The second season of FOX’s psychological serial killer drama, The Following, has yet to even go into production, but already the buzz is building from the Comic Con announcement that Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) isn’t really dead and what that means for those around him. Since the second season will start with a time jump, the characters have had time to (hopefully) heal and grow since the literal explosive first season finale. And as much as Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has a lot to get over from being stabbed, seeing the woman he loves be stabbed, and dealing with breaking protocol to get to Carroll, his acolyte Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) has just as much weighing on him.
“Let’s not forget at the end of the last episode, Ryan and Mike kidnapped, tortured, and murdered a detainee…I think Mike has an understanding that Ryan is going to do things his own way, and I think he’s totally down with that,” Ashmore said when LA TV Insider Examiner caught up with him last night in Los Angeles.
“I think the second that Mike sort of essentially sacrificed his life for Claire, for Ryan’s love, that he started to let Mike in a little bit. I don’t think these two will ever be the kind of guys who go sit at a bar and watch the game, but I think they have a bond and a trust, and as this case continues, I think that they are going to grow closer and closer. I sort of see them as soldiers. They’re not friends, but they’ve been put through the fire together, and that’s the kind of bond they’ll have. That kind of relationship has so many legs.”
But that kind of relationship also comes with a lot of baggage. Becoming a soldier potentially comes with implications of PTSD, even if it’s undiscussed or even unrecognized, but it also creates a more hardened version of a very eager and earnest young FBI agent.
“The best thing that ever happened for me to Weston in the [first] season was him getting kidnapped in what I call the Fight Club episode by Roderick. That was the best thing to happen to him because it sort of set Mike on this trajectory to take a darker turn,” Ashmore said.
“What I thought was really interesting was when Mike starts to take that turn, and he gets hurt, and he starts getting wrapped up in the case, I feel like it mirrors what happened to Ryan Hardy all those years ago, that first time around. We don’t get to see that whole journey, but we’re starting to with Mike. I think that’s what creates the bond with the two, [but] I think the ramifications of killing somebody will play out. What that means for his job, what that means for his personal life, I don’t know [yet], but those are all of the places I’m going to sit down and think about what kind of state of mind he’s in. I don’t think it’s a great [one]; I think it’s a dark place.”
It also may be a much more innately suspicious place. Weston has seen and partaken in some crazy things, and it has his antenna raised about others. For this reason, Ashmore shared that he believes Weston would be suspicious that Carroll isn’t even dead. Sure, there was a match made to the body in the lighthouse, but Carroll has followers everywhere, and Weston fully understands the scope of that now.
“I feel like it would be naive for them to think Joe Carroll wouldn’t be sophisticated enough to pull it off, you know? He broke out of prison; he set up and manipulated a cult from prison; I think these characters know that anything is possible with him,” Ashmore said.
Over the course of the first season, Weston and Ashmore, of course, quickly became a fan favorite with legions of people online promising to boycott the show if Weston turned out to be a follower (“I think the reason the audience connected with Mike was because he was sort of the voice of the audience; he was sort of on the positive tip and seeing the case in a fresh way,” Ashmore said). However, in all of that, they really never got to know Weston. Part of this was intentional to keep the air of mystery about whether or not he could be another sleeper, and part of it may have just been due to timing. But one thing Ashmore said for the second season was that the show should be going home with Weston or at least getting to know him as a man, not just an FBI agent, better.
“We don’t know anything about Mike [but] from what I’ve heard the second season is going to step back a little bit and not be so much about the manhunt [but] be a little bit more about character development. I think in the first season, it wasn’t appropriate. The manhunt and the case was so driving, to go home with the characters would have broken up the type of storytelling Kevin Williamson was doing. But I think it’s nice now that we’ve cemented the tone of the show and found out what it’s about, I think people want to know more about these characters,” Ashmore said.
Of course, every time we did go home with someone in the first season, they ended up dying a few episodes later. Ashmore acknowledged this but said death on this show “is what it is” and he is along for the ride– even if it ends up being shorter term than others’.
“I’ve accepted the fact that at any point my character might die. If the storytelling’s good and if it’s good for the show, I’m willing to go for it,” Ashmore said.
Of course, something tells us the fans of this show wouldn’t be so open-minded!
The Following returns to FOX mid-season 2013-2014.
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