He Said/He Said With Tom Payne & Michael Sheen of Fox’s ‘Prodigal Son’

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David Giesbrecht / FOX

You think you’ve experienced an awkward family reunion? In the gleefully twisted drama Prodigal Son, gifted criminal psychologist Malcolm Bright (The Walking Dead‘s Tom Payne) is forced to reconnect with his father, convicted serial killer Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen) — aka the Surgeon — to help his mentor, NYPD detective Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips), solve a copycat case.

Payne cites Mel Gibson’s traumatized, loose-cannon cop Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies as inspiration for his portrayal of haunted Malcolm, while Sheen likens Martin’s charm to a predator’s tactic for luring in prey. We quizzed the British costars for more insight.

What was the first question you asked producers about your character?

Tom Payne: When was the last time Malcolm saw his dad?

Michael Sheen: Martin says he loves his son. Is that even possible for someone who is what he is?

Give us an analogy for their father-son dynamic.

Tom Payne: Like a moth to a flame. Malcolm cannot escape his father’s DNA. He has his blood. What else of his has been passed on?

Michael Sheen: It’s sort of a cat-and-mouse game, but you’re never quite sure who is the cat and who’s the mouse. That changes constantly.

What three words best describe Malcolm’s mother and Martin’s ex-wife, Jessica (Bellamy Young)?

Tom Payne: Strength. Honor. Class.

Michael Sheen: Scarred. Proud. Acidic.

Did any of your research turn out to be key?

Tom Payne: I followed many different avenues — one in particular was the podcast Happy Face, concerning the daughter of a serial killer and her journey into her father’s deeds and how she deals with them.

Michael Sheen: The work I did on a project I was going to direct that’s been put off for now, based on [Washington state’s] Green River Killer. I wrote the script myself.

(Credit: Mark Seliger/ FOX)

Best advice you received filming the pilot?

Tom Payne: “Don’t be afraid to ‘go there.'” The character has been through a lot, and that has manifested itself in a number of ways.

Michael Sheen: I’ll tell you what was very useful: The person who locks and unlocks my handcuffs told me how to hold my hands and wrists while wearing them so they don’t hurt too much when I’m talking.

Prodigal Son, Series Premiere, Monday, September 23, 9/8c, Fox