Yesterday we teased you with some serious Prison Break scoop on the upcoming final episodes. Emphasis on “some.” So how ’bout some more? You got it – Fancast spoke to Prison Break Executive Producer Matt Olmstead and we have the full Q&A for you right here. Want to know how the show wraps up? Or finally put an end to all those spin-off rumors? How ’bout the deal on those extra two hours of PB floating around? Olmstead is discussing all of that. So read on for his take on their biggest “oops” to date, plans for major characters, and a finale that will jump four years into the future. The only question we can’t help you with is how to console yourself once the show is officially done.
How did you get the news about the cancellation and how did you feel about it?
Matt Olmstead: We kind of knew all along that this season was most likely going to be our last and then when the show premiered, I would say, most shows took a bit of a hit in the ratings and that kind of coincided with us storytelling-wise in terms of what we had left in the tank. So, we knew at the very beginning of the season that we weren’t going to hold back anything and use up all the ideas that we had and not to worry about setting up for a fifth season. So, as the season progressed it became increasingly clear that it was going to be our last season and also it turned out to be kind of a benefit to us in that we were able to really set up things that were going to pay off at the end of the season and what would be the end of the series. So, we have some last images, last storylines that take place at the season finale, series finale, were set up at the beginning of the season. So, it was a bit of a luxury in the sense that we had the time to platform the ending as opposed to going on hiatus like some shows have to do, and wait to hear if you’re going to come back or not, and you don’t have a chance to wrap up a serial-like show, which deserves to be wrapped up properly
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At the end of the series is any door left open for follow-up movies or anything like that down the line?
MO: I think there always is. Some people don’t make it, but not to say that there couldn’t be, if there was an appetite for it, some form of the show or a standalone episode or a movie type of thing. There’s always that possibility.
Will we see any returning faces in these last few episodes?
MO: The mom character, the revelation that we put in the last episode; she plays a big part of the last few episodes. A lot of secrets are revealed and Michael and Lincoln are certainly shook in terms of who they are, where they came from and at a certain point they’re wondering is this the truth, or are they trying to be divided and conquered, so to speak. Then we have a big surprise reveal, which I won’t tell you who it is, but a returning character who comes in late in the game when the wheels are coming off everybody, he’s either there to save the day, or to hijack the whole thing for his or her own benefit. So the big reveal of a returning character pays off very nicely.
What can you tell us about Prison Break, the Final Break? What is it and when might people see it?
MO: What happened was when we were breaking the episodes, we had a storyline that we didn’t know where it would really fit. It kept getting moved along down the episodes as the season went along. Then we had a conversation with the studio in terms of, this is a really cool story we want to tell and it plays standalone, which would be a two-hour. So we and the studio creatively went ahead and did it for episodes 23 and 24, not knowing for sure where it would air, network or whatever, but knowing that it would certainly in some or fashion because the story for us was really compelling and that paid off in its entirety, and was a good idea. So, I’m not really concerned where or when it airs. It will at some point be viewed by the fans and hopefully it will be worthwhile. Episode 22 is the series finale for now. Everything gets wrapped up and then in the last act there’s a jump forward four years from now. We show the characters where they are and some have won, lost; it’s bittersweet and this two-hour that we had in mind, the next couple of episodes, kind of plays in that middle period, that wrinkle in time. So, it plays really well having viewed the whole finale, episode 22, because now it’s kind of a jump back in time and answers some questions. But not wanting to rip off the audience we didn’t do it where episode 22 plays like a cliffhanger like, now you have to watch the episodes. The finale plays as a completely satisfying ending and just so happens that these extra two hours also play well.
Had the show not been cancelled, do you think it could have gone on?
MO: I think we did have conversations early on in terms of “what if” and they were fairly brief. That’s why we went very quickly to this being the last season and how to really play off. The ideas that were tossed around in terms of what could be a season five were pretty thin. And my fear is that even if it went that way it would have limped out; it wouldn’t have gone out strong and just having been to the wrap party that everybody went to, there was a real feeling of accomplishment and there was no sense of we got caught short or it was we could have had more years or we wished we had more years. It felt like the story played out and having looked at the series finale, the four years, the four seasons play as a piece, as opposed to this season strung along and ultimately kind of fading out.
Has the show gone in the direction you expected from when you first started?
MO: What’s funny is that when I first met with Paul Scheuring and Don Perusay when they had filmed the pilot, and were looking for someone to come in and help out, they had in mind kind of a first and second season and the running joke was that no one knew what season three was, yet here we were able to do season four. Everybody knew there was an expiration date on the show; it wasn’t obviously a cop procedural, which could have a long lifeline. I give credit to both the studio network for signing off now because they knowingly signed off on a show that had certainly a finite lifeline to it and it was not going to be, by any means, a ten-year show. So I give credit to them in terms of supporting a show that they knew was going to burn brightly, but burn quickly.
Is this the ending you were always working towards despite the time crunch of being canceled?
MO: There were certain things that in terms of Michael’s fate, Lincoln’s fate, Sara’s fate, all the characters’ fates, that we had tossed around as the show went along. Down the road I always wonder what’s going to happen, where will we be? So it was kind of a little bit of a game that we had in terms of what are the last images you want for the show? Obviously that kind of got more traction this season when we knew this was going to be it. Having viewed the ending, which is an ending that was suggested in the writer’s room and built upon pretty early in this season, and we have these ten big white boards that we write a lot of stuff down on and put down a quick list of where we wanted to see everybody in this jump ahead four years down the road. It pretty much stayed the same throughout the whole season. No one got erased, we added a couple, but it really executed what we really wanted to do pretty early in the season so it wasn’t a scramble at the end. It was satisfying in that the stuff that we set up early paid off handsomely at the end.
What can you tell us about how Michael’s and Sara’s story line is going to be wrapped up?
MO: I’ll tell you this. It’s wrapped up unexpectedly because for an episode or so, it felt like they were kind of Bonnie and Clyde. It worked for one episode, which is coming up. It was that same fear of what do you do with two characters that there’s a real charged, fresh aspect to their relationship if they’re stuck together; do they become the Lockhorns? What are they going to do after a while? That’s kind of the reason why in season three we had her character “killed” because there’s almost a disservice to the actor and the character, like, what are we going to do with her once they’re together because there’s always been walls between them? So, we found a way in this season for this torture that she suffered at the hands of Gretchen and company in season three off-screen that helped put this new wall between her and Michael, and it’s a wall that inhibits their intimacy and finally at the end of the season, I can say that wall comes down, but there are unexpected ramifications to that. So, it seems like two people joined at the hip that want the same thing, but there’s a bunch of curve balls thrown at them in the finale. Ultimately it’s bittersweet, but very satisfying.
What’s one thing you wished you could have done throughout the seasons?
MO: One thing I wish we could have done is film more at night. And that was really the only thing I wish, because having seen the finale, and then what turned into two extra episodes, everything paid out. Having viewed it with the rest of the writers, many of whom have been there since day one, we knew each other and it was like we did the best we could do. There are absolutely no regrets. So, as I look back on this there are no real missed opportunities for me and the only thing is kind of budgetary-wise we were always proud of the fact that we stayed on budget for a couple different reasons. So we were unable to film at night, much as we did season one and for a visual aspect for me that was basically the one thing I wish we could do more. But in terms of storytelling or getting an actor or any of that kind of stuff, I sincerely have no regrets.
What’s the plan for the rumored Prison Break spin-off?
MO: There’s no plan for a Prison Break spin-off. We did a script for what would be establishing a character in season three, a female character and then getting her off into essentially a female prison show. There were a couple hurdles involved and we couldn’t get the actress, the strike happened and when we came back, the show was in its last season. The Sarah Connor Chronicles wasn’t doing that great and there’s a host of reasons why that idea, that project, cooled. Who’s to say if it could get a spark again. I’m not counting on it. My days aren’t based around it. But for me the show’s done and I would comment on the question of is there a chance that there could be a standalone. There’s always a chance, but nothing, certainly, in the planning stage. It’s on the ground, legs twitching, but you know there’s still a heartbeat perhaps.
How early on had you planned that Michael and Lincoln’s mother would pop onto the show?
MO: The mother idea was one of probably three or four ideas this season that were kind of back-pocket ideas, that someone would have mentioned early on, even in season two, or season three, a what if, and it just went away because there was no need for it. Then when things started to gain momentum in this season I was looking for that big card to turn that could have major ramifications. That idea was revisited. And once we did it fell together pretty quickly and actually dovetailed nicely into kind of the mythology that we had already set up and complications that we already set up and the differences between Michael and Lincoln and so it was something that was brought up that we revisited and it worked out nicely.
How do you explain the similarities between Michael and Lincoln and their mother?
MO: That will be explored the next couple episodes leading up until the last episode. We wanted to get someone, cast an actress, which I think we did quite successfully, who would be similar to Michael in the same way that the actor we hired to play their dad was a chip off the block for Lincoln. So, this is the kind of female equivalent of Michael, which we really haven’t seen. That in itself is interesting to us, but also there are some things about who they are that is called into question. That whole family dynamic’s explored in the next couple episodes.
What happened to L.J.?
MO: Funny you should ask. The question was posed earlier about any regrets. There weren’t any regrets, but the only actor we couldn’t get was Marshall. We wanted to bring him back for a couple episodes, but it was later in the season and there was a schedule conflict and we couldn’t get him and his character gets addressed going forward. In terms of the show the character lives on, but we weren’t able to get him in terms of showing where is he now type of deal. But, yes, he’s been really an important part of the show and a good guy about it because his character ping-pongs back and forth in terms of a couple of episodes here, a couple of episodes there. He’s been a very good sport about it. Unfortunately we couldn’t get our schedules to coincide. We couldn’t get him for now, but his character is addressed.
There were rumors that there was somebody you wanted to kill in the finale, but Fox wasn’t crazy about it, so you had to change plans. Is there any truth to that?
MO: Actually they came around. There was kind of a polarized viewpoint over at Fox in terms of killing for preserving a character and we made our pitch and turned in the script. They saw the merit in it and so they were completely on board.
What do you think was the show’s biggest leap of logic over the years?
MO: Michael getting a tattoo removed overnight at the beginning of this season. Wentworth was developing a skin irritation to having this thing applied to his body constantly, which I can get, even like the ones that were just on his arm. So we had to figure out a way; instead of him wearing long-sleeved shirts all the time can we zap the tattoo? Since they were working for the government we kind of fudged it a little bit where he was in a super-secret tattoo removal place ten miles from South Dakota, but who knows. So we established that and it went away. It was a little bit of a wank. When I look at the other ones that we did I obviously don’t, we took a lot of those, but the momentum of the show I think accommodated that. This one for me was a little bit tough to swallow.
With all the double-crossing and kidnapping that’s been going on why hasn’t anyone in the company gone after C-Note and his family as leverage against Michael?
MO: When we last saw C-Note, he had gone into witness protection and also there’s not a lot of love between C-Note and Michael in terms of that’s when the guys with the shotgun marriage essentially in Fox River, they needed each other. So it’s not like getting hold of Sucre and threatening Sucre’s family. I don’t think C-Note still carried that kind of currency when it comes to Michael. Not to say that he couldn’t play a big part in the last two episodes.
Overall he’s the only escapee that’s free and clear, right?
MO: Yes. We wanted that to happen in a way because of all the things that are going on in season two where people were getting clipped and a lot of hardship was being endured, that moment of C-Note walking in with his wife and looking over his shoulder and gone. You wanted that one person to fly over the cuckoo’s nest.
T-Bag has got to be one of the most memorable villains ever in TV history. Where is his story going?
MO: He has been like a real cockroach, but in what I’ve been referring to as this four-year jump cut ahead, when you see T-Bag and when we screened it for the cast and crew at the wrap party the crowd erupted. Obviously he’s a big fan favorite, but it’s a bit heartbreaking to see where he ends up. But it makes perfect sense. All I can say is when you see it, if you do get a chance to see it, let me know. I think we did a really good job with where he, what his ultimate fate is.
Any closing remarks now that the show is coming to a close?
MO: The show certainly had a graphic novel feel to it and not everything was perfect, but having looked at it as a whole I’m very proud of the work that we all did on it and I think that it’ll be looked on as a pretty good piece, these four years. We’ll look back on it favorably for whatever that’s worth, to whatever extent that the nice words that were written about the show it got back to us, and in times when we were beating our heads against the wall trying to figure out what to do next, it was certainly appreciated. So, just on a personal level I certainly appreciate it. I know the others did as well.