Interview with actors of “Prodigal Son” on FOX by Suzanne 3/2/21
Today I went to the TCA panel (virtual presentation) with most of the actors from “Prodigal Son” and the executive producers, Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver.
The actors were newcomer Catherine Zeta-Jones (Dr. Vivian Capshaw); star Tom Payne (Malcolm Bright); Lou Diamond Phillips (Gil); Bellamy Young (Jessica); Halston Sage (Ainsley); Aurora Perrineau (Dani); Frank Harts (JT); and Keiko Agena (Edrisa).
First they had an introduction, where they talked about some of the upcoming FOX shows, and they showed us a video.
I didn’t get to ask a question, but it was still fun to be there, and to see the actors on the panel. Most of my questions were asked by other journalists, anyway.
Tom Payne (Bright) was dressed in a suit, and Bellamy Young (Jessica) was dressed in a very nice lace white top. Halston Sage also had a nice white top. The rest were not particularly dressed up. From the banter during the interview, it was clear that this cast is not only amazingly talented but gets along really well.
The first question was, “What made PRODIGAL SON the right choice for this TV renaissance? And how will Dr. Capshaw change things up at Claremont?” Catherine Zeta-Jones answered this question with a very long speech. (By the way, I had no idea that “Zeta” is pronounced like “cheetah.” I thought it was like “beta.” Who knew? Not me.)
She replied, “Well, I was a fan of the show, and I gravitate to the kind of nuance of what I think was so different and powerful about PRODIGAL SON. It’s pretty good family drama with a twist of danger and, you know, kind of it’s a dark family, and I gravitate to, kind of, darker material and, also, you know, with Michael Sheen, who is literally from my hometown, who I’ve never met before, I’ve admired from a distance. We actually have childhood friends that went to school, and we know we were part of the Dylan Thomas Theatre and Dance. But he did theater. And I was in contemporary dance, and I was doing amateur dramatics at the Catholic church, and he was doing it somewhere else. And, so, I left Wales expecting to go to the theater in London. And so even though we are the same age and we have all of these mutual friends, we’ve never crossed. My mom and dad know his parents know his dad. They’ve eventually gone out. It’s, like, bizarre. So that was, of course, a huge pull for me. And the character itself, to play Dr. Vivian Capshaw was a character that was intriguing to me. And when I spoke, I spoke about coming into a very a great show that has been, you know, both critically acclaimed and has a great following. So, I said, ‘Okay. What am I going to add?’ And then, when I read the draft of the script, it drew me in. It pulled me in. This character was exciting of where and I didn’t know where I was going to go with it, but I knew that there was a fundamental interest, intrigue, and that this doctor, who I’m playing, is why is she in the Claremont Psychiatric facility? What got her there? She should have surely known who The Surgeon was, admired him from afar, the Michael Sheen character and Martin Whitly, and now she’s sequestered in the bowels of this facility with that very person, and it was intriguing to me.”
The next question was a bit lengthy: “Yeah. Catherine, if you could continue that, a little bit more about working with Michael, because all the time you saw him in the past. Sometimes he’s playing, like, these buttoned down characters, Tony Blair and so forth. Now, all of a sudden, you are working with him, and he’s this wild man with these wild eyes and the hair everywhere and so forth. So, what’s it like when you are suddenly with him and working with him? And your character at first seems very calm. I assume she’s got a lot of hidden secrets but talk a little bit about the inner relationship between the two of you there.”
She also answered again: Well, as Martin Whitly, he looks more like the Welsh men that I grew up with than the other characters he’s played, you know. Tony Blair would not hang around our village, but people who look like Martin Whitly did very much so. But, you know, my character does. I mean, she’s I have this, kind of she’s still waters run deep. There’s a complexity to her that is really, really starting to unfold now as I’m part of this fantastic array of great actors. I have to say that. All of them who are assembled here today, it’s their great work that drew me in. But to play with Michael is well, first of all, for example, Lou, it was so wonderful to have Lou direct my first episode and my introduction into this great show. As soon as Lou shouted ‘cut,’ Michael and I were, like (makes a chitchat sound). ‘Welsh, Welsh, Welsh, Welsh.’ You know, it was, like, inside jokes that nobody knows and doing Tommy Cooper impressions. And what was great coming into this show was that I was welcomed so lovely, so nicely. And there’s a familiarity to working with Michael that is just inherent, which is very comforting when you walk onto the set for the first time and the cast and crew all know each other. I know that, as our story unfolds, I’m going to be introduced to this wonderful cast here more than being in this, kind of, grayed and very, very intense situation with Martin Whitly.”
I was starting to feel bad for the other actors there because they weren’t getting much of a chance to answer any questions.
The next question asked, “Just to flip the previous questions, I’d like to ask any of the actors who would like to answer in their own words. Catherine Zeta Jones is a big guest for an ongoing series, no question about that. For any of you who would like to answer, what was your first response, reaction? And for Lou, the added question, to direct her into the series, how was that for you?”
Several of the actors answered. First was Halston Sage, who said she was excited. Then Tom Payne answered next. (He has a wonderful British accent. I wish he used that on the show.) “I was super excited, happy and excited that someone like Catherine would want to join our little gang, really. And watching the premiere that they showed just before this, I often get so overwhelmed by everything that happens on this show that it’s difficult for me to sit back and see it as the entertainment that it is. And it’s just so fun when we have, like, these fun, flashy characters come in and join us like Alan Cumming’s character who came in. And then, Catherine, she’s come in to join us for a much longer stint. And, for me, it takes just a moment to sit back and go, ‘Yeah, we are making this product, which is attracting people.’ And that makes me very proud and very happy, and I’m excited for where our story line goes in the show. “
Keiko Agena then said, “Yeah. I’ll just say my jaw dropped, and I think it’s still dropped. So, at some point, I’ll pick it up and go on.” Everyone giggled at that.
Then Lou Diamond Philips said, “So, I’ve got to say, when I started prepping Episode 207 at face value, I didn’t know it was going to be the midseason finale, and I didn’t know who my guest stars were going to be. And it’s like a frog getting boiled in water. The heat just kept getting turned up. It was, like, this is the finale. Okay. That’s a big deal. Catherine Zeta Jones? Oh, my God. And the sphincter tightens more on top of that. So, the ship began as something brilliant and beautiful with beautiful story lines for Halston and for Bellamy. And we are glad to have Rachel York, an old Broadway buddy of mine. It just became this overwhelming wealth of riches for me. And knowing that I was going to be the one to welcome Hera down from Mount Olympus when Catherine stepped on set, you don’t always know what you are going to get. And what you are seeing today is emblematic of who she is, so gracious and so warm and so inclusive of everyone. And, I mean, from the moment she stepped on set, it was as if she’d been a part of the ensemble from the beginning. She came like a team player. She came to play. She I don’t know. It was seamless. It was effortless. I mean, Sam was there for that first rehearsal, and we just, kind of, looked at each other and went (hand gesture), and just to quote Keiko Agena’s character, ‘Well, that went well.'”
EP Sklaver chimed in with, “And Catherine is not lying. The second rehearsal, she was, like, ‘Do you remember Margaret?’ I go, ‘Yeah, I know Margaret.’ It was nonstop. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Which led to Catherine Zeta-Jones replying, “I know. I was, like, ‘Do you know’… I must say, it was so funny because the day that I told my agent that I wanted to join the cast of PRODIGAL SON, I was watching ‘The View,’ and then Whoopi Goldberg just randomly gives it this incredible, kind of, thumbs up. And I’m lying there, going, ‘That’s what I’m talking about. She knows what I’m talking about.’ Yes. Michael was there. He went, ‘Did you know? Was that recorded? Did you know they were going to say that?’ I went, ‘No.’ Great minds think alike, baby. No. That was, like, the stamp of approval that came from nowhere. It was, like, ‘Okay. Whoopi has been binge watching PRODIGAL SON. I’m in. I’m loving this.'”
Frank Harts was very funny when he added in his two cents, which were meant in a sarcastic (but hilarious) way: “Yeah. I was excited about the Whoopi thing, too, and Catherine joining. I was also a little scared because I was thinking, like, ‘How am I going to hang with Catherine in all of these one-on-one scenes that we are going to hit?’ I’m trained. I come from the theater. There’s a lot there. But, you know, that’s Hollywood royalty. She’s a Titan, man. So, I just had to wrap my brain around that, but welcome, Catherine.” Catherine Zeta-Jones thanked him for this.
The next question was, “I’m just curious, why are we seeing more serial killer kind of projects now? Is it something about these times? Is it something about the kind of life we’ve been going through the last year, or what is that?”
EP Fedak answered with, “I think serial killer… I think that it speaks to the age we live in. We live in dark and seemingly scary times. But I think, for our show, the way we come at it is we look at it as a family show. We also have a sense of humor. We have this incredible cast that’s really charming and fun, and so, deep down, it’s also a comedy. So, in some ways, it’s a bunch of different things coming together.”
Catherine Zeta-Jones chimed in, “You know, what’s really interesting is where this I think it comes from the work and obviously the script. What’s on the page is what we work with, but it’s admirable when the characters that are darker than the regular folk can be as charming and interesting. For me, it’s like it takes a great actor to play a serial killer who you actually like. I’ve always been fascinated with mob families. Historically, I mean, we are still obsessed with the mob, ‘The Godfather,’ sequels and sequels and sequels. There’s something intriguing because it has a reflection of the fundamental family, which we all can relate to, and it lends itself to being able to bring in a serial killer that you actually like and a family intrigue that’s so intertwined. It’s not as bad as my family, but I would, kind of, get that. Do you know what I mean? That was one of the attractions of this show is that you like these people, but there’s nothing I mean, historically in history of film and TV, great family dramas are very powerful because we can relate. Every family can relate to something in there. ”
Bellamy Young shared her thoughts on that question, “Going on from there, I’ll just say that we could not have known, I don’t think, but I really do believe that we are the right show for the right time because all of us as a world have been going through some of the hardest chapters of our lives within the last year. And what this show does so well, it laughs through the horror and laughs through the pain and reminds you that, at the end of the day, family is what you have no matter how screwed up or messed up they are. Our show wound up coming along right at the right moment for this page in history.”
Zeta-Jones agreed that this was true.
Frank Harts answered in a serious way: “Yeah. Just to piggyback on what Bellamy was saying, I remember, after the George Floyd incident last summer, freaking out, sort of, like, waking up in a bit of a cold sweat the next day. I said to my wife, ‘Babe, this is insane, man. I’m going to be going back into a show in a different world now as a Black man and the world, playing a Black cop on television,’ knowing that I have a great team like Sam and Chris who will listen, but I wasn’t sure which direction it was going to go in. I remember talking with Chris and Sam shortly after that happened, and we had such a great conversation. And they assured me that we weren’t going to solve racism in one season of television but that they were truly interested in having the conversation on screen in front of the audience. And as we can see from what actually happened, that came through. And so, as Bellamy said, it’s an honor to be a part of a show that can do the funny, can do the big, but can also keep it real and grounded, which is a testament not only to the writing but to the folks that we see in these boxes right here that you get to go to work with every day, who come ready to play their A game.”
Zeta-Jones added, “And kudos to FOX because they do something that is very, very important to us as actors who are in front of the camera. This show has a fantastic diversity behind the camera. Our crew represents all of us, you know, women, race, everything, and that’s really nice to be walking onto a set where it represents us all. I mean, people from other countries coming in are working full focus on, first of all, doing good work but being gracious and respectful to everybody else who is making the show work. So, I really noticed that when I first walked onto the PRODIGAL SON set.”
The next question was, “Hey, Chris and Sam, I have a question for you regarding Dani and Malcolm’s relationship, which was heavily teased in the dream episode, but we did not get the reality of that played out. But we heard Dani pick up on his flirting with her and talking about how pretty she is in a recent episode. So, I want to know where the future of that is. And I’m going to get into a second question, which is, when are we going to replace the LeMans?”
This led to some funny answers. Fedak replied, “The LeMans? We destroyed the LeMans in Episode 13 last season, if I’m not mistaken.”
Sklaver confirmed, “The LeMans will not be coming back, but the car that Jessica destroyed will actually be making a resurgence very soon. I think there’s a nice ‘Gil working under the hood of the car’ scene that also involves Jessica, no double entendre there. ”
Lou Diamond Phillips pointed out, “I just said, ‘No Whitleys are supposed to get near my car.'”
“Don’t let them,” said Frank Harts.
Sklaver continued: “That’s the rule. But I don’t know with Bright and Dani. How do you keep those two apart? Right, Chris? They are just so much fun on screen. I don’t know what to say.”
Fedak continued, seriously: “It’s unfortunate when you have someone with such great chemistry. And we have such an amazing cast. It’s, like, there’s obviously something there. And I think the one thing from Episode 6 is we went into Bright’s subconscious. So, obviously, even, overtly, he might not be thinking this every day and every minute, but his mind is saying there’s a relationship there. There’s something percolating. So, we can’t it’s, like, we are really interested in exploring that, and we love all of the relationships on our show. And it’s something that, like, when you have a cast like this, you just want to, kind of, explore those relationships. And I think that’s also doubly so with the new relationship between Martin and Dr. Capshaw in the infirmary. It’s, like, we are working on episodes now where we are just seeing I don’t know if it’s the Welsh component or it’s just that they have incredible energy together, and it’s only going to go to really bad and really entertaining places.”
Sklaver brought Aurora into the conversation: “Aurora, I don’t know how it feels for you, but just watching the relationship between the two of you guys progress, it’s, like, we really do see you, kind of, like, become friends with this guy because, when you first meet him, it’s, like, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ And we’ve been slowly building through all of this, which I love. It hasn’t been first to romance. It’s really been first to friendship. And Bright is a weird guy to be friends with, and he comes from a pretty weird family. I don’t know if, Aurora, you want to talk about it a little more, but it’s been magical for me to watch.”
Aurora answered, “Yeah. I agree that it’s been a really cool transition because it is very, like, human. Human nature, sometimes, right away, you are not into somebody as a person, and then, as time progresses, you learn more about them, more about their characteristics, who they really are. And I think that you guys did a really good job of making that transition really smooth and believable, and it’s really fun to play someone who is learning about somebody in an organic way.”
Fedak pointed out, “It is unfortunately, when you write someone kissing in a script this year, with COVID protocols, it does require a hazmat team. So, we do have to be careful in that regard.” Everyone on the screen was nodding their heads in agreement on this one.
Bellamy Young was asked, “Bellamy, we are seeing Jessica kind of take her narrative into her own hands this week. What can you tease about how that will play out for her and how empowering she might find it?”
Bellamy answered, “I think it will be a rocky road for Jess. You know, anytime you pack that many (inaudible) into one tiny little closet and you, like, pull the door open, an avalanche falls at you. There will be some sorting to be done. Ultimately, the truth always sets you free. Particularly the episode we are filming right now, it leads her into a very dark predicament. And I haven’t seen the scripts to follow; so, I can’t say for sure. I’m not being cagey, but I always believe, personally, that truth will get you out and get you free. So, if she can face what’s back there, then she can move forward.”
There was one last question, for Keiko: “We just got a look at her incredible fashion sense recently or at least in the episode. So, I just want to learn more about building this character, like, what are her hopes and dreams. Can we perhaps see a more Edrisa-centric episode in the future?”
Keiko answered, “Well, it’s interesting that you ask this question. We just finished an Edrisa-centric — I guess you could call it that — episode; what’s going to be 209, where Edrisa gets to do a lot of fun things. As far as, like, building this character, I have a lot of things that I want to do, and that I sent to Chris and Sam about my best wishes and biggest dreams for her, and I think I’m similar to Edrisa in that way, whether it’s realistic or not. Edrisa has a lot of hopes. So, we’ll just see how things unfold. But this last one that we got to play was very action packed. We get to meet some people outside of the precinct, outside friends of Edrisa.”
Sklaver said, jokingly, “Keiko sends us emails that I’m afraid to show my wife sometimes. I don’t know about these guys. She sends an email. There’s whips. She’s bound to do whatever. It’s the best. ”
Keiko looked at him as if to scold him, saying, “Sam.”
Zeta-Jones joined in the joking by adding, “Yeah. It changed the course of her career right there.”
Fedak added, “But as you can see, though, this is a very interactive cast. It’s, like, it’s us, and we work alongside we build this show with it’s like, with Halston last year, we were pretty much going, like, ‘We are heading in this direction. Awesome.’ We are going to put the knife in your hand at the end. So, it’s, like, we reach out, and that’s got to be that’s how you do a network TV show.”
Lou Diamond Phillips mentioned, “And I just want to jump in and say that Halston just kills me, so to speak, in the episode I directed, and we are just so thrilled because the relationship with Ainsley, that one is still up in the air. I think we are going to see some more stuff on that in the future. But Lou’s relationship with Halston is pretty wonderful, and I was so grateful for her help and for her enthusiasm throughout. I just wanted to toss that out there.”
Halston Sage was grateful, “Oh, I love you, Lou. That was so sweet. I feel the same way. It was amazing working together.”
PRODIGAL SON follows MALCOLM BRIGHT (Tom Payne), a criminal profiler with a rare talent for getting inside the minds of killers. He learned how they think because his father, DR. MARTIN WHITLY (Michael Sheen), was a notorious serial killer known as “The Surgeon.” Now he’s using his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve their most puzzling murders. Bright’s team, led by his longtime mentor, NYPD Lieutenant GIL ARROYO (Lou Diamond Phillips), includes Detectives DANI POWELL (Aurora Perrineau), JT TARMEL (Frank Harts) and medical examiner DR. EDRISA TANAKA (Keiko Agena). Season Two picks up with Bright’s personal life in disarray after his sister AINSLEY’s (Halston Sage) shocking actions in the Season One finale. Now, he must “take care” of her and protect his mother JESSICA WHITLY (Bellamy Young) from a secret that could tear the family apart all over again. Meanwhile, Martin proves himself valuable in treating patients, after being assigned to infirmary duty by Claremont Psychiatric’s resident MD, DR. VIVIAN CAPSHAW (Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago,” “Ocean’s 12,” “Traffic,” “Feud”), and seeks to deepen his relationship with Bright, his prodigal son, but forging this bond leads to shocking twists and revelations.
PRODIGAL SON is produced by Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television and FOX Entertainment. Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver created the series, and are executive producers, showrunners and writers on the show. Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter also serve as executive producers.
Zeta-Jones to Star Opposite Fellow Welsh Actor Michael Sheen,
As Claremont Psychiatric’s Resident MD, Dr. Vivian Capshaw
Season Two of PRODIGAL SON Premieres on a New Night,
Beginning Tuesday, January 12, on FOX
Academy Award, Tony Award and three-time Screen Actors Guild Award winner and Golden Globe nominee Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago,” “Ocean’s 12,” “Traffic,” “Feud”) will join FOX’s hit drama, PRODIGAL SON, for Season Two of the series. Starring as a special guest star opposite fellow Welsh actor Michael Sheen, Zeta-Jones will appear in the latter half of the season as DR. VIVIAN CAPSHAW, Claremont Psychiatric’s resident MD. In Season Two, DR. MARTIN WHITLY (Sheen) is assigned to infirmary duty, and Dr. Capshaw (Zeta-Jones) revels in tasking “The Surgeon” to clean bedpans and mop the floor. But as Martin proves valuable in treating patients, Capshaw begins to see him in a new light…which is not a good thing.
“An extraordinary talent, Catherine Zeta-Jones is the perfect foil for the brilliant Michael Sheen,” said Michael Thorn, President, Entertainment, FOX Entertainment. “I can’t wait to see these two greats go head-to-head in a season that is bound to raise the bar set by an outstanding Season One.”
Season Two of PRODIGAL SON premieres on a new night, Tuesday, Jan. 12 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. PRODIGAL SON was the No. 1 new series last fall, averaging 9.3 million multi-platform viewers.
PRODIGAL SON follows MALCOLM BRIGHT (Tom Payne), a criminal profiler with a rare talent for getting inside the minds of killers. He learned how they think because his father, Martin Whitly, was a notorious serial killer known as “The Surgeon.” Now he’s using his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve their most puzzling murders. Bright’s team, led by his longtime mentor, NYPD Lieutenant GIL ARROYO (Lou Diamond Phillips), includes Detectives DANI POWELL (Aurora Perrineau), JT TARMEL (Frank Harts) and medical examiner DR. EDRISATANAKA (Keiko Agena). Season Two picks up with Bright’s personal life in disarray after the shocking actions of his sister, AINSLEY (Halston Sage), in the Season One finale. Now, he must “take care” of her and protect his mother, JESSICA WHITLY (Bellamy Young), from a secret that could tear the family apart all over again! Further complicating matters, Martin seeks to deepen his relationship with Bright, his prodigal son, but forging this bond leads to shocking twists and revelations. Season Two guest stars include Christian Borle and Michael Potts.
Zeta-Jones is a multi-award-winning actress whose talents range from film to theater. She garnered an Academy Award for her portrayal of the scandalous “Velma Kelly,” in the screen adaptation of the Broadway musical “Chicago.” She also was nominated for a Golden Globe and took home the Critics’ Choice Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. She won the Tony Award for Lead Actress in a Musical for her critically acclaimed Broadway debut as “Desirée Armfeldt” in Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” Her other starring roles include Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s 12,” “Side Effects,” and Steven Spielberg’s “The Terminal,” opposite Tom Hanks. Zeta-Jones also starred with George Clooney in the Coen Brothers’ dark comedy, “Intolerable Cruelty.” She earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of the wife of a drug-runner in Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic.” Most recently, she starred in the telefilm “Cocaine Godmother,” based on the true-life story of the notorious drug lord Griselda Blanco. She first gained international recognition in the action-adventure film “The Mask of Zorro,” opposite Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins. She then captivated audiences in “Entrapment,” opposite screen legend Sean Connery. Born in Wales, Zeta-Jones began her career on the stage in London and was then cast in the popular Yorkshire Television series, “The Darling Buds of May,” based on the novels of H.E. Bates. In 2010, she was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her services to the film industry and charity.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda