PASADENA, Calif. — In his first regular series television role, on the Fox drama “The Following,” Kevin Bacon is getting in deep. The veteran film actor (“Footloose,” “Apollo 13,” “Mystic River”) stars as Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent who has literally written the book on Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Not only does Hardy have a complicated romantic entanglement and a serious drinking problem, he also has a pacemaker thanks to a run-in with Carroll. We sat down with Bacon recently at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Q. One of the interesting aspects of Ryan Hardy is that he is unnerved by what happens. He’s not just a stoic hero whom nothing fazes.
A. Things faze him for sure [laughs].
Q. Is it nice not to just be the square-jawed good guy?
A. Yeah, because there’s not that much to do with that. I’m constantly pushing [“Following” creator] Kevin [Williamson] to find moments [for Ryan] of just blowing up or sadness or falling apart or vulnerability. That’s why I like the heart thing. I think that’s such an interesting idea, that on top of everything else he’s got this thing to keep his heart going and that that’s where his injury ending up being is so metaphorical to me.
Q. When did you actually make the decision to do a TV series?
A. Probably three or four years ago.
Q. So it took awhile to find something you really wanted to do?
A. Yeah, there were things that I really, really liked, and then for whatever reason the network put them in turnaround, or somebody else would read it and say, “Listen I think that’s a really good character and a really good pilot, but have you really thought about whether this is going to make a whole series?” And then I would have to revisit it because I really wasn’t used to reading things in that way. I’m more used to looking at things as a whole. And I had a couple of things I was developing and they didn’t quite come together, and then this one came along and I certainly didn’t expect to be on [a broadcast] network but it just grabbed me.
Q. Had you been a crime show fan, or was it just this script?
A. You know, as I started to focus and read and think about what it was that I wanted to do, it wasn’t that I definitely wanted to do a crime thing, but I did want to be the hero and I did want the hero to be complex and vulnerable, and I wanted it to be life and death. And I knew that from the shows that I was digging that had these kind of high stakes.
Q. What were those shows?
A. “The Wire” and “Homeland” and “Breaking Bad,” “The Killing” and “Brotherhood.” I realized that those were the kinds of stakes that I really wanted to be a part of. And this seemed to have all those pieces. It was such a page-turner, man. I remember sitting there going bam, bam, bam and 35 minutes later it was read!
Q. So what are the long-term prospects for “The Following”? Is the first season dealing with Carroll and than next season we get another killer who also has close ties to Ryan Hardy?
A. You know, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know the answer to it. I do know that you will see in the course of the series that [Carroll’s] influence and the size of his cult grows and grows and grows and it becomes bigger than any of us imagined. Now how we end it this year, I’m not exactly sure.
Q. You directed four episodes of your wife Kyra Sedgwick’s show “The Closer.” Are you hoping to direct some of “The Following,” or is that too much to handle as the star as well?
A. It’s not really something that I’m lobbying for. It’s physically difficult because you have to prep in order to direct and you can’t prep if you’re shooting because you can’t be in two places at one time.
Q. Maybe Kyra can come direct one of yours.
A. Yeah, I’d be into that.
Q. Would she?
A. You know, it’s funny that you ask that, she’s just now shadowing a director on [Fox drama] “Touch” actually and she’s coming home every day going “Wow, this is so interesting.” I keep telling her she would be a fantastic director. She should direct movies. And she said, “I don’t know about this.” And I said, “You know so much more than you think. You’ve been doing this your whole life. You’re so great with actors. You’d be really good at this.”
Q. If you can do it, she can do it.
A. Hell, yeah [laughs].Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman