A dozen years ago, Wentworth Miller was just a hungry actor looking for a breakout role -- and he got one, literally and figuratively. And after some time proving that he isn't just Michael Scofield, he's ready to be locked into the role again for nine new "Prison Break" episodes.
After an explosive four-season run from 2005 to 2009. the always twisting, turning Fox drama appeared to close on a note of noble sacrifice for Michael (well, somewhat noble for a guy who already had a terminal brain tumor), but eight years later it turns out the former inmate's fate wasn't quite as definitively final as audiences were led to believe, with Miller and co-star Dominic Purcell returning for another round, along with many of the series' original castmembers,
With more great escapes -- and presumably great escapism -- firmly in his future, Miller joined Moviefone and a select group of press for a look inside his welcome return to lockup.
What was it like to inhabit Michael again after all this time?
Wentworth Miller: It was like riding a bike, except I'm 10 years older. It's a very physical part, and very emotionally intense part. And to play him at 43, 44, is different than to play him at 33, 34. That's for sure.
Is there a sense that Michael himself is the mystery now?
I think we do ask that question. For me, that's been a question all along. What kind of man is capable of going through an experience like this? I've been asked many times what I think the appeal of the show is, and I have always said: family, and loyalty, and sacrifice.
And I think that's true. I think Michael also suffers, and he endures, and I think there's something about him enduring, and enduring, and enduring, and coming out the other side that people find relevant and very human, something that they can relate to no matter where they're watching.
Since the first series ended, journalists have asked you over and over, "Do you think you'll have a reunion?" Were you genuinely surprised when it started to look like a reunion could be possible?
Dom [Purcell] and I were the ones making the calls originally. Then we found out that Fox was having a similar conversation on their end. I can't overstate the importance of the [series creator] Paul Scheuring piece [of the equation], because they killed me off, twice! So the question was: How do I come back in a way that feels like it's honoring what's come before, honoring the existing mythology?
And I thought that Paul, of all people, is going to have our way in. So when I approached him and asked him if he had an idea, and the answer was yes, I felt assured that this was worth doing. There's something here to explore.
How much input did you have on the story?
I just brought my level of interest. I brought my level of enthusiasm. My trust in him as the fountainhead was complete.
How was going through the process of putting on the new tattoos, going through that again? Is that something that weighed on you and you were like, "Do I really want to go through that?"
I had a few flashbacks to long mornings outside Joliet State Pen in January, me half-naked in the makeup trailer at 4 a.m., with two or three strangers pawing me. But it's such a cool part of the story that it's always felt worth the effort.
How long did it take to put on these new tattoos? Was it just as long?
No, the new tattoo took maybe 40 minutes to apply, but it was every day, as opposed to the old tattoo which was two hours once an episode.
When you and Dominic started talking about revisiting this show, what was it about the experience that you wanted to revisit?
I think, for me, I felt like there was more story, and also, personally, selfishly, I like working with Dominic. We seem to have a thing. There is an ease and a shorthand with him, and a level of comfort that I haven't found with many other actors. So the idea of going back to this project, which is so dear to all of us, and working with Dominic again on something where we could put our heart, and our soul, and our time, was meaningful to me.
I was filing off an airplane not too long ago, and a woman stopped me and she said she watched "Prison Break" the original series during her chemo. It was one of the few things she had to look forward to. I hear those things all the time. It reaffirms for me the importance of what we're doing. I think entertainment, storytelling -- it's sacred.
You and Dominic got to share a journey after the show with "The Flash" and with "DC's Legends of Tomorrow." Then you've been separated for a while on those shows lately, but tell me about how that affected your relationship, bonded you deeper? You were already pretty close from "Prison Break" at first, but carrying it further on entirely different projects.
We're both grownups now. We're both adults. There's a maturation process and effect for myself -- and I'll speak only for myself -- and to track his journey, and to have someone who can reflect your journey back to you, the fact that we've been walking this road as actors, and as brothers, and as friends for quite some time, it's unique.
Dominic and I have nothing in common. We don't spend any time together off set, but when we're on set, we're like brothers. I think that's like family. We are like family.
After the nine new episodes, is there more story to tell, or do you feel like that's it?
There could be. There could be. I can see 50 from where I'm sitting. So I have to ask myself, "Do I have it in me as an actor?" It's such an intense part. I do like to bring my all. So as long as that seems possible, doable, and as long as there's a great story that's worth telling, we're not going to be letting down fans or lessening the existing mythology, then it's something to consider, for sure.
You went through some difficult times, and have been about that -- struggling with revealing your sexuality, and your lifelong battle with depression. Coming out the other end, was it all for the better? Made you a better actor? What did you learn from that?
I do feel like I'm a stronger actor now having come out as gay, having talked publicly about my mental health issues. I can focus on the job I'm actually getting paid to execute. I can focus on the role that I'm actually getting paid to perform.
How are you feeling now?
It's a day-by-day process.
We're just beginning to see the fruits of the deal you have with the DC/CW shows. What's been fun about being able to come back after a little bit of a hiatus from that group?
I love the cast. I love working in Vancouver. It's a great, hard-working crew. It's also nice to have time off. It makes me appreciate all the more when I get back into what it is.
Do you like being part of the Legion of Doom?
Ooh, I can't speak into that. I almost answered. You almost got me!