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What Attracted Michael Sheen To Prodigal Son's Serial Killer Role

Actor Michael Sheen has played a wide variety of roles over the course of his career.  He's received acclaim for his portrayal of the angel Aziraphale in the television adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's novel "Good Omens," he's unnerved audiences as a vampire in "The Twilight Saga," and enticed viewers as Dr. William Masters on "Masters of Sex." He's appeared in romantic comedies like "Midnight in Paris," as well as in stage productions like "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet," and "The Seagull." There are even rumors that he could be the next Doctor on "Doctor Who." It's clear that Michael Sheen isn't afraid to tackle new characters! 

Perhaps one of Michael Sheen's most sinister roles to date is that of serial killer Martin Whitly on the series "Prodigal Son." The crime drama stars Tom Payne as Malcolm Bright, a criminal profiler with a distinct ability to get inside the mind of a killer. Malcolm is haunted by the memory of his father, a former surgeon named Martin Whitly who's incarcerated for grisly murders he committed years prior. Michael Sheen's Whitly is all at once affable, aloof, terrifying, and alluring, but with enough warmth to draw viewers further into the mystery of "Prodigal Son." 

With so many interesting characters in his repertoire, it makes you wonder why Michael Sheen chooses the projects he does. In a telling interview, the actor revealed exactly what drew him to the role of Martin Whitly. 

Michael Sheen didn't know much about "Prodigal Son"

As it turns out, Michael Sheen knew hardly anything about the role when he accepted it. The actor had to use his imagination to determine whether or not he would agree to play Martin Whitly. 

"Well, funnily enough, when you're being sent the script for a potentially long-running series like this, you only get the pilot episode. Nothing else is written because nobody knows if it's going to turn into a series or not," Sheen explained to the hosts of This Morning. "So you have to make a decision to sign up for something that you might end up doing for years and years, you know. You sort of have to look at different things. It's not necessarily how great that first episode is, it's 'Is there the potential to explore lots of interesting things in it?'"

Sheen was also drawn to the family dynamics depicted in "Prodigal Son," which he believes are key to the show's intrigue. The father-son dynamic between Malcolm and Martin is at the heart of the series. Even though Martin is behind bars, his presence reaches far beyond his cell. Despite their fraught history, it's evident that Martin still has a significant psychological hold on his son, a tangible connection that Sheen evokes with ominous precision. 

Unfortunately, it turns out there wasn't that much to explore after all, but not for factors having to do with writers or actors. "Prodigal Son” was canceled in May 2021 after airing for just two seasons (via Newsweek).