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). Unfortunately, Michael Sheen (Martin) was not there. He was back in England, and I heard that he was recovering from COVID.
First they had an introduction, where they talked about some of the upcoming FOX shows, and they showed us a preview 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 that she liked the nuance of the show…how it’s a “pretty good family drama with a twist of danger.” She also mentioned that Michael Sheen is from her hometown of Swansea in Wales. She’s admired him from a distance, and they have mutual friends. She said it’s “bizarre” how much their paths have almost crossed before now. That was one of the reasons she wanted to do the show as well as the character of Dr. Vivian Capshaw. The script really drew her in. She was intrigued and wanted to know more about the character and why she was working there at the facility.
The next question was a bit lengthy. In short, the person asked her to elaborate about working with Michael and the relationship between their characters. She answered that Martin Whitley reminds her of men she grew up with. She spoke about the complexity of her character and how it’s starting to unfold. She then praised the group of actors and how their “great work” made her want to be part of the show. She specifically praised Lou Diamond-Phillips for his work directing. She revealed that she and Michael had many Welsh inside jokes but that everyone was very welcoming, which made her feel comfortable
I was starting to feel bad for the other actors there because they weren’t getting much of a chance to answer any questions.
Case in point: the next questioner asked all the other actors what their first response was to finding out that Jones would be joining the show, and asked Lou Diamond Phillips what it was like to direct her. (Which reminds me of the old joke: “Enough about me. What do YOU think of me?”)
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.” He shared that it’s hard for him to watch the show as a viewer and just see it as entertainment. He said they have a lot of fun, especially with the “flashy characters come in and join us like Alan Cumming’s character who came in.” He felt that when Jones joined their show, they were doing a good job because it attracted people of her caliber. It made him feel “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 revealed that when he started his preparations for direction Episode 207, he didn’t know it was the midseason finale, nor did he know who his guest stars would be. He compared it to “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.” Very colorfully put. He described the episode as a ship, which he said started as having lovely storylines for Halston and Bellamy, as well as having Rachel York (Birdie), someone he’s known for a long time since they were both on Broadway. It just became richer and richer for him to direct, but it was overwhelming at first. “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.” He praised her for being a team player and part of their group from the outset, which made it all work very easily. He ended by saying, “to quote Keiko Agena’s character, ‘Well, that went well.'”
EP Sklaver chimed in with, “And Catherine is not lying. The second rehearsal, she said, ‘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 that she was randomly watching “The View” when Whoopi Goldberg gave high praise to their show. She knew that Whoopi understood their show, and she was happy to see that praise. Michael was there when she saw it and wondered if she knew that would happen. She just figured that “great minds think alike.” They got that stamp of approval from out of nowhere.
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, laughing.
Another journalist asked why they think there are more serial killer shows now and whether it has something to do with the times we’re living in, or even the pandemic crisis.
EP Fedak agreed that it does speak to us because of the age in which we live, since things seem “dark and seemingly scary.” However, they view their show as more of a family show with a lot of humor and a great cast that’s “charming and fun.” He concluded that it’s many things together, not just a serial killer drama.
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.” She thinks that you need a great actor to play a likable serial killer, and she added that she has a fascination with mobster families. The family is reflected, which we can all relate to, but then to bring in a serial killer that is likable, all intertwined with the rest, is unique.
Bellamy Young shared her thoughts on that question, saying that they couldn’t have known the pandemic would hit during their filming of the show, but they just happened to hit it at the right time and place while the world is going through something so difficult. She praised the show for making us laugh through the horror and pain, with it all being about family. Zeta-Jones agreed that this was true.
Frank Harts answered in a serious way. He remembered how he reacted to the George Floyd murder last summer, which made him freak out and wake up in a little bit of a cold sweat the next day. He told his wife it was crazy and that now he has to go back into the Prodigal Son world, playing a black cop on TV. He wasn’t sure which direction they would go in, but he had a great conversation with the EPs. They assured him that they would incorporate the racism conversation into the show, which they did. He’s grateful that they nailed it. He echoed Bellamy’s words that the best part of the show is how they do comedy and big drama as well as “keep it real and grounded.” He gave credit to both the writers and all of the actors for bringing their best work to the table.
Zeta-Jones added that the FOX network deserved praise as well for having such great diversity among the actors and crew. She pointed out that many of them were from other countries and everyone is working together, being not only great at their jobs but “gracious and respectful,” which she noticed immediately.
The next question asked about the future of Dani and Malcolm’s relationship as well as when they were going to replace Gil’s car (the LeMans). The EP’s confirmed that the car was destroyed last season and isn’t coming back. Sklaver said that we will see Gil working on the car that Jessica destroyed in a scene involving her.
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.” He continued on, saying he couldn’t give spoilers about Bright and Dani, but he loves how fun they are together. He praised the actors’ chemistry and shared that they do want to explore their romance, but he hinted that some things in the story might be keeping them from doing that. He said the same is true about Martin and Vivian.
Sklaver brought Aurora into the conversation, asking her thoughts on the Dani-Malcolm relationship. He said that he enjoys them together on the show because they’re “magical.”
Aurora answered that she agrees…she likes the transition they’ve been going through between meeting, and then learning more about each other. She praised the writers for making their relationship very believable and organic.
Fedak half-jokingly 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 what she could share about how things will play out for her character after she takes matters into her own hands this week and whether she’ll find it empowering. Bellamy answered that she thinks things will be rocky for Jess because she’s been keeping way too many secrets. She thinks the truth will set her free in the end. She shared that the episode they’re filming now leads her to “a very dark predicament.” She hasn’t seen the scripts after this one, so she doesn’t know how it all comes out.
There was one last question, for Keiko. The journalist said that we “got a look at her incredible fashion sense recently” and that we want to know more about her. He asked, “Can we perhaps see a more Edrisa-centric episode in the future?”
Keiko answered that they just finished episode 209, which does focus on her character. She had mentioned to the EPs about what her hopes for Edrisa were and what she though about the character. This episode has a lot of action and get to meet some of Edrisa’s friends, outside of the precinct.
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 used the opportunity to praise the cast and how well it works together and goes along with whatever crazy stories they write. He thinks every network show should involve this kind of enthusiasm and cooperation.
Lou Diamond Phillips mentioned how great Halston was in the episode he directed, too. He hopes to see more about the relationship with Ainsley in the future. He was glad to see more of “Lou’s relationship with Halston. He says it’s “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.
ACADEMY AWARD AND TONY AWARD WINNER CATHERINE ZETA-JONES JOINS
FOX’S HIT DRAMA, “PRODIGAL SON,” FOR SEASON TWO
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
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