Fox’s drama pilot Prodigal Son is recasting its lead. The Walking Dead alum Tom Payne has been tapped to topline the pilot from Chris Fedak, Sam Sklaver, Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros TV. He will replace Finn Jones, who originally was cast in the role.

The decision was made after the pilot’s table read this week. Recastings are an unfortunate but inevitable byproduct of pilot season, when casting directors, networks and studios race against the clock and compete against one another to assemble casts for 70-80 pilots. The casting on the Prodigal Son lead came down to the wire, with Jones’ deal closing on the eve of the pilot’s table read.

Fox
Fox

When a role goes to a well-known actor with a straight offer, which was the case with Jones, the table read often is the first time the producers can see the actor embodying the character they had envisioned him/her as. In many cases, it works; in others it doesn’t, which led to Jones’ exit over creative differences.

Payne, who I hear had tested for the role previously, joins lead cast members Michael Sheen and Bellamy Young.

Written by Feder and Sklaver and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, Prodigal Son is described as a fresh take on a crime franchise with a provocative and outrageous lead character and darkly comedic tone. It centers on Malcolm Bright (Payne), who has a gift. He knows how killers think, how their minds work. Why? His father Martin Whitly (Sheen) was one of the worst — a notorious serial killer called “The Surgeon.” That’s why Bright is the best criminal psychologist around; murder is the family business. He will use his twisted genius and razor-sharp instincts as a forensic profiler to help the NYPD solve crimes and stop killers, all while dealing with a manipulative mother (Young), annoyingly normal sister, a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son and his own constantly evolving neuroses.Intelligent but deeply damaged, Malcolm has a self-deprecating sense of humor and a surprising level of compassion.

Lou Diamond Phillips, Aurora Perrineau and Frank Harts co-star in the pilot, which Fedak and Sklaver executive produce with Krieger, Berlanti Prods’ Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter. Warner Bros TV produces with studio-based Berlanti Prods. Fox Entertainment is a co-producer.

English actor Payne probably is best known for his role as Paul “Jesus” Rovia on AMC’s The Walking Dead. His series credits also include HBO’s Luck. He is repped by Paradigm, Curtis Brown, Beth Holden-Garland at Untitled, and Felker Toczek.