Exclusive: Frank Harts Talks Prodigal Son

Frank HartsTonight an all-new episode of Prodigal Son airs on FOX. The series follows Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), a criminal profiler who joins the NYPD because of his ability to see things from the perspective of the killer. However, he comes with baggage, as his father has been incarcerated at an asylum for committing serial murders.

Frank Harts, who plays the role of Detective JT Tarmel, recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about working on the show, his character’s strained relationship with Bright, what’s to come for JT, and more.

SCIFI VISION: Can you first talk about how you got involved in the show? Was it just a normal audition?

Frank HartsFRANK HARTS: It was. I worked with Chris [Fedak] and Sam [Sklaver] on another show and had such a great time, and when I heard this was coming down the pipeline, I met with Meg Simon here at the Warner Brothers in New York and put JT on tape and sent it out west. And I went out there and met with the studio and network, and here we are.

Other than the script, was there anywhere else you got inspiration from when you started to create the character?

I've had the good fortune of not only playing a number of different law enforcement types over the years, but also growing up around military and law enforcement. [With JT’s] heavy military background, as well as his law enforcement connection, I was able to draw from real world situations and people that I know, as well as the research I've done for some of the other characters that I've played.

And one of the great things that they sort of instill in you early on when you're in a training program like Juilliard, is how to create your own process and build a character from the ground up without judgment, and that's the approach that I took with JT Tarmel.

That leads me to my next question. You said you had done research before for law enforcement. Maybe you didn't so much for this specific show, but when you first played a cop, were there any specific things you did research that you had to know to prepare for it? Anything in particular you can remember?

Well, just sticking with this show, because it is similar to some of the other training processes that I've had, and that is not only researching the legal aspect of being a detective or an officer, but the physical aspect of learning how to run, walk, talk, carry a weapon, draw a weapon, shoot a weapon, interview a suspect, handcuff someone. It’s all the basic things that good cops make look easy when necessary but take real work and focus and training.

That's that's sort of how I approach it. We have a wonderful technical advisor named Dave Adams on set, an NYPD detective, who is very good about taking us into the field and showing us various techniques and pointing us in the right direction when we have questions on set.

Frank HartsBravo to Fox and Warner Brothers for bringing someone like that on board, because it helps make it look more realistic. I'm not out there doing the real brain work that real cops do.

Speaking of looking realistic, I know you don't have as much time with the bodies as some of the other characters, but you've still obviously been around some of the practical effects. Can you talk a little bit just about dealing with that?

Well, I mean, again, I think it's about as fast as you can learning how to think like a homicide detective, how to ask the right questions. For me, it's all about the details.

And again, this comes down to [being an actor]. The way I've always put it, is the best actors are actually the best detectives as well, because we ask questions until there are no more questions left to ask.

So, what happens is, if you're on a set and it's a crime scene, and you walk into a scene and there are no latex gloves, the first question you ask is, “Where are the gloves?” Because in real life, you can't touch the bodies or the evidence and taint it. If you're a novice, or you haven't done the research, you might just film the scene with bare hands and contaminate everything.

So, I think it's really just about learning what the actual process is in real life and doing the research so that when you show up to a set and it's not real, you can sell it.

I don't know if you're going to answer me, but everybody keeps asking me: what does JT stand for?

Ha ha! All will be revealed.



Oh, maybe. All right, well, hopefully -

No, no, it has to happen, right? There will be a riot, otherwise.

Frank Harts
[laughs] Yeah.

Obviously JT didn't trust Bright at first, but he's starting to warm up to him. I don't know if he completely trusts him or not yet, but in your own opinion, if you think he does trust him now, what was it that changed his mind? And if he's still too leery of him, what do you think it's going to take to get JT completely on board?

Great question. I think that you're right. JT obviously started off with good reason as a clear skeptic of Bright's presence coming from the background that he comes from, family of a serial killer. He’s just been kicked out of the FBI, with no official title or badge whatsoever, but Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) invites him onto the team, because apparently, allegedly he has some special skill that we haven't seen yet at the beginning of the series.

As time has gone on, JT, I think, is giving him more rope, because as far as JT's concerned, similar to what happens in the military, he learned what it meant to take lives as well as save them. All he wants to do is continue the business of saving lives here in this in his city, New York City. If Bright is a means to that end, so be it.

And I think the reason he's giving Bright more rope as time goes on, is because Bright is proving himself to be a worthy asset. He's helping us solve these crimes. I mean, at the same time, you're right, yes, he still approaches it with a healthy dose of skepticism, because the man seems to be mentally unstable and with recognizable elements of PTSD, which JT can also identify with on some level of things as former military, dealing with his own situation but having figured out how to bring it under control and function.

He doesn't see that as the same thing so much with Bright. He seems to be a bit unstable, but at the same time he's doing the job we need him to do. So, JT is is giving him more rope and starting to appreciate his presence. I think, as time goes on, we'll see how it all balances out in the end, but that's where he's at now.

Do you think they'll ever be friends? Or is he still going to be too leery, at least for quite a while anyway?

You know, I think that it's possible that "friends" might be a word that's a bit too strong, but almost more like a band of brothers in the trenches together, trying to get a job done and stay alive and keep others alive. So, close in the brotherly sense.

Are we going to get any more backstory on JT soon? Because we don't know a whole lot about him yet.

Frank HartsYou know, you're right, and I'm going to have to say yes, because we're dealing with a team of writers and with Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver at the head, who are just top of the line and magnificent. As we see every week, the writing's great. So, I can't give specifics yet, but I'm confident that definitely more backstory will come out about JT.

And we have so much real estate now with twenty two episodes that all of these characters you'll probably learn a lot more from.

Yeah, there's a lot more to cover on JT, a lot of room to grow, and I'm sure it's going to happen, whether it's the military background or his family background. So, I'm sure the answer is yes.

This sort of probably connects with that, but the other thing I was going to ask, and you may not even know this; it depends on how far the writers have gotten, but with one of the recent episodes, Dani (Aurora Perrineau) kind of got her own episode, or at least her own episode arc. Do you know if there any episodes coming up that more specifically deal with JT that you can talk about?

You definitely are going to see more of JT as time goes on, but as far as having his own sort of episode, as of now, it hasn't come across my desk yet, but again, I think that all of these things are in the works. Everybody will get their time, and audiences will get to enjoy, I think, every character's full story at some point. So yes, I'm hoping that, and I believe that soon we will see JT's episode as well.

You know, somebody joked on Twitter the other day about how they'd love to see a whole episode with Bright and JT locked in a room somewhere. [laughs]

There's a lot of room to grow, and I haven't seen it yet, but I know it's got to be coming. These folks, they're really on top of it.

Can you talk about your favorite scene so far that you've filmed?

Well, you know, I love all the little back and forth moments with Bright, whether it's, you know, “Don't put your shaky bandage hand on me” or “What's your name?”

Those are fun, but I'm a big fan of the quieter moments like the one-on-one scene in the car we had a few episodes ago, where we're talking about respect for each other, and it's just two people in a space, communicating quietly, or loudly, or whatever it is, but just one-on-one.

Frank HartsAnd at the same time, I love the ensemble aspect and the explosions and all these things that excite people from an entertainment perspective.

But yeah, I think it’s those one on one moments with Bright, or really anyone. I'm excited to try it out with Gil and Dani, and who knows, even Mr. (Michael Sheen) and Mrs. Whitley (Bellamy Young) at some point. Lord knows what kind of Intel JT could gather from those two on Bright, [laughs] if he were ever put into that situation. So yeah, those are fun.

Is there anything that you can tease to readers about what’s coming in the next episode?
Yes. Episode six is coming up on Monday, and the one thing I will say, is that [laughs] I've been freaked out by a lot of these killers over the episodes that we've shown and aired already, as well as the ones that we're working on now, but this is going to be a killer unlike any you've ever seen before, or even thought of. Maybe you thought of it, but I don't think a lot of people have. It's completely freaky, completely unexpected, and really just sad and scary all at once.

I can't get more specific than that, but I promise you, on Monday, your head's going to maybe spin around once or twice when you see who this killer is. It's crazy! It's insane! It's going to be a wild ride.

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