Happy Birthday Tom Payne! Celebrating the ‘Prodigal Son’ Actor with Our Favorite Malcolm Bright Moments

13 Min Read
Image courtesy Fox.

Tom Payne is best known for playing Jesus from The Walking Dead and most recently the profiler Malcolm Bright on FOX’s new hit show Prodigal Son. Malcolm is the son of serial killer Martin Whitly, played by Michael Sheen, and grew up in the shadow of his father’s infamy. Now an adult, he’s devoted his life to atoning for his father’s sins and works closely with the NYPD to catch murderers. He suffers from a host of mental illnesses including depression, generalized anxiety, night terrors that require him to be shackled to his bed each night, but he still gets up every day with the goal of putting away the worst criminals in New York.

Season one was an action-packed rollercoaster that often felt like we’d just watched a feature length film by the end, and it’s all thanks to Tom Payne’s amazing portrayal of Malcolm Bright. So let’s celebrate Tom Payne’s birthday with our top Malcolm Bright moments from season one!

Malcolm Chops off a Man’s Hand

Image Courtesy FOX.

Yep, you read that headline right. In the very first episode, Malcolm and NYPD Detective JT Tarmel realize the very alive victim is bound to a chair with a bomb set to blow in just one minute. To save his life, Malcolm decides to chop off his hand. It’s the only way to get the man out of the cuffs on the chair, and it really sets the tone for the kind of unpredictable and sometimes a little crazy things that we see throughout the season from Malcolm! It also leads to the hilarious pun he tells Dani upon stumbling dazed from the building moments after the bomb blows, “I have to give them a hand” he says referring to the literal hand in the cooler he is holding. Nice one, Malcolm.

Malcolm Realizes Jessica is Innocent

Image Courtesy FOX.

When his dreams begin to feature a repressed memory of Jessica threatening a young Malcolm to stay out of Martin’s things, Malcolm becomes suspicious of what his mother knew. He hounds Gil for the interview tapes, believing that watching those will tell him what he needs to know. He even goes so far as to ask Martin about it, though it gets him no where. Finally, Gil relents and gives him the tape. This leads to a truly heartbreaking moment in which Malcolm realizes his mother really did know nothing and he’s been falsely accusing her all day. Malcolm slowly crying from the shear pain of the realization and the clear heartbreak of Jessica on that tape is one of those rare television moments that will have you simultaneously crying with the character while giving a standing ovation to the actor.

Or… We Throw Axes!

Image Courtesy FOX.

Following a work incident (aka Malcolm didn’t listen to Gil), Malcolm ends up rather high after a box of drugs explodes in his face. As a result, he’s sent home with Dani to babysit him. Naturally, Malcolm is a very hyper high and screams “or, we throw axes! Broad bladed axes,” at Dani as soon as they arrive home. It’s a short moment, but Tom Payne as high Malcolm Bright has become an iconic moment among fans and is sure to give you a laugh every time you watch it.

Malcolm Profiles… Well Everybody

Image Courtesy Fox.

One of the best moments on the show happens every episode, when we get to watch Malcolm do what he does best and profile the people around him. It gets even more interesting when he does it to his own family, coworkers, and even his girlfriend, Eve. The show often uses very close camera work for these moments where we can see the small things giving the person away, a hand twitch or an averted gaze, while also seeing Malcolm’s brain turning as he pieces together what each tell means. It’s a great element within the series and one Tom Payne plays particularly well!

Malcolm and His White Suit

Image Courtesy FOX.

Malcom tries to take a vacation to appease his mother, even going as far as wearing the very Miami Vice style white suit she picked out, but as usual murder takes over and the suit sees more crime scenes than beaches. Even Gil can’t resist a quick stop at the crime scene so everyone can get a look at Malcolm in his over the top white suit. Naturally, it leads to the best string of one-liners from Dani, JT, and Edrisa on the show. From James Bond to Colonel Sanders, the squad do not miss a beat making joke after joke. We can’t say we’re complaining though, because Tom Payne rocks that white suit.

Malcolm Holds a Gun to His Head?

Image Courtesy FOX.

Malcolm has been known to do some… questionable things in the pursuit of solving a case, but this moment takes the cake. Attempting to get in the mindset of the killer, Malcolm retraces the steps of the crime, attempting to reenact what would have led up to the victim’s “suicide”. In doing this, he holds a gun to his head, trying to understand the headspace the man was in — in fact, it seems as if he was about to pull the trigger. The team frightfully talks him down, and Malcolm reassures them that the gun isn’t loaded… only to find out that it is (oops). This scene hilariously showcases the chaotic recklessness that is Malcolm Bright, and while it may have given the team (and the audience) a scare, it has become one of Malcolm’s most iconic moments to date.

Malcolm Confronts the Junkyard Killer

Image Courtesy FOX.

After the Junkyard Killer takes the fight to the Whitly mansion, we see a different side of Malcolm emerge. While we’ve seen Malcolm display his ability to think quickly on his feet, this version of Malcolm is simply… badass. Confronting the man that’s trying to harm his family, Malcolm throws down (while injured) and effectively puts the man out of commission by trapping him in a box, drawing on one of the man’s deep fears rooted in childhood trauma. This scene showcases the best of Malcolm Bright, with his fierce and undying loyalty to his family, unwavering grit, and ingenuity in the face of danger all being on display.

Malcolm Sneaks Out While Under House Arrest

Image Courtesy FOX.

One of the biggest takeaways about Malcolm from this series is that he doesn’t listen (we kind of love it though). After being framed for the murder of Endicott’s lackey, Eddie, Malcolm is placed on house arrest until the rest of the team has thoroughly investigated and cleared him for what’s transpired. However, Malcolm is not on board with being sidelined and finagles his way out of his ankle monitor in order to go do some digging himself in order to clear his name — much to Jessica’s dismay. While Malcolm’s actions end up landing him in some hot water later on, we can’t help but adore the man who is, above all, dedicated to getting justice by putting the and guys away.

Malcolm Jumps Out a Window… the First Time

Image Courtesy FOX.

Malcolm is no stranger to danger (cough cough, danger count), something that was apparent from the very beginning of the series. One of the moments that best illustrates this fact early on is Malcolm throwing himself out of a window for the first time (the fact that there’s more than one time tells you everything you need to know). Plagued by his intense nightmares, Malcolm manages to escape his restraints in the throes of a dream and (accidentally) launches himself out of the window by his bed. Luckily, the man manages to grab on to the ledge and pull himself back up before he can do any major damage to himself, though we can’t say the same for his neighbors who were probably quite frightened by the site of him dangling from more than one story in the air. This scene does a great job of building up the audience’s idea of Malcolm’s (very chaotic) personality, something that will quickly become a staple of the show.

Malcolm Yells Things One Should Probably Not Say in the Middle of the NYPD Precinct

Image Courtesy FOX.

The NYPD precinct has overheard many a strange conversation involving Malcolm Bright, but the funniest by far has got to be Malcolm explaining (very loudly) to Gil that homicide is the only thing keeping him sane… yeah, probably not something you should say in the middle of the NYPD precinct, but ok. In pleading with Gil to let him consult on a case, Malcolm tells Gil how much he relies on this job to keep him going. Unfortunately, the way that it’s phrased turns quite a few officers’ heads, giving the audience quite a laugh at Malcolm’s expense. This scene set a precedence of questionable things being said in the middle of the precinct, one of our favorite running gags about both Malcolm and the show.

Tom Payne’s phenomenal acting skills shine through in every single episode of Prodigal Son, especially in these noteworthy scenes. We can’t imagine anyone else playing the neurotic profiler that we adore so much and as such, we wanted to celebrate the man that brought one of our favorite characters to life on his special day. Tom Payne will be reprising his role as Malcolm Bright in season 2 of Prodigal Son, which premieres on January 12 at 9/8 p.m. CT on FOX. Stay tuned for new content coming soon, prodigies!

Authors: Brianna, Kenedi, Megan

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By Brianna
Brianna works full time in the publishing industry, passionately building books to bring to the masses. Her first fandom was Harry Potter, which she joined at age 11. Her love for books took her abroad to earn her Masters Degree at University College London, after which she lived in New York City, and now resides in Austin. She loves all things fandom including Supernatural, Doctor Who, and more. Ever the introvert, she can usually be found reading, playing with her dog, listening to music and practicing yoga. Brianna joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2018 where she unites her love for all things "nerd" with her passion for writing. Find her on Twitter here: @bookbag09
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