PRODIGAL SON returns for the final episodes of its first season beginning Monday, April 20. Incarcerated serial killer Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen) has told his son, former FBI profiler/current NYPD consultant Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), that Sophie (Anna Ellinsfeld), “the girl in the box,” assumed to be one of Martin’s victims, was actually set free. Malcolm believes his father, but should he? And if Martin is telling the truth, what did happen to the young woman? And what is going to happen with the budding relationship between Malcolm’s mother/Martin’s ex-wife Jessica (Bellamy Young) and her possibly homicidal new beau (Dermot Mulroney)? And is Martin’s ambitious newscaster sister Ainsley (Halston Sage) really as stable as she seems, given the family history?

PRODIGAL SON co-creator/executive producer Chris Fedak, not surprisingly, isn’t going to answer most of these questions, but here’s what he was willing to say about the rest of Season 1 and what’s happened so far.

ASSIGNMENT X: First of all, why was Michael Sheen written out of some episodes leading up to your midseason break?

CHRIS FEDAK: When we [Fedak and co-creator Sam Sklaver] first started working on the show earlier in [2019], Michael had a kid on the way. So we had to build time so he could leave, go back to Wales, and now that we’re back with more episodes, we have more Michael Sheen. So more Michael Sheen is wonderful. It allows us to tell that story, do flashbacks, more stories with him, and he’s in the preponderance of back-nine episodes. [Having temporarily removed him from the action] also gives us an opportunity to do something we’ve always wanted to do, which is to put him in the room with Lou Diamond Phillips [as Malcolm’s boss, NYPD Lieutenant Gil Arroyo, who originally arrested Martin].

Bright has been taken at the end of Episode 10, grabbed by the Junkyard Killer [an old associate of Martin’s, played by Michael Raymond-James], and it’s a real panic attack of an episode as Bright has to confront the Junkyard Killer. It’s very much a lock-box of a thriller. But on the outside, everyone’s looking for Bright, trying to save him, including Lou Diamond, who goes to Michael Sheen to figure out what he can figure out about the Junkyard Killer.

Michael Sheen and Tom Payne in PRODIGAL SON - Season 1 | © 2019 Fox Media LLC/Mark Seliger

Michael Sheen and Tom Payne in PRODIGAL SON – Season 1 | © 2019 Fox Media LLC/Mark Seliger

AX: It seems like you have to wrap up the mystery of what happened with Malcolm and the Junkyard Killer and his dad and “the girl in the box” by the end of the first season. Assuming PRODIGAL SON gets a second season, where do you go with Malcolm in Season 2?

FEDAK: I think that one of the amazing things about what Tom Payne is able to do with Malcolm Bright, and with his performance, is that the show is all about cliffhangers. But it’s not just about cliffhangers, it’s about psychological cliffhangers. And with Tom, we just realized that there are so many more psychological cliffhangers that we want to bring ourselves to, and we want to push that character past, and really explore who he is. And I think that that depth, that trauma that Tom brings to the performance, is amazing. So we’re definitely going to be telling the story of the Junkyard Killer and the camping trip and Martin. But I think that, for us as writers, you know you’re working on a show that you’re excited about is when you find so much new story you want to build, so many other parts of his back story that you want to unwrap and figure out.

AX: Now, could Martin have done anything to his daughter Ainsley, or allowed anything to be done to Ainsley, or is that too dark even for PRODIGAL SON?

FEDAK: Nothing’s too dark for PRODIGAL SON. I’m not going to comment on the specifics of your question, but don’t think anything is too dark for us.

AX: You had Sean Pertwee, who was Alfred on Fox’s GOTHAM, guest-starring as a former cop with a secret. Did you come to him through GOTHAM?

FEDAK: It’s so funny. I loved his work on GOTHAM as Alfred, it was amazing. And so when we had the opportunity, when we were looking for this part, [someone] said, “Well, what about Sean?” I was thrilled. And I think, if I’m not mistaken, it was his first time doing an American accent, and he was great.

AX: Can you tease any other cool guest people?

FEDAK: At the moment, we’re still working on some parts that we’re building right now, so we don’t have any announcements at the moment. But for us, Sean was an amazing example of how we want to do guest stars, give them a juicy big role. I’d love to bring him back to the show in flashbacks to see what it was like to be a cop back in the day, looking for the Surgeon. So that for us is really exciting.

Michael Sheen and Tom Payne in PRODIGAL SON - Season 1 | © 2019 Fox Media LLC/Mark Seliger

Michael Sheen and Tom Payne in PRODIGAL SON – Season 1 | © 2019 Fox Media LLC/Mark Seliger

AX: Do we know if Bellamy Young’s character Jessica has always been that sort of tightly wound person, or is that a result of the fallout of finding out her seemingly perfect husband was a serial killer? Will we ever see Jessica in flashbacks as a more relaxed person?

FEDAK: No, I think she’s always been a WASP. She’s always been essentially aristocracy. So there’s a part of her that’s very controlled, very precise, very funny, very cutting, but she comes from that world, the BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, the REVERSAL OF FORTUNE world. So she lives that way. But she found herself in this most extreme of things, so I think that that is her defense mechanism.

AX: So the whole ordeal with Martin has not really changed her, it’s just sort of sharpened her?

FEDAK: I think it’s changed her. It’s been tragic for her, in the sense that, her world was taken away from her. Along with the fact that she now looks back at her history and that’s the thing – “How much trauma was I not aware of? How much tragedy could I have stopped?” She’s tortured by that. But she has a stiff upper lip. She’s never going to let anybody know how awful, how dark, how depressing it has become, because this is her shield. It’s like she wears a von Furstenberg wrap like a shield, like armor. That’s how she attacks the world.

AX: Is Ainsley going to deal with her side of the trauma in ways that we haven’t seen yet?

FEDAK: Absolutely. Halston Sage is an incredible actress, and, like Tom, we really want to see her explore who she was, and how she was affected by her father as well. So that’s a big part for us. So we’re going to be getting into that story, and realizing that there’s more there as well. She’ll remember more about her past, too.

Frank Harts, Keiko Agena, Aurora Perrineau, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Sheen, Tom Payne, Bellamy Young and Halston Sage in PRODIGAL SON - Season 1 | ©2019 Fox Media LLC/Mark Seliger

Frank Harts, Keiko Agena, Aurora Perrineau, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Sheen, Tom Payne, Bellamy Young and Halston Sage in PRODIGAL SON – Season 1 | ©2019 Fox Media LLC/Mark Seliger

AX: Are we going to meet any of Martin’s family? I mean, obviously, we know his children and ex-wife, but parents, siblings, people like that?

FEDAK: Love to. I would love to do that. I would love to go back in time and tell that story. There are very many layers to that onion. That’s something that we want to explore, but it’s a very big story that would take quite a bit of time to unwrap.

AX: Any idea if they have Martin’s issues?

FEDAK: You know, the one thing – for us, we want to make a show about a family. And it’s not about serial killers, and it’s not about a cult of serial killers, or a lot of people like that. We want to tell a story about a father and a son, and so for us, it’s always about finding relatable stories that we can tap into. I don’t think that Martin is the spawn of a serial killer. That would be less interesting than a real back story.

AX: Are we ever going to find out why Malcolm has a caged pet bird?

FEDAK: Because he loves his bird. I had a bird growing up when I was a kid. It’s totally normal.

AX: Yes, but shouldn’t it be at least a bigger cage?

FEDAK: Oh, that’s interesting. We can look at that.

Tom Payne in PRODIGAL SON - Season 1 - "ELike Father ..." | ©2020 Fox/Barbara Nitke

Tom Payne in PRODIGAL SON – Season 1 – “Like Father …” | ©2020 Fox/Barbara Nitke

AX: Are we meant to infer that Malcolm empathizes with the bird in the cage, and this is his externalization of how he feels a lot of the time?

FEDAK: I don’t we ever saw it as, he [Malcolm] always spends his time in the cage. We’ve never really done a lot with Sunshine [the bird], but we do have more coming, and you’ll see that Sunshine’s a little more of a free-range bird than you think.

AX: What would you most like people to know about rest of PRODIGAL SON Season 1?

FEDAK: It’s an exciting, fun adventure. We have incredible cases, and if you want to give the show a try, you can watch any episode. It’ll give you a good glimpse of what we’re doing, and it’s a lot of fun.

This interview was conducted during Fox’s party for the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

Related: Exclusive Interview with PRODIGAL SON Co-creator Sam Sklaver on the second half of Season 1

Related: Exclusive Interview with PRODIGAL SON star Tom Payne on his new thriller series

Related: Exclusive Interview with PRODIGAL SON creators Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver on Season 1 of the new Fox thriller

Related: Exclusive Interview with Lou Diamond Phillips on new thriller series PRODIGAL SON

Related: Exclusive Interview with PRODIGAL SON star on Aurora Perrineau on new cop profiler seriess

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Article: Exclusive Interview with PRODIGAL SON co-creator Chris Fedak gives the scoop on the rest of Season 1


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