Kevin Bacon Thought His First Series Would Be on Cable

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Kevin Bacon has played his share of good guys and bad guys in his time – a victim in the original Friday the 13th, a sociopath opposite Meryl Streep in The River Wild, and this week, on the new FOX series, The Following, he plays an ex-FBI agent on the trail of a murderer in some of the bloodiest television ever put on the air.

Aside from the HBO movie, Taking Chance, for which he won a Golden Globe, The Following marks his first foray into episodic television, a move even he’s surprised he didn’t take earlier.

“I turned around at one point probably three or four years ago, I said, ‘What are you doing? You love television, you’re watching television all the time, you’re wife’s on a television show, you’re directing television. When you get together with your friends, that’s what you’re talking about.’ So, I kind of threw my hat in the ring,” he said at the Television Critics Association Press Tour.

Still, having come up in a time when successful actors appeared in movies, and TV was for those who couldn’t quite cut it, Bacon is surprised to find himself on the small screen. But in recent years, with the studios moving away from provocative subject matter, and the proliferation of programming like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Mad Men raising the bar, it’s no secret that Hollywood’s top actors and directors are migrating to TV.

When Bacon listed his favorite shows, he noticed that six out of seven of them were on cable. So what’s he doing on network?

“I am surprised,” he confessed. “But [The Following] had the stuff that I was interested in. It’s about life and death and it was a hero and the hero was a mess, and those were the things [I was looking for].”

On the new show, Bacon plays ex-FBI agent, Ryan Hardy, who 10 years earlier put away serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). When Carroll escapes death row, a series of murders draws Hardy out of retirement into a cat-and-mouse pursuit with not one but a whole army of killers who view Carroll as some sort of murderous Messiah.

Bacon shied away from the idea of playing one character season after season, but executive producer Kevin Williamson (Scream movie franchise, The Vampire Diaries) assured him the character would be revealed over time. And if that wasn’t enough to convince him, Bacon’s wife, Kyra Sedgwick, long-time star of TNT’s The Closer, was there to allay any doubts.

“I got a lot of help just from having seen her do it and also directing her,” he said, suggesting that after viewing the pilot, he felt concerned about his characterization.

“Kevin [Williamson] gave me a one-line character idea, which he almost really kind of said in passing. This is a guy who has been surrounded by death. And that’s something that, moving forward toward the end of this season, that we’re starting to explore – not the fact that it’s actually true, but just the fact that he feels that way. That he feels that he’s cursed in some kind of way. Maybe it’s that situation of why me? I think that’s got to be a horrible place to live in. And, so how is he going to deal with that? How’s he going to stay alive?”

The Following premieres Monday at 9PM on FOX.

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