Ever since The Following (FOX, Mondays, 9/8C) premiered, Ryan Hardy has had the worst luck with women – his biggest foe’s ex-wife; a reporter writing an exposé; a secret follower of Joe’s…
When Kevin Bacon spoke with a group of journalists/bloggers last week, one of the questions was about his new flame, Gwen (played by the lovely Zuleikha Robinson). Among the many things Bacon had to say about the new season, one of the most prominent was that Gwen is (finally) the right woman for him.
He also spoke about being drawn to darker material where the stakes for the characters he plays are higher, and whether various of the characters he’s dealt with are more dangerous. As usual, he was sharp, charming and fun to chat with.
Hi, Kevin. It’s great to talk to you again. Thanks for taking the time.
Kevin Bacon: Thank you.
I really love the first two episodes, although I’ve got to admit, that little box thing kind of really freaked me out. But aside from that, I’m curious, can you talk a bit about some of the new threats that we’re going to see this season? I know Mark is still there, but I’m assuming there are going to be more people as the season progresses.
Kevin: Mark is still there. Dr. Strauss, who was also from the previous season, is involved. We have a fantastic, loving and extremely beautiful couple named Daisy and Kyle who are terrible, terrible sociopaths but incredibly in love with each other. They’re almost like – they’re kind of reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde or Natural Born Killers. I think they’re a lot of fun. Sorry about the fire engine.
Kevin: Joe Carroll, while we don’t see him for the first few episodes, is still a very big presence in my life and I’m 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 I sort of uncover in the course of this season.
Okay, great. Then as a follow-up, what is it that continues to challenge you because you’ve been acting, obviously, for so long in so many different things. Is there something that still you, you know, that you have to think about?
Kevin: Well, you know what? I feel like that’s what I look for. I look for challenges. I look for challenges, you know. Certainly, taking on an hour drama on a network series was a new challenge for me and I find that it’s challenging pretty much every day I go to work, either physically or emotionally, and I try my best to push the writers to give me new challenges, as many as possible.
That’s really like my kind of, the way I analyze a script is how far, you know, I don’t look at how many days I have off. I see how far they’re going to push me. That’s just kind of like the way I am.
From an acting standpoint, I feel like when I was a kid, I thought I knew everything there was to know and, as the years go by, the search that I have to get deeper and more connected and hone this craft becomes more intensive as I get older because, I think, as you 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.
I’m writing for an LGBT publication and I know you kissed your costar James for The Following at a press conference. I was wondering if you’ve always been a big supporter of gay people. You played a gay prostitute and things like that. I just wanted that for the publication.
Kevin: Absolutely. I mean, I think people’s right to be with whomever they want to be with and to be accepted in society and not rejected from the time they’re children and not bullied is incredibly important. It’s incredibly important to the fabric of this country and I think that if you really look at the truth about public opinion, I think it’s something that, even though we have a long way to go, I think it’s something that, as Americans, we can be proud of. Certainly, it’s something that we’ve made huge in-roads in the last, you know, whatever few years. So, yeah, I am a big supporter of LGBT rights.
I appreciate that. How’s it working with James again? How’s that going?
Kevin: I just – all day long I want to kiss him. I mean, I’m crazy about James. We – you know, 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 in the last few seasons, you know, the amount of times that we interface isn’t – it’s sadly not as many times as I would like because I love playing scenes with him. They’re always, I think they always come out well.
I will say that through some really kind of great ingenuity amongst the writers that I think some of the best scenes that we’ve ever played in the course of three seasons, we play this year. So that’s always a joy, you know? 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 know – it’s like you get the ball and you just get to smack it back and forth with a great player.
Season 1 was full of a lot of shocking twists, while Season 2 was pared down quite a bit and it concentrated more on the finer details of the characters. How does Season 3 fall into that spectrum?
Kevin: You know, 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 like in a really sort of organic way.
I also think that, you know, we’re trying to keep focused on the emotional content of the show, and what’s going on personally with these characters, because without that you don’t really – it doesn’t really land. Somebody mentioned the box in the second episode. That box is a very, very creepy thing, but the reason that it really works is because of what’s set up, you know, of the emotional and personal connection to it.
That’s why it works. Those are the things that I like to focus on; those are the things that I get to play and I am constantly sort of 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?
Right. As just a quick follow-up, who do you think is a more dangerous adversary, Mark Gray or Joe Carroll?
Kevin: Well, you know, that’s a pretty hard to thing to assess. I mean, you know, maybe Mark was more dangerous when there were two of them. I don’t know, you know, when his brother was still alive. But Sam is such a great actor that when – they sort of figured out ways this season to try to keep, actually, an aspect of the twins still there. At the same time, Joe Carroll is Joe Carroll. Both of the characters have one thing that is similar about them is that a lot of their, the things that they do are driven by ego and by a kind of narcissism.
What’s interesting about the character that Michael Ealy plays, who is Theo, who is sort of slow burning into the season this year, is that he’s actually a guy that prefers to be behind the scenes, to not be in the limelight. You will see pretty quickly that that is equally as chilling and equally as terrifying. The shark that swims beneath the surface of the water.
Who are some of the guest stars we can look forward to seeing this season?
Kevin: Zuleikha Robinson, Michael Ealy [are series regulars and new to the show this season]. I’m trying to think who else is new this season. Gregg Henry was here last season. Hunter Parrish and Ruth Kearney also guest-star. They play Kyle and Daisy. Fantastic couple.
Sounds like a great cast so far. You’re part of social media. Do you enjoy that instant fan feedback you receive when the episodes premiere?
Kevin: Yeah, I do. I do. When I first heard about social media I was just like I can’t think of anything worse to (be) exposing myself to because the wrath of people, you know, like on one-on-one basis, but I find it actually to be pretty much, you know, pretty supportive. I don’t have that kind of experience where, you know, I just read one horrible thing after another said about me.
I’m on Twitter. I think that the people that are fans of the show like social media and they really are very supportive. For instance, you know, I feel that they seem excited about the show coming on and where we’re going this year and they were, you know, a little disappointed as we’ve been airing in January. There’s definitely a feeling of like, oh, now I have to wait and that’s a great feeling. I’m glad that they’re digging it. They also, you know, have been helpful. We certainly have taken suggestions and, you know, tried to take them seriously and incorporate.
Loving the new episodes so far and I really like seeing the relationship between Gwen and Ryan. I was just wondering what we can expect from that for the rest of the season?
Kevin: Well, you know, 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. I feel like we, in the course of the – if you look at my love life, Ryan’s love life, it’s been complicated because you know there was Claire who, as fantastic as our relationship was and Natalie Zea is such a great actress and was so great in that part, I mean she’s the wife of the serial killer, so probably not the best person that I should be involved with.
Then you look at Carrie Cooke who was writing an expose. She was a tabloid journalist. Again, maybe not the best choice and, my neighbor, Molly, who ended up being one of Joe’s followers and stabbing me. So my picker as a man is a little bit off. I’m not a good – Ryan Hardy, he’s not a good picker. Then here comes this character of Gwen, this season, 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, heals people.
That’s really what I need in my life and she’s also willing and able to kind of call me on my s***. I think that that’s a really – so when I look at her I say to myself, okay, this is the girl that I 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 I have, is going to be part of what is the backbone of the season.
That’s great. Sounds like it’s going to be a great season with that. Just, you touched on this for a second but as a follow-up, what has it been like working with Zuleikha on set so far?
Kevin: You know, you get thrown into these situations with people that have to become incredibly intimate and there has to be a sort of trust there like right away. I mean, Zuleikha and I, we 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 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 feel connected to and she’s that.
She’s just a fantastic person and, you know, really willing to just kind of roll up her sleeves and get to work. No BS and I’m crazy about her. She also has a – she’s a little mysterious in a way, too, which is cool. Like I don’t really – I feel like I know her, but like I kind of don’t know her in a lot of ways, you know, and that doesn’t actually hurt in terms of me and Ryan and that whole thing.
I just had a question about Ryan’s relationship with Joe. Is it, for you, do you look at it as kind of like a Holmes and Moriarty thing where they’re kind of two sides of the same coin?
Kevin: I think that – no, not really. No. I think that when you look back at the introduction of Joe in Season 1, when I met Joe for the first time, I didn’t know that he was a serial killer. His wife turned me onto him because she said that he could be helpful with this case and I was, you know, kind of enamored with him because I feel like he has qualities that I just don’t have.
If I went to a cocktail party – when I say “I” I mean Ryan – if I go to a cocktail party, I’m not going to be able to converse. I’m not going to be able to be charming. People are not going to be drawn to speaking to me. I’m not a people person. I’m off-putting and, you know, often abrasive and short tempered and, you know, I’m not that guy. Joe is so charming. He’s so verbose. He’s so well-read.
He’s so, you know, kind of continental in a way that I think Ryan really sort of admires and when they have a chance to – before I find out that he was taking people’s eyes out, you know, he would have been a guy that I would have liked to have been friends with and tried to see if I could be a little bit more like him. So I think that’s really at the essence of the relationship and this season it’s almost as though as he’s an ex of mine, you know? It’s almost –
It’s almost like a love triangle because I’ve told this woman that he’s out of my life 100% and here he comes making his way back into my life and she’s not happy about it.
That’s a terrific – I mean, that’s also a great kind of tease for the rest of the season. Thank you.
How protective will Ryan be of Max this season now that she’s joined the FBI?
Kevin: You know, I will throw myself in front of a bus for Max and, you know, she – we have a – you know, one of the craziest and most angry 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. So, yeah, she’s – I have a sister who lives in Florida, but I don’t really know her that well and we’re not that close, and Max’s dad was killed in 9/11 and so she’s really it. My parents are both dead. She’s my family, so, yeah, I’m protective.
The Following is seen, certainly in the UK, as being quite dark. Was that a factor in you agreeing to do the project?
Kevin: You know what? As I went through this process of trying to figure out what I was going to do in television, I started to realize that the things that I was drawn to, both as a reader and as a watcher, were things that had very high stakes, life and death situations. While I enjoy light material and I certainly sometimes wonder what it’s doing to me to be going to such a dark space all the time, I can’t help it. I’m drawn to the high stakes and that’s what this show offers me.
Kevin Spacey has worked in British theater for a number of years. Would you ever consider working in Britain?
Kevin: Absolutely I would. Absolutely I would. It’s always been a – it’s a bucket list dream of mine to come and do some theater. I started out – when I moved to New York in 1976, it was really all I wanted to do. I mean, I quickly realized that off-Broadway was pretty difficult to make a living just doing that but I did a lot of theater and I love the theater in London.
There’s such a strong tradition of theater and of actors having to cut their teeth on the stage and to me that – it becomes very, very clear, you know? I’ve worked with quite a few British actors and some of my best experiences have been with them and I feel a sort of kinship with that kind of history of having to, you know, work through on the stage. So the answer is a resounding yes. I would love to.
I was just wondering if you could talk a bit about working with Shawn this season.
Kevin: Shawn’s a – I’ve seen Shawn’s journey from the beginning of The Following and I wasn’t really that aware of his work. In the scenes that we did in the first season, the beginning scenes, you could see that he was skilled and enthusiastic but, kind of 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 to that in any way.
He’s Canadian and he’s like really nice and really calm and sort of secure and like a really solid kind of guy and yet we have taken him through so many really, really, rough, difficult things on the show and he continues to just hit homeruns all the time. This season is no different. It’s great for him. You know, he comes into it in a really dark headspace.
Kevin: He’s probably a little bit more Ryan than Ryan is at the beginning of the season.
How do you think Ryan feels about him and Max? We haven’t really gotten much of that yet.
Kevin: About him breaking up with Max?
Kevin: You know, I feel like while she’s my niece, and I’m incredibly protective of her, I also feel like the beginning and the end of how I feel about the men in her life is whether or not they’re nice to her. That’s how I feel about my niece, my own nieces, and that’s how I feel about my daughters. I can like the guys or not like the guys, it really – I don’t feel like it’s really my place to judge them, except to the extent that they are good to her.
That’s going to be – there are great storylines there between Mike and Max and Tom, her new boyfriend who, you know, one of the things that the writers set up, which is so great, was that you got this guy, Tom. It’d be one thing if he was an a******, it’d be like kind of easy. Of course, here comes Mike and the guy’s an a******. Of course, you know, there’s a very easy choice there, but he’s not. He’s a good guy. He works hard. He’s in the FBI. He’s SWAT so he’s a bada** and you can’t really fault the guy. So I think that makes for a much more complicated kind of 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.
Good point. Thanks so much.
Kevin: Thank you.
Photos by Christopher Frangapane and Giovanni Rufino/Courtesy of FOX