Entertainment

‘Prodigal Son’ character is ‘likeable monster’

Michael Sheen’s Martin Whitly unleashes a killer performance in Tuesday night’s episode of “Prodigal Son.”

In “Take Your Father to Work Day,” there’s a murder in Martin’s asylum — which means that his son, former FBI profiler Malcolm (Tom Payne) ,must come investigate — much to Martin’s delight.

Tensions soon arise as they’re forced to confront their complex mixture of love for each other versus their long-simmering resentment (Malcolm of serial killer Martin’s dark legacy; Martin of Malcolm’s turning him in years ago). 

“I am drawn to characters that have something different going on underneath rather than what’s on the surface,” Sheen, 51 tells The Post. “I think that’s true of people generally — we’re always aware of the version of ourselves that we want people to see, and then there’s that version that we feel like we’re covering up.

“A lot of what’s interesting about playing a character is how much you show,” he says. “Martin Whitly is one of those. We know that he’s a monster, and yet the version that we see of him is someone that’s likable and charming. Clearly that’s not all that’s going on. I do very much enjoy that.”

Michael Sheen plays Martin Whitly in “Prodigal Son.”Eric Liebowitz/FOX

“Prodigal Son” (9 p.m. on Fox) centers around the complicated relationship between the troubled Malcolm, a former FBI profiler who helps the NYPD catch killers, and his incarcerated father —  a brilliant doctor known as “The Surgeon” for his method of despatching his victims.

“Martin is someone who is obsessed with control. He has deep wells of fury about all kinds of things,” Sheen says. “Certainly some of it is directed towards his loss of control, and Malcolm is the person who served that up, since he’s the one who gave him up to the police. At the same time, he also has deep wells of maybe love — certainly need —  for a relationship with his son.

“Martin feels like he can keep the two things separate but I don’t think he can,” he says. “It’s just that we rarely see what’s going on underneath. We see this likable persona. Who he really is comes out now and again — and we see it in this episode.” 

Sheen, 51, who divides his time between LA and his native Wales, is known for a wide variety of roles, including prestige award-bait movies  (“Frost/Nixon,” “Midnight in Paris,”), commercial blockbusters (the “Underworld” and “Twilight” franchises,) Amazon’s fantasy show “Good Omens” and Showtime’s period piece “Masters of Sex.”

“Prodigal Son” airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Fox.Phil Caruso/FOX

“From when I first started out as an actor, the things I was always drawn to are transformations and being able to play as many different types of people as possible,” he says. “For a long time, though, I realized that was not necessarily the best thing for my career, because people didn’t realize that it was me in lots of different things! But at a certain point you reach critical mass and then people start to enjoy that about you, that you play such different characters. So I’ve always enjoyed variety — being able to play as many different types of people, and being in as many different types of projects as well, whether it’s independent film or big-budget film or a long running TV series.”

Season 2 of “Prodigal Son” will also feature Catherine Zeta Jones — whose character, Dr. Vivian Capshaw, will go head to head with Martin. (She’s making her debut later this season.) Alan Cumming will also join the series for a few Season 2 episodes.

“We grew up in the same place in Wales, next door to each other essentially,” Sheen says of Zeta-Jones. “I was in the local youth theater while she was in the local dance company, so we know a lot of the same people.

“I’ve met her family back at home in Wales but I’d never met Catherine,” he says. “Our paths just haven’t crossed. So it’s wonderful to get to meet her. It’s so odd that we have these conversations about people that we both know from 40 years ago. It’s lovely to be able to do that.

“We’re having a wonderful time.”