Penelope Ann Miller plays the woman who enabled a ‘New York Prison Break’

 
Penelope Ann Miller

Q: Where was the appeal for you in playing the real-life woman who facilitated two inmates’ getaway in “New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell”?

A: It’s definitely something very different for me, and it’s an interesting story. There were so many things about it that I didn’t know. She was hiding hacksaw blades in meat, and here she was married with three kids and had this whole life. Her husband worked with her at the prison, and the things she was willing to risk, it’s just so crazy.

Q: Were you aware of the case at the time of the actual manhunt in 2015?

A: I think (the news) was really all over the place; I think everybody knew. If you mention Joyce Mitchell, a lot of people may not know her by name … but when then you say, “the woman who helped the two convicts escape,” everyone is like, “Oh, yeah. I remember that story.” And it had to have been very scary (in the immediate area), having two convicted murderers out on the lam.

Q: While she is a real person, Joyce Mitchell also is very much a character-actress role for you. How did you go about tackling it?

A: I definitely saw the interviews she did with Matt Lauer, and I watched as much footage as I possibly could, as well as reading the (trial) transcripts – which were just pages and pages. I read hers, but I also read the (surviving fugitive’s), because they had different accounts of what happened. Stories changed, so that was really quite interesting.

Obviously, I don’t look exactly like her, but I wanted to get the essence of her as much as I could. She was going through a lot emotionally and mentally, and it took a lot out of me, plus it was kind of a crazy (filming) schedule. It was extremely intense and incredibly challenging, but I was willing to dive in and put everything I could into it. You have to throw your ego and your vanity out the window and just say, “I’m gonna go for it,” and it was sort of exciting for me as an actor to try to delve into this other persona.


Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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