The Following is back for its third season on Fox, picking up one year later with Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) awaiting execution on death row. Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has moved on, returning full-time to the FBI, alongside Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) and Ryan’s niece, Max (Jessica Stroup), and finding a relationship with Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson). But when a new threat arises, it forces Ryan and his team to unravel a twisted web of violence before it destroys them all.
During an interview with the press to discuss the new direction for Season 3, actor Kevin Bacon talked about the new threats for Ryan Hardy, how this season will fit in among previous seasons, working with James Purefoy, how he views the relationship between Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll, what to expect from Michael Ealy’s character, the new woman in Ryan’s life, how protective Ryan is of Max, Mike Weston’s journey, and what he looks for in a project. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: What are some of the new threats that we’re going to see this season?
KEVIN BACON: Mark (Sam Underwood) is still there. Dr. Strauss (Gregg Henry), who was also from the previous season, is involved. We have a fantastic, loving and extremely beautiful couple named Daisy and Kyle (Hunter Parrish and Ruth Kearney), who are terrible sociopaths, but incredibly in love with each other. They’re reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde, or Natural Born Killers. I think they’re a lot of fun. While we don’t see Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) for the first few episodes, he is still a very big presence in Ryan’s life. Ryan is trying to really figure out if the killing that’s happening in and around New York now is somehow connected to him or not. That’s part of what we uncover, in the course of this season.
Season 1 was full of a lot of shocking twists, while Season 2 was paired down quite a bit and concentrated more on the finer details of the characters. How does Season 3 fall into that spectrum?
BACON: I think that we know that our audience enjoys the twists, but at this point, we also know that our audience is very savvy and very much looking for that. So, I feel like we’re trying not to throw things in there that are twists for the sake of twists. The ones that happen, and the things that are surprising, are still going to be there, but they’re going to come in a really organic way. We’re also trying to keep focused on the emotional content of the show and what’s going on personally with these characters. Without that, it doesn’t really land. Those are the things that I like to focus on, and that I am constantly lobbying for, as much as we can mine from what’s going on with people in their private lives. What’s going on outside of the case and how does whatever is happening in your life, outside of the case, reflect back to the case?
How is it to work with James Purefoy?
BACON: It’s interesting because, from the beginning of the series, one of the essential parts of it was this relationship between these two men. But because he’s been on the run so much, the amount of times that we interface sadly is not as much as I would like because I love playing scenes with him. I think they always come out well. Through some really great ingenuity amongst the writers, I think some of the best scenes that we’ve ever played, in the course of three seasons, we play this year, and that’s always a joy. When I see him on the call sheet, or I see him on the set, I have a tremendous amount of fondness for him. It’s like you get the ball, and you just get to smack it back and forth with a great player.
Do you look at Ryan’s relationship with Joe as a Holmes and Moriarty thing, where they’re two sides of the same coin?
BACON: No, not really. When you look back at the introduction of Joe in Season 1, when Ryan met Joe for the first time, he didn’t know that he was a serial killer. His wife turned Ryan onto him because she said that he could be helpful with this case, and Ryan was enamored with him because he felt like Joe had qualities that he just didn’t have. If Ryan goes to a cocktail party, he’s not going to be able to converse. He’s not going to be able to be charming. People are not going to be drawn to speaking to him. He’s not a people person. He’s off-putting, often abrasive and short-tempered. Joe is so charming. He’s so verbose. He’s so well-read. He’s continental, in a way that Ryan really admires. Before Ryan finds out that Joe was taking people’s eyes out, he would have been a guy that he would have liked to have been friends with. I think that’s really at the essence of the relationship. This season, it’s almost as though he’s an ex of Ryan’s. It’s almost like a love triangle. Ryan has told this woman that Joe is 100% out of his life, and here he comes, making his way back into Ryan’s life, and she’s not happy about it.
Who do you think is a more dangerous adversary, Mark Gray or Joe Carroll?
BACON: That’s a pretty hard to thing to assess. Maybe Mark was more dangerous, when his brother was still alive. Sam [Underwood] is such a great actor. At the same time, Joe Carroll is Joe Carroll. Both of the characters have one thing that is similar about them, and that’s that a lot of the things that they do are driven by ego and by being a narcissist. What’s interesting about the character that Michael Ealy plays, which is Theo, who is slow-burning into the season this year, is that he’s actually a guy that prefers to be behind the scenes, and not in the limelight. You will see pretty quickly that that is equally as chilling and terrifying. He’s the shark that swims beneath the surface of the water.
What can we expect from the relationship between Ryan and Gwen (Zuleikha Robinson) for the rest of the season?
BACON: It’s great for me to have this relationship, for a number of reasons. One thing is that I’m crazy about Zuleikha. She’s doing a great job, and we have a really nice connection. If you look at Ryan’s love life, it’s been complicated. There was Claire (Natalie Zea) who, as fantastic as our relationship was and Natalie Zea is such a great actress who was so great in that part, was the wife of a serial killer, so she was probably not the best person to be involved with. Then, you look at Carrie Cooke (Sprague Grayden) who was a tabloid journalist writing an expose. Again, she was maybe not the best choice. And his neighbor, Molly (Jennifer Ferrin), ended up being one of Joe’s followers and stabbed him. So, his picker, as a man, is a little bit off. Then, here comes Gwen, who truly is the right woman for him. She’s not involved with the FBI. She’s not involved with the case. She’s not a killer. She’s a doctor. She’s someone who helps people and heals people. That’s really what he needs in his life. She’s also willing and able to call him on his shit. This is the girl that he should be with, and the struggle of trying to keep that relationship together, in light of this incredibly difficult and bloody and stressful job that he has, is going to be part of the backbone of the season.
What has working with Zuleikha Robinson been like?
BACON: You get thrown into these situations with people that you have to become incredibly intimate with, and there has to be a trust there, right away. Zuleikha and I played a scene the other day where we didn’t kiss and I was like, “Wow, we didn’t kiss. This is the first scene that we’ve ever done that we’re not kissing in.” You have to be able to have somebody that you really feel safe with and connected to, and she’s that. She’s just a fantastic person, and is really willing to just roll up her sleeves and get to work. There’s no BS, and I’m crazy about her. She also a little mysterious, in a way, which is cool. I feel like I know her, but I don’t know her, in a lot of ways, and that doesn’t actually hurt, in terms of Ryan and that whole thing.
How protective will Ryan be of Max (Jessica Stroup) this season, now that she’s joined the FBI?
BACON: Ryan will throw himself in front of a bus for Max. One of the craziest and most angry times that I get, in the course of the season, has to do with something that happens to Max. It has to do with her not being protected, in a way that I find absolutely unacceptable. Ryan has a sister who lives in Florida, but he doesn’t really know her that well and they’re not that close. Max’s dad was killed in 9/11, so she’s really it. Ryan’s parents are both dead. She’s his family, so he’s protective.
What can you say about Ryan and Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore), this season?
BACON: I’ve seen Shawn’s journey, from the beginning of The Following. I wasn’t really that aware of his work before. In the scenes that we did in the first season, you could see that he was skilled and enthusiastic. But like the Mike character, who really knew that he was going to be able to go to these really dark places because he’s not a guy that hints at that, in any way. He’s Canadian, and he’s really nice and really calm. He’s a secure and really solid guy, and yet we have taken him through so many really, really rough, difficult things on the show, and he continues to just hit home-runs, all the time. This season is no different. It’s great for him. He comes into it, in a really dark headspace. He’s probably a little bit more Ryan than Ryan is, at the beginning of the season.
How does Ryan feels about Mike breaking up with Max?
BACON: While she’s Ryan’s niece, and he’s incredibly protective of her, how he feels about the men in her life is whether or not they’re nice to her. That’s how I feel about my own nieces, and that’s how I feel about my daughters. I can like the guys or not like the guys. I don’t feel like it’s really my place to judge them, except to the extent that they are good to them. There are great storylines there between Mike and Max and Tom, her new boyfriend. He’s a good guy. He works hard. He’s in the FBI. He’s SWAT, so he’s a bad-ass. You can’t really fault the guy. So, that makes for a much more complicated decision-making process, both for her and for Mike. And let’s remember that he’s the one that split. She begged him not to.
You’ve been acting for so long, in so many different things. What is it that continues to challenge you?
BACON: Well, I feel like I look for challenges. Certainly, taking on an hour drama, on a network series, was a new challenge for me. I find that it’s challenging, pretty much every day that I go to work, either physically or emotionally, and I try my best to push the writers to give me as many new challenges as possible. The way I analyze a script, I don’t look at how many days I have off. I see how far they’re going to push me. That’s just the way I am. From an acting standpoint, when I was a kid, I thought I knew everything there was to know. As the years go by, this craft becomes more intensive as I get older. You realize how much more there is to know and to learn, and how much better you can get, if you really work at it.
The Following returns to Fox for Season 3 on March 2nd.