Jim Caviezel reveals his passion for The Prisoner—and his co-star

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

AMC's miniseries remake of The Prisoner isn't even on until November, but the stars of the show were talking it up last week. At the Television Critics Association January press tour, they gave a press conference about the upcoming re-imagining of Patrick McGoohan's British series.

Jim Caviezel plays Number Six in this version. Though now an American, Six is still a man who wakes up in a community called The Village, with no memory of how he got there. Number Two (Ian McKellen) is the authority figure keeping everyone there. Caviezel told the press that it was his co-star who attracted him to the show.

"All I heard was Ian McKellen," Caviezel said last week in Universal City, Calif. "I didn't hear The Prisoner. I'd never seen The Prisoner. I didn't know what it was. So the first two episodes I read were phenomenal."

After the press conference, Caviezel remained to talk with a smaller group of journalists, including SCI FI Wire. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of that interview.

Since you said you weren't familiar with the original, what struck you about the concept of The Prisoner?

Caviezel: I read it, and I said, "I gotta do this." I didn't know about the original. I just based [my performance] on the material that I was reading. I always go where the material is, so this is a beautiful blend. I understood the story that I was reading in much the same way as The Thin Red Line, where Terry Malick wrote an allegory to what's going on in the world. I thought this was the same, in this time period, but it's universal. It transcends not just this time period, in much the same way we're still talking about the old show, which is a lot of universals. We have universal feelings. Someone asked the question about what about using an American Six. But we all love, we all hate, we all have certain emotions that transcend our countries.

Did you have a chance to talk to Patrick McGoohan? Did you even know who he was?

Caviezel: Yes, I did. What happened was I asked Mel Gibson, I said, "When you were filming Braveheart, I really liked that king." He said, "Yeah, that's Patrick McGoohan." He's the one that talked about The Prisoner until I heard Ian's name. Then [I heard] Prisoner. I said [to Gibson], "Is this what you're talking about?" I even heard that [Gibson] was looking at remaking this. So that's how it all came to be. [Gibson directed Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ.]

Did you ever speak with McGoohan?

Caviezel: No, never did. I know all about that. See, I've seen pieces of it and said, "Got it, got it, got it," but I didn't want to be affected, in a way. I did [The Count of] Monte Cristo, and they were sending me all these films, and I said, "Gosh, I don't know."

Is Mel Gibson mad that you got The Prisoner done before him?

Caviezel: No, no, no.

What were the physical demands of this series?

Caviezel: It's all those sand—you see those sand dunes. A lot of hauling somebody around on my back and up and down those sand dunes.

What made you want to work with Ian so much?

Caviezel: Great actor. Great actor, special. There are different tiers, and he's on the highest tier. I thought of Richard Harris, working with him. I was very close with him, I was very close with Ian. What I loved about him is that look. At this level, you hope you have great actors, but they're not exactly great people. When you find out he's a great man, it makes it special. So it made it very comfortable for me. He's a teacher. I call him maestro. I can walk up to him and say, "Tell me about this scene."

Do we ultimately find out who Six was in this version?

Caviezel: Am I supposed to [tell]? I'd say yes. In this one you really get to know the characters. In this one, you care about them. There's a relationship with Two; he has relationships with them, too, and they have all of that, so they're all part of the big—his big plan, I guess.