‘Prodigal Son’ Guest Star Alan Cumming on Malcolm vs. the MindSleuth

Q&A
©2021 Fox Media LLC Cr: Phil Caruso/FOX

The game is afoot! In the April 13 return of Fox’s Prodigal Son, cocky Europol agent Simon Hoxley (the always delicious Alan Cumming) arrives in New York City to investigate the murder of ruthless billionaire and shady smuggler Nicholas Endicott (Dermot Mulroney).

To recap: Last season, Endicott was holding TV journalist Ainsley Whitly (Halston Sage) and her brother, criminal profiler Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), hostage when she snapped. She slit the bad guy’s throat right there in their mother Jessica’s (Bellamy Young) penthouse. After consulting with Dad, serial killer Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), Malcolm sawed the body into bits and shipped it to Estonia, where parts have since surfaced.

Cumming, Mulroney’s costar in the 2002 movie Intimate Affairs, notes wryly, “I just thought it was hilarious that I was going to be looking at his severed head.” Also funny: The Scottish actor starred as an NYPD consultant, similar to Malcolm, in the recent CBS drama Instinct. “There was a sense of comedy in that as well,” he says, “but this show is on another level.”

Cumming previews the battle of wits ahead.

What was your first impression of Simon Hoxley from the script?

Alan Cumming: I remember thinking he’s an old-fashioned Agatha Christie type of investigator, and this could be really fun. I thought about the [1971–72] show Roger Moore did on British TV when I was little, The Persuaders! — he was always dashing around being glamorous.

Simon is one of the most celebrated criminal profilers in the world. Does he go head-to-head with Malcolm?

Very much. There’s a lot of head-to-head, in fact. I come in with a lot of very accurate suspicions. I go to everyone and suss them out. [With Jessica,] it’s like two peacocks facing off. [Laughs] It’s mental. I notice something about her rug. It sends her into a spiral of panic.

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And you pay a visit to inmate Martin as he’s working in the infirmary with Dr. Vivian Capshaw (Catherine Zeta-Jones)?

Epic scene. We’ve all known each other for a long time. There’s the three of us. We’re in a mental hospital, Michael chained to [the wall], Catherine pouting away, me camping it up asking these ridiculous questions, none of us using our own accents. I said it was a miracle there was any scenery left after we chewed it all.

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We’ll also see Simon by the bar on a yacht, brandishing a paring knife as a weapon.

I was having a martini, and suddenly I wield it like Errol Flynn. Yes, there is physical danger involved. I have some great lines while I’m contemplating my own mortality. I had my same stuntman, Justice [Hedenberg], from Instinct. He’s 30 years younger than me. Very flattering that they have to get such a slim, young gentleman for this old man’s double.

 

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When you were filming this episode back in February, you shared a video on Instagram, one of your “It’s Saturday night on Broadway” ditties, shot on the yacht. Things were light in between takes?

It was such a hoot. I think it’s actually a hilarious show to be on because it’s so ridiculous when you think about it. Like, a serial killer who’s in a mental hospital, his son goes to him to get information — I mean, ridiculous. And I love that it’s got real bravado. You have great speeches, and I think theater actors, especially, really love that sort of challenge. And so, yes, we had a really good laugh doing it.

Tom and I chatted a lot about the fact that we’re both of the school that, you know, it’s not brain surgery. The more complicated you make it, the worse it gets and the less kind it is to your fellow actors, so just keep it moving and keep it fun. I didn’t know Tom before, and I very much liked him.

Simon has written a book, The MindSleuth, which is also his nickname. When you’re doing a guest spot like this, do you make up a full backstory?

Quite a lot of backstory comes out in this script, actually. It’s hinted that maybe he’s fallen on hard times. He needs a little bit of a boost, and solving this case would be one. And the book was another thing that was similar to Instinct: My character, Dylan, had written a book about serial killers called Freaks. That’s in vogue in cop dramas now: people becoming profilers after they’ve written books, and being dapper. At least the parts I play.

I did notice Simon has a similar wardrobe to Dylan: He loves a scarf and a smart three-piece suit.

Everybody wants to dress me up. That’s been the case for a long time. But honestly, it’s not my thing. Like, after two seasons of Instinct, I only kept one coat because it’s red and I had to open the skating at Bryant Park and I thought it’d be a good color to wear. You should see what I’m wearing right now. I’ve basically worn pajamas for the last year.

Prodigal Son, Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox