Interviews// Robert Knepper

Posted 25 Mar 2010 23:30 by
You know how it goes with most TV show or movie to game tie-ins. Usually it involves a plot that is lifted directly from the source material, with a bit of adventure or platforming involved to make it a bit more interactive.

You'd be forgiven for thinking it's a pretty unimaginative way of going about things. Would you play a six-hour game that contains the exact same material that you saw in a two-hour film? I know I wouldn't.

So when I had the chance to play Prison Break: The Conspiracy - out tomorrow on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC - a while ago, I was pleasantly surprised. Prison Break is a fantastic TV series in the first place, but the game does things a little differently.

The setting is Season One, and all the events that took place in the TV show takes place in the game. But the twist is in your character - you control a Company agent called Tom Paxton, who is sent to Fox River State Penitentiary undercover as a fellow inmate. The reason? To see what squeaky clean, model citizen Michael Schofield is up to.

Featuring various stealth and action missions, that I'm told take their cues from games like Splinter Cell and Uncharted (and it shows - some tasks require you to navigate ventilation shafts and sneak around warehouses by flinging yourself like an acrobat), that focus on Paxton's plight to reveal Schofield's true motive, it's quite a unique insight into a much-loved TV series.

You run into various familiar characters from the show, too. One of them is paedophile Teddy Bagwell, also known as T-Bag, who is more of a hindrance than a true enemy of Paxton's. The character in both the game and the original series is Robert Knepper, a man whose learned a lot from the sinister character he has had to portray.

I managed to sit down and have a chat with Knepper during a tour for the Prison Break game, and we covered all kinds of things from the differences in voice acting to the core of T-Bag's character and the kind of experiences that has given him outside of the set.

Read on, dear reader. And yes... we do ask that question.

SPOnG: What's T-Bag's role in the Prison Break game? Does he act differently or have a different motive with the game's protagonist, Tom Paxton than he does with Michael Schofield?

Robert Knepper: It's kind of like the series. I've only played the game once or twice, I played it today with the masters [motions to PR] for about half an hour, but T-Bag's... I don't know how to describe it... It's not that he's in the way, but if you run into him he will try to put the block on what you're trying to achieve.

The game follows the storyline of the first season, but from the perspective of Tom Paxton. So in that way T-Bag's character is exactly the same as it was in the TV show – getting in the way of Paxton and trying to figure out what he's up to. In the TV show Michael Schofield had to make friends with different groups of people to achieve what he needed to do, and Tom Paxton does the same here. In the game you have to visit different groups of people and make friends with the various cliques.

It really does feel like the ensemble feeling of shooting it and doing it. There isn't one specific character that's going to be in Paxton's way the whole time, but T-Bag is one of several. You just happen to remember him because he's always showing his face when Michael didn't want him to be there.

SPOnG: Did you have a lot of input as to the game's development?

Robert Knepper: No, the developers brought it to me as a gift, basically. They said, “Here, we'd like you to lend your voice to this,” and it was the same with all the other actors that have done voiceovers here too. We all did new recording sessions though, so it's not rehashed audio clips and material. It didn't take too long to do...

SPOnG: How much dialogue did you have to work through, then?

Robert Knepper: I had about two or three hours worth... I honestly can't remember how many lines I had! (Laughs) It felt like shooting a day's worth of dialogue. But this sort of thing? Doing voice over work for a game? Never done it before. It was really interesting.

But I want to continue to do voice over work. I want something to show my kid, you know? He was two when the first season of Prison Break was made, so I've never let him see this show. I don't want him to see papa doing that. Someday he'll see it. He saw Heroes – watched the entire season of that. We figured it was okay.

SPOnG: What went through your mind when the game was proposed to you? Did you hesitate about bringing the T-Bag character back?

Robert Knepper: The first and only thought I had was that this is a really nice goodbye present for this part. As an actor, when I would finish a role, I would get sick. I would physically get sick, because it was like the character had died. It was like having a funeral. That was a very youthful thing that I used to go through.

One day I just thought “I can't afford to be sick anymore, I want to keep going on to the next thing.” And when this came up, I just thought this was a really great way of providing closure to the whole experience. And now of course that I'm seeing it, it's almost like a whole new way of saying 'hello' to it again. (Laughs) It's like “Oh, man, I remember that!”

It was an intense experience, reprising that role. I hope it's going to be intense to play the game, too. It'll be interesting – I'm sure I'll get a lot of letters about it from the fans.
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