(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Tuesday’s midseason premiere of “Prodigal Son.”)
The second half of Season 2 of “Prodigal Son” debuted Tuesday on Fox with an episode that focused mainly on Malcom Bright’s (Tom Payne) attempts to throw “Mind Sleuth” Simon Hoxley (Alan Cumming) off his trail in Hoxley’s investigation into the murder of Nicholas Endicott (Dermot Mulroney). And while Bright and his sister, Ainsley (Halston Sage), are very much responsible for Endicott’s death and the coverup of said murder, by the end of the hour, Bright was able to convince Hoxley that one of Endicott’s lackeys was behind it all. But as that was all going on, Bright’s father, Martin Whitly a.k.a. The Surgeon (Michael Sheen), was playing his own game of cat-and-mouse that ended even more pleasantly.
The serial killer shared a kiss with Dr. Vivian Capshaw (played by guest star Catherine Zeta-Jones), Claremont Psychiatric’s resident M.D., when she came to his cell late at night to collect the suture scissors he had stolen from her infirmary. So why would any person in their right mind lock lips with a notorious murderer who has a part-time gig scrubbing bedpans for them while serving a life sentence in a psychiatric prison?
Zeta-Jones says the answer to that question, while not immediately apparent in that intimate moment, speaks to Capshaw’s backstory and the “issues she has and why she’s there” that are “interwoven into what will be the end of this season of ‘Prodigal Son.'”
“Obviously I’m not going to delve too much into my character arc, as much as it’s displeasing me as an actor, because I don’t want to give anything away,” Zeta-Jones told TheWrap. “But I will say to all those questions that you just asked, is that one has to ask one’s self — and actually, Martin Whitly does [in Tuesday’s episode], it’s written in the script — ‘What is a woman like you doing in a place like this?’ And it’s not a pickup line, it’s a real, genuine question.”
She continued: “Because you think, this is not a huge career move here. What is she doing? She’s a doctor, good aspirations, she’s a professional, she is in control. She’s a little too much in control. So one thinks, what is going on inside? And this character, what drew me to the character is that she’s this still water that runs deep deep deep.”
Zeta-Jones joined the Fox drama mid-way into Season 2, into what she calls “basically a two-hander play” between her and Sheen “inside the confines of a dark space, like a black box [theater], which is the psychiatric facility.”
“For me, as an actor, it was just zero to 60 to 100 in three seconds. Plotting out the character, I had to come in at a certain level,” the Oscar winner said. “So the first two episodes I had not many scenes, and it was a wonderful exercise for me as an actor of not having 90 minutes to explain a character to my audience, which is a luxury that you have if you do a movie. It’s a luxury if you’re in every scene of 13 episodes of a Season 1 or 13 episodes of a Season 2. But when you come into an existing show and you have a very very definite idea of the character but very little screen time to do it in, it was an excellent exercise for me.”
One of the defining characteristics we learn about Dr. Capshaw almost immediately on “Prodigal Son” is her love of butterscotch — and her unwillingness to share her large supply of the candy with Whitly when he starts working for her. We asked Zeta-Jones what is up with this candy quirk, something she was also inquisitive about at first.
“When I read the script I was like, ‘What’s with the butterscotch? Where is the storyline going with the butterscotch? What am I going to do, choke him with a butterscotch?’ But what it did for me was that, for Martin Whitly and my character, basically it’s the scent of a woman,” Zeta-Jones explained. “For Martin Whitly to come into my infirmary and not used to being with a woman, having been incarcerated, and have a woman in his presence, and a doctor no less, and the scent of a woman goes by him and all he can smell is butterscotch. It’s an interesting thing to play with. This guy is actually craving my butterscotch.”
“Prodigal Son” airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.