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.
With just two episodes left, actress Valorie Curry (who plays Emma, the follower who takes care of Joe Carroll’s son Joey) spoke to Collider for this exclusive phone interview about what attracted her to this role, how she views her character, that it’s both fantastic and terrifying to play a psycho, how she savors the moments of vulnerability and honesty, how much she loves working with co-star James Purefoy, that Emma’s loyalty will be tested and she’s going to have to decide who and where she wants to be, that viewers shouldn’t get too comfortable with any of the characters, and what she hopes for Emma’s future. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
VALORIE CURRY: No, she’s the kind of role that I am always attracted to. The characters that aren’t what they seem to be or women who are stronger than people give them credit for or characters you underestimate, I always think are really interesting because there are so many possibilities with them. And I love the horror genre and the thriller genre, so I’ve got no problem with playing a psycho. She’s fantastic and terrifying to play. I’m having a great time.
Did you have to go through a big audition process for this show?
CURRY: It wasn’t too crazy. What was funny was that it happened really fast and really early. As far as I know, I was the third actor cast after Kevin [Bacon] and James [Purefoy]. I went in for an audition, and then I had a test session, which is pretty standard. A few days later, I got the call. It was the beginning of pilot season, so then I got to hang out until we shot the pilot. It was great to get that out of the way. It was like winning the lottery with this fantastic, really anticipated Kevin Williamson show with Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, who are both tremendous actors, and this character that I didn’t who she was going to be yet, but had this tremendous possibility. It was pretty fantastic.
Emma is so interesting because, on the surface, she seems like a monster, but when you dig into her past, you see glimpses of how broken she actually is. How do you see her? Do you look at her as this abused, broken girl, or is she too far past that now?
CURRY: I take it so personally when people talk about Emma as this monster and this villain because she is such a broken, damaged girl and she has been abused for so long, not just by her mother, but by everyone who she loves and trusts. I look at what’s happened over the course of the season and I see a girl – and she really is a girl because there is something so fragile and young about her – where the center of her is love. Everything she does is love for this man, who she’s loved since she was 15 years old. He has asked her to do something many things, and not even the violence, but giving up herself and her autonomy. He asks her to love him, and then he tells her to love this other guy that she takes off with. And then, he says, “Okay, now leave him. Okay, now sleep with me. But, go away. But, sleep with me again. But, go away.” My heart breaks for her. She’s had to learn to be so adaptable and changeable because everyone around her is the same way and she’s been jerked around a lot.
CURRY: There definitely have been days that have been exhausting, as an actor, like the day that I killed my mother. This next episode is one that I’m really excited about, but that was one that was hard not to take home a lot. But for the most part, it’s a character that I’ve become so familiar with, I can pick her up and put her down whenever I need to. As much fun as it was to play the bad-ass that she was in the beginning, I really savor the moments of vulnerability and honesty. Emma is always honest. She just hardly ever seems like she’s telling the truth. So, when I get to play those moments of real honesty and emotional vulnerability, it’s a great opportunity.
What’s it been like to work with James Purefoy, especially as Joe Carroll is unraveling?
CURRY: I love it! I was so exciting, from the beginning, to work with him. I was a huge fan, particularly from Rome. He makes my job so easy because, as an actor and as a person, I don’t want to say he’s like Joe, but he has this incredible magnetism, energy and charisma, and he has this ability to just focus that on you in a scene. I experienced that, for the first time, when we shot the scene where Joe and Emma first meet in the bookstore. That was the first scene I shot, once the show was picked up. And it was shocking to me, but really exciting, to know what it was going to be like to work with that man. And we have a great time together. It’s really fun.
What can you say to tease what’s to come for Emma in these last couple of episodes?
CURRY: Well, she’s been treated really poorly for the last few episodes. She’s lost her sense of place in the world and her purpose. The reality of this man that she’s loved for so long is butting up against the fantasy. She finally got what she wanted for so many years, and it’s been emotionally and physically painful for her. She’s at a point where she’s going to have to make a choice. Her loyalty is going to be tested and her love is going to be tested. Emma is really going to have to decide who she wants to be and where she wants to be.
This show has been such a roller coaster ride to watch. Was there a most shocking twist for you? Was there something that you just did not see coming?
CURRY: That happened constantly. I’m always surprised by Kevin Williamson’s writing, and always so excited to get a script. I just tear through it. But, I have to say that what’s happening in the next two episodes shocked me more than anything previously in the season. I think audiences will be shocked. I’ve been saying all along to never get too comfortable. Don’t get too comfortable with any characters, and don’t think you know what to expect. That’s really going to get tested in the next couple of weeks.
Have you been surprised about how strongly viewers have reacted and responded, not only to Emma, but also to your performance on the show?
CURRY: Yeah. I try not to read too much or take it too personally because I do take it personally when people respond to Emma. There seems to be a lot of people who connect me with her, which is weird. I think it’s one of those things with playing a villain. I have to take it as a compliment when people say, “Oh, my god, I hate you so much!” I’m trying to learn to take that as a compliment.
CURRY: Yeah, on the subways in New York, people recognize me and I get that look. There are a lot of jokes about knives. I get a lot of nervous laughter and jokes about knives. But, I’m not Emma, at all. I don’t stab people. You can tell everybody that now.
On a show like this, you know you’re going to lose people because it’s such a high stakes story, but how difficult was it to spend so much of the first half of the show with Nico Tortorella and Adan Canto, and then have to lose Adan?
CURRY: It’s been hard whenever we’ve lost anyone. Losing Adan was really hard because we are all friends. Nico, Adan and I spent the first few months in that farm house together, with just the three of us hanging out with Kyle [Catlett], who plays Joey. It is sad, but it’s also part of the job that we all understand. Luckily, Adan is not really dead, so we can still hang out. But, it’s hard and we always take it personally. It charges the scenes, as actors, when we have to play them. We’re really invested when we’re letting go of somebody.
CURRY: I’m always invested in Emma’s happiness, which is probably boring, in terms of storytelling. There’s nothing that kills a story faster than getting what you want, which is why it’s so frustrating for me to see her get jerked around by Joe. But, what I always hope for her is that she will find her own strength and come into her own, and find a certain amount of autonomy and power. That’s what I always hope for with her. She is such a broken character and she’s always, in a lot of ways, relied on other people to tell her what to do. She needed Paul and Jacob to define her. So, that’s what I hope for with her.
The Following airs on Monday nights on Fox.