THE FOLLOWING: James Purefoy on the Lessons Joe Learned, the 'Much, Much, Much Bigger' Goal for Season 2, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE FOLLOWING: James Purefoy on the Lessons Joe Learned, the ‘Much, Much, Much Bigger’ Goal for Season 2, and More

January 24, 2014 by  


THE FOLLOWING’s Joe Carroll lives!

James Purefoy’s (Joe) return to the Fox series was hardly a surprise — after all, Purefoy “crashed” the Comic-Con panel last summer to confirm his return — but viewers got their first glimpse of a not-dead (but very bearded) Joe in the final moments of last week’s season premiere.

To get a bit of insight into what Joe has planned next, I spoke with Purefoy about his alter ego…

There was a fairly long break between THE FOLLOWING’s season finale and the season premiere. Did you keep up with what people were speculating about Joe during that time?
James Purefoy: I do try and stay away from it. I think the internet is a really dangerous thing to get too involved in. Like Twitter. I can’t engage with it too heavily. I have a life, a real life, and I like to keep my virtual life quite distant.

That makes sense. We only got the briefest of glimpses of Joe in the season premiere. What can you tease about where he’s been and what his journey this year will be?
JP: Well, he’s taken a year [away]. He’s gone into a pupa, chrysalis-state in the first few episodes, where he’s contemplative about what his place is going to be. And he has enough self-knowledge for a mad man to realize he’s not a writer. In fact, that he’s a terrible writer. And that his fantasy of riding off into the sunset with his nuclear family is never going to happen. So what is he? What can he do? I think he realizes 1) he’s a good teacher, and 2) he’s a very good killer.

Is he actually aware that after his “death,” Claire was attacked and presumably killed, and that Joey is in witness protection?
JP: Yeah, because he planned all that. He told Molly [she could kill Ryan]…but I think he never thought she would get to Ryan.

Joe thought he’d get to Ryan first?
JP: Exactly.

Given Emma is unaware that Joe is still alive, has the show been dealing with the fallout of that choice?
JP: Yeah, we talk about that. She’s very upset with me, obviously. But he hasn’t had contact with anybody. He’s completely disappeared. But he needed completely disappear, in order to keep his own life safe, because anyone who knew very well could have been caught, tortured, anything. So he didn’t tell anybody where he was going. But yes, he has to deal with a very upset Emma.

Joe has had a really twisted relationship with his followers so far — and now many of them are dead — but of this newest batch, is there one in particular he grows close to in season 2? Or someone he has a more antagonistic relationship with?
JP: Tiffany [Boone (Mandy)], the character that she plays, he’s very fond of her, and he treats her like his daughter. So she’s become a surrogate for Joey. Of course, she does some pretty terrible things, and I think he always wished he could teach Joey some kinds of terrible things. But that never really happened. So this is his new surrogate daughter, and he’s very fond of her.

He’s also very fond of Emma.

A little less daughterly there, though…
JP: A little less daughterly there. That’s a bizarre relationship. But he’s very fond of her because she will do anything for him. There is no holds barred on what she would do for him; she would die for him.

In terms of his long-term plans is he thinking at all about getting Joey back?
JP: I think he’s come to a realization that, probably, a serial killer is not a great father figure. That’s not going to work. Nor is he ever going to be able to get back with Claire. I think that’s the other realization: she was not going to sail off into the sunset with him, because he’s a serial killer. He’s insane. Those two relationships, he’s put aside.

You would think, in theory, that would almost make him even more dangerous because he has nothing else left to lose without those ties.
JP: He has nothing to lose and a great deal to gain. He has a lot more fun. I feel like he started having a lot of fun towards the end of last season. I don’t know if you remember the episode last season where he did the house-jacking and he was making pasta for those people? He was having fun. He was enjoying himself there. He was starting to enjoy himself more. There’s a kind of ironic wit to him I really enjoy playing. When you’re playing a character that’s having fun, the audience is having fun, regardless of how heinous they are.

Does he want Ryan dead at this point? If he kills Ryan, he can’t torture him…
JP: That’s all he wants. [Hurting Ryan] brings him enormous pleasure…I think he likes to psychologically torture him. I can’t imagine we’re not going to get a moment where Max’s life is not horribly threatened. Anybody who is close to [Ryan], Joe is interested in emotional pain with Ryan, more than actually hurting him. You want to hurt him emotionally, because that’s much worse.

Viewers know that Ryan hasn’t let go of his Joe-fixation, but Ryan is still fooling much of everyone else at this point. Where will that relationship be going this season, especially as Joe starts  to find his own footing again?
JP: I think he’s realized his super-objective in season 1 was too small, too domestic. His super-objective in season 2 is much, much, much bigger.

Is he willing to up his game at this point?
JP: [Laughs] I’m not sure you could really up it! He’s willing to kill people any time at all. I think he’s become more obsessed with the idea that killing is a gift. That in the last moments before death, there is a transcendence, and an understanding that I’m giving to my victims. He believes that’s the greatest gift you can give somebody. He really is kind of an angel of death. It’s a dark place to occupy.

Jessica Stroup (Max) teased there was something really twisted a male character does in episode 7 that freaked her out — was it something Joe did?
JP: I know I’ve just done something in episode 10 — the audience has a complicated relationship with Joe. Because on the one hand, they kind of like him. I think one of the things is he makes people laugh; he’s got a good sardonic wit. And if you make people laugh, on the one hand, they start enjoying your company. But then the great thing about our show is we’re ready to screw with people’s heads by doing something terrible a moment later, when he does something dreadful, and then they feel complicated later for enjoying his company. And so one of the things they dealt with, and one of the things I found interesting, is I get no negativity at all [from viewers]. People aren’t scared. They enjoy the show, they enjoy him as a villain, he’s a good bad guy.

However, there was an episode we shot last week that I think will really try people’s patience. It’s almost sometimes I feel as if the writers are writing me stuff that is so messed up, so monstrous, that it’s like, “Go on, see if you can get people to like you after this one!”

Are you looking to push as many boundaries as possible? Or would you prefer for him to be more simply bad?
JP: Of course! You want to challenge people. You want to make people feel ambivalent and complicated. I come from traditional classical theatre, where you’re very aware that Hamlet, for example, can do very heinous things one minute, and then you fall for him completely the next. The greatest characters are the ones where the audience feels really complicated about. Where they come to and fro you in waves. Anything else is two-dimensional, and bland, and boring, and you want people to feel difficult about you.

Series creator Kevin Williamson has been clear that Joe Carroll might not be a part of THE FOLLOWING’s entire run. At this point, have you spoken with him and the writers about what that might mean for your time on the show? Or do you not want to know?
JP: I take it [as it comes]. As I say to all of the actors when they arrive in New York [where THE FOLLOWING films], don’t sign a lease. I go week-by-week.

You’re probably a little safer than that, but…
JP: Possibly. Probably. You never know. They very well may want to [suddenly kill off Joe] and that would be a big surprise. I don’t know. I don’t know what the show would be. It’s called THE FOLLOWING. They need to follow someone!

Very true. Fox has always done a great job at marketing the show, but I’m not sure if you saw, they actually gave out masks of your face (like the ones that the subway cult members used during their attack) to promote season 2. What was your reaction to that, and did they give you one?
JP: I don’t have one for myself. I don’t really want one for myself. They’re threatening to put them in production and sell them in Halloween stores next year. That is something I don’t want. I don’t want to see hundreds of version of myself walking down 9th Avenue!

I can imagine that could be traumatizing. Now that you’re about a season-and-a-half, production-wise, in playing Joe Carroll, what do you feel is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far about playing him?
JP: I think one of the things I really, really have fun with is having the audience know what I’m thinking. I could be playing dumb in a scene — we have a big section where a character comes in with someone who has a very big performance, and it looks like for all intents and purposes, this other character thinks that Joe has been playing very low status, and the audience will know that Joe is only doing this because he has his eye on the bigger picture just down the line. So that’s an enjoyable factor of Joe — that the audience knows this character. Those are the kinds of things I’ve learned about him. It’s interesting.

THE FOLLOWING airs Mondays at 9 PM on Fox.


THE FOLLOWING Season 2: Check Out the New Artwork!
THE FOLLOWING Season 2 Premiere Post-Mortem: Kevin Williamson on the Show’s Double Trouble, Joe, and Whether that Death Will Stick
THE FOLLOWING’s Kevin Bacon: Ryan is Still Obsessed with Joe

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