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After the Break: An Interview with Prison Break Creator Paul Scheuring

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Prison Broke? The Fugitives?

Skeptics wonder about the longevity of a show whose title promise was fulfilled in the first season finale. How do you sustain a show a called Prison Break after the break? But the show's creator and executive producer, Paul Scheuring, has no such qualms.

"I always had a two-year plan. Before I even wrote the first page of the pilot, I had to know the end game for all the characters and all the story arcs, because I'm really only comfortable writing closed-ended stories," said Scheuring, who wrote the film A Man Apart, starring Vin Diesel, before making his first foray into television with FOX's Prison Break.

In case fans despair for the longer-term future, though, he explained the show's lifespan isn't limited to those two years. "Of course with our success now, there's the question of season three, and we're beginning to explore some things with that that are pretty exciting, too," he promised. "But again, season three will be a complete reinvention, just as season two was of season one."

The success of the show has led to an invitation for Scheuring to share his experiences with industry insiders at the upcoming Banff World Television Festival. "What's interesting is that it's called a Master Class, and I'm involved in it, but I'm essentially a neophyte," he said. "I'm gladly going to share what I can in terms of my personal experiences in doing this show, which is a very unorthodox show for television."

Prison Break's first season revolved around the elaborate plan Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) devised to free his brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) from prison, where he was on death row after being framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother. Scofield, a structural engineer who helped design the jail, gets himself incarcerated in order to break out from the inside, while working on exonerating Burrows.

Scheuring thinks the audience, like the characters, were ready for release from the claustrophobic prison setting by the end of the season, and will gladly follow the characters through the aftermath. "It's basically a reinvention of the playing field," he said. "Our guys are going to be scattering to the four corners of the country, in all different modes of conveyance – you're going to have planes, trains, automobiles, everything."

In a TV landscape where a show like 24 reinvents itself and thrives each season, the fuss over Prison Break's change in direction seems linked to the title, as if the event becomes irrelevant even though it drives the action that follows. But as he prepares to begin shooting season two, Scheuring hints at more dramatic changes than simply a change in setting and mission.

"Overall, the season's going to be a mix between The Great Escape and American Idol," he revealed. "People are going to slowly fall by the wayside. We're going to pare away one escapee after another after another until only one's left standing. It's going to be fun, and we're playing for keeps. The audience is going to understand that from the very first episode – that no characters are sacred."

Last season, loyal fans stuck with the show despite a lengthy mid-season break, one they'll have to endure again in the coming season if FOX's recently announced 2006/07 schedule remains unchanged. This year, however, the producers are anticipating the hiatus. "Last year we were apprised of it after starting to shoot the 13th episode, which made this false cliffhanger," said Scheuring. "This year we're anticipating it."

While preparing for the second season of Prison Break, Scheuring recently turned in his script for the movie Yucatan, based on a pet project of Steve McQueen – star of The Great Escape. McQueen had traveled extensively to the Yucatan peninsula as research for a film on a treasure hunter in Mayan Mexico.

"He compiled all his notes into 16 custom-made leather-bound journals that were then placed in two custom-made treasure chests that he kept in his vault," explained Scheuring. "His son, Chad, discovered them and brought them over to Warner Brothers, and Warner Brothers obviously was very excited about it. There were storyboards in there – it was just amazing, there was a whole film in there."

Scheuring, a long-time McQueen fan, was honoured to be chosen to write the script: "It's a piece of Hollywood history." But he also noted that writing for movies is the antithesis of writing for television.

"In television, as creator and executive producer of the show, I've got final cut on the episodes, making the final edits, music choices, that sort of stuff. It's very, very empowering as a writer because the writer really becomes a filmmaker in a way," he commented. "Whereas in features, you're not involved in post production, you're not involved in casting decisions. They sure pay you a lot to complain, but by and large, you're just one of a stable of people they can just keep cranking through that project, and get new people to rewrite you."

Besides writing and producing Prison Break and continuing to write films, Scheuring hopes to turn to directing, possibly including later this season on the show. He discounts his one past directing credit with a laugh. "(36K) was a small film we made for a thousand dollars, and somehow it showed up on IMDb. I don't even have a copy of it. I don't think it exists anymore. So I don't think that really counts."

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About Diane Kristine Wild

  • Bolo

    ” The audience is going to understand that from the very first episode – that no characters are sacred.”

    I just wanted to say that you are a f#$$ing idiot for killing off Veronica Donovan like you did you f#$%ing moron. Now I come searching for your ass online to email you about it and see this quote saying you are going to f#$%ing kill all of them but one, you b#5tard as##hole lowlife $cum you were just using us all along till you could $uck us all up in the end like the real sneaky evil ba#rtard you are.

    Moron.
    FOX if you are reading, take this B#$%@h off the dam script and take over and don’t let this american idol BS sh#t go on anymore killing off all the people one by one. F#45ing idiots do’nt you see this is a LONG TERM show/movie you could do where people enjoy watching the good survive and the evil get killed for years to come, F##$ing keep the good people alive you b#$@tards.

  • Betul

    Dear Scheuring,
    I enjoy watching Prison Break and I do not understand why people get angry with you because you kill some characters. Veronica is killed, so what? This is only a movie…The story is astute, the actors are natural and fit so well, especially T-bag :) I’ve never seen such a good fitting bad character :)

    Best,
    Betul
    Turkey

  • Liz

    The show is great. I love the vocabulary and grammar. All the main character actors are exceptional, and I personally really like Paul Adelstein. I think he is extraordinary as Kellerman. The fact that we can have intelligent vocabulary and very little swearing is a testiment to the writers.
    I look forward to the next season.

  • http://Davis? Colin O’Hara

    Hey Paul, are you a Davis High Grad? Possibly in ’87? Watched your show and dig it. Somebody told me that you are the creator and well done if so and if this is you then thanks for saving my ass from the Jr’s back in ’86 @ Sundance apts. Looking forward to more episodes.

  • http://portugal alice soares

    I found Prison Break an unusual and really strong story. It has a strong plot, strong scrit, strong characters and strong performings. I found first season more interesting, I was expecting a different development at the second one.

    Anyway, I would like to know more about the script (I read all the first season and most of the second one). I found the script even more interesting than the TV show – but I can understand that it must be difficult to put some scenes into images.

  • KyUrichKy

    Prison Break is truly a strong story… when it first came out I had the slightest interest in it but as soon as I started watching it, it’s kinda hard to stop.. lol.. I’m especially impressed about Michael’s brains.. it just amazes me how he turns tiny useless objects into big useful clues.. it’s great. About the killings.. well.. to be honest, I was really disappointed to see Veronica die and all those other innocent people but oh well.

  • MARK -England

    Hi, what a great show to come from usa. Cant’ get enough.
    Superb writing fantastic acting especially by unknowns , ( to me anyway)its a show where you wished you could have been a part of /acted in.
    Wentworth miller is the new steve mcqueen.
    Favourite in the show , so many to choose , peter stormare, Robert Knepper GREAT!!!
    Wished peter stormare was still in. but that whats good i suppose not predictable on the main
    Characters.
    Look forward to 3rd dvd release.
    Mark,

  • Jessica Donovan

    i really enjoy prison break, i love the story, the characters everything flows so nicely. season one was mind breaking, season two got a little boring but i still watched and loved (like when lincoln beat the shit out of chinese guy), season three really showed off scoffield’s mind and muscule. i just really hope there will be a season four.

  • Irshad

    oh it’s damn good i loved watching every movement n every expression of each actor the series just took me in to it HEADS UP FOR ALL WHO TOOK PART IN PRISON BREAK i feel very sorry that i couldnt take part in it o atleast watch some shooting clips i m really sad i m just 19 yrs old but learnt some stuff that would help me BE A GENIUS EVERY BODY USE IT TO DO GOOD THNX LOVE U ALL I M VERY SORRY FOR MYSELF

    GOD BLESS SRI LANKA ( MY COUNTRY)

  • Elite

    Can’t wait 4 the forth season. Great work Paul.

  • http://blogcritics.org pet

    Season 4 must be one hell of a HIT. iJUST CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER. THERE ARE MANY MYSTERIES TO BE SOLVED . LIKE HOW T-BAG AND SUCRE WILL GET OUT OF SONA. TAKING DOWN OF THE COMPANY. SUSAN/GRETCHEN SURVIVAL SARAH’S COMEBACK. MAHONE’S AGENDA. MICHAEL’S GENIUS.

  • Lionel k dzumbunu

    I love the show man you have lots of talent paul,love man apart and preason break.

  • Ibolya

    I love Prison Break.Michael dies in the end be wrong.You can not resurrect a new set of more than Bobby Ewing in the Dallas?Then I could continue.

  • Nessy Shyko

    I love that series i av neva been so attached to a series lyk tht b4
    the characters fit in so perfect william fitchner en my fav-robbert knepper n wentworth miller
    Paul Scheuring total GENIUS!!

  • abha bhasin

    why you stopped making other season of prison break..itz the best series i ever saw..had everything in it..so,i am looking in to itz 5th season..hope to see it..and i appreciate your skills..

  • http://www.twitter.com/mickoc_ Michael

    Dear Paul,

    Thank you for giving us prison break. What a show. I’ve just finished watching the last episode. I would love to know how you developed the skill to write such fantastic cliff hangers toward the end of each episode.

    Did you cast the show too? Fantastic performances. With Michael schofield you’ve managed to include just about every attraction trigger and archetype for the modern day Steve mc queen. Was this on purpose?

    Well done again.

    Best,
    Michael

  • Belgium1

    Paul,

    just watched Prison Break for the second time, and I still cried at the end.
    It’s impossible how Prison Breaks plays with my mind. It has such a big impact.
    Hope you keep doing the great work you did and turn it in a 5th season, that would be so great!

    I also watched how the first season was made, in such a little room… It’s crazy how you turn it in such a strong and beautiful image time after time.
    I’m very interest in the making of movies. Within three years I will finish my studies Industrial product development in Antwerp,Belgium and I hope to get a job behind the scenes of movies, to design something new to make the takes much easier. ( it would be nice to work with Wenthworth Miller ofcourse, but I think that’s just a dream ;))

    Anyway, much respect from Belgium!

  • Thabile

    Hi Paul
    How can you end prison break? I thought you were gonna do at least 3 more seasons or 4

  • nisha

    Please bring back Prison Break I dream about a different out come its bean 4 years now please Paul bring the show back i absolutely
    love Prison Break and i wont rest until you Mr. Paul Sir. :) please bring the show back to us

    Thanks , Nisha

  • pinter

    As a big fan of this sèries “Prison break”, i think that it will be great if they can make a movie for the personage of ‘T-Bag’ Bagwell- based only on his life (as a ‘biographie movie’)

  • david

    “Beauties of the Tang Palace”
    is a copy of an American Tv-series called Prison Break (2005-2009)… at least the escape from Ming Palace part… I don’t know if they creators had a deal between themselves… but it’s really an eyesore.
    Too many similarities in the storylines …XD…. ahahaha! Plagiarism… how disgusting…