From show creator/executive producer Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries), the dark, fast-paced thriller The Following is an epic story of good versus evil, as told through the eyes of ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), who is forced to return to the case that destroyed his career when it becomes evident that notorious serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) is at the center of a cult of like-minded killers who have created an insidious web of blood and carnage. With Hardy’s help, a team of agents, including Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and cult specialist Debra Parker (Annie Parisse), attempt to unravel the deadly plot of murder before the body count rises.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, Mexican actor Adan Canto (who plays Paul Torres, 1/3 of a dark and twisted love triangle) talked about how he turned a talent holding deal at Fox into a series regular role on The Following, how he approached figuring such a complex character out, how he views the love triangle, how the dark subject matter affects the mood on set, that his theater work in Mexico helped prepare him for the fast-paced schedule of U.S. television, and what initially drew him to acting. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ADAN CANTO: I’m kind of curious, as well. I was doing an indie film in Mexico, and my manager got in touch with me from the States and we had a couple meetings via Skype. I sent some readings over to Fox, and then they wanted to meet me. So, we scheduled a meeting and I flew into L.A. The next day, I had the meeting with them, and then the day after that, they offered me the holding deal. I was like, “Wow! Okay, amazing! That’s great!” I didn’t even know what to think. It was certainly flattering. So, I took it and rode the wave. It was a little bit more responsibility. Whenever I’d read for something, they would have that expectation and be like, “This is Fox’s guy,” but it was good. It was a great experience. This was the first script I read for that pilot season. It’s all been just amazing and humbling.
Did you get to read an actual pilot script?
CANTO: They gave us the pilot script, but then they also gave us a lot of dummy scenes. We thought it was Episode 2, but no. They wanted to see what we did with those scenes. I think they were testing our instincts to see how we would deal with things. When we’re shooting, we get the script a few days before we start rolling, and we mainly have to rely on instinct.
How did you approach figuring this character out?
CANTO: You can see that there’s something going on there. The way I approached him is as a fragile, loving guy who’s just looking for that place in the world where he can feel at peace. The kinds of things he does to find his peace are contradictory. He’s a very complex character. There’s a lot of research you can do, but I mainly stuck with psychology and his upbringing and the kinds of things he lacked or that he wanted. He’s just a very passionate guy. Whatever he loves, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep loving it and to respect its life.
It’s difficult enough to try to get a job in Hollywood, so what was it like to not only get a TV show, but then have it be a show that was one of the most anticipated of this season?
CANTO: I would get those thoughts, every now and then, but I learned the hard way. If I were to dwell on that, then I’d fall further down the road. I’d be disillusioned, to some extent, with other experiences. So, I just decided to stick to the work. I hate to make mistakes and I wanted to be focused, especially with the fast pace television has. There is so much content and so much complexity with our characters that we need to focus on the work. At least, in my case, that’s what I’ve been doing. This is all new to me. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’m very grateful to Fox for taking this leap of faith. In Mexico, I did theater and indie films, and they took a leap of faith with me. It’s been quite something, fortunately.
CANTO: These characters are just so passionate. That’s why they end up doing what they do. They’re not evil, for the sake of being evil. There’s a reason to all of that. That’s what gives it a lot of weight. When you read about cults and followings, it’s devotion. It’s having a void and finding something to fill it and getting peace. If you find something that satiates your anxiety and uneasiness about life, you take it. At least, that’s how I approached my character.
Are you the type of actor who typically likes to do backstory for the character you’re playing, or do you have to just live in the moment, on this show?
CANTO: Yeah, you really can’t think ahead, but you do look behind. When you get a different scene or moment with your character that you did not expect, you look in the past and you find out why. You work with your past. At least that’s what I do. I want to discover what he lacked, as a child, and he desperately wants to find it, in order to be at peace with himself. In this case, he feels like he’s found it. But then, when you have this dependency, whenever that fix is lost, hell breaks loose, so be careful because something is going to happen. And that happens, all throughout the show, with everybody. It’s like a power struggle amongst the followers. We want to be closer to the source, which is Joe Carroll.
CANTO: Yeah. Looking at it from the outside, it’s definitely disturbing to see somebody looking like a sweetheart who’s a totally reliable person, and then, all of a sudden, just snapping that way. Why? Afterwards, he was even caressing her. There’s a meaning to all of it. He just wants to feel loved. He just wants a place in the world, but he bangs people up for it.
How do you see the relationship between Paul, Jacob (Nico Tortorella) and Emma (Valorie Curry)?
CANTO: It gets complicated. They have a backstory. Jacob and Emma have been together, and my character is set aside. He spent three years living with Jacob, and he had a place, a routine and a life. They both fell into this story. And all of a sudden, to break out of that sense of peace and to come into a new structure, and losing his place and having to claim his rights again, and being suppressed by this external agent coming in, he gets disturbed. He finds himself alone. They’re having their own little family moments, and he doesn’t know who to rely on anymore, so he has to go out and do some harm and find a place where he can feel at peace again. And he hates kids. He probably hates kids because he hates his childhood and just doesn’t want to remember that. He hates that vulnerability.
CANTO: I think that’s the road he was taking until he came across the following. He had always been operating alone. I shot some scenes about the reason why he became the way he is, and it’s very disturbing. I remember reading those scenes and I just could not believe what was on the paper. That’s the amazing thing about this show. You understand why they are who they are, and you can’t hate them anymore. You understand why they became the monsters they are. It gets interesting, as time goes by. These are dangerous, tormented people.
Shooting this kind of subject matter, are you able to have fun on set, at all?
CANTO: We get chances. There are times when you can have fun. When you have to find that dark place, considering the pace and everything, you do have to just focus and be there rather than joking around. In my case, I want to reach a certain sense of reality when I’m portraying something, so I tend to stick with that. But, if you have other kinds of scenes, you just joke around and have a good time. Everyone on the crew is amazing. We have a great production crew. It’s like a family.
CANTO: I’d say theater helped me a lot. I did a TV show in Mexico that was very much like film. That was my first gig. I played a drug addict and alcoholic, and I’m not a drug guy, at all. I’m healthy, so it’s interesting that I’m always getting these twisted characters. After that, I stepped into theater. I’ve always been fascinated by people, their psychology, what drives them and trying to understand them. I was reading about philosophy and psychology, and putting it into practice with these roles. In theater, you go in-depth with your character, so coming to the States, it was inevitable to dig into the pilots I liked. I knew what characters I was going to be reading for, so I would dissect them and really get involved with them.
What was it that initially drew you to acting?
CANTO: I never said that I wanted to be an actor when I was a kid. I didn’t know. I thought I was going to be a singer and musician. That’s what I had been doing, for a huge part of my life. But music, in Mexico, just wasn’t working out. So, I fell into acting and I just fell in love with it. It was amazing! It was a great safe place to just vent. And then, I found out that I could actually do this and I saw a future in it. Everything I’ve always been interested in, I could apply it, in this area. So, I just fell into it, and it worked out.
The Following airs on Monday nights on Fox.