The nomadic life of an actor can surely be calmed down a little if they operate within a specific creative range, but where’s the fun in that? For more than 20 years, Michael Sheen has gone the other way playing a series of real and concocted heroes, villains, and everything in between. From a vampire to an angel, to the UK Prime Minister, and in his new series, Prodigal Son (which premieres Monday at 9 PM on FOX), an imprisoned serial killer trying to reestablish a relationship with his criminal profiler son.
There’s no snobbishness to Sheen. That’s clear when I briefly mention Twilight, Robert Pattinson, and the idea of actors being pigeonholed and he shares a thought about (evaporating) industry snobbishness toward genre projects. This before mentioning the literary titans who have, throughout the years, worked in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and in comic books and managed to focus on the biggest issues of their (and our) time while still entertaining. Telling us, “I think people sort of underestimate that at their peril, really.”
Sheen’s lack of snobbishness is also on display when you realize his commitment to the issues that impact his community in Wales, specifically efforts to help the homeless and those from areas impacted by the retreat of coal mines and steel mills. Sheen also founded the End High Cost Credit Alliance, which is focused on pushing back against predatory lenders that have hard-hit those same communities and people in his life. While acting is a passion, Sheen is clear about his need to make these causes a priority in his life. We spoke with the actor about staying engaged in those pursuits while committing to a network show. We also explored his deep dive into serial killer research for Prodigal Son, the impact that can have on the psyche, and his theory on why we’re all so fixated on stories about murder.
The show is very interesting. I wasn’t expecting some of the twists and turns. I’m not usually one for procedurals, but this is actually a show I think I can see myself turning back into week to week.
Yeah, I’m not particularly one for procedurals, either, so I wouldn’t have been that interested if it was that, you know what I mean? But I think having that element adds to it, but I was drawn very much to the stuff that’s more threaded through, I suppose.
Yeah, it definitely has a darker edge. It definitely seems to go to some places that most shows don’t, without giving anything away. I was stunned with one particular moment when [redacted]. But I won’t put that in the interview. It was stunning, though, and really kind of made me sit up in my seat a little bit. “Okay. All right.”
“That’s where we’re going to go? Okay. Yeah.” Even having done cable stuff, I still, in the shooting of this stuff, I still, every now and again go, “Wow. This is dark!” [Laughs] The idea of it being on a network I think is really great. I think it really does make me sort of feel like, “wow, anything could happen.”
Was it an initial concern that there would be some limitations because of it being on a network?
No, not really. I mean, you know what it’s like with a pilot episode of something, you’ve only got that one episode to go on, and so you’re looking — as an actor anyway — for what’s possible. What’s there to explore? If I’m potentially going to be doing this for a long time, hopefully, is there enough in here in this one episode to suggest that there’s enough territory to explore? And if that’s the case… and then a combination of talking to the people, the creators, the writers, the showrunner, and if they’re open to collaborating on that, you think, “Oh, these people are interested in going to some interesting places with this.” Then it doesn’t matter where it is, or what sort of platform it’s on, I’m there. I’m interested. And that was the case with this when I read this first episode. I just thought as a show, it had a lot of components. Some that I think were quite familiar, and that can work in your favor, you know, [because] people sort of know where they’re at with it. But there was enough in there that seemed different, and unusual, and fresh.