Kevin Bacon took the time to discuss The Following. Kevin plays Ryan Hardy in this intense thriller. After watching just the pilot I was hooked on this series. It’s dark, frightening, and intriguing. Natalie Zea (Justified), James Purefoy (Episodes), Billy Brown (Sons of Anarchy) and Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: The Last Stand) also star in this compelling series. Don’t miss a single episode of The Following, Monday nights on FOX.
Press Conference Call Interview Highlight:
Q: The show can get very dark. Is that easy to get out of your system at the end of the day or does it stick with you for a bit?
Kevin Bacon: I find that over the years, as you know, I’ve dealt with a lot of dark material in the movies as well. I think you have to find ways to protect yourself from that and when I’m on the set, I’m very, very focused. We have to stay focused on our job at hand, and when you dealing with things that are of a thrilling nature, tense, ticking clock-kind of vibe, you have to keep yourself in that head space. But, I work real hard to try to turn it off on the weekends if I can and connect with things like my family, my kids, my dog, take a walk in the woods, those kinds of things; you have a good meal, they’re able to pull me out of that head space.
Q: Why did you decide it was time for television?
Kevin Bacon: I had been looking for a television series for a long time and trying to get my head around it. My initial call, if you will, to my representatives was probably three or four years ago. But, it just took some time to really find the right one. I had seen Kyra’s experience secondhand and was also finding myself to be more and more of a television consumer. The quality of the shows and the writing just seemed to be getting better and better and better, and I just found myself really knocked out by so many shows and sitting down and spending a weekend watching every episode of The Wire, stuff like that. And then, this one had the qualities that I was drawn to.
Q: You had mentioned you’d seen Kyra’s experience secondhand. Did she give you any advice going into this yourself and is the reason you wanted to do TV, because I know you guys are very family oriented; does the schedule of TV, the pace give you more leeway there?
Kevin Bacon: No, it’s not a family decision. If anything, I think 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 used to doing. I’m used to going from here to there to there to there to there. Even though we have a really, really strong kind of central family, we also are gypsies. We always have suitcases packed and we’re not used a steady gig. So, that was a real adjustment for her on The Closer and I think will be for me as well. One thing that we talked about was the fact that when she took the pilot for The Closer, I remember us having a conversation and kind of said, “Listen,” you know. It’s kind of overwhelming to think that you’re going to sign up for something for six years, but that never happens. Rarely does a television series go that long and rarely do the pilots even get picked up and all that kind of stuff. And then, seven years later we’re still, she’s still chugging away on that. So, you have to really think whether or not it’s a place that you want to stay in for a good amount of time. I felt like the continuing exploration of this guy and what is eating at him and what makes him tick was something that would be interesting to explore from a character standpoint.
Q: Can we expect her to guest on the show? I know you directed some episodes of The Closer and you guys have worked together before.
Kevin Bacon: Yes, I don’t think so. I’ll tell you why. I feel like that seems to be a risky kind of—if you’ve noticed, I never acted on The Closer because I think that when you have a strong character and then you take someone who has a relationship outside of it that people are aware of, you can really run the risk of kind of jumping the shark. It kind of feels like stunt casting. I don’t think she would be interested in acting on the show. You know what? Never say never. Who knows?
Q: I was wondering how this sort of works in terms of cable raising the bar on horror shows. What can we expect to see on a network series?
Kevin Bacon: Well, I don’t know if I would quite describe it as horror. I mean I think that we are making a thriller and it’s a tense, fast paced, 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. Nobody really prepared me. I really, honestly, wasn’t even looking for something on network, but they said, “I think maybe this should would one that you should take a look at.. So, 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.” You combine that with two other things; one is this kind of giant concept of the idea of this cult that Kevin Williamson has created and just kind of the creepiness of that idea. And then, to me, the most important thing is that it’s an exploration of these characters and the relationships, and the fact that we’re able to go back in flashback and get some insight into why they have become and 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 kind of an exciting thing for an actor to be able to peel the layers back.
Q: Because of the investigation, “Hardy” and “Carroll” really seem to know each other in a very deep way and while “Ryan’s” not necessarily a disciple of “Carroll,” is he sort of a follower himself?
Kevin Bacon: I’ll tell you what—in one of the episodes, and again, I think this is just a really cool idea from Kevin Williamson, 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 kind of play him like a violin and there are a lot of qualities of “Joe” that “Ryan” really admires. I’m not, when I say “me,” I mean 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 a dynamic speaker, and he’s maybe not even somebody that you necessarily want to go and have a beer with. And, “Joe Carroll,” is all those things. And I think that I look up to him in a strange kind of way. It’s one of the dynamics of the show that is interesting, one that we continue to play with.
Q: Will we see sort of a parallel come into play, that “Carroll” has his followers but now “Ryan” also has his followers like “Mike Weston” that have come to appreciate the book and what he did as an investigator?
Kevin Bacon: I think that is definitely going to be there and certainly with the “Weston” character. I think the difference is that what you want to see on “Ryan’s” side is this ability—so, here’s one of the big differences between the two guys. “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. We’ll see 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 are kind of expendable in a way. It’s one of the kind of sociopathic aspects of his personality. I have nobody in my life and have pushed the people in my life away, and when “Weston” comes to me, I don’t want him to be close to me. I don’t want “Agent Parker” to come into my life. Even with “Claire,” I’ve walked away from her. I’m very resistant of doing anything other than just being a man alone on an island. And yet, as the show evolves, I think I get more of an ability to let people in, to take help, advice, you’ll see more of that. And also, the difference between me and “Joe” is the people that I do let in, the people who are in my life, I care about very deeply, extremely deeply and that’s one of the contradicting elements of the two characters.
Q: Looking at the top 20 shows on the Nielsen list, ten of them were crime dramas. Do you see anything of a sort of contradictory nature in people saying, “Oh there’s too much violence, but we love violent shows”?
Kevin Bacon: I think that this show is a thriller about a serial killer. That’s what it is and it’s not a comedy. When I go to—as a consumer of films or television, if you’re telling me that something is a comedy, I’m going to be really disappointed if I go and I don’t laugh. If someone has pitched something to me as incredibly moving, I want real tears coming down my cheeks. And if something is supposed to be a thriller, I want to be on the edge of my seat. I want to be scared. I want to have chills. I want to be grinding my teeth or turning my eyes or whatever. When we make films and television, we, I think, are doing it to try to tap into something emotional for people and this show is not an exception. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Q: Why do you think people, and “Ryan” obviously, why are people so fascinated by serial killers particularly?
Kevin Bacon: I don’t know. It’s really interesting that you ask that because I’m really not sure. I was talking to somebody the other day and I’ve known the guy for a lot of years and he said, “Oh, by the way I read everything about serial killers. I’m just fascinated by it.” I suppose—gosh, I don’t know. I think that when there’s a lot of darkness around, sometimes you want to just kind of confront it in a way that you know that it’s ultimately not real. It’s a TV show or it’s a movie. You know what I mean? I think people probably—there’s probably more people watching films and television than there are watching documentaries about serial killers, but I don’t know. I really don’t have the answer to that.
Q: Natalie talked about her character’s guilt over not recognizing her husband’s nature, his sort of true nature. I was wondering—something you said earlier made me wonder if maybe “Ryan” feels that a little bit too, although he’s figured them out but—
Kevin Bacon: “Ryan” is nothing if he’s not a guilty person. He’s got a lot of baggage and a lot of that baggage is guilt. Because, as I say, I stopped him, but not before he killed a lot of people, and he has guilt about a lot of stuff even before “Joe Carroll” came into his life, things that, given the opportunity down the road, we may get a chance to explore. But, Kevin Williamson said to me very early on in our conversations, and it was probably the most important piece that I needed to start to put this character together. He said to me, “This is a guy who has been surrounded by death,” and that’s continuing in his life. I think that a part of him feels like maybe he has a piece of that, that he has some responsibility for that, and I think he feels tremendously guilty.
Q: What makes you want to go to such a dark place and do this kind of character and basically be depressed all day long?
Kevin Bacon: In the scope of a career, I certainly have explored things of a lighter nature. I’m the guy from Footloose. The biggest issue was whether or not the town was going to be allowed to dance or not. Underground worms; this movie, R.I.P.D., that’s in the can. It was really a great thing to do because it’s—I’m playing a sort of, I don’t know how you would describe him, kind of like a zombie- type character, but it was really kind of a fun and lighthearted movie. So, I certainly like to mix it up. But 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 and that’s the kind of hero that I like to see. I mean that’s the stuff that performance is made of. And, I found as I was shifting and sifting through stories and pilots that I would really like something, but then I would think to myself, “I don’t know if the stakes are high enough.” I wanted to do something that was about life and death because when I was looking at things that I was kind of drawn to in a series, things like Breaking Bad, and Killing, and Homeland, and The Wire, even Game of Thrones, a lot of them are about life and death.
Q: Does James freak you out sometimes? When you’re doing scenes with him?
Kevin Bacon: No, he doesn’t freak me out. I love working with James. He’s just one of those—our kind of working situation is one of those things that he came to us so quickly in a strange kind of way. It wasn’t something that needed to be nurtured and sort of built up over time. We walked on the set did our first rehearsal and just had a great connection. I love the scenes that we get a chance to play, and he is incredibly well prepared, and just great choices, and a great listener, and just a great actor. I mean it’s a real gas to play with him.
Q: How about those Poe masks? Do they freak you out?
Kevin Bacon: They’re kind of creepy, yes. Those Poe masks are—it’s funny because when I saw them in the script, I was like the guy comes after me with a Poe mask. I said, “I don’t know, that seems a little—what is a Poe mask?” And, then I saw the actual realization of them and I thought they were really, really well done.
Q: Why would you recommend TV fans watch The Following?
Kevin Bacon: It’ll 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 that you’ll want to come back the next week to see where things go.