Robert Knepper Reflects on His ‘Prison Break’ Journey and a Upcoming Revival

You have to palm it to Robert Knepper. It’s not easy personification a male with one palm for 3 seasons and change.

As Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell, among a many cruel and distributed killers featured on Fox’s Prison Break, Knepper contended with a towering of hurdles over a march of his run with a array — violation in and out of mixed high-security facilities, murdering his approach opposite America while still somehow creation some magnetism from a audience, even cannibalizing an aged friend in a core of a dried during one point.

But few obstacles were larger than a detriment of T-Bag’s left palm in a consummate of a deteriorate one finale, a bloody turn that paved a approach for some of a character’s many noted moments in a indirect seasons — including a easy reattachment operation during a veterinarian’s office, followed quickly by a second dismissal of a same prong usually a few episodes later.

When Prison Break returns on Apr 4, however, Knepper and T-Bag will have 5 code new digits to call their own: in trailers for a regenerated FOX series, T-Bag is seen with a entirely organic cybernetic hand, a thoughtfulness of usually how many things have altered given a extraordinary array initial debuted in 2005. Then again, it’s also a thoughtfulness of how some things have stayed accurately a same — namely, the show’s bent to representation for a fences, no matter how furious a pitch.

With a deteriorate 5 premiere usually weeks away, Knepper sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a review about his tour with Prison Break, how his work in new years has shabby his perspective of a Fox River inmate, his memories of a night T-Bag mislaid his hand, and a series’ startling success after all these years.

Prison Break ended a initial run in 2009. What are your memories of a initial time we walked divided from personification T-Bag? Did we have any feeling that we competence one day live those boots again?

I wish to answer this in dual opposite ways. To answer a latter partial of a question, we remember carrying a travel as shortly as we wrapped. We were during a high propagandize youthful apprehension core when T-Bag was thrown into prison, years ago. The guys asked me if we wanted a float behind to bottom stay in a van. we said, “No, we usually kind of wish to walk.” we walked. There wasn’t anyone around. It was a pleasing day. The breeze was issuing by a trees. It was really quiet. Nothing chaotic. we listened this small voice in me saying, “I’m never, ever, going to play a restrained ever again.” And then, in my head, we saw images of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney and we listened myself say, “Until a subsequent time.” And thereafter we [reprised a role] on Breakout Kings, that we consider is a initial time a impression [from Prison Break] wound adult on a whole new series. When [creator] Paul Scheuring called me adult for [season five] during a commencement of a year, we said, “Just give him something new. Just make certain we have something new.” And he did. He gave us so many new things for so many of a characters, though also some of a aged stuff, that was great.

The other approach we wanted to answer that doubt is this. we had a good function in Nov and Dec to play in a film for [Investigation Discovery] called The Dating Game Killer. And no, we did not play a Dating Game Killer. He was a male named Rodney Alcala. He’s still alive, on genocide row. He’s one of if not a many inclusive sequence torpedo in America. They somehow didn’t oldster him. He got on a uncover The Dating Game in a ’70s, and by that point, he had already killed a lot of women. But he got picked, out of 3 contestants, to be a male that she would go on a date with. Somehow, backstage, after a uncover was finished taping, he pissed her off and she pronounced no to him. So she didn’t get killed. But he went to a disco that night and he picked somebody adult and killed that person. Leslie Greif constructed it — interestingly enough, my mother and we are going over to Bill Paxton’s life use right now, over during Warner Bros., and Bill and we worked together on Texas Rising, also constructed by Leslie Greif, same author as Hatfields McCoys — and he had a intelligent talent to expel me in The Dating Game Killer not as a common suspect, personification a bad guy. Guillermo Diaz plays Rodney Alcala. we was expel to play a investigator who goes after that killer. we suspicion it was really cool. It was really engaging to now play a male who’s going after a quote-unquote “T-Bag character.” It was really engaging to put that impression in a past. Who improved to hunt a wanted than a male who played a wanted before? It gave me really uninformed and out-of-date eyes to demeanour behind on it, to realize, ‘Oh my God, that’s what we had to understanding with years ago when we played that guy. How can we stay one step forward of a law?’

It’s also easy to suppose T-Bag circuitous adult on a dating show.

(Laughs.) Totally! Totally. He would be really charming, usually like Rodney Alcala was. And he would get picked! My mother and we would fun about it [when Prison Break was primarily on a air]. How could we not singular out T-Bag on a streets when he was walking around years ago? How does he always keep removing divided with this stuff? When we met [America’s Most Wanted host] John Walsh during a Fox upfront, he came adult to me and said, “Robert, we adore T-Bag. He’s great. But greatfully tell your writers one thing: No matter what he says or what he tries, he is and always will be a predator. we wish your writers never forget that.” And we said, “You know what? we don’t consider we have to worry about that. we consider they get a message.” He pronounced that this is a impression he’s always perplexing to get, a impression he’s always perplexing to nail.

In a past, we have talked about T-Bag as an animal. In a years given we final played a character, do we find that T-Bag is still some-more animal than male when Prison Break picks behind up?

It’s substantially still there. For all of us, though utterly for me, since this male was such a killer… if somebody pronounced something wrong to him, he would substantially kill you. But things are a bit deeper now. He thinks about things now. we don’t wish to give anything away; people speak a lot about tract with this show, and we consider it’s improved to be surprised. A lot of my tract points haven’t been brought out yet, and it’ll be good for y’all to be astounded by them. But we consider you’re going to find him fighting his demons a small bit some-more than he would have before. Before, he would have said, “You’re looking during me wrong? You’re dead.” Now, he’ll say, “I have to consider about it. If we kill somebody, there are ramifications.”

There’s one component about a lapse of T-Bag that’s already known: a lapse of a palm — importance on a hand, since there’s no removing that initial palm back. The miss of a prong has been such an critical aspect of a T-Bag experience. How many does that change a character, to have a functioning palm in deteriorate five? 

I remember that we went right from Prison Break to Heroes several years ago, and we went, “Wow! we can use my left hand. we haven’t been means to have a left palm in 4 years. we did all kinds of fun things with it that normal people do though thinking!” When we satisfied we would have this new hand… you’ll see. There are a lot of lovable small extemporaneous moments where we unexpected realize, “I have my palm back!” we don’t wish to give it away, though there are some fun moments of me rediscovering a use of my hand.

Can we revisit a impulse T-Bag mislaid his palm in a initial place? It’s in a thick of a deteriorate one finale, as a Fox River Eight are escaping. T-Bag shackles himself to Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) in sequence to sojourn partial of a escape, and thereafter John Abruzzi (Peter Stormare) cleaves T-Bag’s palm right off. What were a conversations like with a writers in a lead-up to losing a limb?

When we grew up, we wasn’t authorised to watch television. My father hated television. So I’m still in a robe of not examination a lot of television, that is ironic, since it’s my business. But we consider it was Paul Scheuring who called me adult and said, “What do we consider about a suspicion of slicing your palm off?” And we said, “Has it been finished before? Because we don’t watch a lot of TV. If we consider it hasn’t been finished all that much, thereafter yeah, let’s do it.” And he said, “Well, that palm do we wish to cut off?” And we suspicion about it. I’m right-handed. You never know if a uncover is going to final longer than a deteriorate you’re personification in; there’s always hope, though we never know. Who knew it would final another 3 years.

I motionless we improved cut off my left hand, since that’s a one we don’t use all that much. But a dang thing about it is that we don’t have any tattoos on my body. For my initial reading with Paul Scheuring and a gang, appreciate God we didn’t have tattoos, since we hadn’t seen a commander yet, and we didn’t know a whole thing was about Wentworth carrying all of these tats [designed to assistance mangle out of prison]. (Laughs.) But we suspicion if we have a tattoo on my body, I’m going to feel tougher. So what we did was we took a small sharpie and on my core finger — and we would have to demeanour behind to commend it — though on a core finger of my left hand, we tattooed a ring: “XO XO XO XO.” Little did we know, we would have all a things with a adore seductiveness with Mrs. Hollander [in deteriorate two]. In my head, we combined a tattoo after it didn’t work out with her. The sign we had for it in my conduct was: “Love and kisses, adore and kisses, adore and kisses, adore and kisses, f— you,” with my core finger up. When Paul pronounced that palm do we wish to cut off, we pronounced let’s keep a right. Let’s go with a left. But thereafter we realized, oh shit! That’s a palm where we put a tattoo on my finger! So that was gone. Luckily we found my middle toughness and never had to work on it. But putting that small tattoo on my finger, it finished me feel like we was tough.

Did that assistance surprise a loss? T-Bag wasn’t usually losing a palm in your interpretation, though also a really absolute memory.

There were so many memories packaged into any moment. I’ll never forget it. It was so cold when we shot that episode. Kevin Hooks was directing it, a final part [of deteriorate one], and he was also a line producer. Wentworth and we were handcuffed. Kevin said, “Here’s a thing. You’re going to be thrown down onto a hood of a car. Your hands are there. Peter Stormare has a mattock and he’s going to break it down right on tip of you.” And he asked Peter, “Hey, how’s your aim? Think we can spike it between a hands?” And we consider it was Wentworth who said, “Wait, nope, he’s not putting that mattock down on a hands. There’s no approach that’s happening.” (Laughs.) But that was a strange idea. “We’ll be fine! You have good aim! It’ll be fine!”

I desired that scene. we adore a impulse right afterwards, too, where Teddy’s using by a woods, by a misty night, carrying his hand, and a harrowing and vivid sounds that came out of my mouth. You know, we schooled a prolonged time ago from childhood that your imagination is so great. You should usually obey to it. How am we ever going to ready for something like that? How am we ever going to ready for what it feels like to have your palm sewn behind on though anesthetic? You use your imagination. It’s thousands of years old. It’s something we can count on.

In perplexing to consider of difference to report a uncover like Prison Break, one of a initial that comes to mind is “improbable.” The array fulfills a title’s guarantee by a finish of a initial season, with a Fox River Eight violation out of prison. Where can a uncover go from there? And yet, not usually did Prison Break continue on for 3 some-more seasons, it also returned as a film in Prison Break: The Final Chapter, we reprised T-Bag in Breakout Kings, and now a uncover is on a approach behind for a bone-fide fifth season. It’s an extraordinary success story. How do we explain it?

Brother, we got me. I’m not utterly sure. My possess personal feeling is that a universe was so specific. we remember when we was study behaving many years ago, that George Bernard Shaw said, “The author writes for himself, and a universe overhears it.” In history, when we write a story — whether it’s television, film, a novel — if your universe is really specific, we thereafter have good ubiquitous overtones. You emanate themes. Look during a shows that have finished that and finished it and continue with abounding worlds and abounding characters. You can go in so many directions. I’m meditative of Game of Thrones, for instance. It can usually occur since a universe itself is so specific. That’s my usually camber about it. It’s also, on a uncomplicated level… it was escapism, if you’ll atonement a pun. It was about escapism, that we all need a bit of right now.

Prison Break returns on Apr 4. What are your thoughts about Robert Knepper’s tour as T-Bag? Sound off in a comments below, and stay tuned for some-more coverage in a lead-up to a premiere.

Prison Break