Robert Knepper Talks Reprising T-Bag on BREAKOUT KINGS, Guesting on SHAMELESS - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Robert Knepper Talks Reprising T-Bag on BREAKOUT KINGS, Guesting on SHAMELESS

November 24, 2010 by  

Usually, when a series ends, the characters are banished to TV on DVD or syndication heaven. What happens after the screen fades to black for the final time? Well, that’s something we can only speculate on.

However, the upcoming A&E series BREAKOUT KINGS is scoffing at that practice, giving PRISON BREAK viewers the chance to catch up with at least one fan favorite: T-Bag.

Yes, thanks to BREAKOUT KINGS’ executive producers Nick Santora and Matt Olmstead — formerly of PB — Robert Knepper (T-Bag) will appear in an episode of the new series. Pretty awesome, especially since we’ve had to go a whole year and a half without T-Bag on our television sets.

Give Me My Remote chatted with Knepper about returning to the role, his upcoming guest spot on the new Showtime series SHAMELESS and some of the other stuff he has on tap…

So, T-Bag… any idea what he is up to these days?
Robert Knepper:
No. The only stipulation I had to [reprising] T-Bag was that they didn’t kill him. And Nick Santora, who is one of my favorite writers from PRISON BREAK, wrote me back saying, “Don’t worry, you can never kill T-Bag. No one can kill T-Bag.” It’s going to be a pretty wild ride. It’s a very trusting thing I have with these guys. We spent four years together. All the writers and I, we always wrote back and called each other and said really positive things to each other in those four years. I have tremendous faith in them and I’m not worried at all about what they’re going to do.

Do you know if it’s just one episode or are you doing an arc on the series?
I think I’m just doing the one and I hope the other actors from the show [will possibly do it] as well. Amaury [Nolasco (Sucre)] I worked with on CHASE, but I haven’t seen the other people in a long time. I’m sure everywhere they go, it’s like [how it is] for me: that show and that character will be with me for a long, long time. But with me, it’s going to be a little longer because I’m bringing this guy back. [Laughs] That show is gone but not forgotten. And this character certainly is not gone and certainly not forgotten. Who knows? Depending on what happens with this show, maybe they’ll find we want to do a series about him. I don’t know. It may be career suicide, but I loved playing T-Bag. This is a very, very funny, deep, complex character who really scared the shit out of people and yet people loved him.

Yeah, he certainly connected with the audience. And it’s nice to check in with an old friend.
[Laughs] Right.

I mean, maybe he’s a friend you wouldn’t want to be in a room alone with…
[Laughs] Yeah. Honestly, I think if you had the choice of sitting in a room with T-Bag or with [my disturbed CRIMINAL MINDS character] Rhett, I think you’d pick T-Bag.

I’d probably be a bit worried being alone with either one! Is there anything you hope to see happen for T-Bag when you step back into that role?
That’s a good question. I just shot SHAMELESS, John Wells’ new show, and I’m so loving being in a comedy that I haven’t even thought of T-Bag yet. I haven’t been able to think of him at all, because I don’t shoot that until December. But you know, funny moments will come up where I’ll go, “Oh, I remember this part of the character, I hope there’s that element.” Most people I talk to loved that first season of the show and that second season especially. But that first season was sheer gold. So to me, hopefully all those elements will still be there. When he was walking past all the cells when he was in general population, just that cocky kind of thing he had. And those zingers, those one line zingers. I hope they will; I know they will. They created this stuff and I recreated it. It’s on their shoulders as much as it is mine, to honor what is there. There’s a part of me that hopes they’ll take him off in another direction, too. Like, my quest as an actor is always to see how little I can do. And it was great to play a character for four years where I tried to take away things instead of adding on to it. I didn’t even know what I was building in the beginning and then I was immediately trying to take it away. So without it being too dramatic all the time, I hope they’ll steer me in the direction of someone who maybe isn’t always so flamboyant, who’s not standing out so much. He’s on the run. When you’re on the run, you don’t want to come out and say, “Look at me!” You want to drift into the woodwork a little bit. But then, there’s that irresistible part of him that we all love and hate: he can’t keep his mouth shut.

I’m guessing that will still be the case when we see him again.
Yeah.  I don’t know, I remember hearing this great story years ago from Barry Corbin. He was an actor who was on NORTHERN EXPOSURE, an older actor. And the story I heard was he was sitting at lunch with a couple young actors from NORTHERN EXPOSURE and one actor turned to the other and said, “I don’t know if I want to play this part in this movie. It’s the part of a bad guy, a real bad guy.” And [the other guy] said, “Yeah, you’ve got to be careful what you do, it might hurt your career.” And Barry Corbin piped up, apparently, and said, “Boys, I don’t like to say things like this and use my experience here, but I gotta say, you don’t have a career. You have a job right now. And when this job is over, you’ll have another job and another job. When you get to be my age, when you get to be older, you look back at all the jobs in your lifetime and you’ll say that is my career.” I think that was a great story.

A great part is a great part. Whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy. I just love working. I love working all the time. If I could work every week in this business, I would. I think my role in SHAMELESS is the sixth or seventh character I’ve played this year. I love that. I love just going from one to the next. If he’s a good guy, great. If he’s a bag guy, great. As long as he’s a great part. If he’s written well, I don’t care. I just want to keep working. And lately, Knepper seems to be the go-to guy for playing these really complex characters. And when I look at them, I go, yeah, they’re great parts. They’re not simple people. I don’t even know if I could play a simple person anymore.

You do what you do well!
[Laughs] Thank you! I did love playing the hero this summer though. I did a movie in February — a compilation of Jack London stories — it’s called BURNING DAYLIGHT. It was a great thing, I played the title character of the book BURNING DAYLIGHT. It’s great to play this kind of Russell Crowe, strong guy. Yeah, he pulls out a gun, he’s gonna threaten some people, but he’s a good guy. He’s a really good guy. And I realized you can be the really, tough, strong man and not be the bad guy and still keep your head up. I’m up for JJ Abrams’ new pilot ALCATRAZ, I’m up for the Scott brothers’ new intense movie about oil refinery — God’s revenge against man for destroying the earth. Those are the kind of parts you just go, “Oh my god.” When I looked at CRIMINAL MINDS, I went, oh my god, I can’t believe I’m going to go through this. It’s like you know the plane is going to crash and you’re like “Fuck, here we go!” and then you’re in the middle of it and moment by moment you’re trying to make these people alive and real.

And is your SHAMELESS character just as complex?
He’s so cookie cutter. [Laughs] Simple, compared to these other guys. But the great thing about that show and why I think it is going to be a big hit is that all these characters have to be believable. They have to be real people with real lives. They’re doing dastardly things to each other, but they’re funny. I’m still going through hell with “is this working?” as we all do and then in the end you go, “it’s a comedy.” It’s going to make people laugh instead of run away from me.

Do they run away from you?
No, I’m kidding. No one ever ran away from me. There was some momentary shortness of breath. I could feel people inhaling, but that was really all when I was on PRISON BREAK.

Are you excited to see T-Bag back on our TV screens in the near future? And more Robert Knepper too?


CRIMINAL MINDS: Robert Knepper on His ‘Sick, Twisted, Demented’ Character

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One Response to “Robert Knepper Talks Reprising T-Bag on BREAKOUT KINGS, Guesting on SHAMELESS”

  1. Gracie on January 11th, 2011 9:39 pm

    So excited for T-Bags return! Somehow, Knepper makes even someone as perverted and freaky as T-Bag super sexy. Also, I would personally like to thank Robert for all the guilt he has shed on his viewers. There’s somethng very disturbing about finding yourself rooting for a serial killer and pedaphile…