'Prison Break' Hits the Road


It's a small TV world, and that point was brought home recently during the biannual Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., a three-week marathon at a luxury hotel during which broadcast and cable networks present new programming to assembled reporters.

Mimi Leder, executive producer of Fox's new "Vanished," had just sat down for an interview in the hotel bar when up came Dominic Purcell, star of FOX's current "Prison Break" and former star of FOX's "John Doe," of which Leder was also executive producer.

To make it all even more interesting, "Vanished" begins its first season, and "Prison Break" its second, back to back on Monday, Aug. 21.

"What night are you on?" Purcell says.

"We have the '24' slot, following you," Leder says.

"Fantastic!" Purcell says.

"You're telling me," Leder says. "We're so thrilled. We're married to you guys now, which we're so thrilled about. How do you like having short hair?"

As an aside, Purcell had longer hair for "John Doe," in which he played a mystery man with no memory. On "Prison Break," he plays the shaven-headed Lincoln Burrows, a street-smart guy wrongly convicted and condemned for killing the brother of the vice president (Patricia Wettig) -- who turned out not to be dead after all (it's a big conspiracy thing).

On a side casting note, Wettig's role in the new ABC series "Brothers & Sisters" will limit her "Prison Break" work -- her character is now president -- but series creator Paul Scheuring says she may return at some point. Also, John Billingsley, who was heard but not really seen as the brother, also has a job, on ABC's "The Nine," so Jeff Perry takes over his role.

Meanwhile, back to the story: Linc's genius brother, Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller, also sporting a shaven 'do), who designed the Illinois prison where Linc was held -- in real life, the closed Joliet Prison -- robbed a bank to get himself incarcerated with the goal of busting Linc out.

Working from an extensive tattoo encoded with the prison plans, Michael engineered the breakout, which included not only Linc but Michael's cellmate, Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), the vicious Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (Robert Knepper), ex-soldier Benjamin Miles "C-Note" Franklin (Rockmond Dunbar) and mobster John Abruzzi (Peter Stormare).

As season two opens, the prisoners are still fugitives with the prison warden (Stacy Keach) and FBI agent Alexander Mahone (William Fichtner, "Invasion") hot on their trail. According to Purcell, the season, shot in and around Dallas, covers a span of about three weeks on the lam.

"I like it," Purcell says about his shorn hair (which contributes to a striking resemblance between him and Miller). "Last year on 'Prison Break,' I refused to wear makeup."

"I thought you looked fantastic," Leder says, "so rugged."

"They wanted me to put makeup on," Purcell says, "and they said, 'Why don't you get a bit of a tan?' I said, 'Are you crazy? The guy's in solitary confinement. I'm not wearing makeup. I'm putting 45 plus on my face every day. I'm never going out in the sun.'

"This year, we get to see me outside and tan."

The addition of a bit of sun isn't the only change for Linc. While the cerebral Michael led the show last season, it's now up to the more savvy and worldly Linc to keep everyone out of law enforcement's hands while trying to find evidence to prove his innocence and help his son, L.J. (Marshall Allman), who's also wrongfully imprisoned as a result of the conspiracy. Continuing to pitch in on that front is Veronica Donovan (Robin Tunney), Lincoln's childhood friend and intrepid lawyer.

"The way I like to word it," Purcell says, "is both brothers are driving season two, which is true. There's just as much screen time for Lincoln as for Michael last year."

"Now that we're outside," Miller says, "there's no reason for anyone to listen to Michael anymore, because T-Bag's going here, and Abruzzi's going here, and Sucre's going there. My objective is simply to get my brother to Mexico as quickly and safely as possible. The conflict for my character will be more about what's going on between Michael and Lincoln, because Lincoln has Veronica to think about, and L.J. to think about.

"He's got ties that are going to keep him from simply scurrying across the border as his brother desires, so that push-pull between Michael and Lincoln is something I'm looking forward to exploring quite thoroughly."

Standing in opposition, of course, is Mahone, but he's got problems of his own.

"There's inner stuff going on with him," Fichtner says, "that the audience is not going to be clear about, that really captured my imagination. You see it as the season rolls out. He's tough, and he's got some demons going on inside, and they're eating him up. We shall find out fairly soon what they are."

Also, as two brothers who've spent a lot of time apart -- Linc took the father's name, while Michael took the mother's -- now being fugitives is giving them a lot of quality time together.

"This year," Purcell says, "we get to see the brothers in each other's pockets all the time. They get on each other's nerves. We get to see the humor. We get to see the conflict between them. It's one of those things where you see the guys in a heated argument, causing chaos or whatever it is, and if somebody says, 'Break it up,' we both turn around.

"Lincoln's the action hero in this. He's the action guy, but mind you, Michael does a bit of that, too."

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