Listen up, Pretty. Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell will execute another prison escape when Robert Knepper reprises the reptilian villain on A&E’s Breakout Kings (Sundays at 10/9c), a new drama created by Prison Break‘s own Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora. What’s new with T-Bag? What, thankfully, is not? And what’s the “huge” reason he’s gone on the lam this time, to be hunted down by veteran U.S. Marshals Laz Alonso and Domenick Lombardozzi and “breakout kings” Jimmi Simpson, Malcolm Goodwin and Serinda Swan? Knepper gave TVLine a peek at his latest run.
TVLINE | What’s our boy T-Bag up when we see him this Sunday?
Nick Santora – one of my favorite writers on Prison Break – wrote me an email right before we started shooting, saying, “You know what? I think this might be the best dialogue I’ve ever written for T-Bag.” And I’m here to tell you it was. It was all the familiar things you love to hate about T-Bag – the danger, the humor – but it was interesting to highlight him in this episode by saying, “Let’s try to get in his head a bit. Let’s figure out why he’s doing this.” And the pathos and emotion that comes out is just…. I could not have just jumped into this thing if I hadn’t had four years of basically getting ready for it.
TVLINE | Is there a particular reason why he is escaping at this point?
There is a huge reason. I’m not going to give it away, because it’s so beautiful, and it’s such an incredibly important reason. I will tell you that he’s not escaping to escape. It’s not just, “I want to be free.” He has a very, very specific reason for doing it, and it will break your heart.
TVLINE | It appears he’s still got the bum hand.
[Laughs] Well, he didn’t grow a new one back.
TVLINE | You must have been thrilled; I remember your stories about how painful the Prison Break prosthetic was.
They made a mold of my hand, and then they made me a hand the exact same size as my hand, so every time I put that sucker on….
TVLINE | Your fingers lost all sensation.
Everything did! It was nuts. So I was not too upset when they couldn’t find those hands! [Breakout Kings] found a great company that made one that literally fit like a glove.
TVLINE | How was it slipping back into T-Bag’s slithery skin?
You’d know better than me, but I can’t think of any other character in television that’s gone from one show to the next. Kelsey Grammer (Cheers/Frasier) is, I guess, one example, but I’m talking a real character-y kind of part. So it was a real love fest to do it. And to have the same [writers] involved — and have Sandy Bookstaver, one of my favorites from Prison Break, directing — made for a nice homecoming. He and I just kind of winked at each other through the whole show.
TVLINE | Are any references made to T-Bag’s Prison Break days?
Just the sheer fact that I’m there.
TVLINE | So it’s not like once he breaks out, he has an aside, “Suck on that, Scofield.”
No, no…. [Laughs] There’s none of that. Listen, this is a new show, and I think it’s going to be a breakout hit, so this isn’t about reliving Prison Break. This is about one character that lives on. And the great thing about this episode is the show goes on living, these characters out to get T-Bag go on living. And T-Bag will go on living.
TVLINE | What’s next for you? Are you going up for any pilots?
I’m in pilot season heaven or hell, depending on how you want to look at it. [Knepper has since landed a role on the Civil War-themed NBC pilot Reconstruction.] I’m also about to venture into “tweeting.” Someone’s already got [the Twitter handle] RobertKnepper — someone’s trying to be me — but you’ll see me pop up somehow. I’ve never done anything like that before, so my girlfriend is like, “You’re not going to stay on that all the time are you?!” “No, I’m just letting people know what I’m doing!” And I’m going over to France, to play Frank Sinatra in a movie about a French pop icon who in the early ’70s was responsible for bringing disco to France.
TVLINE | Do you sing in the movie? Do we want to hear you sing?
Hey! Listen, mister! All we did when I grew up was sing around the piano, so you know what? F–k you! [Laughs] But yeah, I sing one song in the movie. Maybe it’s a new career – “Robert Knepper sings Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits!”
My fellow Prison Break fans, will you be tuning in for T-Bag’s encore?