Interview with Matt Olmstead of "Prison Break" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Prison Break picture

Interview with Matt Olmstead of "Prison Break" on FOX 4/19/09

Prison Break Conference Call
April 14, 2009, 2009/11:00 a.m. PDT

Todd Adair
Matt Olmstead


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 nicely.

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 time.

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 anybody.

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

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 wrapped up?

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 them?

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

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 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.

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

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 to L.J.?
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 project?

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 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 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 swallow.

M. Mitovich: Thanks.

Moderator: Our next follow-up is from Troy Rogers with the

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 clear, right?

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 Tribune.

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 appreciated.

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 certainly appreciated.

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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