‘Prodigal Son’ Winter Finale: Star Tom Payne on Why Malcolm Is ‘Terrified’ of Ainsley — and Himself

Prodigal Son Season 1 finale
Spoiler Alert
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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 2, Episode 7 of Prodigal Son, “Face Value.”]

“We’re Whitlys. No one does this murder stuff better than us,” Ainsley (Halston Sage) tells her brother Malcolm (Tom Payne) in the winter finale of Prodigal Son Season 2.

That’s true; what isn’t is that Ainsley killed again, as she led Malcolm to believe, in retaliation for him lying to her for months and not telling her she killed Nicholas Endicott (Dermot Mulroney). (The blood on her shirt at the end of “Head Case” was pig’s.) And she sees nothing wrong with that: “I had to make sure you were never going to mess with my head again.”

But they haven’t gotten away with murder just yet, not with Europol agent Simon Hoxley (Alan Cumming) heading to New York to investigate Endicott’s murder.

Payne takes us inside this wild episode and Malcolm and Ainsley’s final scene.

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All of Malcolm’s feelings — his frustration, anger, heartbreak, things he hasn’t allowed himself to feel — come out in his “I have given up everything for you!” to Ainsley. How much did he need to have almost permission to blow up at her like that?

Tom Payne: That scene took me a bit by surprise. Ainsley’s really the only person in his life he can show that kind of anger to because it’s a very specific type of anger. He has a responsibility towards her and feels protective towards her. Anytime you’ve seen him be angry in the past is always at his parents, and that’s a very different kind of anger. You’re still the child in that relationship.

But with the relationship with Ainsley, it’s upsetting to him in a different way. He’s almost scolding her but then in that moment, she scolds him right back and accuses him of being like his father. That scene is only a page long but he goes on this huge journey of just letting everything out in that one moment in disbelief of what his sister has done, and then in that same breath, being terrified of himself and what he has just unleashed actually. He’s afraid of himself in that moment and terrified of Ainsley and how she deals with the whole situation and how cold she is. It’s quite a chilling scene.

Ainsley tells him he’s like their father even if he’s not a serial killer.

It’s these things we’re unaware of until they’re pointed out to us. We are all like our parents in different ways, and that’s Malcolm’s deepest fear.

Ainsley Malcolm Prodigal Son Season 2 Episode 6 Head Case

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Malcolm was worried how Ainsley would react if she learned the truth, but now he has a different reason to be concerned, seeing how she was able to manipulate him.

Exactly. He was genuinely worried about her and then that just gets thrown back in his face, and she ends up toying with him. It’s upsetting and shocking in equal measure.

Is he thinking she’s capable of murder again?

At this point, anything’s possible, really. He really feels like he doesn’t know his sister at this point.

What does Malcolm think of Ainsley right now, as a profiler?

He did think he [knew her]. It’s an ongoing profile because he has so much knowledge of her already and it’s all been upended. That’s why he studies serial killers — he wants to understand his father more. This is a whole new thing because outside of his father, he hasn’t known anyone this closely who has killed someone. I don’t think he has the measure of her yet. He’s been closer to his sister than he has to his dad for his whole life.

Halston Sage Prodigal Son Season 2 Episode 7 Ainsley

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What was it like working on that last Malcolm-Ainsley scene with Lou Diamond Phillips directing?

Oh, amazing. I am not Malcolm but a lot of Malcolm’s stuff comes from me and it just works because the relationships in this show work and the actors in the show play their parts very well. It all just fits in front of the camera and behind the camera. All the directors we have, apart from the producing director, who oversees and then comes in and does a few episodes, are all there for one episode pretty much and they come in and out and they don’t see the other episodes necessarily. But Lou has a really great understanding of us as actors and also all the characters and the way the show works. It was really nice to have him helming this episode and for that scene as well because he understands it.

Do you read scripts wondering what crazy thing the writers have Malcolm doing next? This time it’s cocaine to save a victim [who was nearly Botoxed to death].

Yeah, I know. I enjoy all the situations they come up with in each episode. That one was particularly hectic. An IV bag is surprisingly difficult to squeeze out and it takes a long time, so we had to have a beaker which was already mostly full and have it slid in for me to fill. Because even squeezing an IV bag as hard as you can, the water doesn’t come out very fast, so that was a quite challenging scene to throw everything together, but it was really fun. I love how manic the show gets sometimes.

Prodigal Son Season 2 Episode 6 Malcolm Bright

Phil Caruso/Fox

How do you think Malcolm would handle everything if he didn’t have these crazy moments he can let himself be crazy?

I don’t know. In a way, he needs the craziness and the mania in his life to have that release because it’s been years and years of pent-up stuff. He needs to have these adrenaline rushes and these bursts of activity. He may not even realize that actually, but I think he does. Just the explosion he has at Ainsley shows how much is still inside of him. They are beneficial to him.

Prodigal Son, Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox