[San Diego Comic-Con '12] Kevin Williamson Speaks On Pilot Presentation of “The Following”

One of our Comic-Con 2012 highlights was the opportunity to chat with the cast and creators of Fox’s upcoming series “The Following”. Even though only the pilot has been filmed so far, they all provided us with some thoughtful insights into the show.

First we spoke with creator/executive producer Kevin Williamson, who has been working on the project in one form or another for over 16 years. While he wants “The Following” to be gripping and leave audiences breathless, it has a love story at the root of it.

THE FBI estimates there are currently over 300 active serial killers in the United States. What would happen if these killers had a way of communicating and connecting with each other? What if they were able to work together and form alliances across the country? What if one brilliant psychotic serial killer was able to bring them all together and activate a following?

Keep digging for more.

Joe Carroll, the serial killer at the center of the show, has a bit of an obsession with Edgar Allan Poe – Poe’s romanticism holds great appeal for him – and every week is like a different chapter in the book Carroll is writing. Bacon’s character (retired FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who is called back in after Carroll escapes from prison) is trying to get ahead of him and rewrite the story. Carroll is building a web of serial killers to both protect him and follow in his footsteps (i.e., the “following” of the title).

While the original plan was for around 10 or 12 episodes, the network requested a few more so we can look forward to 15.

Next up was director/executive producer Marcos Siega, who also worked with Williamson on “The Vampire Diaries”. He explained a key component of the show is that you don’t know who is and isn’t involved in the “following” that surrounds Carroll.

He shot the pilot handheld, like a movie, so it would be cinematic but still very visceral. He’s directing five of the episodes and overseeing the rest; he’s doing the first ep after the pilot, a few more spaced out over the season, and the finale. Some other directors lined up thus far are Jon Cassar (“24″, “Terra Nova”), Phil Abraham (“Mad Men”, “The Walking Dead”), Liz Friedlander (“The Secret Circle”, “The Vampire Diaries”), and Nick Gomez (“The Shield”, “Dexter”, “Damages”). Filming will be taking place in New York.

We asked Siega about the appeal of “The Following” to the horror crowd, and he promised they are pushing the envelope for network TV with good gore, etc., for genre fans. While Fox did request a few edits of the pilot (specifically involving some rather brutal animal deaths), he hopes to possibly include what was cut in the Blu-ray/DVD release.

We got a surprise guest in Shawn Ashmore (he wasn’t listed on the schedule we received), who plays Junior Field Agent Mike Weston. Weston wrote a thesis on Carroll’s original case, and now things are getting real for him. He knows Poe, Carroll, and Hardy better than anyone; and it’s amazing for him to be able to work with his hero, Hardy.

As for the research he did for the role, he met with real FBI agents (he shared a pretty funny story about how they dress differently on each floor at Quantico depending on which department they’re affiliated with), watched video interviews on YouTube with real serial killers, and studied their court cases. He described Weston as an intellectual who is more likely to stay back doing research instead of being one of the first agents through the door.

Then we spoke with Carroll himself – James Purefoy. He described the character as definitely not your “average” serial killer. Charming, charismatic, and subtle, he’s incredibly smart and manipulative. He’s suffered from a feeling of disempowerment since he was young and wants to bring power and control back to his life. He’s violent and kills his victims by cutting their eyes out, following the “beauty of death” motif of Poe and the idea that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

He also researched real life serial killers on the Internet, none of whom he found to be sympathetic. If viewers find Carroll to be a sympathetic character, well, that says more them than him! He wondered what it is about Americans that attracts us so to violence and bad guys.

Finally, we wrapped things up with Kevin Bacon, who was attracted to the project because the script was such a page-turner that scared the hell out of him. He’d been wanting to play someone who was heroic but still a bit of a mess with complexity. He echoed Siega’s sentiment about the project pushing the envelope and being gritty. He feels Hardy is damaged and has a long way to go to get his personal life back on track. He’s lost his way and is dead inside, but he always was most alive when tracking Carroll so being pulled back into the world of crime fighting gives him back his focus.