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Interview with Matt Olmstead of "Prison Break" on FOX
Prison Break Conference Call
April 14, 2009, 2009/11:00 a.m. PDT
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to
the Prison Break Interview call with Matt Olmstead. Iíd like to remind
you that todayís conference is being recorded. Iíll now turn the
conference over to Todd Adair for opening remarks. Please go ahead, sir.
T. Adair: Hello, good morning and good afternoon. Thanks, everyone, for
joining us today. Prison Break is gearing up to have its series finale
after four seasons, this May on Fox. The show returns for its final five
weeks beginning this Friday, April 17th. We will encore from 8:00 to
9:00 p.m. eastern pacific the winter finale then from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m.
we will show our first original episode and then for the next three
weeks the show will air in its regular time period of Fridays, 8:00 p.m.
to 9:00 p.m., before having its two Ėhour series finale on Friday, May
15, from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
I want to thank Matt for taking the time to speak to everyone today and,
Kathy, we can start the questions.
Moderator: Thank you. Weíll go first to Jim Halterman with
J. Halterman: Hello, Matt, thanks for your time today.
M. Olmstead: My pleasure.
J. Halterman: Iím sure this is going to be a question out of everybody so
Iíll get it out of the way. How did you get the news about the
cancellation and how did you feel about it?
M. Olmstead: We kind of knew all along that this season was most likely
going to be our last and then when the show premiered along with, 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
werenít 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 youíre going to come back or not and you donít
and you donít have a chance to wrap up a serial-like show, which
deserves to be wrapped up properly.
J. Halterman: And at the end of the series is there a small door left
open for any follow-up movies or anything like that down the line?
M. Olmstead: I think there always is. Some people donít make it, but not
to say that there couldnít be, if there was an appetite for it, some
form of the show or a standalone episode or a movie type of thing.
Thereís always that possibility.
J. Halterman: Thanks. Good luck to you with the last episode.
M. Olmstead: Thank you very much.
Moderator: Next we have Matt Mitovich with TV Guide.
M. Mitovich: Hello, Matt, thanks for your time today.
M. Olmstead: My pleasure.
M. Mitovich: I was wondering what you could tease about any returning
faces we might see during these last few episodes.
M. Olmstead: The mom character, the revelation that we put in the last
episode and 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
theyíre 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 wonít tell you who it is,
but a returning character who comes in and late in the game when the
wheels are coming off everybody heís 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 that having viewed it, obviously, pays off very
M. Mitovich: And that one is an actual reveal and not like what we did
with Westmoreland earlier? Itís an actual return.
M. Olmstead: Itís an actual return, correct.
M. Mitovich: Okay. And then what can you say about Prison Break, the
Final Break? What is that and when would it take place and when might
people see it?
M. Olmstead: What happened was when we were breaking the episodes we had
a storyline that we didnít know where, it didnít 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 really a cool
story that we want to tell and it plays standalone, which would be a
two-hour. So they, the studio, and we 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 also having viewed
that in its entirety, that paid off and was a good idea.
So, Iím not really concerned where or when it airs. It will be at some
point be viewed by the fans and hopefully it will be worthwhile for
them. What it is basically is episode 22, which is the series finale,
network finale for now. Everything gets wrapped up and then in the last
act thereís a jump forward like four years from now. We show the
characters where they are and some have won, lost; itís bittersweet and
this two-hour that we had in mind, or the next couple of episodes that
we had in mind, kind of plays in that middle period, that wrinkle in
So, it plays really well having viewed the whole finale, episode 22,
because now itís kind of a jump back in time and answers some questions.
But not wanting to rip off the audience we didnít do it where episode 22
plays like a cliffhanger like, now you have to watch the episodes
because we didnít want to infuriate the audience in terms of it plays as
a completely satisfying ending and just so happens that these extra two
hours also play well.
M. Mitovich: Thanks again for the series. Itís been a great time.
M. Olmstead: Iím glad you enjoyed it; I certainly have as well.
Moderator: Weíll go next to Walt Belcher with The Tampa Tribune.
W. Belcher: Hello. I was wondering if it hadnít been coming to an end do
you think it could have gone on? Would you have had more stories or had
you sort of come to it, the creative exhaustion of the possibilities for
escaping and re-entering?
M. Olmstead: I think we did have conversations early on in terms of what
if and they were fairly brief conversations. Thatís why we went pretty
much 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 wouldnít 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 there was, 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. I
really donít know yet, we tossed ideas around, but it was a very short
conversation because nothing really took hold in terms of inspiring
W. Belcher: And going in when you first started did you think there would
be, did you see and ending earlier?
M. Olmstead: Whatís 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 wasnít 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.
W. Belcher: Thanks a lot.
Moderator: Next we have Emily Hochberg with fancast.com.
E. Hochberg: Thanks so much for your time today. This is kind of goes
with the last question, but also just along those lines. Is this the
ending you were always working towards despite the amount of time you
were given when you found out you were being canceled?
M. Olmstead: There were certain things that in terms of Michaelís fate,
Lincolnís fate, Saraís fate, all the charactersí fates, that we had
tossed around as the show went along. Down the road I always wonder
whatís 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
writerís 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 or no one got, we added a couple, but it
really executed what we really wanted to do I think, like I said, pretty
early in the season so it wasnít a scramble at the end. It was
satisfying in that as I mentioned earlier, the stuff that we set up
early in the season paid off handsomely at the end of the season.
E. Hochberg: I know this sounds squirrelly, but I have to ask. What can
you tell us about how Michaelís and Saraís story line is going to be
M. Olmstead: Iíll tell you this. Itís wrapped up unexpectedly because for
a while there they were, just for like an episode or so, it felt like
they were kind of Bonnie and Clyde. It worked for one episode, which is
kind of coming up. It was that same fear of what do you do with two
characters that thereís a real charged, fresh aspect to their
relationship if theyíre stuck together do they become the Lockhorns?
What are they going to do after a while? Thatís kind of the reason why
in season three we had her character ďkilledĒ because thereís almost a
disservice to the actor and the character like what are we going to do
with her once theyíre together because thereís always been walls between
So, we found a way in this season for this kind of torture that she
suffered at the hands of Gretchen and company in season three off-screen
that helped kind of put this new wall between her and Michael and itís 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, what seems like two people are joined at the hip want the same
thing thereís a bunch of curve balls that are thrown at them in the
finale. Ultimately itís bittersweet, but very satisfying.
E. Hochberg: Iíll look forward to it, thank you so much.
Moderator: We now have a question from Troy Rogers, with the deadbolt.com.
T. Rogers: Hello, Matt, how are you?
M. Olmstead: Iím doing great, thank you.
T. Rogers: Whatís the one thing that you wished could have happened in
the story throughout the season?
M. Olmstead: Thereís one thing I wish we could have done is film more at
night. And that was really the only thing I wish for 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.
T. Rogers: So just more night shots.
M. Olmstead: Yes.
T. Rogers: And one other thing. You mentioned that there might be a TV
movie or a standalone episode in the future. I was wondering whatís the
plan for the Prison Break spin-off?
M. Olmstead: Thereís 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 couldnít get the
actress, the strike happened and when we came back the show was in its
last season. The Sarah Connor Chronicles wasnít doing that great and
thereís a host of reasons why that idea, that project, cooled. Whoís to
say if it could get a spark again. Iím not counting on it. My days
arenít based around it. But for me the showís done and I would comment
on the question of is there a chance that there could be a standalone.
Thereís always a chance, but nothing, certainly, in the planning stage.
T. Rogers: So a spin-offís not officially dead, though.
M. Olmstead: Itís on the ground, legs twitching, but you know thereís
still a heartbeat perhaps.
T. Rogers: Thank you.
Moderator: Weíll go next to Mike Hughes with TV America.
M. Hughes: I was wondering how early on you thought of how these guys
would eventually have their mother pop into the show.
M. Olmstead: The mother idea was one that was, there were 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
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.
M. Hughes: I wanted to ask about the differences between Michael and
Lincoln because they have always seemed so different. I was really
surprised that Michael seemed a lot like the mother that weíve seen just
a speck of here. Michael doesnít at all. Heís a very hard-nosed guy. How
do you explain how little he seems to have in common with this super
bright woman whoís his mother?
M. Olmstead: 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 kind of,
Lincoln clearly was a chip off that block. So, this is the kind of
female equivalent of Michael, which we really havenít 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 dynamicís
explored in the next couple episodes.
M. Hughes: Just to make sure Iím clear on one thing you said earlier.
When Sarah Connor didnít catch on that well in the ratings that kind of
made it harder for the next show that would star a female lead. Is that
what you said?
M. Olmstead: That was one of the things that was kind of tossed around
and who knows, that could have been someone who was trying to make me
feel better or not hurt my feelings because the show didnít get picked
up, I have no idea. There was a host of reasons and not the least of
which is it probably wasnít the right time for another prison show and
again this was more along the lines of this was the last season of
Prison Break and had the network explored that fully in their mind, did
they want to revisit it. So the Sarah Connor thing was a reason that was
brought up, now that I think about it probably by my agent. Not by me,
Iím not an expert in those things.
M. Hughes: Thanks.
Moderator: Weíll go to Nikki Katz with prisonbreakbuff.com.
N. Katz: Hello, Matt, thanks for talking with us today. One thing Iím
getting a lot of questions people want to know from you is what happened
M. Olmstead: Funny you should ask. The question was posed earlier about
any regrets. There werenít any regrets, but the only actor we couldnít
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
couldnít get him and his character gets addressed going forward. In
terms of the show the character lives on, but we werenít able to get him
in terms of showing where is he now type of deal.
But, yes, heís 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. Heís been a very
good sport about it. Unfortunately we couldnít get our schedules to
coincide. We couldnít get him for now, but his character is addressed.
N. Katz: Would you like to work with some of the cast again on a new
M. Olmstead: Very much so. Having been on a couple shows now you can
really appreciate thereís a special quality to someone who has a couple
different things going for them, which is talent, but also
professionalism and in a television show itís, I hate to say required,
because shows do go along with actors who have one of the other, neither
or both, but having been working with people like Bill Fichtner and
Robert Knepper, itís been a real joy. I think the same holds true for
them. I think that their experiences have been good on the show as well.
N. Katz: Thank you so much.
Moderator: We have a follow-up from Matt Mitovich with TV Guide.
M. Mitovich: Matt, I was wondering, I thought I heard talk somewhere that
there was somebody that you wanted to kill in the finale, but Fox wasnít
crazy about it so you had to change plans. Is there any truth to that?
M. Olmstead: 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.
M. Mitovich: Thatís cool. Iím just wondering if youíd discuss what you
think the showís biggest leap of logic over the years has been. Is there
one that even youíve got to admit was just --?
M. Olmstead: Yes. Itís 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
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 donít, 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
M. Mitovich: Thanks.
Moderator: Our next follow-up is from Troy Rogers with the deadbolt.com.
T. Rogers: Hello, Matt, back again. With all the double-crossing and
kidnapping thatís been going on why hasnít anyone in the company gone
after C-Note and his family to use as leverage against Michael?
M. Olmstead: When we last saw C-Note had gone into witness protection and
also thereís not a lot of love between C-Note and Michael in terms of
thatís when the guys with the shotgun marriage essentially in Fox River,
they needed each other. So itís not like getting hold of Sucre and
threatening Sucreís family, whatever. I donít think C-Note still carried
that kind of currency when it comes to Michael. Not to say that he
couldnít play a big part in the last two episodes.
T. Rogers: So overall heís basically the only escapee thatís free and
M. Olmstead: 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 cuckooís nest.
Moderator: Our next follow-up is from Walt Belcher with The Tampa
W. Belcher: Iíve got to ask about T-Bag. Heís got to be one of the most
memorable villains ever in TV history. How could you wind his story up?
M. Olmstead: How could I what?
W. Belcher: I know you canít give it away, but how could you wind his
story up? Heís managed to survive this long.
M. Olmstead: He has been like a real cockroach, but in what Iíve 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 heís a big fan favorite, but itís 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.
W. Belcher: Itís a memorable character.
M. Olmstead: I agree.
W. Belcher: I hope he can find work again.
M. Olmstead: Itís a little bit like the wicked witch. There are certain
character actors who are defined by that one role, but thankfully heís
been smart about it. Heís been doing movies on the side, and already has
a movie that heís doing right now so I would certainly bet on Rob
Knepper. Heíll do well.
W. Belcher: Thanks.
Moderator: We have no further questions. Do you have any closing remarks?
M. Olmstead: Yes. I would just like to thank everybody for their support.
I know, having been a journalism major myself, you have to be very
objective, but then sometimes you do encounter people who have a real
enthusiasm for the show and that can be expressed and certainly
The show certainly had a graphic novel feel to it and not everything was
perfect, but having looked at it as a whole Iím very proud of the work
that we all did on it and I think that itíll be looked on as a pretty
good piece, these four years weíll look back on favorably for whatever
thatís 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
So, just on a personal level I certainly appreciate it. I know the
others did as well.
T. Adair: Thank you so much, Matt, and everyone else that was on the
call. The conference call will be available via transcript and playback
later today and tomorrow. If you have any further questions feel free to
e-mail me at todd.adair@fox .com or call me at310-360-3945. As a
reminder Prison Break returns this Friday from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
with a new episode from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. leading up to its series
finale on Friday, May 15th from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. Thanks again,
everyone and weíll talk to you soon. Goodbye.
Moderator: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. That does conclude our
conference for today.
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