Alcatraz has always had an air of mystery surrounding it, but what if none of it happened the way we've all been told? "Alcatraz" (two-hour premiere airs Mon., Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. EST on Fox) presents an entirely new story for the Rock: 302 of the prison's most hardcore inmates and guards vanished and now, 50 years later, they're starting to reappear, having not aged a day, and they seem to be on a mission.
From executive producer J.J. Abrams -- the man who made the mysteries of another island last for six seasons with "Lost" -- the show is guaranteed to be not at all what it seems at the outset.
I caught up with stars Jorge Garcia, who plays Alcatraz expert Dr. Diego Soto; Sarah Jones, whose Det. Rebecca Madsen has close personal ties to some of these time-traveling Alcatraz adventures; and Sam Neill, who plays government agent Emerson Hauser, the man who teams Soto and Madsen together to help him catch the criminals and imprison them again.
This show is not easy to explain -- how are you guys "pitching" it?
Jorge Garcia: Man ... a bunch of bad guys disappeared off of Alcatraz, and now they're back. And it's up to the three of us to grab them and put 'em away again ... meanwhile, trying to figure out who's behind the whole thing.
Sarah Jones: Yes -- crime!
Sam Neill: Punishment.
JG & SJ: Redemption!
SN: Violence. Rage.
JG: Oh, there's violence.
Those are all words! There's a lot of action, but it's the mystery that I think is going to keep people coming back. Sam, your character is the most mysterious. What's his deal?
SN: Well, you see, that's the mystery, isn't it? I certainly know more than you, but my character knows more than I do. We are given a certain amount to work with, but not all of it. Some of it, I wouldn't want to divulge anyway ... it's kind of ... I can't even tease it.
Well, Jorge and Sarah, your characters have now been tasked with working for this man, Emerson, and you haven't been given nearly enough information.
JG: Right. We sit there like, "Is he with us or against us? What's going on?"
SJ: Yeah, we can't figure it out.
JG: But he lies, and I lie right back at him.
SJ & SN: [Laughs]
JG: It's us against him.
It's an interesting team -- what other TV duo could you compare them to?
SN: Dick Van Dyke and ... [to Sarah] you're Dick Van Dyke ...
SN: I don't know -- that's an interesting question. Are there any other partnerships that come to mind?
JG: Maybe "Pinky & the Brain."
SJ: Wait ... who's Pinky and who's the Brain?
Come on now -- isn't it obvious?
JG: Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
SJ: I mean, I know ... [Laughs]
JG: Isn't it obvious?
SJ: I would think Hauser would be the Brain actually. Trying to take over the world.
The format for the show is very "cast of the week" with a twist. Will we be following a "prisoner of the week" that you all are tracking?
SJ: You get a prisoner every week. Different prisoner every week, or sometimes it's a guard.
JG: Or sometimes you get two prisoners.
SN: And some of those prisoners will weave throughout.
JG: But also there's Rebecca's hunt for the man who killed her partner who happens to also ...
Also, be her grandfather! Who wasn't a guard, but a prisoner! That was a nice twist.
JG: That's definitely going to be a hunt that's going to go through more than one episode for sure.
And then there's the mystery of just what exactly these men have been tasked to do now in present day ...
SN: Yes, the overarching mysteries like, who is sending these prisoners back and why? What is that conspiracy about? My mission is to find those people and hunt them down. There's a number of agendas at play here.
The two-hour premiere of "Alcatraz" airs Mon., Jan. 16, 8 p.m. EST on Fox