The actor weighs in on the premiere and looks ahead.

By Ruth Kinane
January 12, 2021 at 10:00 PM EST
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Credit: Phil Caruso/FOX
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  • TV Show
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  • Fox
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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Prodigal Son season 2 premiere, "It's All in the Execution."

The Prodigal Son and his creepy killer dad are back.

After the first season's, um, pointed finale, naturally things were all sweetness and light when we picked back up with our favorite serial killer catchers in the season 2 premiere of the Fox thriller. We jest — Tuesday's episode revealed that Malcolm (Tom Payne) covered up his sister Ainsley's (Halston Sage) stabbing of season 1 big bad Nicholas Endicott (Dermot Mulroney). Indeed, he even called his pops (Michael Sheen) for a quick lesson on how to get rid of a body. Hey, when your dad's a notorious murderer, you might as well put that skill set to good use.

Haunted by what he'd done and the fact that maybe he didn't feel that badly about it, in addition to, well, all the other family drama that plagues the profiler on a daily basis, it was perhaps unsurprising that throughout the premiere Malcolm was told that he's got the look of a killer. He also danced with a whip in a sex dungeon, but that's a whole other story.

So will Malcolm succumb to the family ways? Will Ainsley? Their dad sure thinks he might and is oh so excited at the prospect. The first episode ended with Dr. Whitly asking his son if he maybe enjoyed getting away with murder. Since we were dying (get it? sorry) to know where Malcolm's mind is at, we chatted to Payne to find out what's to come this season and how he perfected that sinister serial killer smile.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The season 1 finale was wild, to say the least. Malcolm witnessed his sister stab a man to death, and now we've learned that he got rid of the body and covered the whole thing up. How's that going for him?
TOM PAYNE: I'm not sure not Malcolm's necessarily learned any lessons from his past and how covering things up isn't necessarily the best way to deal with things. In the premiere, he immediately decides to cover everything up and tell Ainsley that it was him that killed Endicott, immediately creating another massive secret and lie within the family. The only other person who knows about that is his father, and he has spent the entirety of the first season trying not to give him any kind of control over Malcolm. Now he's the only person he can talk to about this thing, which of course puts his father in an amazing position, and he's very excited about it and can't wait to talk about murder with his son over and over again! Also, Malcolm is very scared that his father will try and communicate with Ainsley a lot more and try and make that bond even deeper. He maybe also has his own suspicions over how Ainsley got to that point and whether his father had been manipulating her in any way.

Oh shoot, yeah, hadn't thought of that. I'm kind of here for dark Ainsley though, that could be a lot of fun.
Oh yeah, Halston is over the moon about this whole thing. She can't wait to kill more people on the show. She's so excited about it.

Like you said, Malcolm's kind of stuck with his dad, now that he's the only one who knows this secret. How does their relationship change this season? Does it improve in any small way?
I think the whole of the first season was him being scared of the similarities between him and his father. He's maybe a bit scared that the whole disposal-of-the-body thing didn't upset him in a normal way, or whatever he considers to be a normal way. I think he's definitely scared of that part of himself that his father is always knocking on the door of, trying to wake up inside of him. At the same time, he wants to understand it, so he does want to talk to his dad about stuff but stops himself because he knows that he doesn't want to connect himself to his father. He doesn't want to give his father any kind of gratification for anything that he or his sister have done. Anything that makes his dad happy is not necessarily something that he wants to do. So that relationship continues to develop in a very weird, tangled way.

Ah, those scenes with you and Michael Sheen are so great, though. Do you look forward to shooting them?
They're very fun because ultimately they're just like a play, really. It's just two people in a room together. Especially now, in season 2, we know our characters so well that it's just fun to walk into those scenes and see what happens, which is great. Those relationships are so deeply embedded. I'm always trying to change it up a little bit because you don't want it to be always the same, they shouldn't be, and now that we're in season 2 I'm very aware of any kind of repetition. There should always be some progression in the relationship, however small, and some kind of power games back and forth. Those scenes are always different. The strategies change from each side.

It seems like there's also so much more to learn about Malcolm and Martin and the whole family's past. When you're reading the new scripts, are you ever just like, "Wait, what?!"
Yeah! When I watched the premiere the other day — I make the show, obviously we're doing it right now — every time I watch it, I'm surprised or just kind of proud of how bonkers and just unlike anything that I've seen before it is. It has all of these different qualities to it that make it so different and interesting. It's funny one minute and shocking and gross the next. It covers PTSD and all these different things. Then you've got Michael — any time he shows up on screen, he's just so brilliant in the charter. It's just so fun to watch. I have a great time doing it. It's so weird because it's so creepy and dark and quite stressful to play a lot of the time, but that tonal mix makes the show stand out in a way that I'm so proud of.

In the premiere you have a few instances where Malcolm sees his reflection and you're doing this super-creepy, evil smile. Was that something that took a while to perfect, or did it come naturally?
[Laughs] I can contort my face many any different ways. I was taking direction on that because I couldn't see; when you film something like that, you can't see because you're showing it to the camera. You're not looking at the reflections. So I was actually taking direction when we did that and they were like, "Look a little bit more down your nose, and do this and do that." So that was actually developed with the director's help, but I'm aware of what my face can do.

I love all the eccentric moments Malcolm has. The scene in the premiere where he's dancing in the sex dungeon with a whip springs to mind. Are those a blast to shoot?
Yeah, that was very fun. It was incredibly hot in there and we did that whole sequence, like, six times, so it was pretty exhausting but very fun. That was kind of a bit of American Psycho, but also not as smooth because Malcolm gets into these situations and he's like, "I'm going to do this in this moment," but it's not quite as smooth as it should have been. He's trying to loosen up and play a role and do this thing, and in a way he just ends up being even weirder and scarier than the person because nothing comes incredibly naturally to him — other than hunting down serial killers.

Do you ever find it hard not to break in those scenes?
I'm pretty good. The times when I do have trouble are with Keiko [Agena], the scenes with Edrisa, because she's so good and she always pops up in these funny places and situations and has the best lines.

In addition to all the family stuff Malcolm is dealing with, he also lost his girlfriend last season. Is there any new romance in the cards this season? Will Dani (Aurora Perrineau) and Malcolm shippers be happy?
I don't think that Malcolm will willingly enter into any relationships any time soon. I actually thought it was a bit early to do it the first season, but then I understood where they went with it. I think now he's definitely been burnt in that direction. We're aware of the fans' wants and needs, and we'll be playing with those emotions a little bit.

Does the same go for Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Jessica (Bellamy Young)?
Well, I think, like with anything with the Whitly family, you need to be careful how involved you get. I think that will be something that's taken into consideration moving forward. But I think the Whitly children are certainly enjoying the situation. Malcolm just wants everyone to be happy, and if happiness comes from that [relationship], then that's great.

On a more serious note, we saw J.T. (Frank Harts) dealing with some racist cops in the premiere. Is that a story line that's going to continue throughout the season?
I didn't think you can be a cop show — and especially a cop show like us, which has a very mixed cast — and not address that. With all of these situations that occur like that, there's lots of things that happen after and investigations and questions and answers, so yeah, that story line will continue to play out as the season goes on.

You also have Catherine Zeta-Jones joining the cast this season. Do you have any scenes together, or is she more with Martin?
She starts with us next week, and all I know for now is that she starts off with Michael at Claremont and we will see where the story goes from there! But I'm super-excited to see those two together and we're really honored to have her join the show. It's very cool. It says a lot about our show that people want to come and make some fun stuff with us.

Do you have a favorite episode coming up, or one that you think people are going to really enjoy?
I think the episode that we're shooting right now, episode 6, is going to be it — and the showrunners even said they think this will be a fan-favorite episode — because of certain things that happen in it and the fun that we're having with the cast within that episode. Episode 6. Very fun.

Prodigal Son airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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Prodigal Son

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 2
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airs
  • Tuesdays at 09:00 PM
network
  • Fox

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