Fox resurrects ‘Prison Break’ for 9-episode run
It isn’t over till it’s over ... and lately, the end of a series hasn’t necessary meant the definitive end, particularly at Fox.
“The X-Files” enjoyed a revival there last year, and this season has seen another franchise resume with “24: Legacy.” Now, yet another earlier staple of the Fox lineup gets a new chapter as “Prison Break” returns Tuesday at 9 p.m., with Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell resuming their roles as formerly incarcerated brothers Michael Scofield — who was presumed dead at the end of the original show — and Lincoln Burrows. The hint that Michael still is alive after all, given to fellow inmate T-Bag (fellow returnee Robert Knepper) on the day of his release, sets the nine-episode plot in motion.
With creator and executive producer Paul T. Scheuring back in charge, the “Prison Break” continuation also brings back another essential cast member: Sarah Wayne Callies as Sara, who had wed Michael but since has moved on, along with their son. Mark Feuerstein (“Royal Pains”) joins the cast as her current spouse, one of the many who are unprepared for Michael’s resurfacing. Co-stars Amaury Nolasco, Rockmond Dunbar and Paul Adelstein return as well.
While Scheuring maintains that all the principal players had to return or he wouldn’t have attempted “Prison Break” again, he said “the initial impetus came from Wentworth and Dominic, and then it kind of filtered over to me. TV has changed so much since we initially premiered. When you put a show on network TV in 2005, you had to have 22 episodes, and the expectation was then, you would subsequently have 22 episodes again and again and again and again (for each season). And when you have a closed-ended story like ‘Prison Break,’ you can be flapping your wings quickly.
“But in the new era of television, people are much more open to limited runs and ‘event’ series,” Scheuring added. “(Fox said,) ‘Let’s do a limited run of this thing,’ which was originally scheduled for 10 (episodes) and then became nine. Ultimately, I said, ‘OK. That’s worth doing.’ If we can tell a very tight, closed-ended story as to why Michael might possibly still be alive, I’m open to that. And so, I started exploring reasons why (he still lives) — and it took me back about 2,500 years in literature, but I found a reason why.”
In the interim, Miller and Purcell continued to work together as Captain Cold and Heat Wave, guest villains on The CW’s “The Flash” who eventually became members of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”
“It was like a high school reunion,” Miller said of reuniting with his “Prison Break” colleagues. “You know these people. There is a shorthand. There is a degree of familiarity, and yet they’re different now, so there’s also newness and awkwardness and discovery. And that, I think, speaks very specifically to the story that we address in the reboot: Who are these characters now? When they see each other, will they even recognize each other? This is the meat of the story.”
Arguably the most memorable visual of the initial “Prison Break” was the heavily tattooed Michael, whose body essentially was a living map of how to get Lincoln out of Fox River State Penitentiary. Miller confirmed that this time, Michael sports “a different set of tattoos, and they serve a slightly different purpose. That’s all I can say.”
However, Scheuring can speak to the enduring popularity of “Prison Break” ... and not just in America, as foreign tourists reconfirmed for him and Miller as they left a Hollywood meeting where they first discussed the revival.
“We walk out and we’re going to our respective cars, and there’s a skid in the middle of the street,” the producer recalled. “This car locks up, and we think it’s an accident. And these dudes jump out, and they come running around and they go, ‘You’re the guy from “Prison Break!” ’ They literally locked it up, double-parked in the street, ran up to (Miller and said), ‘Can we take picture?’ That’s the kind of hunger that’s out there internationally for the show. And I thought it was very charming.”