After playing an angel on Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens,” Michael Sheen is going about as close to demon as one can by taking on the role of a serial killer in Fox’s new crime drama “Prodigal Son.”
On the new Greg Berlanti-produced series, Sheen plays Dr. Martin Whitly a.k.a. “The Surgeon,” a predatory sociopath who is incarcerated for killing at least 23 people in the ’90s. Now, you might be thinking someone like that would be horrifying be around — except Martin is just delightful to watch. Or at least we think so, and Sheen explained why.
“It’s so funny that you say that, ‘He’s just delightful.’ I love that you say that,” the Emmy-nominated actor told TheWrap. “And in a way, it was there in the first script that I read. The confusing thing about this man is we know he’s a monster, we know he’s done terrible things and presumably would continue to do those terrible things if anyone let him — but, when you meet him, he seems to be this loving father.”
“He’s warm, he’s likable, he’s funny, he’s interesting and charismatic,” Sheen continued. “When I read the first script, I thought, ‘That is very interesting. I’m fascinated by that.’ And of course, then you start thinking about it, and you realize, if you’re a monster and you want to do monstrous things to people, there’s no point in coming across as a monster, ’cause they’ll run away.”
Sheen compared Martin to “predatory creatures in nature” because “they always have some form of disguise or camouflage or distraction technique.”
“There’s always something there to lull their prey into feeling safe with them,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Of course this man is beloved and admired and respected. And of course you enjoy being in his company, because if he wasn’t tied up he would probably kill you.’ I thought that’s both interesting to play and also quite jarring for the audience. So I’m glad you felt the way you did because I’m sure at other times you kind of go, ‘Hang on, I shouldn’t be feeling like this about him. Why am I laughing along with him? Why am I enjoying him when he’s this terrible awful person who does these awful things?'”
OK, maybe we’re not so glad we feel that way, but Sheen says those feelings might help us connect with Martin’s adult son, Malcolm Bright (played by “Walking Dead” alum Tom Payne), a top criminal psychologist who works with the NYPD to solve crimes and stop killers by using the knowledge he has gained from being Martin’s child.
“And of course, the experience for Malcolm is a similar one,” Sheen said. “He knows that his father is this terrible man but his experience of him is a very different one. His experience was that he was a wonderful father, a loving father, a father who wants to have a close relationship with him. And yet he’s struggling with the knowledge of who his father is. So I think it helps the audience understand a little bit more the position Malcolm is in.”
Watch the clip above, which is exclusive to TheWrap, to see Sheen dissect Martin further.
Along with Sheen and Payne, “Prodigal Son” stars Bellamy Young, Halston Sage, Lou Diamond Phillips, Aurora Perrineau and Frank Harts.
The series was created by Chris Fedak (“Deception,” “Chuck”) and Sam Sklaver (“Deception,” “Bored to Death”), who executive produce along with Berlanti and Sarah Schechter.
“Prodigal Son” premieres tonight, Monday, at 9/8c on Fox.