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Kevin Bacon battles his inner demons and a killer's cult in 'The Following'

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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 said when I caught up with him for this interview at Comic-Con International 2013 in San Diego, where “The Following” had a panel discussion featuring stars and producers from the show.

What can you say about the second season of “The Following”?

I still think it’s going to have a lot of thrills and surprises. And things will be shocking, things that you don’t see coming — those things that people who like the show like, and they expect that. It’s definitely going to deliver that.

But I also think you’re going to see characters at different points in the plot. For me, I [as Ryan Hardy] am in a better place. I’m healthier, I’m running, my heart’s in good shape, I’m not drinking, I have the possibility of a relationship. I’m not with the FBI.

Does Ryan’s contentment hold true for all of the second season?

There’s always a darker side to the Ryan Hardy character, and we’ll start to get into what that is as the show goes on.

Since Ryan has a heart problem and a pacemaker, did you ever question that Ryan shouldn’t be doing a lot of the physically strenuous things that we see him do?

Oh yeah, all the time. And we actually addressed it on the show. The Molly character come by and says, “Have you gone to the doctor to take your new things?”

Originally, it was a hip injury. He was shot in the hip, and he was going to have a limp. And I said, “If this thing goes, I’ll be limping for years to come.” And they said, “Initially, it was this heart thing.”

And I said, “We’ve got to do that. I think that’s it.” It’s such a great flaw for the guy to have. He’s a flawed character, and he is in some ways a broken man. And he’s a broken man with a broken heart.

Can you talk about Ryan Hardy being such a complex character?

What’s interesting to me is to unfold the layers of who the person might be. You peel back the onion skin. You know, flashbacks are always really interesting, because in the first season, Ryan was kind of a mess. The first time you see him kind of hung over, and he gets pulled back into the FBI. Then you go to the flashbacks. Even though he’s on the trail of Joe, he’s falling in love with Claire. He’s just … lighter.

What’s always interesting is to just give him things. He was such a man of so few words and so serious. And then four or five episodes in, I get in the farmhouse, my hands are tied, and Ryan gets sarcastic. He has sort of a color that you didn’t know was there. That stuff is really great. I love doing that.

How much of Ryan Hardy comes from your own perspective on the character?

It’s in the script. The playing it, that’s what I do. I say the lines.

“The Following” was an immediate hit and has a fanatical fan base. Did you think all of that would happen?

No, I had no idea. You don’t know, ever. I don’t know how many movies I’ve done. I never have a clue. You just don’t know.

When I saw the pilot, I felt like we’d done a really good job. When I saw the second [episode], I said, “OK, it wasn’t just a good pilot. There’s something good here.” With that being said, I had no idea.

I’ve said before that it’s very different in television from making movies, in that you come week after week into people’s houses, and they feel a really strong connection with you. The fans are very, very proprietary of you and the show and the whole thing. It’s nice. It’s cool.

A lot of people died in the first season of “The Following.” Which death, besides Joe Carroll’s, surprised you the most?

When Agent Parker died in a coffin. It was the hardest one. I don’t know if it surprised me, because I kind of knew it was coming, but it was the hardest thing, because I love Annie Parisse. She’s great to work with. You have this partner that you spend a lot of time with, hour after hour, and then they go away.

It’s one of the things that’s kind of sad about the show. Even the baddies that come in for two or three episodes, often they’re incredible actors — just great, great performances — and you know they’re not long for this world.

For more info: "The Following" website

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