EXCLUSIVE: Wentworth Miller on Resurrecting 'Prison Break' Nearly 8 Years Later: 'I Had Left Michael Behind'
By Philiana Ng
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It’s been nearly a decade since Prison Break last graced the small screen, but it’s finally back -- and fans are in for an action-packed treat!
Fox’s prison drama returns Tuesday for a new nine-episode installment, welcoming back series stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows, respectively. ET was with Miller on the Vancouver set, where he dished on what fans can expect in Prison Break’s latest chapter, which kicks off by addressing the elephant in the room: Michael’s presumed death.
“We find out that Michael is alive, not necessarily well,” Miller told ET last June. “When the story picks up, he is in a prison in Yemen and in a dark place physically and emotionally.”
For the 44-year-old actor, returning to play Michael almost eight years later presented a unique opportunity he was excited to take on.
“It’s a really rare opportunity for starters, to go back and take another look at a character that I thought I was done with. Psychologically and emotionally, I had left Michael behind,” Miller said of the 2009 finale. “It’s an endlessly rich and complicated character, and one of the things that I like most about him -- we’re exploring that in these nine episodes in the reboot -- is he has to use people to get the job done. He has to manipulate everyone around him like pawns, but he’s also a deeply caring individual. That’s a lot of fun to play as an actor, that push-pull.”
Miller admitted revisiting his beloved character a decade later provided a new challenge.
“It’s a different experience playing Michael Scofield at 43, than at 33,” he shared. “Then, he was more of a man boy, as I was a man boy, and now when we meet him, he is a man. He’s walked a dark road and that question of what is it to be a man. What is it to have to make difficult choices? [That’s] right at the heart of the character and he’s struggling as far as how to answer that.”
“He’s done some terrible things. His hands are quite filthy at this point,” Miller noted. “Can he still consider himself a hero? Does he deserve a happy ending? These are the questions we play with and try to answer.”
Reuniting with Purcell and co-star Sarah Wayne Callies, who plays Michael’s former love, Sara Tancredi-Scofield, was a special treat, with Miller likening it to a “high school reunion.”
“The very first thing I shot was meeting Dominic in the prison in Yemen,” Miller revealed, referencing the anticipated scene between the two brothers fans will see in Tuesday’s premiere. “He’s on one side of the bars and I’m on the other, and I had just come from [DC’s] Legends of Tomorrow playing a different character [Captain Cold] and there was a lot to distract me. All I had to do was look through the bars at this man’s face and it grounded me because he has been my through line.”
Callies said her experiences since starring in the original run of Prison Break (see: The Walking Dead) has hopefully made her "a better actor" than she was back then. In the new installment, Sara has moved on from Michael and has found a new father figure for Michael Jr., Jacob Ness (Mark Feuerstein).
"There was a part of me that thought, 'What if I could do better? What if I could bring this experience and different way of working into a character that's not going to be a facsimile of the woman she was before?'" she said. "Sara has evolved and I have evolved. Let's try to do it again and better."
If fans are hesitant to jump back into the latest chapter of the Prison Break saga, Miller promises it has the “same core DNA” as the original series, crediting creator Paul T. Scheuring for incorporating that special “stardust” and hinting that there are “Easter eggs in every episode.”
“It remains a story about family, about brotherhood, sacrifice and loyalty,” Miller explained, adding that Michael will feature some new ink this season. “We’ve got the government conspiracies, we’ve got the prison breaks, we’ve got the MacGyver-esque shenanigans, but it’s a domestic drama and that’s what gives it its heat and also makes the original still feel relevant today.”
“That was my concern going in. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to add to the existing [canon],” he added. “Let’s do it right or not do it at all, because we don’t want to let the fans down.”
Prison Break premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.