“I die in season three of everything.” This was what Sarah Wayne Callies once said to The Hollywood Reporter. She was referring to many of the characters she’s played, some in big profile TV series. One of her big series was The Walking Dead. Thankfully, the actress had a career before and after her brutal TWD death.
Sarah Wayne Callies’s career got off to a fast start. Almost immediately after moving to New York, she found her first role in the short-lived TV series Queens Supreme. It was a recurring role in which she starred opposite Oliver Platt (Executive Decision, The Three Musketeers), Robert Loggia (Big, Opportunity Knocks), and Annabella Sciorra (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Cop Land). Definitely not a bad crew to begin one’s career. That year also saw Callies star in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Dragnet. It was also the year that she found another new series, this one was Tarzan.
According to series creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural, The Boys), Tarzan was a “piece of crap”. As he explained in an interview with LiveJournal, “I had adapted another show for the WB, a piece of crap called Tarzan. Here’re my feelings on Tarzan: I’ll stand behind the pilot. It has a beginning, middle, and — the problem — it ends. I was hungry to have anything in production, so I wrote a 50-page story that ended. Then it got made and I had something in production and it was all my dreams come true. They said to me, “Let’s do 12 more.” I said, “Uh, wait! What’s the story?” So, Tarzan was a hell ride in every way, and we only did eight before they wisely put us out of our misery.”
Unfortunately for Sarah Wayne Callies, she was a main part of that “piece of crap.” Not that any of it was her fault. In this updated, re-imagining of the Edgar Rice Burroughs character Tarzan, he is just that, in name only. This Tarzan brought him into the 20th Century New York where Jane (Callies) is a NY City Detective. We won’t go any further. It was canceled after eight episodes.
One year ‘on the job” and Sarah Wayne Callies had two failed TV series under her belt. Thankfully it did nothing to derail her career. In fact, the young actress moved right on over to another TV series.
SARAH WAYNE CALLIES ON PRISON BREAK
This one was a keeper. Prison Break. It starred Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller as brothers, one of which (Miller) is set up by a massive conspiracy and sent death row. His brother (Purcell) is already in prison and does everything he can to get himself into the prison his brother is in so he can help him escape to prove his innocence. Sarah Wayne Callies portrayed Miller’s wife, Dr. Sara Tancredi.
After reading the pilot for Prison Break, Callies recalls the one thing she asked for concerning her character. She told Vogue, “The one thing that I asked for when I read the pilot – she was so good and devoted to humanity … [but] something in the back of my brain [told me] there are always bodies buried and every angel has a pitchfork somewhere. So I approached [show creator] Paul Scheuring with the idea of being an addict, actually I suggested [Sara] was an alcoholic. Paul went all the way to an opioids addiction.”
Sarah Wayne Callies went on further to explain how she saw the character as it related to her surroundings, “I wanted her to have some common ground with the inmates. I wanted to make sure that she could never judge them and that she was flawed as well and so even the idea that maybe she was working in a prison not because she was a wonderful person who wanted to help those who were less fortunate that her but also maybe because she couldn’t get a license to practice in a more traditional hospital.”
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Dr. Sara had to die. Why? Well, it started with Sarah Wayne Callies’s pregnancy and then moved on to contracts. According to the show’s executive producer Matt Olmstead, they pitched many different ideas and ways around Callies’s pregnancy, all of which the network turned down. They wanted to pair down her role, having her appear in fewer episodes.
As 20th Century spokesperson Chris Alexander explains via TV Guide, “We had to either pick her up for the entire season of 22, according to her contract, or we had to make a new contract with her. We determined in May that we didn’t plan to use her for the full 22, so we chose not to renew our existing contract with her. And so, to get her back for the 13 or 14 that we wanted, we had to make a new deal, and she declined.”
Sarah Wayne Callies reached out to TV Guide with a statement, “As hard as we all tried, the Prison Break powers that be and I were unable to find a way to meet both the needs of the story and the needs of my family. We parted wishing each other well. I had a wonderful time working with the creative team and have a world of respect for all of them; they took great care of Dr. Sara. I’m also enormously grateful to the fans. They’ve been so gracious and supportive, and I hope they continue to enjoy the show.”
So, what did Prison Break do to her character? Well, if you’ve ever seen the movie Se7en starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, you’ll understand. It was straight from Se7en, decapitated Sarah Wayne Callies and all.
SARAH WAYNE CALLIES ON THE WALKING DEAD
During Sarah Wayne Callies’s time on Prison Break, she kept herself focused mainly on that series. She did appear in a few features and made an appearance on the series House, but for the most part, she stayed close to Prison Break.
After the series ended in 2009, Callies then found herself on a new show. A blockbuster. The Walking Dead. In it Sarah Wayne Callies played Lori Grimes, the wife of series star Andrew Lincoln, who played Rick Grimes.
Sarah Wayne Callies made it to season three before her Walking Dead character was brutally killed. This time she kept her head, sorta. After delivering her child via c-section, she dies from the complications. Before she can come back as a zombie, though, her son Carl insists that he be the one to put her down. He does. End of Lori’s story.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Sarah Wayne Callies’s time on The Walking Dead lasted three seasons during which time she also appeared in a few features. These included Lullaby for Pi, Black Gold, Foreverland, and Black November. After her time on Walking Dead ended, she continued her feature film career with Into the Storm, Pay the Ghost, The Other Side of the Door, and The Show. She was also part of the mini-series The Long Road Home. Lately, Callies was seen in the TV series Colony, Unspeakable, Letterkenny, and Council of Dads.
Sarah Wayne Callies, along with Purcell and Miller, returned for the Prison Break nine-episode event. This time it was her character, Dr. Sara, who somehow returned in the series’ season four with her head intact, that teams up with Purcell to find her husband after she gets clues that he may still be alive. Yes, apparently even he died on the show, only to not really be dead.
It’s good to know there is always the chance of life after death in Hollywood, especially if you’re Sarah Wayne Callies.
SARAH WAYNE CALLIES NOW
Now 43-years-old, Sarah Wayne Callies has two children with her husband Josh Winterholt. Sarah and Josh met in 2001 and have been together steadily every since. Two kids keeps them busy, but that hasn’t slowed down Sarah’s acting career.
Sarah Wayne Callies finished up work on her latest series, Council of Dads, in 2020. She was one of the show’s leads. Though Council of Dads did well with critics, it didn’t do well in the ratings. Council of Dads was cancelled after only one season.