Interview with Paul Scheuring, creator Prison Break.
January 26, 2006
THERE is hope for couriers, cable guys and factory workers around the globe.Creator of award-winning series Prison Break Paul Scheuring did all these jobs and is now cashing in on the success of the hit show.
"I always remember to be polite to the courier guy delivering the scripts because I remember what it was like," the 37-year-old said.
Ahead of Channel Seven's launch of the program on February 1, Scheuring admits he is shocked by the success of the show in the US.
"If you had have asked me on August 29, 2005, the day we launched in the States, if it was going to be popular and that I would be talking to journalists in Australia about it's launch there I would have said you were on crack," he said matter-of-factly.
"We thought it was a really good project with a great cast, but we just didn't know if anyone would respond to it because it is so unorthodox."
Prison Break is a captivating series following the life of Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) and his dedication to breaking his brother Lincoln Burrows (Australian actor Dominic Purcell) out of Fox River State Penitentiary.
Armed with a pistol Scofield, who has seen the prison's blueprints and researched the jail break extensively, stages a bank robbery and lands himself behind bars with his brother.
Burrows is on death row and scheduled to die in a few months for an assassination attempt on the vice president's son.
One episode shows Scofield terrorised by other inmates, getting one of his toes cut off with shears because he won't cooperate with their request.
"I have heard the word addictive a lot when people talk about the show," Scheuring said.
"Generally that is not a compliment, but when it comes to a TV series it is. I think people like the production value because it feels like a mini movie every week and the girls love the two leads."
Despite being clad in blue-on-blue prison garb, Miller and Purcell ooze charisma and sex appeal on screen.
"I was at the Golden Globes last week with them and it's like they are rock stars," laughs Scheuring.
Scheuring admits that it was extremely difficult finding the right actors to fit the parts and he was `sweating bullets' one week out from production.
He couldn't fill the lead roles.
"We went through some harrowing weeks seeing just about every 25 to 35 actor in LA for the Scofield part," Scheuring remembers.
"There is a mysterious element about Michael and all these guys would come in playing mysterious, but it was so cheesy and false.
"It was one week till production and Wentworth walked in and he was Scofield times ten. It was like heaven having him walk through the door."
Finding the perfect Burrows was also a challenge and Scheuring originally thought Purcell was too much of a pretty boy to play the part.
"Dominic came in and he was on a show called North Shore - a Hawaiian cheesy soap opera - and he came in with his hair styled and a tan and I wasn't convinced this was the guy," he said.
"But he auditioned and he was excellent, it was just a matter of cutting his hair.
He adds, "Lincoln's character is supposed to be the bad arse but at the same time he has to be worth saving so he has to have a good heart - which is a difficult combo to get. But Dominic got it down."
On the first day of filming Purcell arrived with a new buzz cut and Scheuring says he was amazed how alike the stars looked.
"I put the guys together and it was like my god you guys do look like brothers. We really bolted lightning in that last week," he said.
"You got to believe in fate."
Scheuring says the popularity surrounding Prison Break comes from viewers wanting more from television than just reality fodder.
"The audience is tired of being force fed the same old procedure and cookie cutter shows," he said.
"They are thirsting for new things. You look at American TV and there is a flux of shows like this coming out. I don't know if they will all succeed but it's the thing that everybody is trying to get their hands on."
Born in Aurora, Illinois, Scheuring relocated to the West Coast, where he attended the UCLA school of theatre, film and television.
A working screenwriter for years, he has written numerous plays, including 2003's feature films A Man Apart starring Vin Diesel and an uncredited rewriter on The Rundown starring The Rock.
Prison Break is Scheuring's first foray in television and he admits it's been a huge learning curve.
"When they green lit the show there was a lot of questions about my inexperience, if I would be up for the task," he said.
"This is a multi-million dollar endeavour and the first few months I was under a microscope and the leash was extraordinarily short, almost to the point where I couldn't breathe. But, here we are nearly five months later and everything seems to be going okay."
Prison Break recently won the People's Choice Award for Favourite New TV Drama and was nominated at the Golden Globes in the same category.
Miller was also nominated a Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Drama TV Series.
Unfortunately they didn't take home the Golden Globe gongs, but Scheuring says it was an honour to get the People's Choice award.
"I was very surprised all of it," he said.
"When we were nominated for People's Choice that was great because we knew people were interested and to get the Globe nominations was even more surprising.
"It just goes to show you just never, never, never know what's going to happen," he laughs.
So after years of slogging it out, Scheuring has finally cracked the jackpot and says reservations of ever continuing with this career have been restored.
"There were always questions earlier on that maybe I should get a legitimate career and get a constant pay cheque," he said.
"But someone in Hollywood said years ago that if you stick around Hollywood for 10 years then they will have to hire you because everyone else will quit.