores today and featuring commentary from creator Paul T. Scheuring and from some of the series' cast and crew, and extras such as an inside look at "the inside" of Fox River. TVGuide.com seized this opportunity to talk with Scheuring about prime time's great escape and the can't-miss manhunt ahead for Season 2.
TVGuide.com: As you watched Season 1 again and recorded your commentary, did you come to any new realizations other than that [co-commentator] Dominic Purcell is quite the smartass?
[Laughs] Yeah, really! No, it's fun because when you're in the heat of the writing and filmmaking process, everything is really stressful and you don't really get to look at the finished product with a little bit of perspective. It was nice to look back on that stuff. It was nostalgic, in a way.
TVGuide.com: What was the hardest sell when you brought this idea to Fox?
The only thing they really had trouble getting past was just the concept of a serialized show....
TVGuide.com: [Sarcastically] Yeah, because they've had no success with 24.
Well, it's interesting because 24 was a big hit but it was considered an anomaly. It wasn't until Lost had its huge premiere numbers that we were greenlit for a pilot. I had to go to them again and again and again to kind of tell them what the larger canvas of the story was going to be about, inside and outside the walls. That was the biggest obstacle for them, the conceit of a serialized show about a prison break.
TVGuide.com: According to the pilot commentary, you didn't see Wentworth Miller until, like, six days before production started?
Yeah, something like that, about six days. And Dominic came in about three days before, so we were on pins and needles until the very last minute.
TVGuide.com: Whereas Sarah Wayne Callies was the first actress you saw to play Sara.
Yeah, she was great. As soon as we saw her, we had to have her.
TVGuide.com: I understand it's also noted somewhere that Michael's upper-body tattoo would actually take years to ink?
You certainly couldn't get it done in a month. It would take an extraordinary amount of time because that amount of work is time-consuming, and there's only a certain threshold of pain a human can take! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Are we done with the tattoos? I always felt like they would play an even larger role, that there were parts left unreferenced.
Yeah, there's still more stuff for Season 2. Basically the tattoos are the plan, and the plan doesn't end now that they're outside the walls. It goes on until their endgame, which is complete freedom.
TVGuide.com: Looking ahead to Season 2 [premiering Aug. 21], are there things you will focus on more, or less? Will it feel like a different show?
In a lot of ways it's going to feel like a different series. Obviously, it's all still the exact same story and a continuation of it, but the prison will very quickly regress into the background. We have a new home, which are the roads and small towns and highways of the United States. In that sense, it's going to be a very different show visually, and in terms of feel, but all the characters are the same in terms of their ultimate aspirations.
TVGuide.com: One obvious question is about what's going to keep the guys from going their own separate ways?
They are going to go their separate ways; it just wouldn't be realistic for them to cruise around in a scrum together because they're at such odds with each other and they have disparate aims.
TVGuide.com: And some or all of them are after D.B. Cooper's money?
There are some subchapters within Season 2 and a pretty big one is dedicated to that, because a lot of different people need that money for different reasons, which will again put them at odds.
TVGuide.com: Another obvious question has to do with Michael and Sara: Where do we go from here? How will you address the need to have scenes of them together but not being able to do that?
Well, emotionally Sara's not exactly in a place that necessarily wants to see him this is all presuming she survives [an intimated season-finale OD]. What ultimately has to happen in Season 2 for them to get together is an emotional reconciliation, where Michael can prove to her that she was not simply a tool to facilitate the escape. At the same time, dominoes need to start falling in her life when she realizes that the antagonists that have Michael under their thumb now have her under their thumb as well. That will give them a common enemy.
TVGuide.com: How are things going in Dallas, where Prison Break is shooting this season?
It's been going really well, but, I mean, the heat is just crushing. I feel bad for those guys because we do so much on location, so much exterior. It's not like we're on a nice air-conditioned set eight days a week.
TVGuide.com: When Robert Knepper (T-bag) dropped by our offices, he said he was dreading the heat. He also said T-bag's No. 1 priority should be getting his hand back.
Yeah, that becomes his overriding ambition throughout the season.
TVGuide.com: I'm actually talking to Lane Garrison after I hang up with you, but I held off on booking that interview because I wasn't sure Tweener would still be in the picture. Is he?
Yeah, absolutely. He has his own ambitions, and he heard about the money when he was in the infirmary that night. He is going to get out there in the world and meet some new people and develop some relationships.
TVGuide.com: Did I read or hear somewhere that two major characters are going to die?
I don't want to give you a number on that, but people will be surprised within the first third of the year just how many people will pay the price for this escape. We're playing this escape as if it's Pandora's box; in and of itself the escape seems to be an endgame, but they soon realize they've opened up a much larger can of worms than they thought. We're playing for keeps here, and we want to show in very real terms the ramifications.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about William Fichtner's character, FBI agent Mahone. When Invasion was canceled, were you like, "We've got our man"?
We were obviously casting a wide net, but when we heard about Fichtner's availability he's such a high-quality actor, such a "get" we went after him very aggressively.
TVGuide.com: Is it too simplistic to call him the Tommy Lee Jones to Michael and Lincoln's Harrison Ford?
That's the obvious comparison, and we want to introduce Fichtner as a straightlaced FBI man, but then his character is going to gain a lot more dimension than that. He's hardly the cut-and-dry FBI man that Tommy Lee Jones was [in The Fugitive].
TVGuide.com: Is Mahone working with or despite Bellick?
Well, from the very outset they do not get along, and they will encounter each other again down the road. There is no love between those two men.
TVGuide.com: Finding the boys is very personal for Bellick, so he must feel like Mahone is barging in on his vendetta.
The problem with Bellick is [the manhunt] leaves his jurisdiction very quickly, and there are also some dominoes that fall in his life and change his entire relationship to the pursuit. But he and Mahone will be thorns in each other's side for the greater part of the season.
TVGuide.com: What about flashbacks are there more stories to tell this season?
There will be some, probably not as many as last year.
TVGuide.com: Are there any other new characters you can tease?
A number of episodes in, [Agent] Kellerman is going to encounter a new face in the conspiracy who is very much a snake in the grass.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of the conspiracy, what's the latest wisdom on dealing with the absences of Patricia Wettig (President Reynolds) and John Billingsley (Reynolds' brother), who have each landed other fall series?
Well, John Billingsley did a great job last year, but we shot around him because we wanted to keep him cloaked in secrecy, so we brought in Jeff Perry (Crossing Jordan, Meredith's dad on Grey's Anatomy) to replace him, and Jeff did an unbelievable job, so he's our guy now in that regard. It's a seamless transition. With Patricia Wettig, because obviously she's a known face and she played a very significant role in Season 1, we're not going to recast. Our approach to that is kind of what we did with Rockmond Dunbar [who was committed to WB's Head Cases] last year, where we kind of said, "Let's see how that bears out" and we bided our time and all of a sudden C-note shows up again in Episode 8. That's our approach to Patty.
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