Captain Brad Bellick (Wade Williams) uncharectistically smiles while posing with theTVaddict himself. But honestly, who wouldn’t smile given the opportunity to take a photo with ‘THE’ TV Addict? That said, Brad Bellick was possibly the nicest actor I’ve ever met. He truly was thrilled to be part of the PRISON BREAK family.
The Museum of Radio and Television managed to do what America’s Law Enforcement couldn’t accomplish in almost two years — get the Fox River Boys in a room together. Guards… Guards! Unfortunately, two stars still managed to allude capture, namely Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield) and William Fichtner (FBI Special Agent Alexander Mahone) who had prior shooting commitments.
Yet any disappointment PRISON BREAK fans may have felt due to the absence of stars Miller and Fichtner were quickly forgotten thanks to an overall fantastic panel at the 2007 Paley Festival. The cast that did make an appearance — including Dominic Purcell (Lincoln Burrows), a very pregnant Sarah Wayne Callies (Sara Tancredi), Robert Knepper (T-Bag), Wade Williams (Captain Brad Bellick), Rockmond Dunbar (C-Note), Amaury Nolasco (Sucre) along with executive producers Marty Adelstein, Dawn Parouse and Paul Scheuring more than made up for the lack of everybody’s favourite tattooed inmate. Here’s what the panel had to share with regards to the evolution of the series, being cast as an inmate and the somewhat violent nature of the show. Be sure to read down to the end for some season three spoilers.
THE GENESIS OF PRISON BREAK:
Paul Scheuring: The idea of for PRISON BREAK actually came out of desperation. I had recently split with my writing partner of ten years and in Hollywood, when a writing partnership dissolves, nobody wants to hire your for fear that you weren’t the ‘writer’ in the partnership. People were unwilling to take a chance and I was getting desperate. I wasn’t looking to get involved with television, but Dawn Parouse (Executive Producer) actually came up with this interesting idea revolving around a prison escape. I owe her a great debt to her for that.
Added Dawn: It was Paul’s idea to make them brothers.
Paul: Initially it wasn’t going to be a television series, FOX wanted to turn it into a movie, or mini-series.
Dawn Parouse: They say that with all good things.
Paul: Initially Speilberg wanted to be involved. I did an entire song and dance for him, having to answer where exactly does the series go — I thought I would collapse. He said he’d love to be involved, but invariably had to pull out because of his commitment to WAR OF THE WORLDS.
In September, LOST premiered to huge numbers. The studio called the next day and said we’re making the pilot. All the hoops had disappeared. They wanted a series and we’d figure everything out.
Robert Knepper (T-BAG) made a unexpected appearance at the event, showing off two healthy hands to a cheering crowd.
ON WHAT YOU WERE DOING BEFORE PRISON BREAK
Wade Williams (Captain Brad Bellick): I was trying to get a job and I got this audition and read it and though my character was horrible and despicable. I didn’t want to do it, being the father of a four year old daughter. I called my manager who said that if I didn’t go to the audition I’m going to kill you. The Gods smiled on me and I was able to be apart of this great group. My four year old daughter seems me sometimes on the previews when my wife’s watching AMERICAN IDOL… she says “You’re a bad man Daddy…”
Rockmond Dunbar (C-Note): I had just finished the feature film KISS KISS BANG BANG and I was just so happy to have had a job, having not worked in a year. Went I left the audition I told my manager I ripped it, I killed it, it was the best audition ever. My manager said I didn’t get it — but fortunately I got the job anyways and I immediately flew out to Chicago.
Robert Knepper (T-Bag): While I had some great opportunities in low playing jobs, like CARNIVALE and GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK I all of a sudden realized that I was part of this middle class group of actors that were being squeezed out. Right before I auditioned, I thought about what I would love to do with my love. I love acting and nature. I decided to apply for a job at UCLA teaching as well as apply to be a park ranger at Will Rogers Park. The day I got PRISON BREAK was the day Michael Jackson was acquitted of ‘some stuff’ I actually used it… if MJ could get away with it, for sure T-Bag could as well. I eventually heard from Will Rogers Park, they called me in November, right when PRISON BREAK was taking off. They called and said we don’t think you’re going to need the job anymore. It was a lesson for me, even when you’re down — I went from begging to scrub toilets to being able to tell the park that when I get back to LA maybe I can help them fundraise.
Amaury Nolasco (Sucre): I didn’t want a pilot in November. When I got the script I figured it was one of those failed pilots that the network didn’t really want. Keep in mind, I’m a bad reader — I take comics and imagine what they’re saying. In order for a script to grab me, it’s got to be a huge page turner. The PRISON BREAK script was a huge pager turner and I couldn’t put it down. On my very last audition for the network I was so nervous. I drank so many bottles of water I had to go to the bathroom right before they called me in. Paul Scheuring walks up to the stall beside me and says “You’re our Favourite,” and I’m like great, more pressure!
Sarah Wayne Callies (Sara Tancredi): I was on the FOX lot for my final audition and I closed the door to my car and realized I left my keys in the ignition. I went in, did the audition, I got out and called AAA. They said don’t move so I went and sat on a bench in the FOX lot. Time passes and the entire group I just auditioned for ends up walking by me. Paul Scheuring walks by the bench and says, “Do you really need the job?” I was practically crying, embarrassed, I locked my keys in the car. I felt like the girl from DIRTY DANCING, “I’m carrying a water-melon.” Four hours later, AAA came by, but during that time my agent called and told me I got the job. The good news was that I got the job, the bad news is that they may have hired me out of pity.
Dominic Purcell (Lincoln Burrows): I had a great relationship with FOX since JOHN DOE in 2000. They gave me a development deal and wanted to find something for me. I was in the middle of working on NORTH SHORE when they sent me the pilot script. It compelled me and I really wanted the job.
Rockmond Dunbar (C-Note) talks to fans.
THE VIOLENCE OF PRISON BREAK:
Wade Williams: In the world we’ve created, where a brother is sacrificing himself to save another brother, the violence really is inline with the stakes.
Paul Scheuring: When you watch a show like this, you always feel like the hero will inevitably save the world and never get hurt. When that happens you start to lose interest. You can only watch the same chase scene so many times before you realize that nothing will happen. We wanted to give a sense that there are ramifications, a great deal of violence and death to keep the show fresh and the audience interested.
Matt Olmstead (Executive Producer): We keep a body count and I think in two years forty-four people have died. But the biggest reaction we’ve got was when Bellick killed that cat. My mom will never forgive me for that.
Robert Knepper: If I was playing this character in a movie, I’d be done in two months. But with TV it goes on and on. The great equalizer is kids, when you go home and see your kids, you have no choice but to forget about work and be a father.
With the violence, the deal the writers have given us is that not one character has committed a violent act that wasn’t justified. For me, T-Bag is not a guy who kills people, he only kills people because he wants to stay alive.
Dominc Purcell: A lot of the characters on PRISON BREAK are very redeemable. The audience would lost interest if you were playing characters that can’t be redeemed. All these guys have is a goal and that’s one of the things that make for great drama.
Paul Scheuring: Just to give you an idea of Robert’s method acting… this is when we knew we had a keeper. In the show’s first episode (following the pilot) Robert walks by as I was talking to Wentworth Miller about a scene. He opens his mouth and on his tongue is a real razor-blade. it wasn’t part of the scene, it was just in his head and he was getting into character.
SEASON THREE SCOOP
While the original plan for PRISON BREAK was for it to last forty-four episodes (two seasons), plans changed when the show became a hit (FOX wasn’t about to kill its international cash cow so soon!). Scheuring promises that the second season will end as was originally planned, while leaving enough connective tissue out there to ensure a fantastic third season.
Check back later this weekend for theTVaddict.com’s full report on the NIP/TUCK Paley Festival Panel.
For theTVaddict.com’s DEXTER Paley Festival Recap, click here.