Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones takes to TV for a challenging—and creepy—new role
Midway through Prodigal Son's second season, Catherine Zeta-Jones made her debut as Vivian Capshaw, the mysterious doctor now presiding over convicted serial killer Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen). Born and raised in Swansea, Wales, the actress got her big Hollywood break in 1996, as one of the leads in CBS miniseries Titanic. From there, the silver screen beckoned, yielding roles in The Mask of Zorro, Entrapment, Traffic and an Oscar-winning star turn in Chicago. Like many film luminaries, Zeta-Jones has been drawn to television of late, with FX’s Feud (playing Olivia de Havilland) and Facebook Watch’s dark beauty pageant comedy Queen America.
Now, the star sits down with TVWeek to discuss her latest role...
GlobalTVWeek: What made Prodigal Son the right choice for your TV renaissance?
Well, I was a fan of the show, and I gravitate to the kind of nuance that I think is so different and powerful about Prodigal Son. It’s a pretty good family drama with a twist of danger. It’s a dark family, and I gravitate to darker material. Also, you know, it is with Michael Sheen, who is literally from my hometown, who I’ve never met before. I’ve admired him from a distance. We actually have childhood friends that went to school, and we were part of the Dylan Thomas Theatre... but he did theatre and I was in contemporary dance; and I was doing amateur dramatics at the Catholic church and he was doing it somewhere else. Even though we are the same age and we have all of these mutual friends, we’ve never crossed paths.
What’s it been like to finally get to work with him?
To play with Michael is—well, first of all, for example, as soon as [Lou Diamond Phillips, co-star and occasional director on Prodigal Son] shouted “Cut,” Michael and I were like, “Welsh, Welsh, Welsh, Welsh.” It was, like, inside jokes that nobody knows, and doing Tommy Cooper impressions. And what was great coming into this show was that I was welcomed so nicely. There’s a familiarity to working with Michael that is just inherent, which is very comforting when you walk onto the set for the first time and the cast and crew all know each other.
GlobalOutside the quality of the show and the chance to work with Michael, what excited you about your character, this sketchy doctor who seems to have a secret agenda or two?
Dr. Vivian Capshaw was a character that was intriguing to me. When I spoke about coming into a great show that has been, you know, both critically acclaimed and has a great following, I said, “OK, what am I going to add?” And then, when I read the draft of the script, it drew me in. This character was exciting, and I didn’t know where I was going to go with it, but I knew that there was a fundamental interest, intrigue, and that this doctor who I’m playing is... why is she in the Claremont Psychiatric facility? What got her there? She should have surely known who the Surgeon [Sheen] was, admired him from afar... and now she’s sequestered in the bowels of this facility with that very person. It was intriguing to me.
As dark as it is, there’s a streak of humour to this serial killer show. Where do you think that comes from?
I think it comes from the work and obviously the script. What’s on the page is what we work with, but it’s admirable when the characters that are darker than the regular folk can be as charming and interesting. It takes a great actor to play a serial killer who you actually like.
Prodigal Son airs Tuesdays at 9:01 p.m. on Global & Fox