Eric Lange never spoke to Lyle Mitchell, the husband of Joyce Mitchell, the prison worker who helped two inmates escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in 2015, events depicted in the Showtime limited series “Escape at Dannemora.”
Lange asked to talk, of course, but given that Joyce is alleged to have had sexual relationships with both prisoners, Lyle doesn’t really want to address the events. It’s obviously painful and embarrassing. He has given just one interview, and that account became a building block for Lange’s portrayal of Lyle in “Dannemora.”
Lange still wonders how much Lyle knew about his wife’s involvement with the prisoners and their escape. (Lyle and Joyce both worked at the correctional facility, though he resigned in the aftermath of the escape.)
“In the very first episode, you see they’re talking in the movie theater,” Lange says of Lyle and Joyce. “ ‘You know, uh, people say you’ve been talking to this one guy a lot.’ He’s on to it fairly quickly and she shuts him down. But I like to think that he smells something the entire time, and what he’s left with is the decision about whether or not it is worth it to actually act on the frustration. Because if he does, he could lose her.”
Playing Lyle required a physical transformation, something Lange has never done — at least to this extent. He gained — and then lost for the series’ flashback episode — a good 40-plus pounds, donned a wig and prosthetic teeth, and let his mustache go a bit to seed.
“There’s something about that blanket of weight that becomes your permanent costume,” Lange says in a video interview at The Times’ studio. “It affects the way you breathe. It affects how much you sweat. It affects the way you sleep, the way you walk.”
Joyce Mitchell pleaded guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation and is currently serving a prison term that could last up to seven years.
Lyle is waiting for her.
“Love, man. It’s a complicated thing,” Lange says.
You can watch the full conversation with Lange below.