`Prison Break' shifts to Texas, and the heat is on

The cast of Fox's hit series will be filming there for 10 months

July 01, 2006|By ED BARK . | ED BARK .,MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE

ROCKWALL, Texas -- Three key inmates from Fox's Prison Break already are stretching their legs on this seasonably sweltering early afternoon. First they sprint out of the woods; then they outrace a lumbering freight train.

Better to be on the wrong side of the tracks than behind bars, says panting Peter Stormare, otherwise known for his sinister use of a wood chipper in Fargo.

"We really went a little nutty. When you're an actor, you're like a wild horse. You want to scream, you want to do something. It was like visiting a concentration camp every day."

The show's principal actors, including Stormare as unsavory John Abruzzi, were incarcerated in an abandoned Joliet, Ill., penitentiary for most of the first season. Now they're letting loose in North Texas, where filming on Prison Break: Manhunt is in the second week of a scheduled 10-month shoot. Everyone is still getting acclimated, save for local-kid-makes-good Lane Garrison. The 26-year-old joined Prison Break last October as inmate David "Tweener" Apolskis. Now he's a full-fledged regular who still has a hard time believing it's all for real.

"For me it's definitely a homecoming," he says. "It's been a surreal experience. ... People in the cast call me every night. Where do I go to eat? Where do I go to meet beautiful women? I just tell them, `Go to the gas station. Everyone here is beautiful.'"

Many of those same beautiful women might be on the lookout for Wentworth Miller, who became the show's uncontested heartthrob during season one. His character, Michael Scofield, orchestrated his own imprisonment as part of a grand plan to get wrongly accused brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) off Death Row and on the lam. Many magazine covers later, Miller is of two minds about sudden fame.

"It has been an adjustment," he says during a break from filming. "Everywhere I go, I run into someone who's a fan of the show. And that's a good thing. You want people to love your work because you want to stay employed.

"At the same time, I'm a very private person. I try to lead a very low-key life. And sometimes you just want to go to Chili's and have a margarita and some chicken fajitas and not have the experience wind up on a Web site somewhere."

Miller says he's driven through Texas several times on cross-country trips. And as a high schooler, he spent a week in swim camp at the University of Texas.

"Of course I only saw the inside of a pool, so I didn't really get to explore what Austin had to offer. I'm really looking forward to having some time to check out Dallas. I've heard great things about the food, the culture and the JFK museum. There are a lot of things on my to-do list."

Stormare, whose homeland is Sweden, already has been to the museum and recommended a visit to his castmates. "I must say they've kept it very nice and open, airy and eerie. It really broke my heart. It gives you a sense and a scent of the times."

Another seasoned actor, William Fichtner, joined Prison Break on virtually a moment's notice after co-starring in ABC's recently canceled Invasion series as secretive Sheriff Tom Underlay. Now he'll wear another badge as fugitive-chasing federal agent Alexander Mahone, a role he agreed to play just a day before shooting began on June 16.

"I was packing my bags, reading the script, trying to figure out who this guy is," Fichtner says. "When the material is good, you can find the little moments. You've got eight days to get this puppy [each one-hour episode] done. It's a lot of work. It's 4 pounds of baloney in a 2-pound bag. So if you're an actor with some ideas, I'm sure it's appreciated."

All concerned say the searing heat of summertime in North Texas beats the frigid cold of Illinois. Co-executive producer Kevin Hooks, who's also directing the first episode, says during a break in filming: "My theory is that hot is always better than cold."

The show's 22-episode second season is supposed to encompass just three weeks in the lives of its characters. This means the fugitives are stuck with their short-cropped prison haircuts. Or as Miller says, "So you're not going to see me in dreadlocks by the end of the season."

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