PRODIGAL SON: Lou Diamond Phillips on Gil's Paternal Relationship with the Team, 'Complex' History with Jessica - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

PRODIGAL SON: Lou Diamond Phillips on Gil’s Paternal Relationship with the Team, ‘Complex’ History with Jessica

October 14, 2019 by  

Prodigal Son Lou Diamond Phillips Gil

PRODIGAL SON: L-R: Tom Payne and Lou Diamond Phillips in the “Fear Response” episode of PRODIGAL SON airing Monday, Oct. 7 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. Cr: Barbara Nitke/ FOX.

As PRODIGAL SON’s Bright (Tom Payne) embraces his calling as criminal profiler, his new team is still trying to get a handle on him and his unconventional methods.

Luckily for him, he has his boss, Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips), in his corner—at least most of the time. “He’s just like a dad with a bunch of kids,” Phillips jokes. “And you can’t say that any one of them is his favorite; he’s trying to be supportive of all of them.”

Phillips, whose recent television credits includes LONGMIRE and BLUE BLOODS, had previously turned down a number of cop boss roles in the past. “I don’t want to be that guy who’s always saying, ‘You’re a loose cannon, mister!'” he says of why he passed on similar title roles prior to this. “All of this stuff is so typical. [But] they perform a function in procedurals.”

Instead, in Gil, he found a man who is “paternal and protective, and yet is comfortable in his own skin”…and with a sense of humor.

But, of course, he may also have some secrets up his sleeve.

Phillips dives into the team’s at-times complicated dynamic, Gil’s “loaded” history with Jessica (Bellamy Young), whether fans might see a Gil-focused episode in the near future, and more…

(Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before the show was picked up for a full first season.)

You’re no stranger to television, and I imagine you get a lot of offers to do projects. What did you need to hear from the writers in order to sign up for a role that could potentially be the next five years, seven years of your life?
That’s exactly right. After LONGMIRE, which was just a romance for me, I absolutely loved that project; I loved that character. He was iconic. And, obviously, the fact that he was based on a literary character, I had a wealth of information to draw from, to fill in the blanks on [with] that role. But that set the bar very high for me. So it was sort of sort of difficult to change gears and to think about stepping into something that would be more typical.

As a result, I didn’t do a pilot last year. This year, PRODIGAL was the first pilot I read, and I was sold. It just got better, page after page. When they introduce Gil, and they basically say that his fashion sense stopped with Steve McQueen in BULLITT, I was like, “I know this guy, I get this guy.” And also being a huge Steve McQueen fan myself, I don’t mind channeling Steve or something like that.

That [kind of] role can sometimes be a trap; I turned down lieutenant roles a number of times in my career, because I don’t want to be that guy who’s always saying, “You’re a loose cannon, mister!” All of this stuff is so typical. And they perform a function in procedurals. [But] sometimes the worst case scenario is success. It’s like, “Do I really want to do that for six, seven, eight years?” It’s obviously a very steady gig. But at this point in my career, I’m still playing roles that challenge me, that interest me. And I did not feel that Gil [would be limiting]. His sense of humor reminded me a little bit of Lennie Briscoe from LAW & ORDER, who I adored. But, also, we haven’t seen a guy who is quite as paternal and protective, and yet is comfortable in his own skin. A lot of these lieutenant roles have a stick up their bum. And this isn’t Gil. Gil is so comfortable with who he is, and probably doesn’t realize that he’s retro without even trying.

PRODIGAL SON: L-R: Lou Diamond Phillips, Frank Harts and Aurora Perrineau in the “Designer Complicity” episode of PRODIGAL SON airing Monday, Oct. 14 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. Cr: Peter Kraemer/FOX.

Gil is also balancing his original team and his very complicated history with squad-newbie Bright. How is his juggling the potential conflict of interest?
It’s interesting, because I think, Bright is obviously broken; there are flaws there, deep conflicts within him. And Gil is intimate with those, [though] maybe not as intimate as he had once been, because we realized in the pilot that Bright’s been off doing FBI work for a while.

As we see through the first few episodes, Gil is keeping a close eye on him and realizing, “Okay, maybe this PTSD is a little deeper than [I] had first suspected.” And at the same time, knowing that there’s a balance between using him on these cases and basically taking advantage of his talents—but also giving him an outlet. Because if he doesn’t involve himself with investigations, if he doesn’t take his mind off his own problems, and channel it into something that’s positive, it gnaws away at him. So it’s really interesting to take on the role of any parent who has to push the fledgling out of the nest and hope that you’ve given them enough foundation to fly on their own.

What we will also see, though, is his care for the rest of the team eventually. And I think most obviously, it will be first with Dani, you know, play by Aurora Perrineau. She’s got some issues that will come to light, as well, and you realize that Gil’s not willing to entirely sacrifice his protection of them in favor of Bright. So he’s just like a dad with a bunch of kids. And you can’t say that any one of them is his favorite; he’s trying to be supportive of all of them. We haven’t had our “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” moment, but it might be coming.

What could also be complicating things is his apparent relationship with Bright’s mother, Jessica. We saw a little bit of that dynamic in episode 3, but how much do you actually know about their history?
I know more than I can tell you. [Laughs.] But I don’t know everything the writers want to reveal just yet. I can certainly say that we will see more of what Gil and Jessica’s history was. It’s obviously loaded. It’s obviously complex. It’s very interesting. And episode 3 is not the only time we see Jessica and Gil together.

That’s one of the things to me that’s so juicy about the show: yes, there’s the crime of the week—though sometimes they span multiple episodes—but that it’s very often reflective of what’s going on in their personal lives. Speaking of episode 3, it was the fear response and all of these things are [relevant] to Bright as he’s doing the investigation. In some ways, they’re therapeutic for him.

I think the writers have done an amazing job with it. It’s a little like HOUSE, which, I’ll take that any day. I loved that show. And this is our own hero, working through his own issues, and his ability to be self-reflective—and to be introspective—is what helps them solve mysterious crimes, as it were. So, it’s those interpersonal dynamics that really drive not only the story, but the investigations. And I think that we will see how that not only affects the Gil-Bright dynamic, but you know, Gil and Jessica, maybe even Gill and Ainsley at some point in time. The worlds, I think, will have to collide at some point.

From what you’re able to say, does Bright know about whatever happened with Gil and Jessica? Or is that something that he might discover as the audience does?
That’s interesting. I don’t know that; I wish I did. I think that [the writers] have some broad strokes when it comes to that particular history. But the specifics of it, and therefore the consequences of it, or the ramifications of whatever may come to light, I think, are still being hammered out.

I think the overarching through-line right now is is the girl in the box. And that is that’s obviously something that that is driving Bright. That is something that Gil is aware of, but you know, that perhaps Jessica is aware of, as well. And Martin is certainly aware of that. So we’re ping ponging between what Bright knows, what he can remember, what might come to light through either therapy or the cases or his own insistence on banging his head against the wall. That is something that we’re going to be following for the entire first season.

So far, it seems like Bright thinks he’s hiding some of his issues better than he actually is. How protective is Gil going to get as Bright potentially spirals?
It’s interesting, because I think even in the first scene with Jessica, I think it is telling of where Gil’s mindset is right now—a little hands off. When you think about it, it’s true, and it’s true of anybody in a position like Gil’s. In a leadership position, whether you know, it’s a cop or a fireman or someone in the military, you are sending people you care about into harm’s way; this is the job, this is what is expected. And he can’t coddle people to do that. These are young people, these are talented people, but at any given moment, bullets may fly. So this is no joke to them. And they deal with it day in and day out.

I think he knows what he’s asking when he’s brought Bright into the fold and into these situations. And therefore he can’t pull him in with one hand and push him away with the other. I think he’s accepted the fact that he’s going to immerse Bright back into this world that, in some ways, is going to be good for him, but in others, it’s going to be triggering. It’s that tightrope he’s trying to walk.

I do know of situations in future episodes, where he tries to err on the side of caution, by [saying,] “Bright, maybe, you should sit this one out.” Or he downright orders him not to get involved in certain situations. Well, I think we know how that’s gonna work out. [Laughs.] But it doesn’t stop him from trying.

PRODIGAL SON: L-R: Lou Diamond Phillips and Tom Payne in the “The Trip” episode of PRODIGAL SON airing Monday, Oct. 21 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. Cr: David Giesbrecht/FOX.

The first three cases were kind of deliciously twisted. What has you excited about what’s ahead in terms of the investigating?
I’m just so thrilled that it is as advertised. They said, a fresh take on the procedural, a fresh take on the serial killer genre—it is all of that. And our writers just have such a sense of fun, too. So it never gets into that too dark or too pretentious area where it’s not entertaining anymore, you know? Obviously, it’s twisted, and, obviously, there’s some jaw-dropping crimes and results; a few body parts might get lost. So they’re keeping that bar high.

What I’m hoping is that what we’ve got is this beautiful hybrid of a show that fits into a mainstream mode with new streaming and cable sensibilities. And it also has nods toward its cinematic roots, whether that’s SEVEN or HANNIBAL or THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, ZODIAC, etc. It has those aspirations, and I think we’ve managed to keep it in that arena to a certain extent. And as long as we do, I think it’s going to become one of those shows that is your watercooler kind of show that people will either want to binge or talk about the very next day.

Obviously, there was the LONGMIRE posse when I was doing LONGMIRE; [that was a] very, very rabid fan base. There’s a very rabid fan for Tom Payne from THE WALKING DEAD. The same with Bellamy on SCANDAL. And Michael [Sheen]’s just spans platforms. So hopefully, we’re just bringing all of our different very loyal, very vocal fans to the party, and they will all find something to like.

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It’s also an interesting balance with an ensemble as the show takes time to dive into each character, often with an episode kind of devoted to specific person. Have you filmed a more Gil-centric hour yet, and if not, what might that encompass?
So far, I think we investigate a little bit more [into] Dani. We get some hints about JT, his background. Keiko [Agena’s Dr. Tanaka], our MD, when she comes in, she hits a home run, and then goes back to the dugout for a little bit. But we’ll see more from her.

We definitely have leaned more heavily on Jessica and Ainsley coming up. Halston [Sage, who plays Ainsley] has some really fun stuff coming up, but we’ve only gotten hints at Gil from the pilot.

We know that Gil’s wife passed away. And I don’t believe we’ve articulated it yet, but it was an illness, most likely cancer. And Gil still wears his ring. There is a part of him that’s very family-oriented. There’s a part of him that is duty and honor bound. And I love that about him. He’s such a stand-up guy. And so he hasn’t brought that [tragedy and mourning] to work. So I think once he deals with all of Bright’s problems, maybe, they can have a drink and talk about some of Gil’s problems. [Laughs.]

But I don’t think that’s in the offing anytime too soon after the beginning, which is fine with me. I really love what they’re what they’re giving him, through the procedural. I love his sense of humor. His fierce side most definitely comes out, from time to time. And I just feel he’s he’s incredibly well-balanced. I mean, I felt he was fully-fleshed from the start. So there’s time and, God-willing, we’ll be around for a while. We’ll trot out those little gems from the past eventually.

PRODIGAL SON, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox


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