In the suspenseful thriller “The Following” (which is televised in the U.S. on Fox), Kevin Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who is brought in as a consultant to investigate a serial killer named Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy), who has a cult of followers willing to do whatever he commands.
At New York Comic-Con on Oct. 14, 2012, the first episode (or pilot) of “The Following” was shown as a sneak preview, months before the show premiered on Fox in January 2013. After the sneak preview, I sat down with Bacon at New York Comic-Con for a roundtable interview with other journalists to talk about “The Following” and why it is different from other crime dramas on TV.
Is there anything about serial killers or cults that freaked you out that may or may not have inspired anything in “The Following”?
In real life? I do think that when you read things about the amount information that people are gathering and the way that people are finding connections through the Internet and through social media, there’s a lot of good stuff about that. I’m not one of those people who thinks it’s all bad, but there’s also some things that are definitely creepy about it.
There was something in the New York Times about profiling voters by putting [things] in computers and figuring out what kind of searches the voters are doing, and therefore, are they less likely or more likely to vote Democrat or Republican, and therefore targeting them. That kind of stuff is cultish, in a way. There’s something kind of cultish about it.
What scares you in real life?
No, I love rats.
So why mice?
They’re small and creepy.
What are the levels of emotional baggage does Ryan Hardy have?
When you say “levels,” an adjustment I had to make coming from movies was that I looked at [“The Following”] pilot, and I went, “Wow? Is that all I did? Is that my whole character?” Of course, it’s not my whole character. I’m used to looking at it as a movie: That’s my whole performance. That’s the beginning, middle and the end of it.
That’s only the beginning. There are a lot of layers that are going to unfold. One of the things we have in the show that’s really useful is flashback. It’s handled in a really cool way. Some episodes have more flashbacks than others. The flashbacks oftentimes are used not just to reveal pieces of the story but, in terms of my character, reveal pieces of who he is.
And we talk a lot about the time in between when Joe Carroll goes into jail and when we meet Ryan Hardy. He’s kind of spinning his wheels. And as horrible as it is that the guy gets out of jail, as horrible as it is that he’s killing people and building this whole cult thing, a lot of this story is about me [as Ryan Hardy] coming back to life. He’s kind of dead, kind of a zombie, and that excitement brings him back to life. The truth is that’s a very real thing in law enforcement. I talked to FBI agents who felt the same way: that the highlight of their professional life was when they were tracking someone and getting close to putting somebody in jail.
Was there any one moment in the pilot that jumped out as the moment you knew you wanted to do “The Following”?
There are the “holy sh*t” moments. That’s what I call them. I love that about it. I’d say the ice pick lady. That really made my jaw drop. And it does watching it. And I think that I get scripts maybe two days before it starts shooting. And every time I get it, I’m like, “Oh! Are you kidding me? I didn’t see that coming!”
I don’t think that Kevin [Williamson, creator/executive producer of “The Following”] wants to force that issue and create something that is not organic, but even that would be too much doing something by rote. We’re really trying to break that mold of a procedural, like, every time you watch the show, this is going to happen.
But I think, in a way, [the surprise element] is a big part of our show. And I do think there’s a lot of that stuff. We don’t just drop that idea in the pilot. It’s very much part of the show.
The works of Edgar Allan Poe are a big part of “The Following” since Joe Carroll and his followers are influenced by Poe. How much of Poe’s work have you read?
I read quite a bit. Poe is great. A lot of the stuff that is quote and used are short stories. And truth be told, I’m not a big reader. Reading makes me a little crazy. I’m slightly dyslexic.
I’ve got them all on my iPad. It’s great because the other day I made reference to “The Cask of Amontillado.” I picked up the script. I hadn’t read that one, and I made reference to it, and I was like, “Bam! There it is. Now I know what I’m talking about.”
How has being on “The Following” affected what you watch on TV? For example, do you watch more TV shows about crime?
I don’t think I watch anything differently. I don’t watch shows on forensics. I do watch television a lot more than I used to, but that really started with [my wife] Kyra [Sedwick] being on “The Closer.”
I watched the NBA and “60 Minutes.” And then I thought, “Wait a second. There’s this whole world out there that I’m really missing.” And it was that point that I decided that I wanted to get involved in television. That was quite a few years ago. It took me a long time for me to find something that I wanted to do.
But as a result, like any other medium if you’re working in it, I think you need to consume it so that you compare and see what else there is, and see what works and what doesn’t work. And certainly, it was for me, what kind of shows I want to be on.
I actually had an epiphany. I was developing a bunch of shows and looking at shows and reading things and thinking about what I wanted. And I thought, “What are the shows that I really like? The shows that are about life and death.”
And I said to myself, “If I’m going to be in a show, it’s got to be about life and death. That’s what I dig. That’s what keeps me alive. That’s what feeds me.” So that’s why this [show] is kind of a no-brainer.
Was the dynamic between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” an influence on the dynamic between Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy?
Well, yeah. I think the relationship between the two of us is incredibly important to the show. There’s a lot of elements to Joe’s character that [Ryan Hardy] aspires to and admires.
The number-one thing, which is strange to admit, is that Joe Carroll is a people person. Ryan Hardy is not. And I think when [Ryan] sees [Joe] and sees the way he affects classrooms and women, the charm that he has — and we explore this down the road in other episodes — you kind of go, “Wow, this is a guy I’d like to have a beer with. This is a guy I’d like to be a little bit more like.”
How is it as an actor to work on a TV series that keeps you on edge all of the time?
We work at a feverish pace. We shoot an episode, which is 43 minutes, in eight days. The average movie [is filmed] in eight weeks, so you’re going 10 times as fast or something like that. I don’t know what the math would be.
And we just have to stay on the edge of our seat, stay on the edge of everything. I like that. It’s cool. It’s good. I think it feeds us. And the way we shoot the show gives it a lot of energy. Everything’s hand-held.
For more info: "The Following" website
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