Michael Sheen Studied Harold Shipman To Play Prodigal Son Killer
Michael Sheen plays a twisted serial killer in his latest TV role - and says he studied notorious doctor turned murderer Harold Shipman as research for the role.
Crime drama fans have their next fix sorted as hit US show Prodigal Son lands in the UK this week and the show's stars told LADbible all about the grim research they did to nail their roles.
Prodigal Son centres on Malcolm Bright, (played by The Walking Dead's Tom Payne), a disgraced former FBI profiler who also happens to be the son of serial killer Dr Martin Whitly, also known as The Surgeon (played by Michael Sheen), a narcissistic killer who murdered more than 20 people.
After leaving the FBI under a cloud, Malcolm moves back to New York where he begins working as a consultant for the NYPD - and has to make contact with his dad to use his insights to help catch killers. Sounds good, eh?
The show, which has been described as 'Silence of the Lambs meets Mindhunter' is, as you can imagine, pretty dark - something Sheen was happy to get his teeth into.
Talking about his character, Sheen told LADbible: "I liked that my character had developed a disguise to be good at his 'job' - his vocation, because his vocation is killing people, hunting and killing.
"And this disguise is someone who is funny, charming, puts you at ease, who you enjoying being in the company of. Which, of course, makes it a lot easier for someone who wants to kill you.
Opening up about some of the grim research he undertook, he added: "In terms of my character, he's a surgeon, he's very well-respected and liked and has a lot of access to people because of that.
"So, I looked at Harold Shipman for that reason and the way people dropped their defences and thought that because he was this loved and revered community doctor there was no way he could be doing anything bad to them - while he was killing people's relatives."
Shipman, a GP in Greater Manchester, murdered more than 200 people between 1975-1998. Local police said they will probably never know the final number, as he operated with such stealth across such a long period of time, with many of his victims considering him a friend as well as a doctor.
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"I also looked at Ted Bundy, who was a killer who was charming and got people to drop their defences because he was so likeable in lots of ways," said Sheen, "rather than being the oddball, clearly disturbed killer who you would run a mile from.
"It's this idea of someone who would put you at your ease and is able to get you to become vulnerable."
Co-star Payne also had to look into some pretty dark topics to get to grips with his character.
He told LADbible: "When you start to do your research it gets really draining. it's a dark world to get into.
"I think the most valuable thing I did was listen to a podcast called Happy Face, which is about the Happy Face killer and his daughter and her journey to discover who she is.
"She goes and meets different people who were related to his victims and that was incredibly helpful, because it's pretty much the same situation my character finds himself in.
"It helped me to find those struggles that exist within that person - 'is there a trigger that made my dad the way he is or is it inherent behaviour'."
The series, which has aired in the US, has already been snapped up for a second season.
Prodigal Son airs tonight on Sky One and NowTV.
Featured Image Credit: Sky