Inside Fox's 9-Hour 'Prison Break' Revival: 'It Gives Fans What They Always Wanted'
It’s a rainy June evening on Prison Break’s Vancouver set and star Wentworth Miller is covered in fake blood. “Hashtag Prison Break,” he cracks.
Nearly eight years have passed since Prison Break last aired on Fox, but the idea to return to this world started simmering in 2015. Miller and costar Dominic Purcell, who play brothers Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows, reunited on The CW’s The Flash and realized there may still be life in the siblings’ story. The actors approached series creator Paul Scheuring, who was also on board, and Fox jumped at the chance to continue the saga. “One of the reasons Prison Break has been so memorable and we’re so connected to it is it’s a global phenomenon,” says Dana Walden, Fox Television Group chairman, whose network also had success recently rebooting The X-Files and 24. “Fans around the world just locked into this story of two brothers and how powerful that bond is.”
But there was one major complication: At the end of the series, Michael was presumed dead, with his widow, Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies), raising their baby son alone. Lincoln was free from jail, grieving Michael’s death. In the nine-hour revival, a fresh-out-of-prison T-Bag (Robert Knepper) gets a hint that Michael may actually still be alive and goes to Lincoln, who feels “shock and then overwhelming relief and gratitude,” Purcell says. “But then anger: ‘How dare Michael put us through all of this?’”
Lincoln tracks his brother down in a Yemen jail, and his old prison pals—including Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) and C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar)—as well as dirty Secret Service agent turned presidential candidate Paul Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) work to break him out. Michael also has a new ally in fellow prisoner Whip (Augustus Prew). “You discover he has another brotherly relationship; that becomes interesting when Linc reenters the picture and challenges that dynamic,” Miller says. “There’s a reason his kinship with Whip came to be, which is a fantastic surprise.”
Of course, Michael is a changed man from his years away. “We discover very quickly he’s walked a dark road,” Miller says. “Still, Michael’s sole objective is to be reunited with Sara and meet his son for the first time. But will he be deserving of a happy ending?”
Sara, to an extent, has moved on, marrying Jacob (Mark Feuerstein, a show newbie), a professor of game theory. “This is a woman who gave up on a certain kind of happiness when the love of her life died,” Callies says. “I don’t think Sara and Jacob are under any illusions this is a once-in-a-lifetime love.” Feuerstein notes his character can’t replace Michael, “but it’s believable he might be this safe, smart choice to [help] raise her child. We have been living a perfectly complacent, happy, domestic existence.”
Off screen, crafting the series came with its own challenges: The three leads all star on other shows (Purcell, The CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; Miller, The CW’s Flash and Legends of Tomorrow; Callies, USA’s Colony), so their availability was limited. Purcell also suffered a head laceration and broken nose during shooting in Morocco when a huge iron bar fell on him. “I’m not painting myself as a superhero; it just happens I have thick skin on my skull,” says the actor, whose life was saved by the genetic condition. “Two days later, I was ready to go. I was more pissed I let the team down and the momentum had stopped.”
If the revival is a hit, Walden says Fox is open to another season, and none of the actors rules out returning for more. “It’s a very satisfying ending; it gives fans what they always wanted,” executive producer Vaun Wilmott says. “And I think there is always that opportunity to do it again.”
Prison Break, Series Return, Tuesday, April 4, 9/8c