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Why Ainsley Whitly From Prodigal Son Looks So Familiar

The "Prodigal Son" isn't the only one you have to worry about on the Fox series of that name. 

Ainsley Whitly is the younger sister of NYPD profiler Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) and the daughter of the prolific serial killer Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen). Her chosen line of work is a little further afield than Malcolm's, but not much: She's a TV news reporter who, in Season 1 of the show, is not shy about using her connections to her father to land an exclusive interview with the man the media once called "The Surgeon."

Ainsley seems less haunted by the sins of their father than Malcolm, who is constantly trying to put himself in the mindset of the killers he's tracking and thus worried that perhaps he too might succumb to the sociopathic tendencies exhibited by their father. But her actions throughout the series make Malcolm suspicious that he might not be the only one to have inherited Martin's legacy. 

Though her biggest blockbuster role may have been a brief cameo as Dazzler in "X-Men: Dark Phoenix," the actress who plays Ainsley, Halston Sage, has appeared in plenty of stuff you might have heard of in her brief Hollywood career.

Halston Sage was kidnapped on Crisis

Sage had her first major role as a mean girl band member in the 2012 Nickelodeon sitcom "How to Rock," but landed her first big network television role as a member of the cast of NBC's short-lived thriller "Crisis," about a rogue ex-CIA agent who kidnaps a bus full of children, including the President's son.

Sage played Amber Fitch, one of the students captured by Francis Gibson (Mulroney), who masterminds the hostage situation in revenge for a government betrayal. Amber has been raised as the daughter of tech CEO Meg Fitch (Gillian Anderson) but is actually the child of Fitch's sister, FBI agent Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor). The twists and turns of Gibson's plot and the parents' and law enforcement's response to it are legion, but over the course of her captivity, Amber is successfully broken by Gibson and winds up following his orders. 

"Crisis" received mixed reviews from critics, who often praised its twists and plot contrivances but dinged it for its thin characters who seemed to have no life or personality outside of the machinations visited upon them by Gibson. Audiences, and NBC, agreed as "Crisis" was cancelled part of the way through its first season, before the full ramifications of Amber's Stockholm Syndrome could play out.

She joined the search in Paper Towns

In 2015, Sage joined the cast of "Paper Towns," a high school set coming-of-age mystery adapted from the novel by John Green.

Sage played Lacey Pemberton, the somewhat shallow best friend of Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne). Lacey becomes a victim of Margo's retaliation after she discovers her boyfriend Jase (Griffin Freeman) was cheating on her with her friend Rebecca (Caitlin Carver), though she didn't know about the pair.

Shortly after the pranks, Margo runs away, and Lacey eventually falls in with Margo's friend Quentin (Nat Wolff), as attempts to unravel the clues Margo left behind as to her whereabouts. The pair bond, with Lacey opening up to the social outcast Quentin and him realizing there was more to her personality than she realized. She accompanies Quentin and his friends on their final road trip to find Margo, and joins their circle for good when she agrees to go to prom with his friend Ben (Austin Abrams).

Sage said making "Paper Towns" was an opportunity to relieve her own high school years, and that she came out of it with a new set of friends she felt like she had known forever. "Making a movie is like an accelerated version of growing up with someone. You spend so many hours a day with each other, and you're putting your heart into this same effort," she told Teen Vogue. 

Sage survived the Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Later that year, Sage played another high schooler appeared in the teen horror comedy "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse," as Kendall, the older sister to one of the scouts of the title, Carter (Logan Miller), and the crush of his friend Ben (Tye Sheridan).

Kendall is far cooler than the film's protagonists who are debating whether or not to quit their scouting program at the start of the film, but is happy to help after encountering them on the road when Ben hits a deer driving. The boys are trying to reunite with her at a secret party when the apocalypse breaks out, and so the Scouts have to learn its location, fight their way across town, and eradicate the zombies threatening the house, after which Ben finally works up the courage to kiss Kendall.

Looking back on her career, Sage told Euphoria Magazine that she appreciates how she's been able to appear in a wide variety of films that require different skillsets from an actor. "What I really loved about my career so far is that I have kind of been able to balance between drama and comedy. It's really great that I've been able to do that because each genre is so fulfilling in a different way."

She was a super-strong security chief on The Orville

In 2017, Sage joined the crew of a space-faring exploratory vessel as Lieutenant Alara Kitan, the ship's chief of security, in Seth MacFarlane's "Star Trek"-spoofing sitcom "The Orville."

Alara hails from Xelaya, a planet that has a significantly higher gravitational pull than Earth, which translates into giving its natives superstrength when operating off-world. The inexperienced Alara is thrust into a leadership role in the ship's second episode after Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) and its first officer Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) are kidnapped and placed into an alien zoo. Alara mounts a daring rescue mission against orders to save them.

For much of the rest of the first season, Alara plays a pretty typical role in an ensemble show like this, solving problems that her particular skillset seems best suited to, learning to conquer her individual weaknesses. That changes in the second season, however, when she realizes her strength is waning. After learning that she's spent too much time at Earth's gravity, she and the crew visit Xelaya to help her recover. While there, she has a testy reunion with her parents, but after the family reconciles, she decides to remain behind on Xelaya with her family.

Sage told Shine on Media that she was drawn to the character because she thought it rare to see the combination of Alara's youth and inexperience paired with her strength and determination to connect. "It's everyone's dream to kind of play a version of a superhero," she said.