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Kevin Bacon talks about his redemption and reinvention 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 New York Comic-Con 2013 in New York City, where “The Following” had a panel discussion featuring stars and producers from the show.

Even though Ryan Hardy is a law man, he is a morally ambiguous character. Can you talk about that?

Yeah, and I think it continues this year. One of the things that’s always good is tension and the release tension, which s what good filmmaking and television-making — certainly, of this kind — is about. You build up something that’s really tense; you release it. You build it; you release it.

There are characters that do question my morality. And having those characters that I respect and like call into my methods and stuff is great. It makes for a lot of tension within the character. I love balancing that. That’s what’s interesting to me about the character.

Do you ever have concerns or conversations with “The Following” writers and producers about making Ryan Hardy a character that’s too dark?

I don’t think they’ll ever hear me saying, “I don’t want to make him too dark.” I’m not guy. They probably feel that way [concerned about Ryan being too dark]. If not in the writer’s room, then the network or the studio maybe might say, “Listen, we have to make him the hero.” And he is the hero.

Sometimes what I do argue for is that I do think it’s important for him to have, every once in a while, a win, because I get beat up a lot. The basic premise is that I’m not getting this guy. And so, I want the satisfaction of seeing him win every once in a while. But I don’t personally ever shy away from the darker side of the guy. He’s a dark guy.

In your early movie career, you did a lot of comedies. Now, it seems that you’re playing more dark characters on screen. Is that what you prefer doing?

I was doing a lot of dark characters on stage. It’s not that I prefer one over the other. I like to play different kinds of men. That’s always been my dream as an actor: to walk in different people’s shoes. If you look at the guy [I played] in “X-Men: First Class,” he’s a very, very different bad guy than the guy in “Sleepers.” Those are two very different men and worlds.

I don’t look at a character and say, “It’s bad. I don’t want to do it. He’s a good guy. I don’t want to do it.” That’s not my barometer. My barometer is, “Is there an interesting character there? And is it different from not necessarily anything I’ve done but the last thing that I did?”

How would you describe the interactions between Joe Carroll and Ryan Hardy in Season 2 of “The Following”?

I always have to be careful of what I say so that we don’t tip things off too much. That’s just the nature of the show. We jump ahead in time a year, and we’d like to believe that maybe Ryan has moved past his Joe Carroll obsession — because the obsession obviously works both ways — and has moved on with his life.

And you look and say, “What’s he doing these days? He’s teaching in a tweed jacket.” And you go, “That’s Joe. That’s who Joe was when we first met him.” And so you come to find out that he has not let his obsession Joe go altogether. It’s still there beneath the surface.

How has Ryan changed in Season 2 of “The Following”?

He’s more focused. If you think about it, we started last year, [Ryan] was hung over, in bed, gets a call from the FBI and they say, “You’ve got to come back.” I’m like a zombie last year. You pull a guy out of the lowest of the low.

And this year, I [as Ryan] have had time to prepare, to try get my head together. I’ve been a lot of meetings, I stopped drinking, my heart is better. I am, at least externally, at a much better place than I was at the beginning of last year.

For more info: "The Following" website

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