“It is very, very, very difficult to escape prison,” said world renowned actor Morgan Freeman about his new show, Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman. Coming to History Channel this fall, the series documents true stories of prison breaks, most of which failed in the end. “You can get out, but I almost guarantee you're going to go back,” Freeman added at the TCA Summer Press Tour.
“At the beginning of every one of these shows, we say you can't get out,” executive producer Geoffrey Sharp revealed. “Look at this place, the walls are this thick. We hope the audience thinks, yeah, man, nobody can get out of here.”
“I think, generally, the guards in these prisons feel like that,” Morgan Freeman added, touching on a major part of each episode. “The idea that somebody's going to cut a hole through a seven-foot-thick concrete wall, nah, not going to happen. Somebody's going to crawl 100 yards through a steel pipe? Nah, how the hell are you going to get in? No.”
Geoffrey Sharp recounted something a prison guard said to him that helped define this part of the show’s narrative. “‘You know, a prisoner’s got all day, every day. Like we're watching them, but they're watching us and they got all day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,’” the producer paraphrased. “The point he was making was these guys are smart and they're watching. So no matter how much you think you can keep them in, they're constantly looking for the crack or the weakness in the system. And if they're smart enough, they do, they figure it out.”
We're not cheering at the quest for freedom of some bad guy,” explained James Younger, another executive producer on the series. “It's a study in how resourceful and ingenious people can be with enough time. We're all fascinated by that. The idea that there is no such thing as an inescapable prison. Alcatraz was supposed to be inescapable, Altiplano was supposed to be inescapable. No, someone always figures out a way to get out or in the case of Altiplano, they figured out a way to get in so they could get out. They actually tunneled into El Chapo's cell to get him out.”
A bit of a spoiler warning, but another fact that Geoffrey Sharp shared is this: “They're either dead or they're caught or they're caught dead.” While there may not be such a thing as an inescapable prison, there’s also rarely a successful escape. The team did, however, catch up with one escapee who not only lived to tell the tale, but is still out of jail. “We tracked down the guy, Nuno Pontes, who escaped from the Western Penitentiary,” James Younger revealed. “We spent a lot of time tracking him down. He agreed for the first time to give a full interview.” His face is, however, concealed in the interviews.
“In this show we have both guards, prison officials, historians and, in several cases, the first-person people who did the escaping, which is kind of unique,” Geoffrey Sharp explained about their commitment to getting as many sides of each story as possible. “Our researchers did an amazing job finding people.” But if you’re thinking that Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman will offer a roadmap in case you ever find yourself behind bars, you may be disappointed. “Several of our escapees would not tell us a few key things that, to this day, no one knows, even us, as much as we tried to get that information.”
Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman premieres November 9th on History Channel.
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).