'Prison Break' boss defends tragic twist: 'It IS a happy ending'
WARNING: Stop reading if you have not watched the series finale of Prison Break. I mean it. Everyone else, onward and downward…
I know. Since Prison Break concluded its four-year run tonight by sending its chiseled protagonist to the big slammer in the sky, you’re grieving. You want answers. You want justice. You want someone to pay.
Would you settle for answers?
‘Cause that’s all I’ve got. But at least there are a lot of ’em, straight from executive producer Matt Olmstead. Read ’em and… oh, I see. You’re already weeping. Well, read ’em, anyway. Maybe it’ll help.
Why’d you have to kill him?!
MATT OLMSTEAD: It started as a discussion with Wentwoth [Miller] around Season 2. He brought up a good point: His character’s hands are as dirty as anyone’s. If you look at the initial act that he committed — robbing a bank to get into prison to break his brother out — there were ramifications to that; a lot of people got hurt. Not by them, but when they rattled the cage of the company that was after them, the body count started to pile out. And Michael was aware of this. And we’ve addressed his guilt throughout the show. But at a certain point, it felt nobler to have the character die so that others could live. It just felt a little weird for us to have Michael and Sara holding hands on the beach walking away — though that would be gratifying in the moment. Knowing that there was pretty much a scorched path behind them in terms of what happened, [having him die] balanced the books for us. He also paid the ultimate sacrifice and, in doing so, everyone else close to him was able to live, including his child.
Michael-Sara fans will argue that they deserved a happy ending
after watching these two go to hell and back for four seasons. What
would you say to them?
OLMSTEAD: For me, it is a happy ending. Look at the very first
episode of the season when Michael realizes Sara’s alive. They have a
chance to run away, and they both elect not to because, as two
people of conscience, they can’t live with what they both now have
experienced. And at the end of the finale, when they’re on the beach and talking about the baby that’s coming, that’s a huge victory in
that they both stood their ground and, with the help of other people,
brought down the ultimate antagonist. So they have their moment.
Can we assume that we’ll learn more about the ultimate sacrifice
Michael made in the two-hour direct-to-DVD prequel movie [due July 28]?
OLMSTEAD: Yes, it dramatizes what happened to Michael. The nose bleed
that reared its ugly head at the end of [tonight’s finale] was a factor
in his ultimate demise in that he knew that he probably didn’t have
that long to live, but it wasn’t the sole factor. It informed certain
decisions that lead to his demise.
The two-hour movie picks up right after the finale, right?
OLMSTEAD: Yeah, it takes place fairly soon after they’re exonerated.
What’s the premise?
OLMSTEAD: Sara is on the hook for [killing] Michael’s mother and she
gets locked up while pregnant. The tables are turned… once a doctor in
prison now imprisoned, and Michael’s on the outside. The majority of
the cast is back. It’s Michael, Lincoln, Sara, Sucre, T-Bag, Mahone… all the heavy-hitters.
Seeing Paul Adelstein back as Kellerman was a nice surprise. How’d that come about?
OLMSTEAD: We reached out to Paul and pitched him the idea of what
his character would be doing, and he liked it very much. And then I
told him that we would be jumping ahead four years to show where all
the characters are, and I asked him where he would want [Kellerman] to
be; he was included in the [creative process]. We traded
a lot of e-mails and the ideas ran the gamut. We ultimately arrived at
what it was, which is he rose to a position of power, but that the
widow of his [former] partner that he killed revisits him. In the scene
I wrote, she spits on his shoes. [On the day of shooting], I got a call
from the director, Kevin Hooks, and he said, “Paul’s here, and he [thinks] she would
spit in his face.” And I said, “Have at it.” So she spit in his face.
And then he’s in the limo afterward and you can see that private
moment where [he realizes] he can never outrun his past. That’s one of
my favorite sequences in the flash-forward. He played the self-loathing
and regret beautifully.
Did you encounter any problems getting ABC to loan him to you since he’s now on Private Practice?
OLMSTEAD: Everybody was very accommodating, and I think it all stems
from a universal goodwill towards Paul as a person. He’s a really good
guy and people wanted to do him a favor. And we were able to get all
his scenes done in one day.
Was there anyone you wanted to get back for the finale and couldn’t?
OLMSTEAD: The only person we couldn’t get was Marshall Allman, who
played Lincoln’s son. We would have loved to have gotten him.
Looking back on the four seasons, anything you would have done differently?
OLMSTEAD: I don’t have a whole lot of regrets. [Another journalist]
wrote that we left it all out on the field by the end of the series,
and I feel the same way. Every story was exhausted. Every creative
juice wrung out. It was a completely worthwhile experience, and I know
the other writers [agree]. It was a difficult show to pull
off, and we did it.