“The Following” is a crime thriller TV series (which airs in the U.S. on Fox) that is cat-and-mouse game between former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (played by Kevin Bacon) and serial killer Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy), who still wreaks havoc when he’s in prison because he has a cult of followers who carry out his commands. In the first episodes of the series, Carroll executes a plan to kidnap his son Joey (played by Kyle Catlett), while using his ex-wife Claire Matthews (played by Natalie Zea) as a pawn in his goal to escape from prison.
At Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 14, 2012, the first episode (or pilot) of “The Following” was previewed to the public for the first time. After the pilot was shown, Bacon, Purefoy, “The Following” creator/executive producer/writer Kevin Williamson and “The Following” executive producer/director Marcos Siega gathered to talk about the show on a discussion panel. Here is what they said when they answered questions from a moderator.
“The Following” has been described as the hottest new show of the season. How do you feel about that?
Bacon: It feels good.
Williamson: It’s scary. I really like it, and I want everyone else to like it, so you have that sort of “birthing a baby” feel about it. You just hope people respond to it.
Bacon: That’s one scary baby!
Kevin Bacon, what appealed to you most about “The Following”?
Bacon: I was thinking about doing television for quite a few years before this came around. It just had everything going for it: a brilliant writer, a great director (Marcos was attached). I really wanted to do something heroic, because I really wasn’t getting a chance to do that so much in the movies.
And yet, I wanted to play a hero with some complexity and sort of had a darker side. And that’s what this [TV show] afforded me. Plus, you pick up a script. You read and it bam! In one sitting, you can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next. And that’s good television.
So what is going to happen next?
Williamson: I wish I knew. I’ve got a roomful of writers that are trying to figure it out right now. In the pilot episode, we left some loose ends.
Siega: He knows exactly where it’s going. And it’s really good.
Williamson: It’s just like Joe Carroll says: He’s writing a book, he’s creating this diabolical plan, and he just wants to make sure that he tells that. Every week will be a different chapter of that book. He’s set this web into motion and just how insidious and crazy and sick it can get. And it’s a love story.
Bacon: Between us [Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll].
Williamson: It is. There’s a woman caught between them, of course, but that’s going to be the fun of the show, and hopefully, we’ll tell a great emotional drama.
James, what is it about Joe Carroll that makes him so compelling?
Purefoy: He’s a really, really complex bad guy. Complex bad guys, I know it’s a cliché, but the devil really does have the best tunes. I think it’s going to be a really multicolored palette. We’ve only just seen the beginning of it here.
The super-objective of this guy is so far-reaching and so horrific, that’s what makes him different from your average serial killer. For me, it was the idea that this was something that was going to grow and grow and grow. And you would peel layer after layer … It’s almost like seeing the devil himself.
Is Joe Carroll out for revenge, infamy or something else?
Purefoy: Well, you know, Ryan Hardy put him away. He put him away, had a thing with [Joe Carroll’s] wife. [Ryan Hardy] is in the crosshairs of this man who is so malignant. There’s just nothing nice in his soul. He’s very bad.
Kevin Williamson, what secrets is Ryan Hardy keeping?
Williamson: I don’t want to give anything away, but what I like about this whole story is that you do have this serial killer who this vengeance against not just Ryan Hardy but against the world. His first book was a disaster. He’s an artist, and he was just spit on. And now he’s got this man who’s taken him down and taken his wife. For a narcissistic, egotistical maniac, that’s going to be quite devastating.
And so Ryan Hardy also comes to the table with a checkered past. He shows up first as our damaged FBI agent. And then slowly we get to know him and flash back, and we see his decisions and his choices and all the things that shaped him and who he is. I think we’ll get a very interesting take of him as an FBI guy.
Kevin Bacon, does that appeal to you about the Ryan Hardy character?
Bacon: Yeah, for sure. Something that Kevin Williamson said to me early on that has been kind of a lynchpin for me and that was, “This is a guy who throughout his whole life had been surrounded by death.” And when I started to focus on that idea, that became kind of a driving force for him.
And the fact that that happens to you — and I know people who kind of feel that way — you feel that kind of in a spiritual way, you’re maybe responsible for that. And I think that’s kind of what’s torturing him. And hopefully, down the line in the show, we’ll learn more about that.
Will the good guys win in an episode? They take a beating in the first episode?
Williamson: Well, you know, there’ll be a little bit of a scoreboard. It’s 1-0 right now, and you have to tune in to the next week to see if they can get it to 1-1.
The violence in “The Following” is more graphic than what we usually see on network TV shows. How did you get around the censors?
Siega: We shot it as a cable show and we figured we’d deal with it later. I was kind of surprised that we got away with as much as we did. They didn’t really make us change a whole lot.
Would you say that there’s also a lot of suggestion of violence?
Siega: Yeah, you can suggest an ice pick to the eye.
Williamson: Marcos and I really aren’t about gore. You don’t really need to see someone carve out an eye with an ice pick. But the idea that someone can, they’re standing right there with you, and the ice pick is in their hand, that’s scary enough. It’s about suspense. He’s the master at it. He’s been a wonderful collaborator in all this. He’s the master of the genre.
Williamson: It’s hard to find a collaboration. This whole team came together. It feels good when it happens, because it doesn’t always happen.
Are we going to see more flashbacks through out the series?
Siega: We’re going to see a lot of them. Kevin’s writing them into the show. Again, what he said earlier, we’re going to learn a lot about Ryan and Carroll and their relationship through flashbacks. We felt like we didn’t need to affect the look of it. Let the audience follow along and not be so heavy-handed with not giving it a sepia or black-and-white look. And I think it’s really effective.
Williamson: We were worried that people wouldn’t be able to follow the flashbacks, so it just going to a stick up the ear just for a point of reference, because we are going to do that a lot. And just the chronology of the show really does play a part in the story itself. We thought it would be helpful, and that’s one of the reasons we did it. And we also did a locale thing too.
What can you say about the rest of “The Following” cast?
Williamson: I’m very lucky. You pray for the chemistry when you cast these people. And it turns out that Kevin Bacon has chemistry with everybody. I think it’s a beautiful moment when [Claire Matthews] comes down the stairs and they see each other and we flash back. And the look on his face I think is just awesome.
Siega: We have an amazing cast. The biggest problem I have is that every once in a while I sit down with them and say, “You may die.”
For more info: "The Following" website
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