As the academically high-achieving daughter of two university professors, no one expected to see Sarah Wayne Callies one day appear on TV playing a drug-addicted prison doctor in love with an inmate.
But that’s exactly what happened to the willowy redhead, who plays Dr. Sara Tancredi on the Fox hit Prison Break. The curious coed who won a fellowship to study indigenous theology while she was a student at Dartmouth transformed her scholarly drive into a zeal for role preparation.
Eight days before shooting began, Wayne Callies discovered that the show’s writers had made Tancredi an addict. She launched into a crash course on drug addiction, viewing films such as Requiem for a Dream, studying actor John Spencer’s nuanced work as the recovering addict and chief of staff on NBC’s The West Wing, and talking with a woman physician and recovering pill abuser.
Prison Break, a 2006 Golden Globe nominee for best drama, features sizzling scenes between Wayne Callies and heartthrob Wentworth Miller. Besides the desperadoes-in-love appeal, Wayne Callies believes that “a bunch of random renegades who are able to convince the president to step down is an exciting fantasy” in today’s war-riven political climate.
The other, more timeless appeal of the show, she asserts, it the compelling moral dilemmas that characters face every week. “Each episode is simple: what’s the right thing to do, and what does it cost me to do it?”
The actress is expecting her first child this summer, with husband Josh Winterhalt, but she’s hardly out of sight. She appears the recently released film adaption of the best-selling novel The Celestine Prophecy, and in Stewart Hendler’s upcoming thriller, Hellion.
“I would love to fling myself in as many directions as possible,” Wayne Callies says, expressing interest in everything from musical comedies and costume dramas to explosion-laced action films. “That,” she says, “is what keeps it interesting.”