“The Following” Season 1 finale airs tonight on Fox, and we recently chatted with Executive Producer Marcos Siega about the finer details of the show, how it evolved to this point, and what will happen next as Joe’s vulnerabilities start to bleed to the surface.
AMANDA DYAR: “The Following” is a dark and gruesome show that focuses around Joe Carroll and his cult of serial killers. How did you become involved with the show?
MARCOS SIEGA: Kevin Williamson and I had done “Vampire Diaries” together, and after he left that show and went to “Secret Circle” and I went on another show, we just started talking about some things we could work on together. He had this feature script that he was developing into a television series that he wrote a long time ago. And that is pretty much it–he sent me the pilot script and I fell in love with it. I was like, ‘That is the one, man; we should do that.’
AMANDA: The show’s two main characters, Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll, seem to have a deep and emotional connection that takes the show to the next level. Did this play into casting, and what were some of the main reasons for casting Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy and James Purefoy as Joe Carroll? Also, how did you feel when you snagged Kevin Bacon for the show?
MARCOS: Obviously when we were looking at casting, the chemistry was a huge part of who we needed to cast. But Kevin Bacon read this pretty early on and immediately wanted to be involved. To be honest, both Kevin Williamson and I thought that he would be a great Joe Carroll. And when he said he wanted to play Ryan Hardy, it was interesting cause I always thought of the Joe Carroll role as being a little bit darker and more mysterious–in the pilot anyway. You didn’t know a lot about him, and I thought that would be the role to really lure the actor. But Kevin really took to Ryan Hardy, and we had James Purefoy at the top of the list. So once Kevin came on, then it seemed like a no brainer to bring Purefoy in. They did a chemistry read, and the second they read for us in that audition, it clicked, and I knew we had something special. So chemistry played a big part of it, and these are two actors with the amazing quality of being able to have chemistry with everybody. That is what made Kevin Bacon a star, that he can play any role and has played all kinds of roles where he is relatable in them.
AMANDA: What aspects of “The Following” really make the show terrifying?
MARCOS: What is terrifying for me is that you don’t really know who the killer could be, and it could be anyone. I think as we got into the whole cult aspect of it and meeting these people that seemed like they could be your friend or neighbor and then revealing they could be evil killers. The reality of it–it just seems very real to me. That reality is what is scary.
AMANDA: Joe Carroll’s cult is made up of a diverse selection of individuals who each have their own talents that they bring to the group and their own ways of killing. Are any of the characters based off real-life serial killers? Also, what do you think this diversity among the characters adds to the show?
MARCOS: There are definitely killers that we pulled from in terms of historical serial killers. The one that jumps out at me is Charles Cullen. He was a serial killer who was a nurse in the hospital, and he killed a bunch of patients. In his case, it may have been a nursing home. For example, we have a character, Molly, who is a nurse, and we discover she has been killing patients. Pulling from those kinds of stories has certainly given us ideas for characters, and the writers can sort of mine those stories. We then fictionalize it, but again in doing that research, you kind of see that these killers come in all shapes and sizes. They typically tend to be white males, but there are definitely those that have stepped outside of that stereotype. And those are the ones I find more interesting, you know. Who is the housewife that killed their husband and then went on to kill someone else? Or this nurse who did these horrible things? And then you are able to sort of fill in the blanks and create this really bizarre bunch of interesting people. Which again misleads the audience and makes them second guess, ‘Who could it be; could it be anybody?’ And yes, it can be anybody.
AMANDA: The episodes seem to focus a lot on either the FBI or the cult trying to capture/rescue Joe Carroll’s wife and son. How does Ryan Hardy’s emotional connection to Joe’s family play into this?
MARCOS: It is a huge part of it. Certainly in Season 1 it is about getting Joey back. That emotional connection strengthened his relationship with Claire, and I think at this point the audience can see that Hardy fell in love with Claire while he was pursing the Winslow Murders killer, and at the time not knowing it was Joe, it was the first time he went to Claire. In the pilot it is not that obvious, but you can eventually see it was love at first sight and he falls for her, and we reveal that relationship grew. So emotionally for him, it is that he hasn’t been able to love and Claire comes back into his world. He needs to save her son and get her back. That is the driving force in the first season anyway.
AMANDA: Joe Carroll’s master plan that appeared flawless toward the first of the season is starting to slowly unravel. Not only is the FBI closing in on him, he is having to deal with incompetent followers and writer’s block. As Joe starts to reveal his vulnerabilities, how will this impact the cult members who have idolized him as almost a Superman figure?
MARCOS: Well, you know there is that saying that you never want to meet your heroes. I think, in the research I have done anyways with cult leaders, they are incredibly charismatic, and they are able to sit down with you and connect with you in a way that maybe other people can’t. So if you’re vulnerable and susceptible to what that person wants and needs, then you sort of fall into it. That is kind of how Joe–which we have shown through flashbacks–that is how he kind of grooms these people; he feels those voids in them. You are able to do that at the beginning, but then how are you able to maintain that loyalty? I think as he starts to break and the people around him see those cracks, then it is harder and harder to maintain that grip that you have on people if you are a cult leader. You can’t really show them that you are breaking, and I think we are kind of getting to a point in the season where certainly the pressure is on, and maybe he is not thinking clearly or making the best decisions. He is making more selfish decisions. And these people who were susceptible and looked at him for guidance start to question that. So that is just another device in telling the story forward.
AMANDA: What can fans expect from the finale, and where does “The Following” go from there?
MARCOS: I can’t tell you what the finale is, but it wraps up the first season and will launch us into Season 2. Kevin has had a pretty clear idea of where he wanted the series to go, and things evolve and change. But I think we are going to leave the audience wanting to know what happens, and when they come back, they hopefully will be completely satisfied as we launch into the next chapter in this story.
“The Following” Episode 1.15 – “The Final Chapter” (airs 4/29/13; repeats 5/4/13)
In the explosive Season One finale, Ryan (Kevin Bacon) races to stop Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) before his endgame reaches a deadly conclusion. Meanwhile, Joe leads Claire (Natalie Zea) to a special location, and the ultimate showdown between good and evil takes place.
Annie Parisse and Shawn Ashmore co-star as Agents Debra Parker and Mike Weston. Guest stars include John Lafayette as Captain Turner, Chinasa Ogbuagu as Agent Diedre Mitchell, and Charlie Semine as Alex.
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