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The Following made its presence known at New York Comic Con as the cast and crew assembled to give fans and press a sneak peek of season two. While the panel offered a number of revelations — including the opening sequence from the upcoming second season premiere and the introduction of a new love interest for Ryan Hardy — the cast and crew gave more details in a special discussion with press about the upcoming second season. Executive producers Kevin Williamson and Marcos Siega, alongside stars Kevin Bacon, Shawn Ashmore, James Purefoy, Valorie Curry and series newcomer Connie Neilsen were all on hand to discuss major developments coming down the line for The Following’s sophomore season.
Williamson began by teasing he may return to pen the 100th episode of his other popular network show The Vampire Diaries. He then quickly moved on to discussing The Following, admitting right away that doing press for the secretive program can be difficult. “It’s really hard to talk about because you don’t want to give anything away,” he said. “You want the show to unfold and be a surprise as it happens.”
James Purefoy, who plays villain Joe Carroll, agreed. Purefoy said, “It’s a thriller. And it’s a thriller not just with a big thriller ending, but a thriller meaning to thrill you every week. By telling you anything, we’re sucking some of that away.”
The earlier preview shown for fans did unleash one massive spoiler – the death of Hardy’s girlfriend and Carroll’s ex-wife Claire.
“We just wanted to get that out of the way,” Williamson said. “We start one year later and pick up with a whole new story with Connie. I want to show how Ryan is coping post-Claire after last year’s events and how he’s turned his life around a little bit.”
The Following underwent controversy in its first season due to the extreme nature of its violence, including brutal beatings and murders. However, executive producer Marcos Siega said the controversy hasn’t affected the show at all. “We’re telling a story where whatever works for our story, we do,” he said.
“Last year I was very tightlipped about [the controversy over violence] because I wanted to be respectful of the climate of the country, because we are living in a very crazy time,” Williamson added. “That’s what a show like this does, it mirrors what’s going on in the world. I’m not trying to push the envelope but I am trying to tell a very scary story and it is about characters who are extremely violent. If you’re a parent, some good parenting will come into play on Monday nights at 9 o’clock. That’s all you have to do.”
The Following’s violence might not be changing, but there are plenty of changes in store for its cast. Perhaps none more so than Ryan Hardy, played by Kevin Bacon, who sees his character living clean and sober one year after the events of the first season. Hardy has also left the FBI to teach criminology full-time at a New York City university.
Hardy’s metamorphosis doesn’t mean his troubles have ended, however. “It’s a question of am I going down, or am I climbing myself back up,” Bacon said. “Last year, I was at the bottom. Rock bottom. The involvement with the case almost started to heal me in a strange sort of way. I needed it. I fed on it. This year, I’m more together, but I get pulled back in. I have to go down to the bottom again. I have to be confronted with very serious questions of morality, right and wrong, and doing the right thing. That’s a little bit of a theme, as well as the family thing. Are you gonna do the right thing or are you gonna do the wrong thing? And do you have the wherewithal to know what that is?”
Williamson also revealed Hardy’s niece Max will join the show in season two. Max is the daughter of Hardy’s brother, who died on Sept. 11.
“She loves having her uncle in her life. She’s waited a long time for that to happen,” said Williamson. “Even when he tries to push her away, she doesn’t go anywhere. She’s a tough character.”
Hardy will find it difficult to move on from Joe Carroll even with his life turned around, however. “Joe killed the only woman that I ever loved. Had her killed,” said Bacon. “So, am I thinking about him? Yeah. But I have moved on to a certain extent.
“Ryan Hardy is a character [whose] life has been surrounded by death,” he continued. “He has an extremely dark side and has a lot of stuff going on that’s maybe not on the surface. When you met him last year, he was in bed with a hangover and was totally out of this thing. He thought [Joe Carroll] was in jail. Then they wake him up and bring him into this whirlwind thing. It all took place in about two weeks.”
Helping him move on will be new love interest Lily Gray, played by Connie Nielsen. Gray is an art dealer who meets Hardy after a traumatic event.
“We meet Lily Gray after she survives an attack in New York that’s fairly horrific,” Siega said. “I grew up in New York and when you watch it you go, ‘That could actually happen.’ [This event] sort of launches season 2. It’s our inciting incident.”
Bacon added, “There’s an attack on a subway and she’s a victim of it. She survives. I meet her. Probably crossing the line in a way that I shouldn’t, which is keeping with this character. I am just taken by her. She is, in a lot of ways, similar to the way I feel about Joe. She’s everything I’m not. She’s worldly, speaks a million languages, has an appreciation about art, is just this dynamic creature. I’m not out looking for love, but something about her just draws me in.”
Nielsen refused to hint at her character’s true allegiances, saying, “The only thing we know so far is she’s a potential love interest for Ryan.”
Nielsen hadn’t seen The Following before she was cast. In fact, she doesn’t even watch TV regularly.
“I literally just don’t have time,” Nielsen said. “I did a binge viewing thing [of the whole show] and then I had the most awful night. It was the worst dreams of my life!”
The true nightmare of The Following, however, is undoubtedly its charming, manipulative villain Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy. Carroll’s character seemingly perished at the end of the first season, burned alive in a boathouse in the closing moments of the season finale. The cast strongly hinted, without flat out confirming, that Carroll is somehow back for season two, however. “You’ll see how he got out,” Purfoy said. “You’ll see the way it worked. You’ll find that out. It’ll be believable enough. Enough.
“The first few episodes we’ll see [Carroll] in a different place, looking very different,” he continued. “Being much more introspective about his life, who he was and what he wants to become… He’ll be doing a little bit of soul searching and seeing where he went wrong. Maybe deciding he wasn’t the greatest writer. I think there’s a certain amount of a reset.”
Siega emphasized that season two Joe Carroll will be different than the one viewers saw in season one. “Where we go in season two will excite the Joe Carroll fans because you see what happens to a man when his plan fails, and how he picks himself up again,” Siega said.
Both characters last year died, so this year there’s the resurrection,” Williamson added. “We watch Joe Carroll and his path, then we watch Ryan Hardy and his path. They both are trying to find some hope.”
As for Carroll’s aims in season two, Purefoy said killing Ryan might not ever have been Joe Carroll’s goal. “I don’t think his goal was ever to take down Ryan, in terms of killing him,” Purefoy said. “Killing him is just too easy and too nice.”
Fans shouldn’t just focus on Carroll as the source of evil in season two, though. “There are some other villains that surface in some interesting and surprising ways that may or may not prove a challenge for not only Ryan, but for Joe Carroll as well,” said Williamson. “We keep bringing in new villains. It’s something that happens throughout the season, there’s not just one villain.”
Season 2 also catches up with how Agent Mike Weston, played by Shawn Ashmore, deals with the fallout of last year’s events, which saw Weston kidnapped, beaten and stabbed. “He’s in a dark place,” said Ashmore. “The shiny Agent Weston we found in the pilot is all but gone in the second season… He’s had to kill people, he’s had his life threatened, and a lot of people he loved got killed. It’s been pretty rough… Emotionally, he’s having a hard time.”
Ashmore says Weston’s problems won’t just be internal — he’ll have to deal with the ramifications of his extreme actions last season. “Ryan and Mike kidnapped, tortured and killed a detainee in the last episode. That just doesn’t go away,” Ashmore said. “It’s not like they killed a bad guy and it’s all good.”
It’s not very safe to be a main character on “The Following,” a fact that’s not lost on Ashmore. He wasn’t convinced his character would even survive the season until the last episode.
“I didn’t die [in the last episode]! We get really broad strokes of what’s gonna happen,” said Ashmore. “We were all sat down and warned in the very beginning of the first season that people in this room will die. Some of these characters will die. Don’t take it personally, it’s not that we don’t like you or your work, but that’s what type of show it is. I thought I was gonna die. Like when Mike got shot in the chest? I guess that’s the end! When Mike gets kidnapped, beaten to a pulp and stabbed? I guess that’s the end! I happen to survive and I actually think that because I got beaten up so many times and my life got threatened so many times that it actually saved me. It would have been anticlimactic to kill me… I feel better [in season two] but now that I say that I’ll die next episode.”
Joe Carroll’s number one follower Emma Hill, played by Valorie Curry, is also back for season two. Like Ashmore, Curry isn’t sure how long her character will survive on “The Following.”
“You get a week’s notice if you’re gonna die. We get one script and the script is always a surprise,” said Curry. “Sometimes I know very broad strokes about where the show is going theoretically, but those change all the time. You try not to get attached to it as an actor… I breathe a sigh of relief at the end of every script that I don’t end up dead. I know what show I’m on. I know I could go at any moment.”
Last we saw her, Emma was under the impression her idol Joe Carroll was dead. Curry said, “In the finale, and hopefully it played, she truly believed he was dead. I don’t know if Emma is capable of existing without [Joe] or living without him.”
Furthermore, Curry stated that everything Emma did during the first season was about Joe. “The whole cult, the whole religion of Poe and everything was like, ‘OK honey, that’s cute. If you like it, sure.’ But it’s really about Joe,” she said. “She’s not a bloodthirsty person. Her kills weren’t about a message or an idea the way his were. Hers were just what she needed to do for him. She would just as happily and easily vacuum the rugs for him as kill somebody and with about as much empathy. It wasn’t about the religion of Poe for her, it was about the religion of Joe.”
Without Joe in her life, Emma has to decide where she goes now. Curry said, “You’re gonna see whether or not she wants to take on a position of power and get some minions of her own or if she’s gonna do her own thing and survive that way.”
The Following starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy returns this January on FOX.