Sarah Wayne Callies, Robert Knepper Interview: ‘Prison Break’

Prison Break stars Sarah Wayne Callies and Robert Knepper

Sarah Wayne Callies and Robert Knepper from ‘Prison Break’ at Comic Con 2016 (Photo © Richard Chavez / Showbiz Junkies)

Fox’s new limited Prison Break series reunites the main cast for new episodes in which fans will finally have the opportunity to catch up with Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies), and T-Bag (Robert Knepper). The limited series, which won’t arrive until 2017, was well represented at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con by the show’s stars, with Sarah Wayne Callies and Robert Knepper teaming up for roundtable interviews to discuss the series, their characters, and where the 2017 Prison Break picks up the story.

Sarah Wayne Callies and Robert Knepper Interview:

You got some closure on T-Bag in the Prison Break spin-off series. What was it like after that to revisit T-Bag again?

Robert Knepper: “It was, you know, our feeling I think – and this came from Paul (Scheuring) – is let’s go back to the first season. Let’s go back to the richness of that writing and that relationship. It almost didn’t matter how it evolved over the years; it was the richness of that first season that made us go. And the beautiful thing about it, as I was thinking about what we were going to talk about today, is I thought how great is it that we did play these characters years ago. At the same time when we came to the set, I never felt like this was nostalgic. This wasn’t, ‘Hey Sarah, do you remember when we used to…,’ that was like a bunch of actors going, ‘Sh*t, I have to figure this out right now, today.’ And because we played the characters before, there was this confidence. There was this ease and an ability to say, ‘Let’s try something new. Let’s make it simpler. Let’s make it more dangerous.'”

Sarah Wayne Callies: “It’s been seven years and so I think two things happened. One is that the character evolves because it’s been seven years in their life. But the other one is, God willing, we evolve. I better be a better actor than I was seven years ago or I’ve been wasting my time.”

Robert Knepper: “I feel like I’m a better person. I’m a different person than I was seven years ago. It was great to be able to walk onto the set and have people say, like Sarah…she and I hated each other as characters years ago. And now to have this sort of conflict with characters with each other… People like Dominic (Purcell) were like, ‘What? You guys are hugging?’ People confuse between the characters and the actors. I was always this guy who could hug Dom years ago, but we were not this way years ago. And now the characters go, ‘I need you. How can I figure out how to get what I need from you when I still don’t totally trust you?’ It was much more of a camaraderie this time.”

Sarah Wayne Callies: “Yeah there was, for sure.”

So you would say the new episodes are less about nostalgia and more about a continuation of something new with the story?

Sarah Wayne Callies: “Yeah. I mean, Paul was the brain behind season one and season two, and then he left the show. Now he’s back masterminding season five. I can’t imagine what the inside of his brain looks like, but he’s got this sort of labyrinthing way of seeing things. He lays things out and lays them in, and I think that’s exciting for us as actors. I don’t think this is a nostalgia piece. I actually think that they’ve updated it in a way that really dials into a current sort of geopolitical world that makes it really relevant. I think parts of the story that are being told are pretty brave and pretty risky.”

Where is it that we catch up with Sara in her life? What is she up to at this point?

Sarah Wayne Callies: “You know, in a lot of ways she’s a radically different person because she’s now a wife and mother and has been for the last seven years. And she’s a woman raising a son who she believes is the son of the dead love of her life. I think without that son Sara probably wouldn’t have come back from her grief. But at a certain point down that rabbit hole I think she looked at this little boy and went, ‘My grief is a luxury you can’t afford, so I’m going to get on with it. I’m going to express my fidelity to your father by raising the hell out of you. I will pour my love for him into you.’

I think when we catch up with her, you know her son’s seven years old and he’s at an age where he’s looking and acting more like his father every day which is devastating and beautiful at the same time. She made a decision not to raise him alone. She found a man willing to take what she had left to give. She’s remarried. There’s no pretense of like, ‘This is the love of my life.’ This is a comfortable companionship. We’re good to each other; he’s good to the kid. It’s working. Is it the happiest she’s ever been? No. But, she’s doing what needs to be done.”

However Michael comes back, the idea that he told her he was dying of a brain tumor must not sit well with her. How is she going to deal with that?

Sarah Wayne Callies: “I think that there’s so many emotions that come up initially when she’s confronted with what appears to be evidence that Michael is back. I think doubt is a huge part of it. But I think also a lot of those emotions have to do with the feeling of betrayal. ‘Where have you been all these years when I’ve been raising this child on my own? Did you love me?’ Because over the four seasons it doesn’t take that long. It’s like a year and a half in the lives of these people so I think she starts to question, ‘Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I built this thing up in my head.’ And then somewhere behind that I think is faith, is a sense that this is a good man who does the right thing whenever he can so there must be a reason for this and I’ve got to find that reason. But, it’s a very uncertain thing.”

Robert Knepper: “I remember watching the show and thinking, ‘God, I love Sarah’s acting.’ But here’s the thing, you had this great knack of like not looking people in the eye until you really need to look at them. I thought, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that!’ because you hate ‘TV actors’ that go (staring directly at someone), ‘I’m watching you. I’m never looking away from that one eye,’ right?”

Sarah Wayne Callies: “I appreciate the compliment but realize that most of that was because I was f**king with syringes, putting on gloves.”

Robert Knepper: “The reason I bring it up is because now she and I have some really beautiful, juicy scenes together. I go, ‘I get to act with that person that I used to just watch on TV!'”

Sarah Wayne Callies: “I felt the same way! We never worked together the first season and I remember watching it and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s doing that? Wow!'”

Watch the entire Sarah Wayne Callies and Robert Knepper interview:


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