Prodigal Son Star Calls Cancellation A ‘Mistake,’ Explains Why He Was Shocked When He Learned The News

Lou Diamond Phillips as Lieutenant Gil Arroyo in Prodigal Son.
(Image credit: FOX)

It’s been about nine months since Fox made the shocking decision to cancel crime drama Prodigal Son after only two seasons. The Season 2 finale ended -- and spoilers obviously -- on a cliffhanger that involved Tom Payne’s Malcolm stabbing serial killer father Martin (Michael Sheen). The cancellation, which was announced just a week before the series finale, was a surprise to not only the fans but the cast as well. In fact, star Lou Diamond Phillips was sure that Season 3 would see the light of day. 

Lou Diamond Phillips, who portrayed NYPD Lieutenant Gil Arroyo, reflected on Prodigal Son’s cancellation with TVLine. The actor was positive that a third season was going to happen, and he was waiting for that call. However, in May 2021, he got a different one instead from co-creator Chris Fedak:

One hundred percent, I thought it was the call to say, ‘Hey, buddy, we’re going back to work in July. I had every reason, as did the cast and crew, to believe that this was going to be the case. … Ultimately, when [Fox] approved a cliffhanger at the end of Season 2, I thought there was no question. You don’t do that if you’re going to pull the plug. You say, ‘Hey, guys, wrap it up.’ You usually get an indication about which way things are going, so this came out of the blue like a thunderbolt. And literally, as they were closing the doors to the airplane, Chris said, ‘Bro, they cancelled us.’ And I was like, ‘You’re joking, right? You’re kidding.’ It was stunning.

While fans had been hopeful that Fox would renew Prodigal Son for a Season 3, it looks like the cast and crew thought more would be coming, and the creators on the series have also spoken out before about already having Season 3 plans in the pipeline when the cancellation news broke. It’s surprising that the network approved a cliffhanger for the season finale and then end up not renewing it. Though reportedly, sources told THR that despite the network being fans of the series, viewership hadn't held up. It’s possible that the switch from Monday for the first season to Tuesday nights for the second season may have had something to do with it, but it’s hard to tell. 

Prodigal Son was not your typical crime drama, as there was definitely an extra level of thrill added to it, with some parts feeling like a scary movie. Lou Diamond Phillips discussed the rarity of the series and how it was a “mistake” that Fox ultimately made the decision to cancel it:

I’m not denigrating any other shows, but there’s so much that’s run-of-the-mill and safe and middle-of-the-road on television. For Prodigal Son to be as unique and different and exciting [as it was], and to have that cast — I just really feel as if this was a mistake.

As a fan of Prodigal Son, it was definitely a disappointment when news broke about the cancellation. Between the insane storylines and the bond that the cast had with fans, it was a heartbreaking day for the fandom. As of today, fans are still campaigning for the show to be saved somewhere, whether that will happen remains to be seen, but fingers crossed that the story isn’t over yet. 

If you want to relive all the thrill of Prodigal Son, both seasons are streaming on HBO Max. Once you finish, if you're looking for other great shows to stream on HBO Max, we have you covered too.

Megan Behnke
Freelance TV News Writer

Passionate writer. Obsessed with anything and everything entertainment, specifically movies and television. Can get easily attached to fictional characters.