||This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (January 2009)|
|Prison Break character|
|Last appearance||"The Final Break"|
|Portrayed by||Sarah Wayne Callies|
|Aliases||Kelli Foster (S2E10)
Stephanie Reed (S4E03)
|Occupation||Former prison doctor|
Lincoln Burrows (brother in law)
L.J. Burrows (nephew)
|Spouse(s)||Michael Scofield (deceased)|
Raised in Chicago, Sara Tancredi's ambitions to be a doctor began when she was very young. While at Northwestern University, where she was a Phi Beta Kappa, she was introduced to the works of Mahatma Gandhi and decided to become a humanitarian, which later influenced her decision to work at Fox River State Penitentiary. Another factor which contributed to her occupational choice was her past morphine addiction, culminating in being unable to help a boy after he was run over, because she was high, which was revealed in a flashback episode of the first season, "Brother's Keeper". At 29 years old, Dr. Sara Tancredi was one of the few doctors working at Fox River. Her chosen occupation became a constant source of stress for her father. Sara is the only child of the Governor of Illinois, Frank Tancredi (portrayed by John Heard). Due to her father's hectic political career and vastly differing beliefs, she did not have a close relationship with him. In episode "Buried", it was revealed that her mother has already died.
In the first season, Sara is mostly featured in scenes with Michael Scofield, while in the second season, Sara has mainly appeared in scenes with Frank Tancredi, Paul Kellerman or by herself. She has appeared in every episode of seasons 1, 2 and 4 except for second season episodes, "Otis" and "John Doe". After the death of Robin Tunney's character, Veronica Donovan, Sara Tancredi became the only remaining principal female character. Her death was faked early in the third season, apparently beheaded by Gretchen Morgan, and her "head" was delivered in a box to Lincoln Burrows. In season 4 it is discovered that the head was a ploy and that Sara is alive.
Sara is introduced to the series when Michael Scofield first visits the infirmary in the pilot episode. In the first and second episode, their interactions are cordial but formal. However, Sara's curiosity is awakened when he attempts to charm her, and after she checks his academic record, she is surprised that he had graduated with a master's degree. In "Allen", she notices his nervousness as she tests for his glucose count to confirm his diabetes. However, she dismisses it after his test apparently passed (but only because Michael had taken insulin blockers to raise his blood sugar). Michael's regular visits to the infirmary becomes an important plot point, as it represents a major step in his plan. Sara treats Michael after two of his toes are cut off in the episode "Cell Test", and the subsequent bonding between them turns their relationship into a more personal one. Most episodes feature Sara interacting with Michael during these visits, initially careful to deflect all his attempts to charm her. However, after Michael rescues Sara from inmates' intent to rape and kill her in "Riots, Drills, and the Devil", she begins to grow more comfortable around him. This is not without duality, though, as another plot point includes Sara discovering that Michael lied about a PI assignment. However, she is strengthened in her belief that Michael is different from the other prisoners, and several episodes has her trying to obtain information about him, such as when she is required to conduct a medical check-up on Michael's brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), and questions him on Michael's background. She also visits Michael's former psychiatrist in "Tweener". As Sara’s character searches for clues about Michael, and though she knows that something is very suspicious, she can't stop herself from being attracted to him.
In later episodes, though, Sara attempts to distance herself from Michael. After she discovers that he is married and had a conjugal visit in the episode "And Then There Were 7", she announces that they will now be doctor-patient only. In the following episodes, her tone with Michael is more distant, though she continues to help him in subsequent episodes despite their relationship. After meeting with Lincoln Burrows' lawyers on his execution day in episode "The Rat", Sara becomes convinced that Lincoln is innocent and attempts to persuade her father to ask him to review Lincoln's case after Michael pleads with her. Her father denies the appeal, but additional information emerges to postpone the execution. Sara's character plays a critical role in the episode "The Key", where Michael must take possession of a key to the infirmary door. He ultimately kisses her as a distraction to steal her keys, but is caught up in the moment and unable to go through with it. Instead, he has his wife meet Sara and steal the keys. His plan backfires when she discovers that Michael’s wife has stolen the keys from her, and becomes very cold towards him. At the end of the episode, she has the locks to the infirmary door changed, thwarting his efforts. Michael is then forced to come clean in "Tonight" and reveals to her his intent to break Lincoln out of prison. Sara is confronted with the decision whether she should help Michael or not. Eventually, Sara returns to Fox River and unlocks the infirmary door. Horribly distressed at what she has done, Sara injects herself with morphine from the infirmary. Suspected for being an accessory to the escape, police officers charge into her apartment with an emergency warrant in the Season Finale to find her nearly dead from a morphine overdose. The character's fate is left unresolved at the end of the first season.
After recovering from her drug overdose in "Manhunt", Sara loses her medical license and becomes a target of The Company - the mysterious organization behind Lincoln's murder setup. Posing as Lance, a homosexual addict at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, Agent Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) attempts to befriend Sara to find out the whereabouts of Michael Scofield. Learning that six other convicts joined Michael's escape, Sara feels betrayed by him, and the two characters initially have a strained relationship. After her father alerts her of Kellerman's suspicious identity and her father's subsequent death in episode "Buried", Sara becomes part of the show's conspiracy plot as she holds the key (left by her father) to information that may exonerate Lincoln. Following this, several attempts on Sara's life are made by The Company, which force her to find Michael via his coded messages. She meets with Michael in the episode "Rendezvous" at Gila, New Mexico but their reunion is short-lived when Kellerman and Agent Mahone (William Fichtner) find out about their rendezvous point. At first, Sara is reluctant to leave with Michael to Panama but is captured by Kellerman shortly after. Kellerman proceeds to torture Sara in episode "Bolshoi Booze", in an effort to obtain information about a USB drive he thinks her father gave her. Sara escapes from Kellerman and decides to change her appearance and throws her wallet and ID away.
Two episodes later, Sara returns in "The Message". She reunites with Michael in Evansville, Indiana in "Chicago". Together with the brothers, Sara travels to Chicago where her father has hidden the audio file that can help prove Lincoln's innocence. On the train to Chicago, Sarah admits to Michael that she has fallen in love with him, and they kiss. Later in the episode, Michael admits he has fallen in love with her. Michael, Sara and Lincoln eventually retrieve the audio file but discover that it’s not legally valid as evidence. They decide to use it to blackmail President Reynolds for a presidential pardon instead. When this fails, Michael and Lincoln are forced to leave the country. When Sara realizes she is being tailed by the FBI, she surrenders herself in order to let the brothers escape. Sara is then faced with a 12-year prison sentence but as she is about to plead guilty, Kellerman comes forward to testify on her behalf. His testimony exonerates Sara and Lincoln in "Sona", and Sara reunites with the brothers in Panama and tells them of the news. However, when Agent Kim suddenly appears and tries to kill Lincoln and capture Michael, Sara shoots Kim in the chest. With nowhere to run, Michael and Sara surrender themselves to the Panamanian police but to Sara's surprise, Michael confesses to Kim's killing instead of her. She is last seen in a crowd by Lincoln.
In this season, standbys are used to portray the character. She is revealed to have been kidnapped by The Company, and is said in "Good Fences" to have been murdered in response to a failed rescue attempt. She was decapitated and her head was sent to Lincoln Burrows in a box. Michael swears to avenge her death.
In Season 4, Sara’s death is retconned and she returns as a main cast member for all 24 episodes. After Gretchen reveals to Michael in the season premiere that Sara's death was faked, Michael contacts Bruce Bennett, the former aide of Governor Tancredi (Sara's father) and asks him for help tracking down Sara. The two are reunited later in the episode. Much of Sara's plotline in the fourth season focuses on the character processing what happened to her in Panama and making a new life with Michael. After they are tracked down by the Company hitman Wyatt, Sara escapes with Michael and Lincoln and accompanies them as they strike a deal with Homeland Security agent Don Self to take down The Company once and for all in exchange for full exoneration. In order to do this, they must get their hands on Scylla, The Company’s little black book. Sara joins the rest of the covert "A-Team", which also consists of Mahone, Sucre, Bellick, and a hacker/identity thief named Roland Glenn who is assigned to the team by Self. In the early parts of the season, Sara works with rest of the team as they work to copy the cards, such as in "Breaking and Entering" where she slips a scylla copying device into a maid's bag, or in "Shut Down" when she distracts a guard in order for Michael to steal his security badge. Other episodes sees her being more passive with a subplot that further develops her character, most notably in "Eagles and Angels" where Sara is informed that Bruce Bennett was found dead and goes out to a bar. She manages not to drink, and instead tells the bartender stories from her childhood and the importance Bruce had for her. In the next episode, she realizes that Wyatt is following her back from the bar and manages to lose him. In "Five the Hard Way" Sara's character takes part in holding the general's daughter, Lisa, hostage. The team is then betrayed by Self, who takes Scylla for himself to sell it to a buyer. Other homeland security agents chase after them to arrest them for the murder of Trishanne and Self (Self murdered Trishanne, faked his own death and framed the Scylla team for all of it). Michael offers Sara and Sucre to take a bus back to Chicago, although they decided to stay and help. In the next episode, Sara finds it increasingly difficult to watch as Michael neglects his health to continue chasing after Scylla. Sara urges him to get medical attention, but he resists despite her insistence, and refuses to have the necessary operation until Scylla has been acquired. She is forced to provide temporary relief from his condition through a series of injections. However she warns him that he is developing a tolerance, and that they are no substitute for proper medical attention. Nevertheless, Sara helps the team to track down Gretchen and Self. Despite their best efforts, they are unsuccessful and lose both the missing piece of Scylla, and Michael, who is captured by The Company at the end of "Just Business".
In the last third of the season, Sara becomes Michael's only remaining ally, as Lincoln makes a deal with The Company to get Scylla back in exchange for Michael's surgery. Michael refuses to accept this deal, and escapes from The Company's clutches after the surgery with Sara's help. The plot of the next few episodes see Michael and Lincoln's teams working against each other to acquire Scylla. Sara's character gives critical help to Michael, such as distracting a guard at the airport where they capture Vincent Sandinsky, a scientist that appears to have ties to The Company. Sara also attempts to comfort Michael after he learns that his mother, Christina Rose Scofield, is still alive and a Company operative and the buyer of Scylla. In the same episode it is revealed that Sara is pregnant with Michael's child. In "Cowboys and Indians", Michael and Lincoln put their differences aside and work together to steal Scylla from Christina. Meanwhile, Sara is kidnapped by The Company to hold Michael at ransom. In this and the next episode "Rate of Exchange", Sara shares screen-time with T-Bag for the first time. She is almost raped by him, but is rescued by Michael at the last minute. In the series finale, they hand Scylla over to the UN and are all exonerated. Their happiness is short-lived when it is revealed that Michael’s tumor is back. In the epilogue of the series set four years later, Sara is shown living in Costa Rica with her son, Michael Scofield Jr. (presumably she is forced to relocate there after her escape from prison as documented in The Final Break). She then appears at Michael's grave with her son at the reunion of many of the series' principal characters - Lincoln, Mahone and Sucre. She lays flowers on Michael's grave and the series ends with all the characters walking towards the seaside in the sun.
Sara is shown in the series as a compassionate yet introverted doctor who treated each one of them with the same cordiality and respect. Given this fact, she has little sense of humour and is incorruptible. In the episode "The Rat", Sara's father questions her motive for helping Lincoln Burrows, to which she replies, "It's my job to advocate for [my patients]." Sarah Wayne Callies, who portrays Sara Tancredi, remarks that the character "feels a certain level of responsibility to these guys. Partly because who her father is... she's the kind of person who would rather take a stand and sleep well at night than have a peaceful family."
In the second season, Sara becomes part of the conspiracy plot of the show after her involvement in Michael and Lincoln's escape, and her father's later pursuit of information concerning Lincoln's case. She is continuously chased by covert agents after the death of her father in "Buried". Sara later confides in Michael in episode "Chicago" that the two things keeping her going are her feelings for him and that she wants to seek justice for her father's death. The character is described by Jay Bobbin from Zap2it.com as "gutsy", while TV Guide's Maya Schechter remarks that Sara is "one tough cookie". Regarding her character's change in the second season, Callies says, "She's just someone who has really rushed at life and absorbed experience with real enthusiasm. She's getting a lot more than she bargained for right now, and I certainly don't think she'll be the same person after this."
Concept and creation
Sara Tancredi was introduced to the series as the daughter of the Illinois governor and the prison doctor who the protagonist frequently visits to obtain his insulin shot. The background story of the character, revealed in the sixteenth episode of the first season, was not actually conceived along with the original conception of the series. Callies commented in an interview that it was the "very first inkling" that she had about the character's past. Also in the same interview, the actress mentioned that during the production of the series pilot, she had suggested to Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring that "it would be interesting to play her as a recovering alcoholic".
The character's continuation as a major role in the second season was a "surprise" to Callies since the second season revolves around the lives of the eight fugitives outside the prison. The actress states that it is "some of the most creative storytelling for women on TV right now" and that she was given "lot of latitude in establishing a sense of who [the character] is". As the characterization of Sara continues to develop, Scheuring describes the character as "one of [the series'] strongest components".
Towards the end of the production of the second season of Prison Break, Callies' pregnancy was announced. With the pregnancy not incorporated into the show, the story was written in such a way to account for Sara's disappearance during Callies' maternity leave. At the time Paul Scheuring commented, "It actually fits into what we were already planning." He also claimed that the original treatment would have included "explanations for why she wasn't in the first [batch] of episodes" of the third season, later revealing that it would set up a planned 13-episode story arc that would ultimately culminate with her character's death.
However, due to Callies and the show's producers being unable to agree on a new contract, the character was suddenly "killed off" in the fourth episode, much earlier than planned. Her sparse appearances during the season (including the use of stand-ins with their faces obscured) and her gruesome, off screen death was the result of working around the inability to film additional scenes with the actress, as well as for dramatic and emotional impact.
The character Sara Tancredi was portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies who was the first actress the producers saw at the audition for the role. Incidentally, Callies was also the first to become a principal cast member. In season 3, other actresses were used to portray the role, though their faces were never shown on screen.
A newspaper article about Sara Tancredi is visible and readable in the Pilot episode of the series (as one of the many that Michael tears off the walls of his apartment). The article gives Sara's middle name as "Wayne" (the same as that of the actress portraying her). It also says that she is the "second-eldest daughter of Frank Tancredi" (later retconned in the episode "Buried").
- Fox Broadcasting Company, Dr. Sara Tancredi's biography, Official site of Prison Break.
- Dialogue spoken by Sarah Wayne Callies as Sara Tancredi in "The Rat", Prison Break season 1 episode 14.
- Ryan, M, "In the Big House with the 'Prison Break' cast. Chicago Tribune. August 24, 2005. Retrieved on March 1, 2007.
- Bobbin, J, "'Prison Break' Breaks More Rules". Zap2it.com. January 22, 2007. Retrieved on March 1, 2007.
- Schechter, M, "November 20, 2006: Disconnect". TV Guide. November 21, 2006. Retrieved on March 1, 2007.
- Mitovich, M. W., "Prison Break: Is the Doctor (Gulp) Out?", TV Guide. May 15, 2006. Retrieved on February 19, 2007.
- Ausiello, M., "Exclusive! Prison Break Leading Lady Pregnant!", TV Guide. January 23, 2007. Retrieved on February 19, 2007.
- Ausiello, M., "Prison Break Exclusive: The Real Story Behind Sara's Death", TV Guide. Retrieved on October 11, 2007.
- Prison Break DVD News, Season 2 Preview!. TV Guide. August 8, 2006. Retrieved on September 17, 2006.
- Riots, Drills and the Devil (Part 1), Prison Break Season 1 DVD commentary, Paul Scheuring and cast.
- Mitovich, M. W., "Sarah Wayne Callies: Prison Break's Sara Is in Deep Water", TV Guide. November 20, 2006.