Once Kevin Bacon agreed to star on his first weekly TV series, he didn’t have too look far for advice. Only one degree, in fact – his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, spent seven seasons on “The Closer,” and she has been available for him from the start. “She didn’t sit me down and say, ‘Listen Kev,’” jokes Bacon. “But she’s been great. She’s been really supportive.”
Before production began on Fox’s dark thriller “The Following,” which premieres on Monday, Jan. 21 at 9/8c, Bacon knew that he was in for long hours and round-the-clock work, and again, that’s thanks to Sedgwick. “I lived with her for seven years on that show, so she didn’t really have to say anything,” he says of learning about the rigors of series television through osmosis. “She’s going to work every day and then on a Friday night at two o’clock in the morning she calls and says, ‘Listen, I’m gonna be here for another couple of hours,’” he recalls. “And then first thing she wakes up on Saturday morning and she’s running lines for Monday morning, so I get it. I get it.”
In “the Following,” Bacon stars as Ryan Hardy, a troubled former FBI agent who is called back into the field to help capture an escaped serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). The case is a personal one for Hardy. He was the agent responsible for putting the charismatic Carroll behind bars in the first place, and in doing so was stabbed in the chest by Carroll, resulting in a pacemaker to keep his heart pumping, and a dismissal from the Feds. The twist, the audience quickly learns, is that Hardy also had a relationship with Caroll’s wife, Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea).
Watch a Trailer for “The Following”:
For the 54-year-old movie star, the biggest challenge on “The Following” was mentally gearing up to play the same character for an extended period of time — if the series proves successful. “We’re people that are like carnies,” he says of himself and Sedwgick, who have been married for 24 years. “We’re like gypsies. We have a suitcase packed. We go from part to part to part to role to role to role. Between the two of us, we’re constantly juggling, like, ‘Where are you today? Where are the kids today?’ That’s our lives. To actually commit to something that’s going to be the same part, you’re going to be playing the same guy or the same woman for a long time, is not really our instinct.”
Despite how counter-intuitive the job may have been, Bacon admits that it was exactly the part he’d been seeking: a multi-dimensional, damaged good guy. “I wanted to play the hero,” he says. “I was doing some bad guys in movies. Now there’s less movies being made and sometimes the ones that have the hero characters are comic books. But they don’t have a lot of flaws, those heroes, and that’s not me.
“I don’t tend to be drawn to regular guys,” he continues. “So I said, ‘If there’s gonna be a hero I want to find out what his flaws are.’ The truth is, I’ve always done that for villains, too. The flip side is you play a bad guy, you just play him as a monster and to me that is kind of boring. I’m going to look at a bad guy and say, ‘Is he charming? Or vulnerable? Or dynamic? What’s the flip side to him just being bad?’ Which is exactly what James is doing, actually. So [with] the hero I’m going to try to find the darker side and some kind of vulnerability and some kind of struggle. That’s what this part adds.”
Bacon says the ultimate selling point was not knowing where the story will lead. “That was one of the things when I was reading the pilot where I went, Okay, I see where this is going. This is going to be about a former FBI agent who’s on the trail of a serial killer for the rest of the show. And then…I think to myself, Well where is this show going? And I gotta say, the surprises are the thing that drives this show as far as I’m concerned. But those surprises are not necessarily the surprises that come from big plot twists. They’re also the surprises of, Who are these characters? What’s really driving Ryan Hardy?”
Through his work on the show, Bacon has learned to expect the unexpected. “You have to give yourself over to the fact that it’s not about learning everything about Ryan Hardy in the pilot, or the first episode or the second episode. There are some characters that are like that on television and people love them because they’re like, ‘That’s the guy we love and he’s gonna be like that for the next six years.’ And that’s not really what this character is about.”
As for the drama’s often gratuitous violence, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Bacon is unapologetic. “My responsibility is to do a good job, play this part, and play it to the best of my ability,” he says. “If I stopped every time I took a project and said, ‘What’s gonna be the social impact of it?’ I’d never f–king work. I mean, let’s face it. Look at some of the s–t I’ve done,” he jokes.
“If you want to analyze that, it’s such a slippery slope of making life choices,” he adds. “So this is what I do: I raise my kids with love and compassion. I try to teach them to take care of the planet and to take care of each other and to be good. I try to put feelings of good will out into my family and my friends and try to make decisions both financially and politically that are in line with things that I believe in. When I go to work, I’m the guy that’s playing parts.”
“The Following” premieres on Monday, Jan. 21 at 9/8c on FOX.