The 'Prodigal Son' Cast Previews the 'Struggle for Malcolm's Soul'

Meredith Jacobs
Fall Preview

If you're looking for a twisted, dark drama with a bit of humor, look no further than Fox's new drama Prodigal Son, about a convicted serial killer, Dr. Martin Whitly/the Surgeon (Michael Sheen), and his son Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), who stops men like him.

And comedy plays an important role in the series, according to the cast. "You have to laugh to get through, or it'll take you down," Bellamy Young tells TV Insider.

"We don't push it," Lou Diamond Phillips says. "It's funny because the situations are funny and we have very smart characters who think quickly and have that dark sense of humor. ... It feels like how people talk. Audiences are responding to that and finding it funny and understanding that this is intrinsic to what the show is all about. It's not all gloomy and it's not all terribly grotesque and dark. It has its moments, but we try to find that balance."

You'll be able to see that humor in how the Whitly family copes. "She's found certain coping mechanisms, certain hobbies to help her through," Young says of her "delicious" character Jessica, Martin's wife. "She makes it look glamorous as much as she can, [but] she's still shunned."

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

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

The actors play an unusual father-son duo in the upcoming Fox drama.

She worries about Malcolm "much more" than Ainsley (Halston Sage). "Maybe it's that whole parental thing of how you overprotect your firstborn, and your second one, you're like, 'Oh, they'll be fine,'" Young suggests. "Ainsley seems so capable, and Malcolm is fierce but also fragile in so many ways."

But just because Ainsley appears to have it easier doesn't mean she does. "Even just the idea of knowing you share blood with a serial killer, even if I was too young to remember it all happening when it did, it's a part of my family history, something that you can never ignore," Sage points out, adding that we will see how each family member was affected by the trauma of what Martin did. "With Malcolm, he helps solve homicides, and with me, I report them. Any way that we can learn more about what might have driven him to do what he did is what fuels the series."

(David Giesbrecht/FOX)

While Malcolm, Jessica, and Ainsley's family dynamic is normal in some ways, "everything is heightened ... by the fact that there's this big specter in the room of Martin," according to Payne.

That specter is also hanging over Malcolm, due to "the natural questioning that happens over how much you are like your parents," his portrayer adds. Just like others wonder, "At some point, is there a switch that's going to be flipped and you're going to become like your dad?" Malcolm himself does "all the time."

And his feelings about his father are a bit complicated because he wasn't a bad father. "It's a big juxtaposition of, 'I want to love my dad and how he was to me but he did all these awful things and how do I deal with that?'" Payne explains. While his character does have another father figure in his life with Gil (Diamond Phillips), he "can never give Malcolm the answers he truly wants. The only place he can get them from is his actual father."

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Due to Malcolm and Gil's history, "Gil's protectiveness and the paternal quality he has towards Malcolm is very evident from the beginning," Phillips previews, but we'll have to wait to see what his relationships with the rest of the Whitlys are like as the series progresses. As an actor, he does want to work with Young again — the two starred in the 2016 film The Night Stalker — "in a more complicated situation."

Phillips also hopes to see his character share scenes with Martin because he wants to work with Sheen as well. "The man is a genius," he gushes. "Especially lately, Michael with Good Omens and his incredible character arc on The Good Fight, he's just clicking on all cylinders and he's bringing the heat every time he comes in."

(David Giesbrecht/FOX)

Phillips expects there to be "tension" between the two men who "represent two very, very different things in Malcolm's life." "Obviously the Surgeon is tempting him toward the dark side, those instincts that are more about murder and deception and the deceitful ways a mind can work, whereas Gil's a good cop and he's about justice and fixing what's wrong with society," he says. "It's almost as if Bright has an angel and a demon on his shoulder. It's in some ways a struggle for this man's soul."

We can't wait to see how it plays out.

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