The FOX series Prodigal Son
follows Malcolm Bright, played by Tom Payne, a profiler working for the NYPD, who's father is Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), the serial killer known as "The Surgeon." In last week's episode, the NYPD looked for Whitly, who had escaped from Claremont, but came up empty-handed when it was revealed that he was not with the other escaped inmates. On this week's all-new episode, it was revealed that it was actually Vivian Capshaw (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who captured Martin and was keeping him prisoner.
Yesterday, Payne talked to Jamie Ruby in an exclusive interview about his work on the series, how his father's escape effected his character, Malcolm's relationship with Dani (Aurora Perrineau), next week's finale, and more.
SCIFI VISION: Obviously not everybody agreed with Malcolm that Capshaw took his father; the other people weren't in a rush to help. Even if it had been true, Dani had told him, you know, “If he's gone, you're free.” Can you kind of talk about why he's so adamant to save him and kind of how that speaks to his character?
I think if Martin gets away and like, just runs away, and Malcolm never sees him again, there's no way to resolve a lot of the emotional problems that he has, and a lot of the conversations that he wants to have are no longer possible. When he had him trapped at Claremont, then he knew where he was; he could go and talk to him, and he was in control of that. Now he knows that his father is out there. He says in the show [something] like, “He could come for me at any time.” He's lost control. I mean, he's gotten better with his emotional control, but now his father can manipulate him in other ways. He's out there in the world; he doesn't know when he’ll see him again, and he doesn't know what he might do. He might add to his body count and sort of other stuff that Malcolm has to deal with. He was always easily categorizable in Malcolm’s mind before. He put him in a box; he knew what he was. He knew where he was, but now the cuffs are off, and he's out there, and, for Malcolm, that’s a lot more dangerous in lots of different ways, obviously, for the world at large, but also for Malcolm’s mental health, which is hanging by a thread most times anyway.
Right. But he's not willing to just let something happen to him, like the other people kind of think would be better for his mental health, I guess.
No, I think he thinks that nothing's gonna happen to him; he’s going to happen to other people…We've gotta catch him, because it's only gonna get worse, certainly for Malcolm. And I know that he doesn't know that his mom just put the phone down [laughs]
…and that might come up again later on, and that will be another bone of contention between him and his mother. But he needs to have a resolution to it, for his [own] personal reasons, because the other people are treating it like a cop job. It's like, “Okay, he’s a criminal; this is what we do,” but, for Malcolm, there’s so much more invested in it. He knows him better than anyone else as well. He knows what he's capable of, and he knows the way that he can operate. Yeah, he's afraid of that, really.
Can you talk about his relationship with Dani? I would say, they kind of both went to kiss at the same time, so I wouldn't necessarily say one of them made the first move, but then he took off. Obviously, there's only one episode left. Are they gonna have time to discuss it? Or is it something maybe they're going to ignore? What can you tease about that?
I think even if they did have time to discuss it, like it's not going to be a discussion that's very easy. I think that in that moment, it was very impulse based. I think Malcolm just wants someone who he can be close to and emotionally honest with, and in this story, Dani is that person.
In this episode, as usual, in Malcolm’s life, there's a lot going on, and there're a lot of emotions floating around. I think he just wants to be close to someone. Then, he runs off, and then he gets kidnapped by Capshaw [laughs]
, and then he ends up in her basement. So, I wouldn't say that there's gonna be any kind of conversation happening anytime soon.
Hopefully they’ll get to [eventually talk].
This kind of goes a little bit to what you were saying, that maybe Malcolm’s more worried about other people, but I feel like Dani, maybe she didn't have complete proof, but I think she definitely believed that Capshaw kidnapped him after hearing the voice message he left, and I'm not sure that she would have necessarily gone in guns blazing to shoot his father. Yet, he's like, you know, “You’ve got to run; they're gonna kill you.” Do you think that he 100% believes that? Or do you think that maybe there's a part of him that also wants him to get away, even if it's maybe subconsciously? Or is it just all about that he doesn't want him to die?
Interesting. Well, I think in the last episode, in eleven, he was pretty sure that they were going to kill him, and then it ended up not being him in the room.
I mean, the way that we did it, I think he's worried, because, unfortunately, we live in a country where people get shot too early in the conversation...You know, in the pilot of the whole show, way back at the beginning of season one, the serial killer in that first episode gets shot by the local sheriff, [and] he's the hero. He shot the serial killer, and he wins the day. I think there’s always that risk that someone will want to be the person that killed Martin Whitly. So, I think it was genuine. I don't think he has time to think in that moment, really, because I do think it's more terrifying for him for Martin to be out in the world, but equally as scary is his father dying. He still has unfinished business with his father.
Right, and I guess maybe you've sort of answered some of this, and you can't really tell me specifics, but, I mean, I know you're saying he thinks other people are in danger, but I don't think that necessarily Malcolm feels he and his family are in danger. We're assuming his father takes him with him on the boat. Now whether his father is going to just want to spend the day with him or want him to escape with him, I don't know.
But I don't know. Is there anything you can kind of just say to that?
No, I don't think he ever believes that his father's going to hurt his family or anyone in his family, certainly not physically, but anything that he does out in the world hurts them all emotionally and psychologically. The whole family has been dealing with the after effects of his deeds, for the kids, for their whole lives. That's everything that he’s [already done]. If he's out there doing new things, that's just more trauma to deal with every day, and everyone will be associating them with him every minute of every hour of every day, again. It is just more stuff to deal with psychologically for them, and they have been dealing with that the whole lives. It would be great if it could die down a little bit, but if he’s out in the open, it's never gonna go away.
So, you, talk about how he's affected them and everything. I wanted to talk a minute, not necessarily specifically about Endicott (Dermot Mulroney), but, obviously, you know, Ainsley (Halston Sage) has that darkness in her. Malcolm has the darkness; he cut the body up and was somewhat okay with it.
I mean, he's really messed his children up. Is maybe that darkness going to come out again in a different way? I mean, I guess you probably don't know past the finale, but do you think, like, do you see that happening maybe if there is a season three or whatever, that kind of rearing its head again, for either of them? Or for both of them?
Yeah, I think there are sides of Malcolm that he hasn't allowed to come through, or doesn’t want to come through, and it got touched on with the Endicott storyline. I think at some point he’ll have to confront them and work through who he is behind the curtain. I think the events of the finale are definitely pushing him in different directions and force him to question himself again. There are big things that happen physically and emotionally, decisions that are made that aren't necessarily the most pleasant decisions, and Malcolm is very much involved in that. So, the whole show, as far as Malcolm and Martin are concerned, always plays pretty close to the line of what's acceptable and what's not in different situations, and we go to those cases again in the finale, definitely.
Thinking back to when you first got the role, did you do like any research into - I guess he sort of has PTSD in a way, but kind of their relationship and stuff he's gone through, did you look into any of that or any thing like that in your preparation?
I think it’s so specific that is quite difficult to do any kind of work that is completely relatable, but there was a specific podcast called Smiley Face that I listened to, which followed the daughter of a serial killer and actually went and interviewed relatives of her father’s victims and talked about him and everything. That was really intense and really interesting to listen to.
I mean, what really struck me is that the entire world will always just see you as that, as a reflection of your relative. In our story, it's even bigger, because Jessica (Bellamy Young) and Martin were society people, and they were quite well known. So, it was quite a public thing that happened, and it would have been worldwide news. It was a big spectacle that happened. So, that was also very specific.
Really, I think, [it’s] the family dynamics and all of those things. You know, I have a certain relationship with my father, and there’re certain questions that I find difficult to ask him, difficult things to talk about, and we all have those things and those kinds of relationships with our parents, and it's just [that] turned up to one thousand. I think at the heart of our show is family relationships, and everything else is the other details on top…It's about family relationships, but it just so happens that the father in this situation is a serial killer.
Can you talk a bit about working with Michael Sheen this season?
Oh, he’s wonderful. I mean, Michael is one of the reasons why I was so excited to do the show. He’s such a phenomenal actor and a total comedian. I was just so excited, because we had these great scenes and this great relationship set up in the show. To know that you’re going to get to do these scenes with someone who is so controlled and so talented and capable, and that you know that you can walk into those scenes and you don't necessarily know where they're gonna go, but you’ve both done your research and you both know your characters, and then you just let the scenes play out, is really a gift. And to just feel safe, to feel safe in a scene with an actor and know that everything that you do is going to work, because the relationships are there, is really fun, but it's very stressful. Those characters are very extreme.
And certainly at the beginning, in season one, they were very skeptical, because Malcolm hadn't seen his father a long time, and I was going into those scenes very emotionally naked, and they were very emotionally draining, but they made for good television. It was very satisfying to do, actually. I mean, it’s as close to a play that you get doing TV, just two people in a room, and that's a lot of fun.
Then, in this season, in the finale, you see them out in the world together, and that's a whole other thing and a whole other situation that Malcolm has to deal with. Who is Martin Whitly out in the world, and what does he do there?
Michael is endlessly creative and has a lot of fun with the character and is constantly doing things that are just brilliant and very entertaining. So, it's a joy to work with him.
Awesome. That's good. I enjoy watching you two together, you play really well off with each other.
So, I mean, you've kind of given me some tidbits, but is there anything else that you're allowed to tease about the finale? I guess you were shocked when you found out about it? It sounds like a lot of people were shocked about it.
Yeah…The finale, it's every aspect of the show. It’s very funny at times; it's shocking at times. It’s emotionally scarring at times. All the things that make the show the show are in the finale.
There had been a few different ways of wrapping up the finale [written], and then what was settled on is kind of really the only way that the season could have ended. It's a weird thing, because it's still shocking, and it's still unexpected, but, I think, in retrospect, like when you're sitting down and it cuts to black and the half an hour afterwards, I think you'll sit on your couch, realizing that that's how it should have ended…You will not see it coming at all, from the beginning of the episode all the way until the last few minutes of the episode. It's a surprise, but then it makes sense.
So yeah, it’s super exciting. I can't wait. I want to see people’s reactions.
I guess it's one of those ones where you're going to probably be sitting there staring at the screen for a little bit being like, “What?!”
Yeah, definitely. Definitely.