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Catherine Zeta-Jones: 'Prodigal Son' is family drama with 'twist of danger'

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Catherine Zeta-Jones: 'Prodigal Son' is family drama with 'twist of danger'
Catherine Zeta-Jones will be part of the cast when "Prodigal Son" kicks off the second half of Season 2 on Fox Tuesday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, April 13 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones said it was Prodigal Son's quirky brand of darkness that made her sign up for a recurring role in the family drama/murder mystery.

Now in its second season on Fox, the show follows brilliant, but troubled, investigator Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) as he helps solve crimes with New York Police Department Lt. Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips) years after Arroyo arrested Malcolm's dad, Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), a prominent physician who tortured and killed at least 23 people.

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Bellamy Young plays Malcolm's socialite mother, Jessica, and Halston Sage portrays his sister, ambitious TV reporter Ainsley, who may be more like Martin than anyone realizes.

Zeta-Jones joined the ensemble as Vivian Capshaw, a doctor at the psychiatric facility at which Martin is incarcerated and volunteering in the infirmary, in the mid-season finale.

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The second half of Season 2 kicks off Tuesday.

"I was a fan of the show, and I gravitated to the kind of nuance of what I think was so different and powerful about Prodigal Son," Zeta-Jones told reporters in a recent Zoom interview. "It's a pretty good family drama with a twist of danger."

The Chicago, America's Sweethearts and Feud: Bette and Joan star also was eager to work with Sheen -- who hails from the same region of Wales she does.

"Even though we are the same age, and we have all of these mutual friends, we've never crossed," Zeta-Jones said.

American Martin, who has wild hair and gestures broadly with his arms as he speaks, seems more like the Welsh men with whom the actress grew up than the polished Brits for which Sheen is known in projects like Frost/Nixon and Good Omens.

"Tony Blair would not hang around our village, but people who look like Martin Whitly did," she said, comparing Sheen's Prodigal Son and The Queen characters.

Working with Sheen surpassed her expectations. The co-stars became fast friends and, whenever the cameras stopped rolling, would speak to each other in Welsh.

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"It was, like, inside jokes that nobody knows and doing Tommy Cooper impressions," she said, referring to a famous Welsh comedian and magician who died in 1984.

"What was great coming into this show was that I was welcomed so lovely, so nicely," the actress added. "And there's a familiarity to working with Michael that is just inherent, which is very comforting when you walk onto the set for the first time and the cast and crew all know each other.

"I know that, as our story unfolds, I'm going to be introduced to this wonderful cast here more than being in this very, very intense situation with Martin Whitly."

Before she accepted the role, Zeta-Jones said, she considered carefully what she could bring to Prodigal Son. She ultimately decided Dr. Capshaw would be another fascinating character to throw into an eclectic, combustible mix.

"I didn't know where I was going to go with it, but I knew that there was a fundamental interest, intrigue," she said.

"Why is she in the Claremont Psychiatric facility? What got her there? She should have surely known who 'The Surgeon' was, admired him from afar, the Michael Sheen character and Martin Whitly, and now she's sequestered in the bowels of this facility with that very person, and it was intriguing to me."

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Zeta-Jones credited the writers and cast for creating "charming and interesting" characters viewers care about even though they have committed horrible acts.

"It takes a great actor to play a serial killer who you actually like," the actress said, noting how people can't seem to get enough of pop culture that dissects how criminals interact with their spouses, offspring and relatives.

The 51-year-old said she always has been fascinated with mob families.

"Historically, I mean, we are still obsessed with the mob, The Godfather, sequels and sequels and sequels," she said. "There's something intriguing because it has a reflection of the fundamental family, which we all can relate to, and it lends itself to being able to bring in a serial killer that you actually like and a family intrigue that's so intertwined."

Zeta-Jones also praised the diversity of the cast and crew on Prodigal Son.

"Our crew represents all of us -- women, race, everything -- and that's really nice to be walking onto a set where it represents us all," she said.

"People from other countries coming in are working full focus on, first of all, doing good work, but being gracious and respectful to everybody else who is making the show work. So, I really noticed that when I first walked onto the Prodigal Son set."

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Payne said the addition of famous faces like Zeta-Jones is validation that the show is on the right track.

"It takes just a moment to sit back and go, 'Yeah, we are making this product, which is attracting people.' And that makes me very proud and very happy, and I'm excited for where our storyline goes in the show," Payne said.

Frank Harts, who plays Detective J.T. Tarmel, said he was "a little scared" to share the screen with Zeta-Jones.

"I was thinking, 'How am I going to hang with Catherine in all of these one-on-one scenes that we are going to hit?'" he quipped. "I'm trained. I come from the theater. There's a lot there.

"But, you know, that's Hollywood royalty. She's a titan, man. So, I just had to wrap my brain around that, but welcome, Catherine."

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