‘Prodigal Son’s Tom Payne on Malcolm’s Nightmare Come True & the Whitly Family Reunion
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Episode 19 of Prodigal Son, “The Professionals.”]
As anyone who’s ever watched Prodigal Son knows, it would take something major to bring the entire Whitly family together (in Martin’s cell, of course). That’s exactly what happened in Monday’s episode.
Eve’s body (Molly Griggs) was found. Initially ruled a suicide, Malcolm (Tom Payne) knew there was more going on. He was right; Nicholas Endicott (Dermot Mulroney) hired someone — Eddie, Martin’s (Michael Sheen) new guard — to kill her. Eddie also tried to kill Martin; the Surgeon, in turn, viciously attacked him. Then, Malcolm paid Eve’s killer a visit in the hospital.
In the final moments of the penultimate episode, Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) and the rest of the team showed up at Malcolm’s — to arrest him for Eddie’s murder?! We’ll find out in what Tom Payne called a “super shocking” finale.
“You will find out what happened in that room, but I’m not sure if you’ll see what happened in that room,” he told TV Insider. “It’s still a case of what really happened.”
Here, Payne breaks down that Whitly family reunion and teases what’s to come.
The episode ends with Malcolm arrested for murder! That really plays into the question of how much he’s like his father, right? It almost seems like we had to get something like this in the first season …
Tom Payne: Yeah, I guess in a way that could’ve played into and could be one of his worst nightmares, being arrested by what are now his friends and one of his oldest friends in Gil.
He’s obviously spent a lot his life worrying if he’s going to become like his father. But in this instance, we don’t know if he did it, if he didn’t do it. In a way, maybe he doesn’t know either. He’s afraid of that part of himself: is he capable of killing someone and doing things that his father’s done? Maybe he just found out whether he was or not.
How are we going to see Malcolm continue to deal with Eve’s death? Had part of him hoped they might be able to work it out?
I think so. He hasn’t had that many close relationships and certainly people who have seen the side of him who chains himself to his bed and has all these nightmares and all these different things he goes through psychologically. Any time you let someone in to a side of your life you don’t often show, that’s opening a door to a deeper relationship. As soon as you’ve done that, you’re more emotionally open and able to be hurt. That was a big deal for him, to have done that.
The loss of her is obviously a big thing as well. For him, he will want to have vengeance for her. He definitely feels that inside him, of getting justice for her. Maybe he doesn’t trust himself as to what he would do if confronted with the person that orchestrated the killing.
Speaking of, Martin says, “It takes a special kind of monster to turn someone else into one.” And it also takes a special kind of monster to bring the Whitly family together. What makes Nicholas Endicott that kind of monster?
He’s more underhanded and sinister, and what’s frustrating for Malcolm is he’s, in a way, untouchable. Any crimes he commits, he does through other people and then makes it untraceable. Martin covered up his tracks, but was caught in the end and there was all this evidence because he’s the person who actually kills people.
Endicott never does anything directly himself, so how do you catch someone like that? And how do you prove someone like that orchestrated everything and is actually responsible for everything? It’s a much harder fish to catch. He’s just a lot more slippery and they might have to be quite clever about how they can bring him to justice in the end.
There’s also Nicholas’ connection with the Whitlys. We see the flashbacks with Martin — in which he threatens the family — and there’s his present relationship with Jessica. Ainsley’s getting close to him. There’s Malcolm’s arrest that he had to play a hand in.
It’s devastating for Jessica. She has that scene with Gil where she [asks], “What’s wrong with me? Why do I get involved with these types of men?” There’s lots of questions of that going on.
It’s just another explosion in this family. In a way, they’re used to it, so they have certain strategies with which to cope. But at the same time, it’s obviously a less than desirable situation and something that’s difficult to move on from. To ever be involved with someone who has done these nefarious things, they know all about that because of Martin, and it seems to have happened again, that they’ve gotten involved with someone who is in a way similar to their father. Maybe they attract these people and maybe they are comfortable around [them]. Maybe they’re more unknowingly unaccepting of sociopaths and psychopaths — I don’t know. It’s an interesting thing for them to contemplate as to why they keep getting involved with people like that.
Will we see each of the family interacting with Nicholas in the finale?
That’s certainly what they want. That’s certainly what Malcolm is trying to do. He desperately wants to get to Nicholas. That scene we just had with Ainsley and him, I don’t know if Ainsley has any plan of how to deal with it. And I don’t know if Jessica does. And Malcolm’s trying to figure one out. They all definitely want to have their own kind of revenge on him.
And let’s talk about that Whitly family reunion that was a season in the making. What was it like filming it and what it meant to the characters…
There was a scene earlier on where it was me and my mom and my dad, and I realized when we were shooting that scene, “Wow, this is the first time I’ve seen my parents in a room together since I was 10.” Whenever you have those moments, it’s really fun.
Certainly to have Ainsley, who was a really small child when the whole thing happened, and I know that she’s been seeing Dad, and we saw him together — but to have everyone in the room together, it’s a very strange situation, which is odd, because a lot of families sit around the table for dinner or often see each other all together. But this is the first time this has happened in a very, very long time, under extreme circumstances.
Acting out those scenes is really fun because every actor and every character has different dynamics with each other and in the scene, so it’s really fun to see how everyone in that scene is dealing with it as well. And in that cell, there’s just a certain amount of focus. Wherever you walk onto that set and are trapped in that room with Michael/Martin and there’s that line that you can’t cross, to have three people on one side of that line — when we were shooting it, we had to figure out, where should we stand because we can’t cross the line. Just the glee that Martin has on his face with the whole thing. It’s torture for the characters, but as actors, it’s really fun to play, and Michael is just having a ball with the whole thing.
There was that very purposeful switch on Malcolm’s part when Eddie was strangling Martin, to go from Dr. Whitly to Dad. That pretty much says everything about their relationship. The want to keep him at a distance, but Martin is his dad….
Absolutely. There was once or twice in earlier episodes where they had had in the script that I refer to him as “Dad.” We had it changed because he makes an absolute decision to only call him Dr. Whitly to distance himself. But at the end of the day, deep down, he is his dad and he’s his dad that he misses. He really wants to be with his dad and have a father figure. In moments of extreme stress and horror and when he’s really worried for him, it bursts out of him. I was very aware of that when we shot it as well. It’s a big thing, because ultimately, that’s who he is and that’s what he can never get away from. That’s the center of Malcolm, really.
We finally got some insight into Gil and Jessica’s past — and a potential future. How would Malcolm feel about those two?
I don’t know. Honestly, in this episode, he just watched Nicholas kiss her in front of him, and that’s awkward. Out of anyone, he would be able to deal with Gil better anyone else. He would be kind of happy with that, actually. Gil’s a really good guy who’s mentored him, looked after him and his family, and I don’t think he’d be too unhappy if that ended up being a thing.
Can you talk about Malcolm and his relationships with the NYPD team at this point in the season? Like you said, he and Gil are close, there could be something with Dani, we’ve gotten some great bonding moments with JT, and Edrisa is just so much fun.
Yeah, I just love how all the characters are drawn. They’re all different in their own way and all have different relationships and pull different things out of Malcolm, which is great. The way that that’s structured is awesome and very fun to play. It’s been really nice to see the different relationships evolve.
It was a hard scene to shoot, but I did love Edrisa examining Eve’s body and just being like we normally are, talking about her body, and then she realizes it’s someone I knew. For me, that was really interesting to play as well because it is like that. It’s just like, turning up at work and seeing a dead body is just an everyday thing. But then it’s the first time Malcolm is seeing someone that he knew — and knew intimately — dead. That was a really powerful scene to play. It was really nice to see the changing dynamic between Edrisa and Malcolm in that scene.
Dani and Malcolm’s relationship and JT and Malcolm’s relationship, they’ve both evolved over time. There’s mutual respect for each other that has evolved. I really enjoy the different ways that helps Malcolm and changes Malcolm. That scene where he got arrested was hard for all of them.
What would you pick as his craziest moment? Chopping off the guy’s hand? Jumping out the window onto Gil’s car? Something else?
Oh, jumping out the window. Well, the chopping off the hand was good. That was the pilot episode, and that really set the scene for the whole season. When we shot [“Wait & Hope”], it really felt like we were doing big stunts and big fun exciting moments. That was really cool and fun to shoot. But I’m sure there’ll be many more to come.
And when he smashed his hand. But that was very different because that was super intense and dark, whereas the jumping out the window was much more exciting, action, with a fire ball.
And with “Under Pressure” playing, the perfect song.
I had no idea that was going to happen, and I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a temp track. When it ended up being in the show, I was over the moon. I loved that whole sequence.
… I love our show. It’s completely bonkers. I love how it has all these different elements. One minute, you’re laughing. The next minute, you’re shocked and screaming or crying. I just love that we’re mashing all these things together. It’s tough to do, but it’s working. It’s a really enjoyable piece of entertainment. Any time we pull off these big set pieces and make people laugh but also make people scared, I just think that’s television at its best. I’m super happy to be involved in it.
Prodigal Son, Season Finale, Monday, April 27, 9/8c, Fox