'Page turner' script attracts Kevin Bacon to first TV role in 'The Following'
BY RITA SHERROW World Television Writer
Sunday, January 20, 2013
1/20/13 at 7:10 AM
Kevin Bacon, all cool blue eyes and serious-actor demeanor lightened by an often impish grin, has found his forte in "The Following."
The actor, who starred in "X-Men: First Class," "Frost/Nixon" and "Mystic River," plays a physically and emotionally damaged FBI agent who must recapture an escaped serial killer in the new thriller series debuting at 8 p.m. Monday on Fox, channel 23, cable 5.
But not just any serial killer. This one, Joe Carroll played by James Purefoy ("Rome"), is a former college professor who uses the Internet to direct his cult of followers in committing heinous crimes.
Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, a man who was obsessed with stopping Carroll's killing spree and later wrote a book about the murders. But the years-long pursuit left him with heart damage from being stabbed, struggling with emotional trauma and released from his career with the FBI.
But he is called back into service after Carroll escapes from death row, and Hardy returns as a changed man being watched by an untrusting agency. It's the kind of role Bacon likes to play in a series pilot he found a "page turner."
"There were so many moments where I said I really didn't see that coming," said the actor, who is starring in a network TV series for the first time. "You combine that with two other things - one is this giant concept of the idea of this cult that Kevin Williamson (executive producer) has created and the kind of creepiness of that idea. And then, the most important thing, to me, is it's an exploration of these characters and their relationships. And the fact that we are able to go back in flashbacks and get some insight into why they have become who they have become.
"You meet this guy Ryan Hardy and know something is bothering him deeply, but to 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 away the layers."
His Hardy is filled with guilt because he stopped the killer but not before the man had sadistically murdered 14 female college students. But Hardy also has problems in his life from before he met Carroll. Things that may be revealed later in the season, said the Philadelphia native who lives in New York City with his wife, "The Closer" star Kyra Sedgwick, and their two children.
"Carroll has followers and believes he can create more and more people to come around to his way of thinking and likes to be surrounded by people that, except for a few, he doesn't care about. They are kind of expendable. I (as Hardy) have nobody in my life and have pushed people away... He (Hardy) is very insistent on being a man on an island alone."
In one flashback, Bacon said viewers will meet the FBI agent when he first interviews Carroll on that college campus and see how he gets strangely seduced by Carroll in a friendship kind of way.
"Joe sees into Ryan and is able to kind of play him like a violin."
Bacon's character isn't well-read or well-educated, and Carroll is a college professor. Where Carroll is a charmer and can talk to anyone, Hardy is neither a people person nor a dynamic speaker. Maybe not even the kind of person someone would want to share a beer with, and Carroll is all of those things, Bacon said.
"I think (Hardy) kind of looks up to him in strange way," he said. "It's one of the dynamics of the show that I think is interesting and one we will continue to play with."
The series pilot has been criticized for being excessively violent and gory, pushing the limits of broadcast TV. It's definitely only for adults who aren't squeamish. Bacon said he wouldn't describe the show as horror but "more of a tense, fast-paced, exciting thriller that has a lot of moments of real surprise."
But also "moments" for adults only - scenes with rivers of blood, gouged-out eyeballs, a wannabe serial killer who butchers lost puppies for practice, Edgar Allen Poe epitaphs written in blood and a recording of a woman screaming as the killer removed the seven muscles connected to her eye.
Carroll was a one-shot novelist who idolizes his hero Edgar Allen Poe in his killings.
"Poe equates death with beauty," Carroll says in the pilot episode. "That art was about beauty and that nothing was more beautiful than the death of a beautiful woman."
"Thrillers are popular, and that is what this is," said Bacon, who first found fame in lighter fare including "Footloose," "Animal House" and opposite giant worms in "Tremors."
"As a consumer of films or television, if you are telling me that something is a comedy I'm going to be really disappointed if I don't laugh," he said. "If the picture is supposed to be moving, I want real tears running down my cheeks. If it's a thriller, I want to be on edge of my seat, with chills ...
"When we make films and television, I think we are doing it to try to tap into something emotional for people, and this show is not an exception."
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Fox, channel 23, cable 5
Original Print Headline: Bacon goes dark with first TV thriller role
Rita Sherrow 918-581-8360
Kevin Bacon stars as Ryan Hardy in "The Following," premiering at 8 p.m. Monday on Fox, channel 23, cable 5. MICHAEL LAVINE/Fox