Nicholas Fonseca
November 25, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

There are plenty of vile, heartless thugs running around Prison Break‘s Fox River State Penitentiary, but none comes close to skeeving us out like Theodore ”T-Bag” Bagwell, the drawling white-trash racist whose do- or-die rivalry with fellow inmate John Abruzzi came to a shocking head last week. Robert Knepper — a veteran of TV and more than 20 films (Hostage) who’s also starring as Joe McCarthy’s henchman in Good Night, and Good Luck — says he’s having a ball being so bad, though he admits, ”I was concerned that I would have to call Fox and ask for some security. I thought I’d have a bunch of brothers coming up to me really angry about what my character does.” Not so much. Excited fans approach him all the time to express their off-kilter admiration for T-Bag, a testament to Knepper’s skill at playing slimy. ”People looove to hate me. I never play him like a stereotypical racist or redneck. He’s actually quite cunning and smart.” But will that help him when — and if — the Gang of Seven escapes in the season’s fall finale (Nov. 28 at 9 p.m.)? ”I don’t worry about that, because he has the ability to come up with some amazing shanks,” he says with a nasty giggle. ”The audience knows he’ll get away with it. But the question is how. And that’s what makes it so fun to watch.”

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