TCA: The Following Inspired by Lambs

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This morning, writer/producer Kevin Williamson (Scream, The Vampire Diaries) appeared at the TCA Press Tour on behalf of his terrifying new FOX series, The Following, and talked about the dark works of Poe and being inspired by Hannibal Lecter.

The Following, about an FBI Agent (Kevin Bacon) coming out of forced retirement to help stop a captured serial killer from controlling a legion of killers from behind bars, is one of the scariest, and bloodiest, network shows of all time. The killer here, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), is obsessed with the romanticized death featured in the works of Edgar Allan Poe. And Williamson was more than happy to explain where the inspiration for this fixation came from.

“There was a period of time when I lived in Virginia for about a year, and my mom took me to Richmond,” Williamson said. “And I guess Edgar Allan Poe had lived there for a brief period and there was a museum there, where his home was. And at one point, while walking through there, I remember they had The Raven written out on the wall in red, looking like blood everywhere. And they had it written along the wall so you could follow along and read it, and I remember that being the most magical day of my life. I went home home and my mom had bought me the collective works of Edgar Allan Poe and I started reading it. And then I got fascinated with his life story and how he was a very damaged writer.”

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James Purefoy as Joe Carroll in The Following.

But Poe wasn’t the only fuel for the fire. “Clearly, Silence of the Lambs inspired me,” Williamson added. “I was the guy who saw that movie multiple times. And read that book in a day. And then read it again the next day. I was completely inspired by that book. I thought it was amazing, and a very well-crafted piece of work. And when I was growing up, I’d watch the scary stuff. I also loved the cop shows. I’d watch Mannix with my dad. I just like the idea of the ‘good guy vs. the bad guy.’ It’s just something that I gravitate toward in my storytelling. What I like about [The Following] is that it’s an escalation. Here’s this guy who’s not only just this mad man – evil personified – but at his core is also a teacher. He’s a professor. And a very good one. And he’s found a way to get some of his students to do his bidding. That’s the fun of the show. Watching, week to week, what he’s up to and how is Ryan Hardy [Bacon's character] going to get ahead of it. Because the FBI is constantly chasing their tail for a while. Because they don’t realize how insidious and how large or expansive it is. How wide the story is. And so the show is them starting to learn all of this, and then eventually getting ahead of it.”

James Purefoy, who was also a part of the panel with the rest of the cast, then added a bit more, relating his character to Lambs’ Dr. Lecter. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this and about Silence of the Lambs. As we shoot the show, more and more, I’ve started the realize how small Hannibal Lecter’s vision was,” Purefoy joked. “How little it is. I mean, really, it was only up to the next meal.”

Williamson then took this as a cue to talk about Purefoy’s British accent. “Actually, there was a debate initially. Because when we had out first meeting, [Purefoy] did it with an American accent. Because I was worried about the ‘Anthony Hopkins’ of it all. And then of course, as soon as I heard the British accent I was like *resigned* ‘Oh yeah, lets do that.'”


The Following premieres on Monday, January 21st at 9/8c on FOX.

Follow Matt Fowler on Twitter at @TheMattFowler

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