Kevin Williamson: Fox's The Following Is 'Not for the Faint of Heart' — And Also a Love Story?
Series creator Kevin Williamson and the cast of Fox’s The Following fielded many a question about the midseason drama’s dark, violent themes at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena on Tuesday. But what of love?
Citing Silence of the Lambs and the real-life Gainesville murders among his inspirations for the series, Williamson acknowledged that The Following “has moments that are squeamish, and not for the faint of heart.” But, he added, “There’s drama and emotion and other things running through it” as well.
Williamson expressed his love for stories about “the good guy versus the bad guy. And what I like about this is this is an escalation of that, a big concept.” Revolving as it does around incarcerated serial killer Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy) and a cult of accomplices that continue his reign of terror outside the prison walls, Williamson said, “This guy is not just a madman and evil person, but at his core he’s a very good teacher, a professor [of literature], and he has found way to assimilate some students to do his bidding. The fun of the show is seeing what he’s up to and how [FBI agent] Ryan Hardy is going to get ahead of it.”
Playing Hardy, the G-man pulled out of retirement-slash-the bottle to recapture Carroll and then chase down his followers, is Kevin Bacon, who for years has pored over possible TV projects. A recent upward trend in quality nudged him to tackle his first series regular gig. “I initially had thought [my first regular role] was going to be on cable, then I read this and I could not put it down,” Bacon shared. “It was such a page-turner and such an interesting character. Given the fast paced heart-pounding nature of it, it still had a lot of heart … that I responded to.”
“We’ve talked a lot about physical violence [today], but it’s all surrounded by things going on with characters,” Bacon later noted, as more questions about serving up such subject matter in a post-Sandy Hook/Aurora world came at the cast. “One of the things that people will hopefully latch on to is, in a lot of ways, Kevin Williamson is kind of a softie. He’s really interested in the love story of the show, in the personal struggles.”
Cast member Valorie Curry, who plays the nanny who watches over Joe’s adolescent son, also spoke of (admittedly tainted) “love,” saying that Carroll’s followers do what they do as “a practical way of getting closer to him … and that is scarier than someone who’s creepy or does things that are evil. It’s all just about love. That’s the scariest thing: It’s about love.”
Some of Carroll’s “friends,” as he dubs them, take that love to other levels, in one instance leading to a menage a trois that roused an otherwise quiet Standards & Practices department. “There was a question about the three-way,” Williamson admitted, “but it’s very tepid. It comes out of an emotional, character place.” Outside of that, “No, I haven’t really gotten any grief” from censors, he stated.
Williamson allowed that The Following is a “scary, horrific show,” but maintained, “We don’t sit around and think of ways to kill people. I’m sitting around thinking of the drama…. [After writing] some episodes, I’m like, ‘Wow a lot of people died this week.’ And then no one will die the next!”
Fox’s The Following premieres Monday, Jan. 21 at 9/8c.