This week on Fox’s Prison Break, Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell paid a visit to Paul Kellerman, dead set on getting to the bottom of the Department of State director’s involvement in Michael Scofield’s faked death and notorious escapades since.
But by the end of the tense encounter — during which Kellerman explained that the powerful puppet master dubbed Poseidon is a rogue former CIA operative who now “pursues his own ideology,” which Abu Ramal must figure into — one of the gents was gunned down, first through the window from a distance, and then at close range by Van Gogh.
Nearly a decade after first interviewing Paul Adelstein about Prison Break, I invited him to discuss slipping back into Kellerman’s oft-slithery skin, the debt of gratitude he owes the revived Fox series and the denial he is in about his on-camera fate.
TVLINE | Life sure comes full circle for you and I, doesn’t it?
It does, doesn’t it?
TVLINE | When you heard a Prison Break revival was brewing, did you hope to be involved?
Oh my God, yes. I was thrilled. Thrilled and desirous.
TVLINE | What was the secret to slipping back into Kellerman’s skin?
I dont know. I was scared, it had been a long time. I went back and watched a bunch of the episodes, which was so fun to do. And I dug through the garage to find the sunglasses and the ring and the pin, all that stuff I had… And once I put that suit on, I felt good to go. It seemed to click in. And then it was great working with Sarah [Wayne Callies, as Sara], because we’re close and she’s such a wonderful actor. She’d been [filming] for a few weeks already, so she was helpful on that front.
TVLINE | I think one of Kellerman’s calling cards is his intonation — he’s speaks rather matter-of-factly, yet says such intense things.
Yeah. He has away about him, and that was part of the fun of it. The scary thing is you don’t want to do an impression of yourself. Time has passed, and maybe his edges have softened a bit, but once I got into the scene work I saw that he very much had the same M.O.
TVLINE | Could you have predicted, back when you and I first interviewed for Prison Break, that you would go on to work non-stop as an actor afterward, as well as produce two successful Bravo series [Girlfriends’ Guide and Imposters]?
No. [Laughs] Absolutely not. It’s been a good run, knock wood. Prison Break was a wonderful place to work, and they allowed me to do Private Practice essentially, because they were kind enough to let me known early on that I wouldn’t be in Season 3. A lot of times, shows can’t or won’t do that, so I owe them a debt of gratitude for that — as well as for a great role on a show that was still popular. People still talk to me about Prison Break all the time, it’s really never stopped.
TVLINE | Is one of the joys of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce that you don’t end up beaten and bloodied, like on Prison Break and Scandal?
[Laughs] Yeah, that was a surprise on Scandal. I didn’t know that Leo was going to get [tortured]. But yes, it’s a joy on Girlfriends’ Guide to be far away from violence.
TVLINE | You do sometimes end up naked, though.
Which is a certain kind of emotional violence, I suppose.
TVLINE | Was it sad to realize that this Prison Break episode would be Kellerman’s swan song?
Uh, I don’t see it as his swan song. If you listen very carefully, maybe there’s a little sigh on the floor off-camera. I mean, it’s Prison Break — in all seriousness, how can you ever really know if you should believe what you see? So as an actor, I’m a little bit in denial; I’m hoping that if theres more Prison Break that I can be involved. If Kellerman is dead, or if the show is over and this was the last time I got to play him, yes, there was something nostalgic and sad about it. But I never thought I was going to get to do [the role] again, so it felt like a bonus anyway.
TVLINE | If he is dead, are you glad he died in the name of truth, trying to do the right thing?
Yeah — given the character’s progression, it’s nice to see that he was in fact trying to be on the right side of the fight at the very end.