A serial killer inspired by Edgar Allan Poe in turn inspires a cult of killers. In The Following, Kevin Bacon stars as weary ex–FBI agent Ryan Hardy, the man who might stop the murderous acolytes. Bacon, 54, spoke by phone about his first regular TV series, created by Scream’s Kevin Williamson.
I enjoyed the first few episodes, though enjoy might not be the right word. They’re creepy as hell. What’d you think?
I’m really happy with them. I’m new to this TV thing, at least as an actor. It’s a challenge. The thing I have to adjust to is the changing directors every week. That’s new for me. I tend to establish with a director—and then two days later he’s gone.
Given his deep emotional connection with the killer, Ryan blurs the good guy/bad guy line.
I wanted to do something heroic if I was going to be on TV. And the first thing that appeals to me once I have decided I don’t want to be the bad guy is to find things that are not black and white. He’s got issues. He’s got issues with his temper, he’s got issues with alcohol, he lives with a tremendous amount of guilt.
Likewise, the killers aren’t just crazies; they have real relationships and attachments.
That’s a testament to Kevin Williamson and to his ability to push the limits of traditional scary movies.
How is it living in Ryan’s dark head space?
I’m someone that likes to have fun when I shoot. We work super-super-long hours. Sometimes we’re freezing our asses off. Sometimes it’s unbelievably hot. We’re there at least 16 hours. People work so hard and I want to keep that energy up, and you can spread that if you’re the actor. But I’m also not able to turn it on and off like a faucet. A lot of what I’m called upon to play is violent or angry. When I’m messing around with the crew and making jokes, I remember, oh, this is the guy I normally am.
Do you get any tips from your wife, Kyra Sedgwick, about starring in a TV series? The Closer recently wrapped up seven seasons.
Constantly. She talks to me a lot about protecting what little time I do have when I’m not on, to do things good for yourself, whether it’s sleep or remembering to eat, ’cause I could work all week and spend the weekend looking at dailies and running lines—and then dreaming about it.
In a new interview, Kyra says you always make her feel like the most beautiful girl in the room, you don’t lie, you don’t cheat.
Both of us always get a little horrified when we see that kind of stuff in print. What we have is so deep. We’re so connected. And people push you and push you and push you to—to try to—
It’s like trying to paraphrase 23 years of marriage. I don’t like to see it end up between two quotation marks. I mean, it’s nice, you know. It’s better than, “Oh, he’s an asshole. I can’t stand him.”
Your son and daughter are in their twenties now. Have they seen The Following yet?
My daughter has seen it. She’s a great combination of extremely critical and also very honest. I’m not gonna say that she’s not pulling for me, but she really seemed to like it. It’s only recently that either one of my kids have looked at anything that we’ve been in. They didn’t grow up with our movies at all.
Was that a conscious decision on your part?
We don’t watch our movies, so we’re not gonna pound the table on them watching our movies. [Laughs] Both of us feel like our jobs are to try to become another person when we’re working. And for a child, certainly a little child, to see your mother or father pretending to be another person is weird. You want them to be your parent, to be consistent and strong. That’s the place where you want to keep them in your heart—not as a character.
Your own dad was an influential city planner in Philadelphia. He was into fame, you’ve said, and partly what motivated you was the desire to be more famous than the old man.
Yeah, for sure.
An interesting dynamic.
I wasn’t going off to New York to be more famous than my father, but in retrospect that certainly was driving me. He was famous in Philadelphia, but it was also really important to him to be famous. And to a certain extent I got some of that, even though there were parts of it that horrified me.
So you enjoy the fame?
There are things I don’t like about it—living in a fishbowl, lack of privacy. But there’s two kinds of actors: actors who want to be famous and liars. If you’re an actor, what you want is to be seen. You don’t act in your living room. And 99 percent of the people you come in contact with are supernice to you: “Oh, my God, I love you.” How often do people get told they’re loved—someone who’s not famous? To walk down the street and have people tell you they love you—that’s good, man.
The Following premieres January 21 on Fox.