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Kevin Bacon and 'The Following' stars take on more murder and mayhem

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The psychological thriller “The Following” heads into its intense, spellbinding second season (which Fox premieres on Jan. 27, 2014) by catching up with a healthy and healed Ryan Hardy (played by Kevin Bacon) a year after the tragic events of last season. Following a horrific new murder spree on a New York City subway, the FBI calls on Ryan and Mike Weston (played by Shawn Ashmore) to speak with the lone survivor, Lily Gray (played by Connie Nielsen), in order to help them solve the case. Having worked tirelessly to rehabilitate his life, Ryan is reluctant to re-engage with the FBI. Instead, he proceeds with his own investigation behind closed doors, and finds a valuable ally in his niece Max Hardy (played by Jessica Stroup), a New York City police officer working in the Intel Division.

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Throughout the season, Ryan will cross paths with several complicated individuals, including Mandy Lang (played by Tiffany Boone) and Luke (played by Sam Underwood), which furthers his suspicion that the reign of terror from serial killer Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy) is far from over. That reign of terror included the mayhem wreaked by Joe’s devoted follower Emma Hill (played Valorie Curry), who is also back for the second season. The first season finale of “The Following” featured the highly anticipated face-off between Ryan and Carroll, ending in Carroll’s seemingly ultimate demise in a building that exploded. But is Carroll really dead? Here is what Bacon, Purefoy, Curry, Ashmore, “The Following” executive producers Kevin Williamson and Marcos Siega said during “The Following” panel discussion at Comic-Con International 2013 in San Diego.

Will there be a time jump in Season 2 of “The Following” or will it pick up where it left off in Season 1?

[Kevin Bacon’s cell phone rings and he answers it. James Purefoy’s voice can be heard in the character of Joe Carroll]

Purefoy [as Carroll]: Hello, Ryan

Bacon: Joe? I thought you were dead.

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Purefoy: On the contrary, I am very much alive and kicking. My apologies for not calling sooner.

Bacon: What do you want, Joe? I’m kind of in the middle of something.

Purefoy: You didn’t really think you could do a Comic-Con panel without me?

Bacon: I didn’t know where to send the invite. Why don’t you tell me where you are and I’ll come get you?

Purefoy: You’ll find out soon enough. Purefoy then walks out on stage.] Hello, Comic-Con!

What’s with your beard?

Purefoy: I thought I’d look like John Lennon on the cover of “Abbey Road.”

Is you new look related to “The Following”?

Purefoy: Well, it’s the idea of a phoenix risen from the ashes.

Should we take that literally?

Purefoy: You’ll have to ask Kevin Williamson on that one.

Williamson: Yeah, I guess he might be alive. I’m not going to give that away. I’m not going to give too much more away, but of course Joe Carroll will figure into the next season in some way, shape or form. You have to stay tuned. We don’t want to spoil the fun.

So will there be a time jump in Season 2 of “The Following” or will it pick up where it left off in Season 1?

Williamson: We’ll jump forward a year later. I love second seasons. You figure out the things that worked and the things that didn’t, the things that you did wrong, the things that you can improve on, the things that you can do better. And also, you’ve got your actors, and they embody the characters. It just makes it a richer, more meaningful and emotional experience. I just feel like you’re ready to rock and roll by the time the second season rolls around.

Siega: Every time we’d hear the audience say, “Oh, that’s ridiculous,” we’re very aware of what we cold do better. We were sort of tasting it in the first season. And now, we’ve had time to sit with the writers and figure out a more complex story and how to tell it. I’m really excited. I can tell you it’s better than the first [season].

The first season of “The Following” was mainly about Ryan Hardy chasing Joe Carroll. What’s going to be the main storyline of the show’s second season?

Williamson: Once again, not giving too much away, we come upon Ryan Hardy a year later. Last year, Ryan was brought in a consultant, right smack in the middle of the FBI. This year, we’re taking him away from the FBI. Certainly, we have Agent Weston, but it won’t be so FBI-centric. It’ll be a more character-driven thriller, as opposed to an FBI chase.

Kevin, “The Following” is your first starring role in a TV series. How did it live up to and deliver your expectations?

Bacon: Everything and more. I love the opportunity to go to work every day with these fantastically talented people sitting up here. I really like the pace, and I find it really fun and exhilarating to spend 16 hours a day in Ryan’s shoes, page after page. It’s been really fun.

And, of course, the reactions from people who reach out on the screen or wherever, it makes me feel great. I’ve said before that there’s a different thing about being an actor on television. You come in people’s homes, and you stay there, week after week. And there’s a real connection that people feel that’s deeper, it seems, than to actors in movies.

Kevin, you’ve said that no actor on “The Following” has job security. Is it true that you suggested that they kill off Ryan Hardy?

Bacon: Well, I was having a couple of bad days.

Williamson: We had to kill off Agent Riley [played by Billy Brown] in the third episode.

Siega: He had to go back to “Dexter” so he could be killed.

Williamson: I know. We couldn’t use him anymore, so he went back to “Dexter,” and they killed him. Poor Billy.

Ashmore: The thing I love about Wes’ arc this season is that in the pilot, he was this shiny penny, kind of excited to be a part of it. And as the season progressed, he sort of got a little more worn down. And what I thought at the end of the [first] season which I think is interesting and what will continue in the second season is I thought it was kind of a mirror between Weston and Hardy, in that sense.

Hardy got worn down during the first Hardy chase, and I think that’s sort of affecting Weston in the same way. So certainly, Agent Parker’s death will affect him. And also, let’s be honest, Hardy and Weston basically killed and kidnapped a detainee in handcuffs. So there certainly will be repercussions to that moving forward to that.

Will there be repercussions for Ryan too?

Bacon: Well, yeah. We’re going to jump ahead in time, as Kevin [Williamson] mentioned, and we have the opportunity to look at these characters during that year between that last scene we teased [here at Comic-Con] and a year later. I think in Kevin’s vision for the show, everyone that we meet next year is in a really, really different place in their lives. And Ryan, in a way, seems lighter and more at peace than we’ve ever seen him in the show. And he’s finally been able to find something in his life that steps him away all of the killing and violence. And that’s going to be fun for me to play.

And what’s going on with Emma Hill?

Curry: Well, Emma really lost everything at the end of Season 1. The cult has been disbanded. Joe Carroll is seemingly dead, but she lives in hope, as always, that he’ll turn up. And jumping ahead, she will have to learn to live without that protection and that infrastructure of the cult and the motivation of Joe Carroll. And she will have grown and changed a lot. Maybe she will have met some new friends.

That doesn’t sound good.

Curry: [She laughs.] Nothing Emma says ever sounds good. I’m excited to see what becomes of her when she’s left to her own devices.

How has the relationship between Hardy and Weston changed?

Williamson: The writers in the room immediately fell in love with Weston and Ryan. We felt that they had a really good relationship, and I sort of feel like the whole first season was just the prologue. And now, we can explore this relationship in a more meaningful way. I’m very interested to see how Mike and Ryan have progressed now that a year has passed. They had that shared, horrific first season and what that’s done to them and where they’re at.

Are they going to be able to work together? Are they friends? How are they going to be around each other? Are they going to be hostile? In that relationship, they do have that father/son or mentor/student relationship. There’s a lot more going on there, which is very rich territory to mine.

Bacon: He’s way too old to be my son, thank you very much. Maybe an uncle. If only if that were true.

Williamson: There’s a lot going on there. You don’t think of Ryan as having a family, but does he? You’ll learn all of that in the next season. We’re going to open up a world that’s a character thriller, more relationship-oriented.

Will Ryan’s dark side continue to play out?

Bacon: Yeah, as I said, when we see him at a happier, lighter place in his life, but he’s the guy who’s never too far away from some very dark stuff that is in his soul. And he lives with a lot of guilt and a lot of pain. And we’ll see where that starts to rear its head. It will certainly come out in some ways, sooner or later.

What has Joe Carroll been up to in the past year?

Purefoy: Growing a beard. I suspect he’s been doing a little bit of soul-searching.

Does he have a soul?

Purefoy: That’s what I mean. He’s searching for a soul. I think he’s going to have a little bit of time on his own.

Williamson: Yeah, he’s got a little reinvention. Things didn’t go so well for Joe. He was a little selfish. He’s got this whole following doing everything for him, and he just wants to get his family back together and write a book. He just may have to figure out a new way and sort of re-imagine who he is as.

Do we have to worry again about Joe’s son Joey, who got kidnapped by Joe and his followers in the first season?

Williamson: No.

Ashmore: I worry about Joey growing up to be a serial killer. That’s my worry.

Williamson: Season 4.

Are we going to see more of Joe Carroll’s back story through flashbacks?

Williamson: Yes, we are. There’s so much about these two men [Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy] that we haven’t really explored. One of the things we argued about what Joe Carroll’s flashback. How did this man become this way? What happened in his past? Were the seeds of evil planted? And the nature versus nurture argument could be explored. We’ll flash back and see some of his family life when he was a small child. We’ll see him as a young adult. We’ll explore all those areas.

Purefoy: It’s very exciting to be able to come back and do a second season and explore these characters and give them more depth and more texture and more substance, so you all have a much better time. That’s all we’re doing it for: you guys.

The cops always seemed to be way behind in chasing after Joe Carroll in Season 1. Has there been any thought to giving the cops a leg up in Season 2?

Williamson: That’s the thing. They have to be the underdogs in the story. We just got a little too underdoggie about it. Believe me, we recognize that perhaps they were a little dumb. No, I’m just kidding. It certainly got to the point where they couldn’t win. They couldn’t catch the bad guys, and they certainly couldn’t catch the person they want to keep alive.

We certainly learned a lot from that season. So we wrote it so it’s not such a chase. It’s not such an FBI-focused show. It’s a little more of Ryan Hardy, Joe Carroll, and all these new characters with Emma and Agent Weston. It’s a brand-new story, and we sort of reset it. Moving forward one year later gives us an opportunity to explore a new story with a whole bunch of new characters moving in and out of these characters.

What else did you learn from Season 1 that will make you do Season 2 differently?

Williamson: A lot. How much time have you got? We learned a lot. You just keep moving and learning and evolving. We want to make the best show possible, and that’s what we’re trying to do: make it better. I feel like we’ve got some great actors and a lot of great people.

What were your favorite moments in Season 1 of “The Following”?

Ashmore: That’s what broke Weston. It was sort of what started him down this darker road that I really loved to play. So that was my favorite stuff.

Williamson: I have two. When Joe comes home to the cult for the very first time and he’s reunited with his son Joey. I thought that was a powerful scene.

And when Joe Carroll killed Charlie. That’s when I thought the show was working on all cylinders. The directing, the composer created the score, the editing, the acting, the lighting — everything came together in that scene. I was very proud of the show at that point.

Bacon: I don’t know what episode it was. I’m doing a lot of chasing and running. I’m always coming around corners. And all of a sudden, I got tied up at the farm house. And we had three or four scenes where I couldn’t leave the chair.

And there was something kind of really fun about that and freeing, because it was a new side that Kevin found to that character, which was a little more of a wiseass and a little more intellectual game playing with the bad guys. That was fun.

Siega: For me, it was Ryan unable to say “Annie” and that whole sequence. When we were shooting, I didn’t have to direct a lot because they actually got emotional. I got emotional behind the camera when it was happening. Annie was pretty amazing through all of that. And that is the moment for me.

Curry: I think it was two scenes. The first was the first scene that I shot when we started shooting the scenes with the flashbacks to New York with the flashbacks to the bookstore where Emma meets Joe Carroll, which laid the groundwork for everything that that character is about. She gets to reflect on that.

And the other side is when we see that she’s reunited with him at the mansion. No words were spoken, but it was the most gratifying that that character got to experience in the entire season. Yeah, it was very emotional.

Purefoy: I enjoyed every single scene that I did because I was working with really wonderful actors and directors. Every single one of them stepped up to the plate. They were all marvelous. I suppose it’s the mental chess game between Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy was so complicated and so complex and so strange.

For more info: "The Following" website

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