When Fox’s intense psychological thriller The Following ended last season, there was an ultimate face-off between Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), who was working with the FBI, and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), perhaps one of the world’s most cold-hearted and deadly serial killers, which ended in Carroll’s seeming demise.
But when Season Two begins on January 19th, in the wake of a new horrific murder spree the FBI once away approaches Hardy, who begins to fear that Carroll has survived to decimate more lives.
Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy visited with journalists at the TV Critics tour to discuss the new season, and their complicated characters.
James, did you think you were dead after the first season, and when did you find out that you were not?
James: I always knew I was going to live, but I did tell everybody that I thought I was dead. I was lying to everybody (he laughs).
How do you ratchet up what obviously was a contentious relationship in the first season of The Following?
Kevin: From my standpoint, one of the interesting things about this Second Season is that, seemingly, I have lost my obsession for Joe.
I have stepped to a different place in my life and he is no longer burning inside my heart in the way that he was in Season One.
But like everything on The Following things are not always the way they seem.
Just like the attack on the subways (in the new season) involved masks, I think you kind of find out in Season Two that a lot of us have these masks that we’re living with.
And truth is that he is incredibly important to me, sadly, the most important thing in my life.
Joe’s character seems to have gained a fan base. Can you talk a little about why real people would be attracted to such a heinous character?
James: I think people are really fascinated by psychopaths.
Psychopaths have a life which means that they are willing to step outside the normal bound of human behavior and I think people find that really interesting. People fantasize about that themselves.
Most people don’t carry it out, but they think, wow, that’s amazing that these people can live with no sense of empathy for somebody else, or a sense of an idea of a consequence to any of their actions.
I don’t think it has anything to do with The Following. People find psychopaths fascinating in drama and have done for centuries. But they are serial killers, so they should be [heinous]. If they are not we’ve done something terribly wrong.
Were you surprised by how popular the series was last year?
Kevin: What surprised me was that it was going to be on Fox. I hoped people would respond to the pilot in the way I did, in that it had these great, interesting, complex characters, interesting relationships and, at the same time, was thrilling and shocking.
It had very high stakes.
I didn’t have any kind of assumption at all that the show was going to do well. So the fact that people found it and embraced it [was exciting].
The excitement that I feel and the connection that I feel to the fans of this show is probably deeper than anything I’ve experienced in my career.
It’s such a dark show, is it hard to shake it off at the end of each day?
James: Yeah, he’s such a nihilistic character. He’s so profoundly dark. Anybody who celebrates death and finds great beauty in it, obviously that works its way into your subconscious, and there have been some fitful nights, yeah.
Kevin: Yeah, I have nightmares.