Kevin Bacon appears in his first primetime television series leading role as ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy in the new Fox thriller “The Following,” premiering at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21.
In “The Following” Hardy is called out of retirement to track down serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) after his escape from prison.
Hardy works with an FBI team that includes Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), an agent who looks up to Hardy due to his expertise with Carroll. Hardy also consults with Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea), Carroll’s ex-wife and the mother of the criminal’s young son Joey (Kyle Catlett).
It doesn’t take long for Hardy to find out Carroll has a cult of followers, and the twists and turns in the case for him, and for viewers, have just begun.
Bacon, 54, who’s married to actress Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”), fielded questions about “The Following” and his role during a recent media conference call:
Q: Obviously, this show can get very dark. Is that easy to get out of your system at the end of the day, or does it stick with you?
A: I find that over the years, as you know, I’ve dealt with a lot of dark material in the movies as well. I think you have to find ways to protect yourself from that. When I’m on the set, I’m very, very focused. We have to stay focused on our job at hand. And when you’re dealing with things that are of a thrilling nature, tense, ticking clock kind of vibe, you have to keep yourself in that head space. But, I work real hard to try to turn it off on the weekends if I can. And connecting with things like my family, my kids, my dog, take a walk in the woods, you know, those kinds of things, you have a good meal – they’re able to pull me out of that head space.
Q: Like you mentioned, you have done a lot of films. Why did you decide it was time for television?
A: I had been looking for a television series for a long time and trying to get my head around it. My initial call, if you will, to my representatives was probably three or four years ago. But it just took some time to really find the right one.
I’d seen Kyra’s experience second hand and was also finding myself to be more and more of a television consumer as the quality of the shows and the writing just seemed to be getting better and better and better. I just found myself really knocked out by so many shows … and then this one had the qualities that I was drawn to.
Q: Because of the investigation, Hardy and Carroll really seem to know each other in a very deep way, and while Ryan’s not necessarily a disciple of Carroll’s, is he sort of a follower himself?
A: You know, it’s interesting that you say that. In one of the episodes, and, again I think this was just a really cool idea from Kevin Williamson (“The Following” creator/executive producer), we go back and we meet Ryan when he first meets Joe and before he knows that Joe is a suspect. He’s just interviewing him by happenstance on this college campus. And what you see is that he gets strangely seduced by Joe, not in a sexual way, but just in a friendship kind of way.
Joe sees into Ryan and is able to kind of play him like a violin and there’s a lot of qualities of Joe that Ryan really admires. I’m not, when I see me, I mean my character, is not an extremely well-read and well-educated man. He’s not a people person. He’s not a charmer. He’s not a dynamic speaker. And he’s maybe not even somebody that you’d necessarily want to go and have a beer with. And Joe Carroll is all those things. And I think that I look up to him in a strange kind of way. It’s one of the dynamics of the show that I think is interesting and one that we continue to play with.
Q: At a press tour, much was made from what I gather about the violence in the show, and yet I’m not really sure how you could drive home the horrific nature of these things without it. The other thing seems to be that I was looking at the Top 20 shows on the Nielsen list last week, and 10 of them were crime dramas. Do you see anything of a contradictory nature in people saying “Oh, there’s too much violence,” but “we love violent shows”?
A: I think that the show is a thriller about a serial killer. That’s what it is, and it’s not a comedy. As a consumer of films or television, if you’re telling me that something is a comedy, I’m gonna be really disappointed if I go and I don’t laugh. If someone has pitched something to me as incredibly moving, I want real tears coming down my cheeks. And if something is supposed to be a thriller, I want to be on the edge of my seat. I want to be scared. I want to have chills. I want to be sort of like grinding my teeth, or turning my eyes away, or whatever. When we make films and television, we, I think, are doing it to try to tap into something emotional for people, and this show is not an exception. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Q: On a little bit of a lighter note, does James freak you out sometimes when you’re doing scenes with him?
A: (Laughs) No, he doesn’t freak me out. I love working with James. Our kind of working situation is one of those things that it came to us so quickly in a strange kind of way. It wasn’t something that needed to be nurtured and sort of bulit up over time. We walked on the set, did our first rehearsal and just had a great connection. I love the scenes that we get a chance to play and he is incredibly well prepared.
Q: Why should viewers tune in to “The Following”?
A: It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. It will shock you and surprise you. Hopefully, you will get drawn into not only what’s going on plotwise, but also what’s going on emotionally with these characters that you’ll want to come back the next week to see where things go.
– Melissa Hayer
Follow me on Twitter: @MelissaHayer