The title Prison Break seems pretty self-explanatory for a TV show. There will be guys in prison planning an escape. But in the first two seasons, Prison Break proved that it would always be more than meets the eye. The entire second season focused on the heroes, and the not so heroic ones, out on the lam, with allegiances constantly shifting. Now season three returns hero Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) to a different sort of prison.
After breaking brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) out of death row and exonerating him in the fake murder of the vice president's brother, Michael found himself captured by Panamanian authorities. Season Two ended with Michael walking down the corridors of a new hell hole called “Sona”, this time without the benefit of a coded tattoo hiding all his escape plans.
"Michael has always been the man with the plan," Miller told Dish recently, talking about the upcoming Season Three. "Of course, he's always been the smartest guy in the room because of his preparation, because of his research. Now it's about improvisation. Now it's about thinking on his feet and reacting to whatever is thrown at him in the moment. It just raises the stakes for him and makes for a more, I think, tense story."
Production has always been, and remains in Dallas, TX, where they doubled the entirety of America last year. Turns out, the Lone Star state makes a nice Panama too. "We've kind of taken over an old juvenile delinquent center off of Harry Hines Blvd there in Dallas," Miller continued. "The heat, it's 115 degrees there right now, it's just serving us so well because we're sweating and squinting into the sun. It feels and looks a lot like how you'd think Panama would seem."
More specifically, Miller explained how the color scheme played a vital role in the tone of the first season, and described how the production designers have crafted a distinct look for the Panamanian jail. "I will say this. Fox River, if you remember, was very kind of blue and grey. Tonally, it felt like Chicago, it felt like winter. This is hot, a lot of browns, a lot of reds, the sun baking down. It's made for a very different tonal experience. It's fantastic."
Meanwhile, Lincoln is on the outside. He's not getting himself thrown into a third world prison for Michael, but he still wants to break his little brother out. "Obviously he's not at a tattoo parlor but he is scrambling to get his brother out of this dire situation,” actor Dominic Purcell explains.
Purcell also shared a bit about his perspective on the new season. "We're going to get to see a lot more of Lincoln's soul this year," he said. "We get to see a lot more of his street smarts. We get to see his charisma, his charm. We get to see the whole package with Linc this year. We get to see him doing his thing. I think the dynamic between the two brothers is going to be very exciting and inspirational. I think we're doing what we do best. It's all that stuff."
Now that he no longer has to fight for his own life and freedom, it’s a whole new Lincoln. "That's why we're seeing a different Lincoln. The angst is gone. He no longer is burdened by what's been going on in the first two seasons."
Of course, seeing Michael in jail after all of his selfless efforts might make Lincoln feel a tad guilty. "I'm not sure if it's guilt. He just feels bad for his brother. His brother's in a whole lot of trouble again so he's doing what a brother would do. That's what Prison Break's about. It's touching on universal themes, that love and uncompromising, unconditional love that two brothers have."
Lincoln has plenty of business to do on the outside too. His son is still motherless, waiting to reconnect with his father. Early scripts have not dealt with that yet. "We don't know yet. I wouldn't have a clue. I haven't read that far.” Season Two also gave Lincoln the opportunity to spring into action. Though much of the third season's action will take place in prison, Purcell has been promised some adrenaline too. "Still a lot of action apparently happening on the outside. So they tell me anyway."
A new prison also brings with it a whole new group of inmates. Miller previewed some of the new faces we'll meet in Season Three. "We've got an actor named Robert Wisdom who came to us from The Wire and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe has joined the cast. An actor named Chris Vance. We killed off half the cast last year so we really have to bring in new people. There was no alternative. At this point, I've seen the first three scripts so it's always possible that there might be someone else coming in the scripts that follow."
Many of the regulars will still return, like Amaury Nolasco. "Of course, of course. We couldn’t let go of that odd couple dynamic of Michael and Sucre.” And apparently, Robert Knepper as the devious T-Bag. "If Lincoln ever comes across T-Bag, Lincoln's going to kill T-bag," said Purcell. "So they'll keep Lincoln away from T-Bag." Wade Williams as former prison guard Brad Bellick, and William Fichtner as the determined Alexander Mahone, will also return. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’ll all be back.
Lincoln hasn't said goodbye to the likes of Sucre either. "Lincoln's dealing with Sucre but that would be about it," said Purcell. "Obviously, he gets to see Michael during visitations."
It took all of Year One to escape Fox River and all of Year Two to expose the conspiracy. Right now, the length of Michael's stay in the Panama joint is undetermined, but don't expect it to resolve too quickly.
"The feedback that we've gotten from the network so far is that the footage they've seen from what we've shot [so far] is so good, so compelling, so rich that they feel like this is kind of a return to form for us," said Miller. "It's a sort of classic Prison Break. I don't think we'll abandon that prematurely. I think we'll see the prison play a central part in the story for at least maybe the first half of the season."
So what has the sexy Miller been doing during the show’s hiatus? Last year, he took a road trip vacation, but now it was time to get back in shape. The summer break of 2007 had Miller preparing his body for the physicality of the new year. "I'm swimming," said Miller. "Back in the pool after a period of time off. It felt like I had to give the show everything I had to get it going. Every moment was devoted to the launching of this story. Now that we've settled into a kind of rhythm, now that I've found my way in and amongst what it is to be part of a one hour drama, I've been able to carve out a little bit more time for myself, a little bit more time for eating right and exercising. It makes for a healthy balance."
Purcell spent his hiatus making the movie, Town Creek, with director Joel Schumacher. "It's a Nazi psychological occult thriller," said Purcell. "Very intense movie. I'm playing a marine who's captured by his family, to sustain the life of this German who dabbled in the occult back in the '30’s, who hasn't aged. It's going to be a pretty intense movie."
The prospect of another imprisonment situation did not faze Purcell. Working with Schumacher was an opportunity he could not refuse. "I'll do anything. [If] Joel wants me to walk around in a pink thong, I'll walk around in a pink thong. Joel's a sweet guy. It's all good. Working with Joel was hugely thrilling and hugely intimidating because Joel is my favorite director of all time. Lost Boys, Falling Down, you name it. Flatliners. I just think he's an amazing filmmaker, an amazing director."
Schumacher got a great performance out of Purcell despite such adoration. "Oh, Joel knew I was a fan. How I got over it was the fact that he's so normal and natural as a guy. He's so relaxing to be around. He's not intimidating at all. All the expectations were just self-induced. The fact that I was working for him freaked me out. I had to really pull it together and get on set and ignore the fact that I was working with a legend in Hollywood and my idol. Once I got over the stage fright of being in Joel's presence, I really loosened up and Joel and I have become very, very good friends. He's a man I respect greatly."
Last year, Purcell also opened up about some of his hard living in the past. Still clean and sober, Purcell projects a calm relaxation that confirms he is in a good place. "I am. Life's pretty good. I'm doing all right."
PRISON BREAK returns to Fox Mondays at 8 pm et/pt beginning September 17, 2007