It can be a grim affair promoting a show that some critics are already calling the most violent drama on broadcast television. Perhaps that’s why during a press conference last week, when a reporter commented on the chemistry between leads Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy by saying, “Oooh, I just want them to kiss,” Bacon obliged. No such thing will happen on The Following, an ultragory cat-and-mouse game from horror maestro Kevin Williamson. In it, Bacon plays a former FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer (Purefoy) who escaped prison with the help of a devoted cult following. Vulture sat down with Bacon, who indulged questions about the color of his eyes and the amount of gore on his new show (premiering Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox). In return, we said nothing when he mentioned being a fan of The Killing.
Who instigated the kiss?
It was me. I reached first. I mean, [the reporter] was saying, “Let’s see you guys kiss!” And I love James.
How was it?
Awesome. You know, someone else was saying how we had a certain kind of chemistry, but it’s funny because chemistry is a word that’s always been slightly insulting.
It sort of implies that it’s not possible to act like you love someone or you’re friends with someone. To me, it’s always just a question of two actors talking and listening to each other, and good material.
Right now you are wearing shades, but my editor wanted to know if your eyes are really that blue because they are crazy blue in the first episode.
I did notice that. [Laughs.]
You’re right, you’re right. They’re all mine. No contacts. I don’t know why that happens, but if you’re on a set with certain colors maybe they reflect or something? I promise I wasn’t thinking about this too much.
You mentioned that you read a ton of really good pilot scripts last season before choosing —
Well, I would read pilots and I’d go, Wow, this is so well-written, and this is such an interesting character, and then my people would say to me, “Well, yeah, if you were making an hour-long movie, but where could this show possibly go?” I wasn’t thinking about it that way. Now they’re asking, “Did you know where this one was going to go when you signed on?” I really didn’t. It’s a bit of a leap of faith. Kevin [Williamson] plays it close to the vest. As we’ve gotten to know each other, I think he’s a little more comfortable sharing ideas.
What about The Following did you like?
I started to realize that the shows that I was watching — Breaking Bad, Homeland, The Killing, Game of Thrones — they’re all really life-and-death situations, so I knew that was something I’d want. High stakes. And also if the character was going to be a hero, he was going to be messed up.
He’s got a drinking problem and a pacemaker.
Right. [Laughs.] [My character] Ryan didn’t even have a heart problem in the original pilot script. That was something Kevin added in later.
Ryan obviously can’t really win until the end, but he’s pretty bad at his job in the beginning.
He’s always ten minutes too late. People die.
It’s a good point. But … well, he is good at his job. He’s just screwed up multiple times. [Laughs.] He’s a maverick. It’s probably not the best idea to sleep with the serial killer’s ex-wife, you know? He has some small wins coming up.
Some of the violent imagery in the show is pretty disturbing. Do you think the show is too violent?
I don’t think it’s too violent for everybody. Here’s the thing: I’ve done a lot of different kinds of movies, played a lot of different kinds of parts. I was in the very first Friday the 13th. I’ve been in silly movies and romantic movies and historic movies. My focus is to play the part with as much honesty and integrity as I can and to explore what I want to explore as an actor. When I go home, I try to raise my children with honesty and integrity and teach them to take care of the world and of each other. I try to show compassion to people I come into contact with and try to put good out, as much good as I can. But that’s my life, that’s not my work. With my work, my job is to walk in another man’s shoes.
Kevin Williamson has said anyone can die on this show. Have you been given any assurances that that doesn’t include you?
Honestly? It’s their option. I did anticipate hanging around, but you never know. Kevin said to me recently, “Well, that’s the thing about our show. Anybody can die at any minute,” and I went, “Really? Including me?” I was being serious.
Your wife Kyra Sedgwick just wrapped several seasons on The Closer, so you knew what the grind would be like. Did anything else about doing TV surprise you?
No. I didn’t go into it blind. I knew what the challenges were. I used to run so many lines with her on The Closer. Just constantly running lines. She even had a six-day-a-week line-runner who was on the set all the time and on Saturdays. The difference is my character is more of the strong, silent type. She would have massive, massive long speeches. I don’t know how she did it. I’m also not in every scene, so that’s different. I can catch up a little bit.