THE FOLLOWING: Shawn Ashmore on the Potential in Season 2, Season 1's Lessons, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE FOLLOWING: Shawn Ashmore on the Potential in Season 2, Season 1’s Lessons, and More

July 26, 2013 by  

THE FOLLOWING may have concluded its first season nearly three months ago, but it won’t go back into production on season 2 for a few more weeks.

And while there may not be too much to spoil, I spoke with THE FOLLOWING star Shawn Ashmore (Mike) about the season finale, the lessons learned from the first season, what comes next, and what he’s hoping to see…

Kevin Williamson has been open about filming beyond what aired as the final scenes of THE FOLLOWING’s first season, so how was it for you as an actor to not be quite sure how the year was going to end?
Shawn Ashmore: To be honest, they didn’t issue pages; that scene wasn’t in the script. I only knew about it because [director/executive producer] Marcos Siega told me about it. So I wasn’t sure exactly what happened in the scene until I watched it on TV. They told me about it, but brutally, it’s not the same thing as reading a script and knowing exactly what’s going to happen and what the tone is and how it all happens. It was interesting.

The thing I really liked about this season was I never really interacted with the cult members, and so when I was watching the show — and I did, I watched every episode, because I genuinely like the show — I felt like I was surprised that I was so removed from half of the episode. I could actually enjoy the show, and it wasn’t like, “Oh, I know what’s going to happen.” So the ending was kind of fun, because I sort of knew that was going to happen, but I didn’t know how it was going to play out. So it was kind cool. I enjoy that. I like the mystery of it.

I’m not the kind of actor that needs to know every single detail; I’m not concerned with that. I need to know what I need to know. And then if some stuff is kind of secret…I just don’t put my nose where it needs to be sometimes, because I like to be surprised. I enjoy that.

That could be a good way to keep yourself alive…
SA: [Joking] Just don’t bring any attention to yourself and maybe you’ll survive! Which we all know is not true: anyone can die at any point.

How much do you know about season 2? Is it basically what’s out there, or do you know a few tidbits more?
SA: I basically know what’s out there. I haven’t read a script yet. I think they’re doing a last pass before they release it. We start shooting in mid-August, so we’ll be getting it soon. I had a conversation with Kevin and Marcos at Comic-Con sort of about what they put out there. And I guess there are a few details I know…I know a little bit more, but not a lot. I know what I basically need to know. I have some questions that I wanted to know, just so I could mentally prepare, because you know there’s a time jump. For me, it was more important to know the broad strokes of what has happened in the year so when we jump back in, I’m going in the right way. I don’t need to know all the details, but what has this year been like? It’s going to be an interesting season. Mike’s journey is not over and his life isn’t getting any easier. I love it.

Are you also filling in some of those blanks yourself, given how many gaps there must be in that year?
SA: Yeah. And that’s a dangerous thing to do sometimes as an actor, because Kevin Williamson is so specific and when he gives you a script, it’s ready to go. There’s no room…you don’t need to interpret what he wants to say, it’s all right there. That’s what I love about working with him: he’s always clear on what he wants. So I can extrapolate and come up with things I think he might be going through, but I’m cautious I’m not going too far. Because even in the pilot, we didn’t learn a lot about Mike in the pilot, so I sat down with Kevin before we started shooting and I had all these ideas and half of them he was like, “That’s great.” And the other half of them, he was like, “I don’t want to go there.” So until I have those discussions with him, I don’t run too far with a potential idea. It’s more about a mental state and an emotional state as opposed to “oh, this is what he’s been dealing with” or “oh, he started drinking in the off time.” I’m not going to add anything Kevin hasn’t been giving to me, but it’s just a general emotional state.

Is there a line you guys have to toe in order to not make Mike too much like how Ryan was when we first saw him in the pilot?
SA: Here’s the thing: what I thought was interesting about Mike’s sort of decline was it mirrors what Ryan was going through. So I think that’s something we’re trying to show. And, again, that’s my question. How far does Mike go down the rabbit hole? Does Ryan pull him out? Does he stop himself? Does he go all the way? Those are things I don’t know yet. I think he’s on that path. I’m not sure where Kevin wants to take it.

I don’t know it would be the right thing to have him completely go through what Ryan went through. It might just be two guys sitting around, drinking and maybe that doesn’t work. Or maybe it’s great. Maybe he bottoms out for a while, it gets really messy, and then something happens to pull him out of it. I don’t know.

It could be fascinating to see that dynamic, especially since Ryan is now apparently in a good place.
SA: Right. Maybe there’s a bit of a reverse situation. But it’s a bit of a delicate thing, because you don’t want to have it be too obvious or like, oh, the roles are totally reversed. But I think if that’s where it happens to go and if we can keep the two performances subtle, it would be interesting to see the flip side and play around with that for a while. But until I read it, I just don’t know.

Completely fair. What do you think Mike’s reaction will be to Joe being alive?
SA: I don’t think he’ll be surprised. I don’t. I think that — I certainly don’t think Mike thinks that he’s out there, but if he’s presented absolutely any evidence, he’ll be like, let’s go. Joe Carroll has done so many more impressive things than fake his own death: creating his own cult from prison, escaping from prison, absolutely ripping the FBI apart…I don’t think faking his own death would surprise Mike. He’s somewhere, maybe deep down, thinking that’s a possibility.

Kevin was also pretty upfront about the power imbalance between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in season 1. Was that something you were aware of as you were filming things, or was that something that became apparent as you were watching the show post-filming?
SA: It was more apparent when I watched it. And I think the last couple of episodes, I was aware. We have to be a step behind, and it’s frustrating for an audience sometimes.

And the other thing, too, is I feel it’s the product of procedurals. You watch LAW & ORDER, you watch a HOUSE, the case is always solved, so that’s what the audience expects. So I think there’s a little less leniency now because procedurals are so prominent and it is satisfying to watch the good guy solve the medical case, to put the guy away.

That being said, serialized stuff is what I enjoy. I love to binge-watch stuff. I actually tend to wait and watch things in a row so I can keep [diving] in.

So I was aware of it, but that’s the conceit of the show in season 1, and I think Kevin Williamson addressed it on the panel [at Comic-Con]: we sort of painted ourselves into a corner, and we learned from that. So I think if we can come out in the second season and remove that issue, I think, storytelling-wise and character-wise, it’s going to really take off.

Right. While it would have been lovely, in theory, for the cops to be able to outsmart Joe all the time, there’s no show if he doesn’t pull one over on them occasionally. The arc would have been concluded in two episodes.
SA: Right. And it’s not realistic. If you talk with FBI guys or any law enforcement, they track murders, cults, mob, whatever, for months and months and months before they can even make a case, let alone someone as tech savvy and organized as Joe Carroll. It would take a long time to track him down. I think it’s a product of what we’re used to seeing on television and I can understand an audiences’ frustration when the guys you want to see — but I also think there’s something very satisfying, knowing that the good guys…and I say that in quotes — are trumped every once in a while, because it makes the payoff all the more satisfying. It’s a fine balance to walk.

Is there anything you’re really hoping to see in season 2, since so much of your arc is still a mystery to you?
SA: I’d like to see a little more of home life. Not once did we ever go home with him. The case the first season was such a manhunt, it was such the driving force of the thriller, that it would be nice to have a little bit of air. And we’ve talked about that. I think there’s going to be a little room to develop these characters. I feel like it’s the first movie in a trilogy, and you get all the storytelling out of the way, and you get a little room to breathe with the characters you’ve gotten to know. So I’m looking forward to that. Specifics? I think the trajectory Mike is on is great. I think he’s growing as an agent, he’s growing as a man. He’s becoming callous, which I like.

Are you terrified to have a love interest? Happy endings aren’t really the norm on this show…
SA: I don’t know!  It would be interesting. I think it would be an interesting challenge on the show, because it’s a very romantic show, actually, in a weird way. But it’s not a traditional, let’s have actors look at each other in a nice dinner scene. But I think it would be interesting to interplay the horrific aspects of it, and then a home life where you’re like, I have to take my girlfriend out. I think that could be interesting to show these characters shifting gears. I think that’s fascinating in real-life law enforcement where they see a suicide, and then they have to come home and put their kids to bed or take them to school. How do you deal with that? I think, as an actor, that could be a really interesting thing to navigate. It could be really, really appealing to experience.

THE FOLLOWING will return on Fox in early 2014.

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