Prison Break star Sarah Wayne Callies - aka Dr Sara Tancredi - talked to Paul Jones about the hit US drama, impending motherhood and working with hunks.
J: It was your idea that Sara should have an alcohol or drug problem. Why was that?
SWC: It seemed to me important from a depth perspective, because a woman who just has saintly intentions - "I wanna save the world and work at a prison!" - becomes so unrealistic so quickly. I like the idea that she's working in a prison because "there but for the grace of God…", not because she holds herself above these people.
And I guess it's more interesting to play someone with an issue or two?
Absolutely. Because - Mother Teresa and Gandhi aside - people aren't ever all good. In Prison Break the "good guys" are complicated people and sometimes they make huge mistakes. And the "bad guys" often do bad things for the right reasons. There's usually some compassion in them, and I think that's a strength.
Your character's become increasingly central to the story in season two. Will that continue in season three or will motherhood mean working less?
I certainly won't be returning until I've had the baby and gotten that under control (well, I don't think one ever gets that under control, but gotten a little bit of a handle on it!). I have every faith that I'll be able to balance my work life and my family life and I certainly haven't heard any indication from the writers that they think "well that's it, she's had a kid now, she's useless to us".
My hope is that the days of a woman having a baby in Hollywood and it being a crisis are over. God knows, everyone's doing it now - I feel like a follower!
Series creator Paul Scheuring has said that season three will be broadly about redemption. What does that mean for Sara and her drug addiction?
In the last episode of series two Sara crosses a line and makes a decision that she would previously have been incapable of. She turns a corner into becoming somebody she didn't know she could be, so I think dealing with the consequences of that is probably gonna take her the better part of the third season. How that will affect her sobriety is very much up in the air right now - I don't think a single line of dialogue has been written yet - but there'll be a lot of reckoning for everybody.
A (jealous) female friend of mine suggested you were developing a pattern of starring with well-built men who take their shirts off a lot (Travis Fimmel in Tarzan and Wentworth Miller in Prison Break, below). She wanted to know what your criteria are for accepting roles?
I joke with these guys that they hire me as the brains of the operation because the guys have got the beauty locked down. They hire some stunning man and think "right, now we need someone who can look smart next to him", and maybe that's when they call me.
But it's exactly the place in my career I'm happy to be. I think the danger of being a woman in Hollywood is, if you get hired to play the tall, skinny, leggy blonde, the clock starts to tick awfully fast on your career. But starring with gorgeous men is certainly no criteria of mine, it's just where I've landed!
You're starring with yet another hunk, Josh Holloway (Sawyer in Lost), in supernatural thriller Whisper. What's your role?
Whisper is about a kidnapping gone horribly wrong - I seem to be garnering roles on the wrong side of the law a fair amount these days! - but it's very far removed from what I was doing in Prison Break. My character's a real girly girl and she's dependent in every way that Sara Tancredi in Prison Break is independent. I look completely different too - I've got all this make-up, and jewellery and fake nails, and dyed my hair blonde and wore nothing but pink! It was a lot of fun.
Assuming you get time to watch TV, what are your favourite shows?
I don't watch much but I'm a huge fan of Rome. It's just astonishing. And I love The Daily Show. Apart from that, it's a lot of Discovery Channel - my husband and I are totally addicted to Man vs Wild [known in the UK as Born Survivor: Bear Grylls]. I think the guy's absolutely out of his mind, but it's amazing to watch!
There was one episode where he was in the French Alps and he stripped off all his clothes and jumped into the freezing cold water, and I just thought of the guy behind the camera who's completely warm and toasty - it must be so hard not to just beat that guy over the head at the end of the day…