To Kevin Bacon's way of thinking, if he's going to star in a thriller, there's no point in going halfway. So he makes no apologies for the graphic violence that permeates The Following (8 p.m. Monday on Fox). "This show is a thriller about a serial killer," says Bacon, who plays Ryan Hardy, an FBI agent battling a charismatic sociopath and his army of protégés. "If you're telling me something is a comedy, I'm going to be disappointed if I go and I don't laugh. If someone has pitched something to me as incredibly moving, I want real tears coming down my cheeks. And if something is supposed to be a thriller, I want to be on the edge of my seat, I want to be scared, I want to have chills, I want to be grinding my teeth and averting my eyes." The Following is Bacon's first starring role in a TV series after 35 years of moviemaking. If the solid ratings hold, he might keep doing this show for quite some time.
1 What compelled you to make the leap to television?
I had been looking for a television series for a long time, probably three or four years. It just took time to find the right one. I had seen my wife's experience [Kyra Sedgwick enjoyed a long run on The Closer] and was finding myself more of a television consumer. The quality of shows and the writing seemed to be better.
2 And now that you're doing TV, is there any downside to it?
One of the most frightening things about it was staying in one place. If it ends up that we go on for a few years, that's not something I'm used to. Even though we have a really strong family, we are also gypsies. We always have suitcases packed and we're not used to a steady gig.
3 Is it hard to keep the show's dark storylines from affecting you?
Over the years, I've dealt with a lot of dark material in the movies. You have to find ways to protect yourself. When I'm on the set, I'm very focused. But I turn it off on the weekends. If I connect with things like my family, my kids, my dog, take a walk in the woods, have a good meal, they're able to pull me out of that head space.
4 Ryan is a flawed hero with a drinking problem and a pacemaker. What is it about this character that appealed to you?
The fact that you meet this guy and know something's bothering him deeply but you don't learn all the details in the first episode is exciting for an actor. The continuing exploration of this guy and what is eating at him and what makes him tick is interesting from a character standpoint.
5 What do you think of the show's freaky Edgar Allan Poe masks?
They're kind of creepy. It's funny, because when I saw them in the script, I was like, "This guy comes after me with a Poe mask? I don't know about that." Then I saw the realization of them and I thought they were really well done.
-- David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram