Kevin Bacon heads to the small screen in his first network television series, The Following. When a serial killer with a cult following escapes prison, former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, played by Bacon, is forced to come out of retirement to catch him. The series also stars James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore, Natalie Zea, and Kyle Catlett. During a conference call, Bacon shared what it was about the show that caught his eye. The Following premieres tonight at 9pm on FOX.
“I had been looking for a television series for a long time,” said Kevin Bacon. He initially reached out to representatives about three or four years ago, but it took time to find the right show. “When I was trying to choose a series, I wanted to be the hero. I wanted the character to be complex and flawed because that’s the kind of heroes that I like to play, that’s the kind of heroes that I like to see. That’s the stuff that performance is made of.” Along with realistic characters, he wanted a project with high stakes that also dealt with the ideas of life and death.
Even with impressive credits under his belt, signing on for a network show was a little out of Bacon’s comfort zone. “One of the most frightening things about it for me was the fact that I was going to be staying in one place. If it ends up that we go on for a few years, that’s not something that I’m use to doing.” He said that he and his family are not used to a steady gig, joking that they are like “gypsies” and always have their suitcases packed.
“When I was trying to choose a series, I wanted to be the hero. I wanted the character to be complex and flawed because that’s the kind of heroes that I like to play…”
So just what was it about The Following that made it the right project for him? “It’s a tense, fast-pasted, exciting thriller that has a lot of moments that are a real surprise — and that’s really what hit me when I was reading the script,” he said, revealing that he actually wasn’t looking for something on network television at the time. “I found it to be such a page-turner and I found it to have so many moments where I just went, ‘Oh my god, I really did not see that coming.’” Bacon was also intrigued by the cult concept that the show’s creator and writer Kevin Williamson came up with and the potential to develop such complex characters. “To me, the most important thing, is that it’s an exploration of these characters and their relationships. We’re able to go back in flashback and get some insight into why they have become who they have become. The fact that you meet this guy Ryan Hardy and know that something’s bothering him deeply, but not learn all the details of that in the first episode is an exciting thing for an actor to be able to go and peel the layers back.”
And there sure are a lot of layers. Bacon described Hardy as a guilty man with a lot of baggage. Much of that guilt has to do with things that happened well before serial killer Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy, came into his life. According to Bacon, Williamson gave him one of the most important pieces of information that he needed to start putting his character together: “This is a guy who has been surrounded by death.”
Bacon went more in-depth about his character, sharing the differences between Hardy and Carroll. “Joe has followers and believes that he can create more and more people that come around to his way of thinking and likes to be surrounded by people,” he said. “His admirers and the people that are close to him grow and grow and grow, and yet, except for maybe a few, he doesn’t seem to really deeply care about those people. They’re kind of expendable in a way. It’s one of the sociopathic aspects of his personality.” While Carroll is surrounded by people that he doesn’t actually care about, Hardy has no one in his life. “[Ryan’s] very resistant of doing anything other than just being a man alone on an island. And yet, as the show evolves I think [he gets] more of an ability to let people in, to take help [and] advice.” One of the biggest differences between the characters is that when Hardy does finally let people into his life, he cares about them “extremely deeply.”
“[Ryan’s] very resistant of doing anything other than just being a man alone on an island.”
Bacon also gave us a sneak peek into what it was like when Hardy first met Carroll and the impression he left on him. “In one of the episodes, 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 play him like a violin. There’s a lot of qualities of Joe that Ryan really admires,” he said. “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. He’s maybe not even somebody that you necessarily want to go and have a beer with. [But] Joe Carroll is all those things. And I think [Ryan looks] up to him in a strange way. It’s one of the dynamics of the show that I think is interesting and one that we continue to play with.”
While Carroll and Hardy have a complicated relationship, Bacon loves working with Purefoy. “It wasn’t something that needed to be nurtured and built up over time,” he said. “We walked on the set, did out first rehearsal, and just had a great connection. I love the scenes that we get a chance to play.”
Not sold yet? Here’s Bacon’s final pitch: “[The Following] keep you on the edge of your seat. It will shock you and surprise you and hopefully you will get drawn into not only what’s going on plot-wise, but also what’s going on emotionally with these characters. You’ll want to come back the next week to see where things go.”