EXCLUSIVE: 'Prison Break' Boss on Michael's Emotional Breakdown: 'He Was Carrying Too Much Pain Inside'
By Philiana Ng
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Tuesday’s episode of Prison Break.
How is Michael Scofield going to get out of this?
On Tuesday’s episode of Prison Break, Michael’s (Wentworth Miller) plan to break out of the Yemeni prison goes horribly wrong and ends the life of one of his cellmates as a fatal consequence. Thrown into solitary confinement as punishment, Michael unsuccessfully tries to send one last video message to Sara Tancredi-Scofield (Sarah Wayne Callies), explaining why he faked his own death and the reason his new moniker, Kaniel Outis, isn’t who he wants to be remembered as if he dies. “This whole lie, it was all for you,” Michael tearfully concedes, all hope lost.
“One thing that Wentworth really brought to it this season was the stoic veneer that Scofield had so often had in the previous four seasons -- he was carrying too much pain inside, too much baggage this season to be able to hold it all in,” creator Paul T. Scheuring exclusively tells ET of Michael’s heartbreaking confession, confirming that the video message failed to reach Sara because the phone battery died.
Scheuring hints that this is just “one example” viewers will see of this season of Michael’s vulnerable state of mind.
“He’s very emotional this season, and occasionally, verging on madness,” he says. “You can tell percolating within that the guy's just got all sorts of pain and confusion and guilt. It really comes to surface a number of times this season and that’s a real testament to Wentworth knowing the character and wanting to go there.”
The unsuccessful prison escape takes a toll on Michael in the next episode, as he has a new “sense of desperation.”
“We wanted to create a ticking clock,” Scheuring says. “At once, you have to get out of prison, but you better do it fast because the radicals are coming and they’re going to take over the country and they’re going to butcher you if you’re still in this prison. And so, you’ve got the devil on your heels and if you don’t get out, you’re basically dead. We wanted to set that up early because I didn’t want the entire season to be about breaking out of prison.”
“You don’t want to make the prison easy to get out of, otherwise a show named Prison Break is dispiriting because you’re like, ‘Well that place was a paper basket and you guys just carved your way right out of it,’” he adds. “The prison had to punch them in the mouth at least once, and I think they get punched in the mouth pretty badly.”
While Michael continues to toil behind bars, his brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), saves local Yemeni fixer and activist, Sheba, from being raped by “bad guy” Cyclops, a man she's known with since childhood, during an intense interrogation scene.
“I really think in Inbar Lavi, we got a super actress and she was willing to go there,” Scheuring says. “She has this foiled fury beneath her beautiful veneer and when you see that sequence, you’re like, ‘I get it.’”
“We wanted to make in the Cyclops character a bad guy, but on some level, an understandable bad guy, which is, he’s the meek one that no one’s ever respected. The woman that he loved didn’t love [him]; his fellow ISIS rebels don’t respect him, and that frustration is bubbling over. It’s coming from a very human place,” he continues. “Hopefully, we told a good enough story as writers, but the director and the actors really brought it home.”
Lavi opened up about filming the scene, which she says she spent a full day working on, calling the entire experience “challenging.”
“The reason that scene is so powerful is because it’s uncomfortable,” the 30-year-old actress exclusively tells ET. “Physically, I felt like my body was taking a real beating and what was interesting was I wasn’t even focused on the physicality, I was emotionally drained. For me, the most important thing when I film such a pivotal scene like that is to be as truthful and as honest as I can be. Unfortunately, we live in a world where that happens; it happens a lot. It was a very difficult scene and it’s such a sensitive topic. As hard as that scene was, I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to actually be in that situation. I feel very responsible to be able to portray that in the most honest and truthful way. I can only hope that we did a fair enough job.”
Lincoln and Sheba’s connection, initially borne out of necessity, becomes something greater as the season progresses. Lavi was coy (“I can’t say much about it”) on romantic prospects, though she was open about their burgeoning partnership.
“They have a lot in common,” she says. “Sheba and Lincoln are in a place in their lives where they act a lot out of defense. They’re defending themselves, they’re defending others. They protect their community, their people, [and] their families. It can be exhausting and they can relate to each other on that. They also have a lot of shields put up. There’s a safe place for them when they’re with each other where they don’t have to do that.”
Scheuring echoes Lavi’s sentiments, agreeing that a romance is “out of mind for them” at the moment.
“If you put a lead actress and a lead actor onscreen together for a while and you put them in a crucible, they tend to start bonding,” he says. “We want that, but we also don’t want it to be absurd because these people come from very different cultures and they have very specific agendas with their families. It’s not like they can just run off and hop in the sack, and we can spend 10 pages with them dancing the Macarena in Ibiza.”
“It has to be this very chaste, very frustrated, very minimalist respect and growing emotional relationship that you can see it in them,” Scheuring notes. “In another time and place, it would be much easier, but there’s not a lot of whole lot of time for it here. We’re hoping to do a nuanced version of it, but clearly, they’re interested in each other.”
Prison Break airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.