During the TCA panel for the new series, executive producers Sam Sklaver, Chris Fedak and Sarah Schechter were joined onstage by series stars Tom Payne, Lou Diamond Phillips, Halston Sage, Aurora Perrineau, Frank Harts and Keiko Agena to talk about how the news series puts a Sherlock-Freud twist on the genre — with a smidge of House. Actors Bellamy Young and Michael Sheen also joined the conversation via satellite from the New York set.
Combining drama and dark comedy the series centers on Malcolm Bright (Payne) who has a special gift in that he knows how killers think — because his father Martin Whitly (Sheen) was one of the worst — a notorious serial killer dubbed “The Surgeon.” That said, Bright is the best criminal psychologist around because murder is the family business. He uses his skills as a forensic profiler to help the NYPD solve crimes and stop killers, all while dealing with a manipulative mother (Young), annoyingly normal sister (Sage) and a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son. He’s also dealing with his neuroses.
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“Chris and I were really just playing around with characters and what makes them interesting on TV,” Sklaver said about the origin of the series. “We were wondering about parents and how they can affect the children.” He poses the question, “What if your father was a serial killer — but also a really good dad?” Thus was the catalyst for Prodigal Son.
With a Hannibal void lingering in the TV landscape, Sklaver points out that House –which also was on Fox — is something they looked to as inspiration.
“[Dr. Gregory] House is someone we looked to as a main character who has some trauma you can keep going back to but still care about,” Sklaver said.
Fedak chimes in saying that House was about diagnosing sickness while Prodigal Son is about diagnosing psychology. He adds that the show is very much a hybrid of Sherlock and Freud.
But through the twisted serial killer narrative of Prodigal Son, there is one central theme that keeps it grounded. “We will have cases in the show… we will have crimes and we will have mysteries,” said Fedak. “But it’s about the family.”
Fedak and Sklaver executive produce with director directed by Lee Toland Krieger, Berlanti Prods’ Greg Berlanti and Schechter. Warner Bros TV produces with studio-based Berlanti Prods. Fox Entertainment is a co-producer.
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