Following his recent not-so-pleasant run-in with Joe Carroll’s ruthlessly loyal acolytes, Shawn Ashmore‘s Mike Weston resumes his FBI duties on The Following this Monday (Fox, 9/8c). All seems well at first, but underneath the surface bubbles a damaged, newly hardened agent, not unlike his onetime idol Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon).
Here, Ashmore chats with TVLine about his character’s new approach to the hot-button cult-of-killers case, the walls (finally) coming down between Ryan and Weston and the “very satisfying” Season 1 finale that awaits devoted Following fans.
TVLINE | What is Weston’s mindset upon returning to work? Has barely cheating death done a number on him?
What’s amazing about The Following is that we don’t brush over moments like this. Because every episode is a day or two, Weston’s only really been out for about four days. He’s still very physically and emotionally affected by the beating he took from the followers — and we’ll see that when he gets back into the field. He certainly takes a different approach in dealing with the followers that they run into this week, and that makes sense. The violence for Weston has been very close, but this takes it to the next level. His life was obviously beyond being in jeopardy, and when he comes back he’s definitely more impulsive and has a more aggressive take on handling the case and dealing with the followers.
TVLINE | Will we only see this side of Weston in his interaction with the followers or is it a PTSD-type situation that can erupt at any time?
Actually, there’s a little bit of both. The thing that I like and think is interesting about this episode coming back is that Ryan has been warming up to Weston throughout the case, but the sacrifice Weston made for Claire and for the case really helps breaks down the wall between them a little bit. There are some interactions between those two regarding Weston’s state of mind. If anybody can understand what Weston’s going through, it’s Ryan.
TVLINE | So, he’s not feeling any blame or resentment toward Ryan?
No, no. It’s not that kind of thing. Weston made that sacrifice fully knowing what he was doing. He wasn’t thinking, ‘When I get out of this, I’m going to be really angry at Ryan!’ [Laughs]
TVLINE | Will Roderick be in Weston’s sights given the hand the lead acolyte had in his violent attack?
It’s more the group as a whole… This wasn’t specifically on the page, but obviously because Roderick spearheaded the investigation [that left Weston injured] and Weston knows how important Roderick is to the cult, he is definitely hungry to get to the bottom of where and who Roderick is. That starts to unravel as the episodes continue.
TVLINE | Theories are still floating around that Weston is an undercover follower. But after all he’s been through, can we finally, officially put those to bed?
You tell me! [Laughs] Even when we first started doing press for the show, people would tell me that Weston was a little creepy and I just couldn’t see it! He certainly is educated on Ryan Hardy and the case, but to me that just makes him a dedicated agent. So, I really think it’s up to the audience to make that decision. I find that fascinating. That’s when I knew that the audience was really into the show, when they turned the TV off and started creating potential storylines for the character. It’s amazing that people continue to have these theories. In my head it’s pretty clear that after what happened in Episode 8, Weston is on the up-and-up, but people will continue to theorize. [Creator] Kevin Williamson planted the seed of paranoia in the pilot and now those seeds are growing and you can’t stop it… In a great thriller, that’s what you want.
TVLINE | Give us your best end-of-season teases.
The consistency of the tone and the thrills are all there. What I love about the finale, without giving too much away, is that it’s very, very satisfying. Obviously, shows tend to end with cliffhangers because they’re exciting — and there certainly are aspects of that in our finale — but sometimes it’s frustrating for the audience if you don’t get any closure or any satisfaction of wrapping up arcs. There’s a lot of that in the finale, so it’s balanced really well… There’s closure to certain characters and certain arcs, but it’s also left wide open for a second season.
TVLINE | Now that all is almost said and done, how do you feel about the way The Following‘s debut season panned out?
Weston has expanded in such an insane, amazing way. I remember when you and I talked [at Comic-Con] and I didn’t know who Weston really was — and you could have asked me that question halfway through the season and I’d still have said that. I [wasn’t] sure because we really do learn episode by episode… As an actor, you’re constantly on your toes trying to catch up with what Kevin Williamson is giving you. Now that the season is done, I’m totally satisfied. Weston, between the first time we see him stumbling over himself while meeting Ryan Hardy to where we end in Episode 15, has grown immensely. A lot of that isn’t always a positive, because he’s truly hardened by this case over the season, but it’s also exactly what you’d expect. What I love about the connection between Ryan and Weston is the parallel of seeing somebody that steps into this case fresh-faced, ready to go and then by the end of it is hardened just like Ryan has become over the years… It allows the audience to connect with Ryan, seeing a new character going through that from start to finish. That was really satisfying for me, to bring all those different pieces together with Weston.