‘Prison Break’: Why Wentworth Miller Begged to Have Some of Michael’s Tattoos Removed

Dedicated fans of the fascinating TV series, Prison Break, know that Wentworth Miller’s character, Michael Scofield, entered incarceration with elaborate tattoos over much of his body. However, by the start of season 4, the tats were gone. Why did Miller beg to have the tattoos removed? Here’s what we know.

Hidden meaning in Scofield’s tattoos

Wentworth Miller at the Fox Action Showcase event for 'Prison Break' during the 2016 San Diego Comic Con
Wentworth Miller of ‘Prison Break’ | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

From the first frame of Prison Break, Scofield’s tats were featured almost as prominently as the character himself. Comprising two dozen tattoo designs, the complex image provided a virtual blueprint of the Fox River Penitentiary along with additional info Scofield and his brother, Lincoln Burrows, used to plot their eventual escape.

Why Miller wanted the tattoos gone in ‘Prison Break’

In real life, English-born actor Wentworth Miller sports no tats of his own. Nonetheless, he sat for nearly five hours in the makeup chair every time his character’s tattoos were applied. Once they were no longer crucial to the plotline, Miller strongly requested the tats be removed from Scofield’s body and every script thereafter, explained Screenrant.

Even before they became irrelevant to the story, Scofield’s tats were a problem for Miller, who explained that filming seasons 2 and 3 in 100-degree Texas heat in long sleeves that supposedly covered up his still-remaining tats was unbearable, according to Digital Spy.

More hidden meanings in Scofield’s ‘Prison Break’ tats

The detailed prison map on Scofield’s back was not the only mysterious message in his fake ink. Screenrant did a deep delve to discover the secrets embedded in Miller’s Prison Break tattoos. Here are a few of the things they found out:

  • In the season 1 episode, called “Riots, Drills and the Devil: Part 1” according to IMDb, Scofield and his cellmate, Fernando Sucre, project the grinning devil tat on Scofield’s arm onto a cell wall to locate exactly where to drill into an abandoned sewer line.
  • The first digits in Scofield’s tattooed barcode referred to Illinois Route 38. The second pair of numbers, 12, indicated how many miles to a plot-important bridge, and the number 1037 was a reminder of the radio frequency he planned to use to trigger a bomb blast at that bridge.
  • Scofield’s wrist tat that said R.I.P.E. Chance Woods indicated a secondary escape plan that he intended to use if his first plan to flee Fox River prison failed. If you think RIP meant “rest in peace,” you’re right. Before being incarcerated, Scofield hid a phony passport, car keys, and civilian clothes inside the tomb of a fellow by the name of E. Chance Woods at a cemetery in Oswego, Illinois. This tat was also the first one to be deciphered by the FBI in season 2.
  • A fan of playing cards tattooed on Scofield revealed the phone number of the Czech immigrant he married one day before the bank robbery arrest that sent him to prison. Nika Volek was in on the plan and promised to help Scofield and Barrow escape in return for a green card.

Identification through tattoos

If they’d been decoded before he busted out of Fox River Penitentiary, Scofield’s tats could have caused him a world of trouble. In fact, law enforcement has used tattoos to identify and apprehend numerous criminals, including 20th-century mass murderer Richard Speck.

After Speck’s conspicuous “Born to Raise Hell” tattoo was published in local newspapers in 1966, it was recognized and reported by a Cook County doctor who treated the killer for injuries sustained during an attempted suicide, explained History. According to AP News, Speck was then sentenced to eight consecutive life terms and died of a heart attack at Stateville Correctional Center in 1991. 

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