THE FOLLOWING: Shawn Ashmore and Annie Parisse on Being Drawn to the Series and Getting Gradual Character Development
January 28, 2013 by Marisa Roffman
For those already under THE FOLLOWING’s spell, there’s no doubt the show is something special. And for it to truly work, it had to attract just the right group of actors.
“I was actively looking to do a television show, so…I was reading up on the pilots, auditioning for a bunch of things, and this was just my favorite show this year,” Shawn Ashmore (Mike) said. “I read it and I was like, this is something I would love to be a part of — this is something I would watch. Kevin Williamson wrote an amazing script that drew me in, and Kevin Bacon (Ryan) and James Purefoy (Joe) were also already cast, so I was like, this thing already has a great pedigree. I love them as actors, I can see where they’re going, and obviously the show really depends on the relationship between these two. I can see their strengths, I can see where that might go. So it was exciting. And I’ve worked with Marcos Siega — who directed the pilot — before, so it was like, I’m going to really go after this show. You do what you do: you audition, you test, you do whatever you need to do. And I’m just lucky I came out on the other side. I just loved the character and I loved the show. It’s something I would watch myself.”
As for Annie Parisse — whose character, Parker, debuts in tonight’s episode — she had a bit of an advantage going into the series.
“I came through after the pilot, and the cool thing for me was — and this almost never happens — is I got sent not just the script, but the pilot episode,” she explained. “And I loved the script when I was reading it and I immediately watched the pilot after reading the script, and I just thought it was a really great show. As well as the fact that…Kevin Williamson sent pages [of future scripts], because obviously Parker isn’t in the pilot. And so he sent pages of what was to come, and I just thought the writing was fantastic. For me, that always starts it — what’s the writing, what’s the character, what’s the character’s voice. And Kevin is just uniquely gifted in writing characters and relationships and all of that.”
And while the first episode of the series served to set up a bit of backstory for Joe and Ryan, both Ashmore and Parisse praised how the show has been doling out information on both of their characters.
“What’s interesting again about doing a television series is you have so much time to develop a character,” Ashmore noted. “There’s a lot of characters in the show, so I think you get doled out a little bit…as we go. I think by episode four, for Mike, anyways, you start to get an idea, a little more of who he is. Also — and it’s not necessarily in flashbacks, but you start to see who he is by how he handles Ryan and the tidbits he brings up. It’s just little pieces here and there that start to mold your view on Mike and where he comes from. It’s not like, boom, there’s a huge scene where we’re going to talk about my family. It’s peppered in as the show goes because — also, the show moves so quickly, and obviously there are scenes where we really do develop the characters, but it’s never in a heavy-handed way, where it’s like, ‘Now we’re going to talk about this and set this up.’ And that’s what makes a great scene: you get character development as the plot moves forward. That’s always interesting. That’s always fun. It’s never going to be like, ‘Oh, now we’re going to sit around and talk about me.'”
According to Parisse, those bits and pieces will pay off in places you don’t even expect it to.
“It feels like Kevin is doing that with all of the characters in a way, because…it’s not like there are episodes focused on one character or another, it’s more like every character has a relationship to what’s going on in every episode,” she said. “And as it unfolds, that particular character’s relationship reveals more and more about who they are. So it’s like you’re getting little pieces of everybody. I feel like for me by maybe episode six or seven, as I was getting to the end of it, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so sad.’ I just had this moment of every person here is in some moment of personal struggle. And it never felt like — you never saw it coming. And that’s one of Kevin’s great gifts: you’re just suddenly there, going, ‘Whoa. How did we end up in this place?’ And for, I realized I had been learning things about these people all along in such a subtle way I realized, ‘Oh, I don’t want this to happen to so-and-so.'”
Sounds equal parts alarming and exciting!
THE FOLLOWING airs Mondays at 9 PM on Fox.