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Natalie Abrams of TV Guide opened Fox’s Alcatraz panel Saturday at WonderCon, introducing stars Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Jonny Coyne, Parminder Nagra and Robert Forster, executive producers Jennifer Johnson and Daniel Pyne, and co-creators Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien to the packed ballroom in the Anaheim Convention Center.
A highlight reel (below) was played first, partially summarizing the events of the season while also hinting at next week’s finale, as it ended with Jones’ character Det. Rebecca Madsen pointing a gun at her grandfather after a long car chase.
After the applause died down, Lilien explained the idea for Alcatraz originated with a dream: His wife had booked a trip to San Francisco, and that same night, he dreamed of being alone on Alcatraz, and everyone else had simply disappeared. He woke and quickly typed out the idea and emailed it to Wynbrandt and then went back to sleep.
The next day, Wynbrandt called him, excitedly asking, “Where did they all go!?!” Lilien could only reply, “I don’t know, I didn’t dream that far!” And from there, they created the show.
Wynbrandt elaborated, explaining that just the word “Alcatraz” evokes “gothic and mystery.” But the story seemed to develop organically as the duo further researched the island.
Asked what it was like to go from one mysterious island, on ABC’s Lost, to another mysterious island, Garcia explained, “I just go with flow.” He does his part, and the writers do theirs.
Johnson elaborated, sharing that Wynbrandt and Lilien spent two weeks writing a bible for the show that “maps out everything,” and added, “There is a grand plan.”
Nagra, whose character Dr. Lucy Banerjee will come out of coma and interact with the present-day cast, said she finds the relationship between the former Alcatraz psychiatrist and Emerson Hauer (played in the present by Sam Neill) to be a tragic story she looks forward to exploring.
The mastermind behind Alcatraz and its missing inmates, and the man working with Warden James, will be revealed in the final. It was also accidentally mentioned that Warden James is still alive in the present.
Whenever he was asked about the show, Forster repeatedly joked that, “I don’t admit to knowing anything.” But he revealed there’s a scene coming up that explains why his character, retired Alcatraz guard Ray Archer, doesn’t trust his brother (and Rebecca’s grandfather) Tommy.
Bryan explained that the inmates from 1963 who are now appearing in the present day age normally, and that, “There are more inmates back than you know about.”
He also accidentally revealed that Dr. Beauregard is alive in the present day, and that the rivalry between him and Dr. Banerjee will continue.
The famous San Francisco car chase scene from the 1968 film Bullitt will be recreated in the season finale as Rebecca confronts her grandfather for killing her partner in the first episode. The producers had wanted to shoot the homage for a while, especially because they had Rebecca driving a Fastback since the series began.
When asked about the mysterious door in the Underground Alcatraz Base, Lilien answered, “Watch in a week and we will enter that door.” Coyne added, “It really won’t disappoint at all.”
And finally, to everyone’s delight, Forster added, “I know what’s behind the door!”
Audience questions were next, with one fan asking whether any inmates are based on reality. It was explained that they would never use real names or histories for legal reasons mostly, but the famous Birdman of Alcatraz is the inspiration for the next episode.
One fan’s question uncovered that in the original pilot, Rebecca’s grandfather didn’t kill her partner, but that the detail was added in a later edit to give her a more personal stake in the mystery behind Alcatraz.
The final question concerned the childhoods of Rebecca and Doc, with the producers replying that the finale will provide for information about the former. Doc’s past will remain unknown for now, although a scene has been drafted that explains the origins of his obsession with Alcatraz.
The season finale of Alcatraz airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.