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Feature: Prison Break

The way out…

Breakout star Wentworth Miller takes us behind the iron bars of this new series. And hey – he tells us what’s coming next!

Some people have called it the most implausible show on TV. Yet that hasn’t stopped Prison Break from breaking into the ratings charts, making an astonishing début in the US in its first week with 10.5 million, and pulling in healthy figures for Channel 5 in the UK when it began airing recently.

Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) is the respectable young guy who uncharacteristically undertakes an armed robbery, simply with the purpose of ending up in jail. He just happens to be sentenced to the exact same prison in which his brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), who he believes to be innocent, is awaiting execution on Death Row. And it just so happens that Michael helped design the building, and knows how to break out. Oh, and the schematics are tattooed all over his body – and no one else has noticed!

It’s improbable to be sure, but that’s not something leading man Wentworth Miller is trying to deny as he sits down to chat with The Works.

“The show is far-fetched,” he concedes, as we meet in the Ritz Carlton Hotel hotel in Pasadena. “We take these liberties, and because we commit to these situations fully, I think it becomes believable. There’s a lot that we can get away with in the universe that we have established. Peter Stormare is playing an Italian mob boss with a Swedish accent!”

To film the series, the cast and crew really are sentenced to prison, with location sequences shot at the Joliet Correctional Center in Chicago..

“We have a stage where we shoot some interiors,” reveals Miller, “but by and large we’re out at Joliet for at least half of every episode and it’s just been invaluable. The prison is a character in and of itself and I think lends a critical component to the show, it gives us a certain integrity and authenticity that we couldn’t re-create on a soundstage.

“I think the main surprise for me was how sad the place was. You’ve got 150 years of fear and violence and pain soaked into those walls, but the overall mood there is one of despair. That helps immeasurably if you’re trying to pretend that you’re in prison.”

America’s critics first took a look at Prison Break last summer, when the pilot episode was unveiled. They liked its bravado, the energy, the surprise twists of the plot, and the murky conspiracy at the show’s heart; in many ways, it seemed a natural stable mate for 24. Yet, they reasoned, if Prison Break was to have any screen life – and a second year has already been commissioned by Fox – surely its format had to change? Who would spend six years watching a show about two guys planning to break out of jail?

That question has more or less already been answered in the US as, before the show hit its mid-season hiatus, Michael and Lincoln’s breakout was already underway.

“Our best episodes have yet to air,” insists Miller. “In the first season we’ve got prison, we’ve got the tattoo, we’ve got all these ‘McGyver’ moments, and that’s part of our appeal, certainly. In the second season, we leave most of that behind, and it will involve the brothers unravelling the conspiracy that put Lincoln behind bars.”

Read the full interview in
The Works #A04

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, Prison Break © Fox Network
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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The Works #A04, see below for ordering options
The Works #A04
March 2006
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