THE FOLLOWING: James Purefoy on Joe's Fate and Ryan's Breakdown - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE FOLLOWING: James Purefoy on Joe’s Fate and Ryan’s Breakdown

May 4, 2015 by  


[This post contains spoilers for the April 27th episode of THE FOLLOWING.]

THE FOLLOWING has lost its most dynamic big bad.

After two-plus seasons of Ryan Hardy and Joe Carroll’s cat-and-mouse chase, Joe was killed by lethal injection — though not before he could take a few prisoners, and get Ryan to admit how closely the two of them were connected.

But though Joe is dead-dead (yes, really), that doesn’t mean James Purefoy (Joe) is totally off THE FOLLOWING yet: as viewers saw at the end of the last episode, when Ryan drank, he hallucinated Joe.

I spoke with Purefoy about filming Joe’s brutal execution scene, going out with a bang, and more…

When did they tell you Joe would actually die this season?
James Purefoy: The great thing about THE FOLLOWING is we lie a lot, obviously, and we tell people things aren’t going to happen that are going to happen, or they don’t happen when we say they are; it’s the nature of the storyline. You want to put the audience off the expected path of what they think is going to happen.

I knew from the end of last season [Joe] was going to die this season. It was just the matter of when. With THE FOLLOWING, we tend to know where we’re going to start and end each season, but the route on the way can change, depending on many factors. We knew he was going to die around episode 9, 10, 11. It was just a question of reading yourself for that big moment.

How was it to be off-screen for so much of this season?
JP: Joe is a very pungent character. Sometimes less is more. And he can cast a considerable shadow over events by really not doing much. You can use him sparingly; he’s like a very strong spice — just a pinch is enough to [impact] the whole dish.

Was it strange, as an actor, to come into this season midway into the action?
JP: No, it was fine. I am very aware of the need of TV programs to move on. There is an element of that, and I get it. It’s part of the world of television. Joe’s continuing existence in this world as a physical entity was becoming more and more unreal. And a difficulty for the audience to suspend their disbelief to that extent. It was just becoming more and more ludicrous, really. He’s a man who had escaped from prison not once, but twice — from maximum security prison. To make him do that a third time…it’s really important for a show that lives in “the real world,” it just became absurd that he wouldn’t naturally end up dying.

How was it filming Joe’s death episode?
JP: They gave a really great sendoff, didn’t they? That’s what you want. When you’re playing a character like Joe, you don’t want him to just fizzle out, you want him to go out with a fucking great bang.

Joe and Ryan really hashed out a lot about their relationship before Joe’s death. How was it for you filming those scenes with Kevin Bacon (Ryan)?
JP: It was great. It was a consummation. To quote Hamlet, “is a consummation devoutly to be wished.” It was a three year, incredibly complicated, textured and layered relationship that every week, every episode, added more layers to that relationship. Finally getting some kind of closure for that — there were a lot of questions about their relationship that were answered in those final scenes together. I thought it was a deeply fascinating way [co-showrunner] Alexi [Hawley], our brilliant writer, managed to bring all of those threads in the final episode.

The previous episodes had Joe and Ryan appearing in each other’s dreams. What was your reaction when you found out you’d be playing with the lighter aspect of their relationship?
JP: I thought it was brilliant. There were sequences leading up to it where Ryan would wake up covered in blood, or knowing that he killed someone, whatever it was, but I thought it would be creepier, by far, would be him and Joe, being pals, and having a drink. So that when Ryan woke up from that, that would be more alarming; a real “what the fuck?” moment. Joe had gotten into his subconscious on such a level that they were pals, they were drinking pals, playing pool, having fun.

How will Ghost!Joe play into Ryan’s breakdown?
JP: He’s going to spiral down a little bit. He has lost the other strand to his DNA, and he finally kind of admitted that in the last moments of the last episode. Even though it was a very private conversation between the two of them, he did admit that he was, for want of a better word, a soulmate to Joe. And to lose that, he’s going to go through a grieving process. And a lot of times, to go through a grieving process, you deal with that in different ways. And I think Ryan will be dealing with it in the way he deals with it, which will be to go back to the bottle, which we’ve seen already. And yes, I know Joe will be appearing in those moments of crisis for Ryan.

Is there a difference in how you play Ryan’s interpretation of Joe versus regular Joe?
JP: No, I don’t think so, because it’s such a complicated relationship that it uses up all facets of Joe. Joe is really a multi–faceted guy and there are many, many, many different sides for him. Ryan picks out the side that fits best for the moment he’s going through at that time.

This isn’t the first death Joe has faced — he “died” at the end of season 1, and then there was an unaired death scene in season 2. Where does his execution rank in your FOLLOWING deaths?
JP: [Laughs] Well, it’s pretty final, obviously. It doesn’t get much more last nail in the coffin than the dreaded concoction of chemicals pumped into you. It was a pretty heavy day. We shot that death scene many, many, many times. The freakiest of which was when there was no camera crew with me, it was just me and the technicians, because the camera crew was behind the glass and I couldn’t see them. Those people who are always around you, weren’t. That was a weird day. It was a weird day and it was a difficult day.

What kind of research did you do to prep for filming the sequence?
JP: I did a lot of research, and a lot of research into botched [executions] — the Supreme Court had been recently the best way to kill someone by the state. I had some people say, “I thought people just went slowly off into the night when they had the lethal injection.” That is absolutely not the case. It is very well documented that people have laid there on that slab, writhing with pain like their body is on fire for up to two hours sometimes. It’s barbaric, frankly.

What reaction have you gotten from fans post-Joe’s death?
JP: I’ve gotten some very touching reactions. I think it just goes to show how brilliant the writers have been on all seasons of THE FOLLOWING. They have developed a character who can get under the skin of people; who on one hand is loathsome, hideous, awful, and barbaric in himself, because he kills so many people and causes so much pain and sorrow. And yet the audience also has taken to him, and see him as a man, see him as a human being. I think that’s been one of the triumphs…of what the writers have achieved: to create someone who is complex, but so very human, so the audience can mourn his loss.

What will you miss most about Joe?
JP: His wit.

They gave you some good lines.
JP: They did give me good lines. It’s one of those things where if you can make the audience laugh, they take you to their heart, because it shows you have the same sense of humor. They recognize the humor in the situation. His dark, very dry wit is the thing I miss most.

THE FOLLOWING airs Mondays at 9 PM on Fox.


THE FOLLOWING Post-Mortem: Kevin Williamson on the ‘Sad’ but ‘Necessary’ Loss
THE FOLLOWING: ‘Evermore’ Photos
THE FOLLOWING: ‘Kill the Messenger’ Photos
THE FOLLOWING: Brett Mahoney on Ryan’s Spiral, Theo’s Rage, Mark’s ‘OMG’-Worthy Return, and More

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One Response to “THE FOLLOWING: James Purefoy on Joe’s Fate and Ryan’s Breakdown”

  1. Sharon on May 6th, 2015 8:02 am

    I think the show will be cancelled, the audience does not want to watch without Joe in it. Sad but true. I for one, was very disappointed they killed him off. It’s a TV show, it doesn’t have to be totally believable, so he escapes 1 more time, so what, other shows have been more ludicrous. It’s TV for goodness sake. The show was called The Following after JOE’S followers, so without Joe, its ludicrous that the show continues. I just purchased seasons 1 and 2 and will watch those over and over, season 3 is a big disappointment.