One of our Comic-Con 2012 highlights was the opportunity to chat with the cast and creators of Fox’s upcoming series “The Following”. Even though only the pilot has been filmed so far, they all provided us with some thoughtful insights into the show.
First we spoke with creator/executive producer Kevin Williamson, who has been working on the project in one form or another for over 16 years. While he wants “The Following” to be gripping and leave audiences breathless, it has a love story at the root of it.
Joe Carroll, the serial killer at the center of the show, has a bit of an obsession with Edgar Allan Poe – Poe’s romanticism holds great appeal for him – and every week is like a different chapter in the book Carroll is writing. Bacon’s character (retired FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who is called back in after Carroll escapes from prison) is trying to get ahead of him and rewrite the story. Carroll is building a web of serial killers to both protect him and follow in his footsteps (i.e., the “following” of the title).
While the original plan was for around 10 or 12 episodes, the network requested a few more so we can look forward to 15.
Next up was director/executive producer Marcos Siega, who also worked with Williamson on “The Vampire Diaries”. He explained a key component of the show is that you don’t know who is and isn’t involved in the “following” that surrounds Carroll.
He shot the pilot handheld, like a movie, so it would be cinematic but still very visceral. He’s directing five of the episodes and overseeing the rest; he’s doing the first ep after the pilot, a few more spaced out over the season, and the finale. Some other directors lined up thus far are Jon Cassar (“24”, “Terra Nova”), Phil Abraham (“Mad Men”, “The Walking Dead”), Liz Friedlander (“The Secret Circle”, “The Vampire Diaries”), and Nick Gomez (“The Shield”, “Dexter”, “Damages”). Filming will be taking place in New York.
We asked Siega about the appeal of “The Following” to the horror crowd, and he promised they are pushing the envelope for network TV with good gore, etc., for genre fans. While Fox did request a few edits of the pilot (specifically involving some rather brutal animal deaths), he hopes to possibly include what was cut in the Blu-ray/DVD release.
We got a surprise guest in Shawn Ashmore (he wasn’t listed on the schedule we received), who plays Junior Field Agent Mike Weston. Weston wrote a thesis on Carroll’s original case, and now things are getting real for him. He knows Poe, Carroll, and Hardy better than anyone; and it’s amazing for him to be able to work with his hero, Hardy.
As for the research he did for the role, he met with real FBI agents (he shared a pretty funny story about how they dress differently on each floor at Quantico depending on which department they’re affiliated with), watched video interviews on YouTube with real serial killers, and studied their court cases. He described Weston as an intellectual who is more likely to stay back doing research instead of being one of the first agents through the door.
Then we spoke with Carroll himself – James Purefoy. He described the character as definitely not your “average” serial killer. Charming, charismatic, and subtle, he’s incredibly smart and manipulative. He’s suffered from a feeling of disempowerment since he was young and wants to bring power and control back to his life. He’s violent and kills his victims by cutting their eyes out, following the “beauty of death” motif of Poe and the idea that the eyes are the windows to the soul.
He also researched real life serial killers on the Internet, none of whom he found to be sympathetic. If viewers find Carroll to be a sympathetic character, well, that says more them than him! He wondered what it is about Americans that attracts us so to violence and bad guys.
Finally, we wrapped things up with Kevin Bacon, who was attracted to the project because the script was such a page-turner that scared the hell out of him. He’d been wanting to play someone who was heroic but still a bit of a mess with complexity. He echoed Siega’s sentiment about the project pushing the envelope and being gritty. He feels Hardy is damaged and has a long way to go to get his personal life back on track. He’s lost his way and is dead inside, but he always was most alive when tracking Carroll so being pulled back into the world of crime fighting gives him back his focus.
THE FBI estimates there are currently over 300 active serial killers in the United States. What would happen if these killers had a way of communicating and connecting with each other? What if they were able to work together and form alliances across the country? What if one brilliant psychotic serial killer was able to bring them all together and activate a following? Welcome to THE FOLLOWING, the terrifying new thriller from creator/executive producer Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Dawson’s Creek,” the Scream franchise) and director Marcos Siega (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Dexter”).
When notorious serial killer JOE CARROLL (James Purefoy, “Rome”) escapes from death row and embarks on a new killing spree, the FBI calls former agent RYAN HARDY (Emmy-nominated actor Kevin Bacon, X-Men: First Class) to consult on the case. Having since withdrawn from the public eye, Hardy was responsible for Carroll’s capture nine years ago, after Carroll murdered 14 female students on the Virginia college campus where he taught literature. Hardy is a walking textbook of all-things Carroll. He knows him better than anyone; he is perhaps Carroll’s only psychological and intellectual match. But the Ryan Hardy who broke the Carroll case years ago isn’t the same man today. Wounded both physically and mentally by his previous pursuit of this serial killer, it’s been a long time since Hardy has been in the field. This investigation is his redemption, his call to action. In contrast to nine years ago, Hardy isn’t calling the shots on this case. He works closely with an FBI team, which includes all-business and tough-as-nails JENNIFER MASON (Jeananne Goossen, The Vow, “Alcatraz”) and young, razor-sharp MIKE WESTON (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men).
The team considers Hardy to be more of a liability than an asset. But Hardy proves his worth when he uncovers that Carroll was covertly communicating with a network of killers in the outside world. It quickly becomes obvious that he has more planned than just a prison escape, and there’s no telling how many additional killers are out there. The FBI’s investigation leads Hardy to CLAIRE MATTHEWS (Natalie Zea, “Justified”), Carroll’s ex-wife and mother of the criminal’s 10-year-old son, JOEY (newcomer Kyle Catlett). Close during Hardy’s initial investigation, Hardy turns to Claire for insight into Carroll’s next move. The tension rises when Carroll’s accomplices kidnap his intended last victim from nine years ago. Hardy becomes ever more determined to end Carroll’s game when he realizes that this psychopath intends to finish what he started. The thriller will follow Hardy and the FBI as they are challenged with the ever-growing web of murder around them, masterminded by the devious Carroll, who dreams of writing a novel with Hardy as his protagonist. The reinvigorated Hardy will get a second chance to capture Carroll, as he’s faced with not one but a cult of serial killers.
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