From show creator Kevin Williamson, the psychological thriller The Following is back for Season 2, this time finding Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) in the middle of a horrific new murder spree. Ryan is reluctant to re-engage with the FBI, but finds a valuable ally in his niece, Max (Jessica Stroup), an NYPD cop working in the Intel Division, who helps prove his suspicion that Joe Carroll’s (James Purefoy) reign of terror is far from over.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actress Valorie Curry (who plays Joe Carroll’s biggest follower Emma Hill) talked about her character’s journey in Season 2, having to really be present in the moment on this show, how different Emma has turned out from what she expected, being both villain and victim, how much fun she’s had with her character’s new look, and whether she’s ever been tempted to try on one of the Joe Carroll masks. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
VALORIE CURRY: Yeah. She was totally un-tethered. I had no idea what to expect, honestly. And where we picked up with changed a couple of times, so it was really challenging, as an actor. In some ways, it was similar to the experience of starting Season 1 because I didn’t know who Emma was and I had no idea who she was going to turn out to be. Being on The Following is constantly flying by the seat of my pants. The story can change and the character can change at a moment’s notice. It was emotionally exhausting, in a way that I hadn’t experienced with her before. When we picked up with Emma, it sounds odd, but she was in a very dark, vulnerable place. She was carrying so much grief, and a lot of anger. She was alone, for the first time in her life, and without purpose. It was sad to me, to see how lost she was, even a year later, without Joe.
And then, as things are revealed and we find out what happened to him, that’s a whole emotional unraveling, as well. She has mixed feelings of betrayal and abandonment. It was like losing him, all over again. So, I was fortunate enough to have some really incredible but challenging scenes to get to do, working with that, as opposed to just working with knives or being cold and manipulative. It showed this incredibly broken core of her. But of course, it’s Emma Hill, so 99% of the time, she can’t show weakness. In fact, she very, very, very rarely does, so she’s so tightly wound. The constant cover and the constant mask of having to keep control was so exhausting. In Season 1, because she had this position of power in this cult, she didn’t have to keep control of herself. She could do what she wanted and use whatever tactics she wanted to manipulate people, but she doesn’t have that luxury anymore. She’s one of the FBI’s Most Wanted and she’s on the run. She’s in a whole new world.
Normally, when you go into a second season, you have the first season behind you as background for the character, but this season feels so different.
CURRY: It’s true. It’s funny because it mimics my experience in Season 1. I did the pilot, and then when I came in to do Episode 2, I had created this backstory for myself. In the second and third episodes, Kevin Williamson wrote her backstory, which was completely different, and I had to throw that away. And then, the same thing happened with Season 2. I was like, “Okay, this is what it is. This is where she is. This is her whole story.” But nope, that was all gone and I had to try again. What better exercise and challenge for an actor? I would always rather that than to have something easy.
Does that force you to really be in every moment, then?
CURRY: Yeah, and that’s who she is as a person, too. That’s how Emma is so changeable, chameleon-life, multi-faceted and two-faced. She is just of-the-moment. Whatever happened a minute ago is gone. That’s not her anymore. It is right now. It’s very much like a predator, in that way. She can just shift, at a moment’s notice.
Emma seems like someone who needs a purpose, and that being lost is not good for her.
CURRY: Yeah, the revelation there that is so fascinating about her is that, as much strength as she possesses, as much power and as many wiles, at her core, she is so weak. She needs so much. She needs Joe to give her purpose, to give her a center and to define her. She’s never had to be on her own, until now. Especially in the beginning of Season 2, we explore what does or doesn’t feel that void. That neediness is exposed in a way that it hasn’t been before.
When you were doing your own backstory for Emma, what did you came up with that was furthest from who she actually is?
CURRY: I didn’t know, until after I had shot the pilot, that Emma killed her mother. I didn’t know that she was this young, abused, meek, bookish thing. In this story of Emma that I had created, she had these psychopathic tendencies, as a child. She was much more callous and manipulative, as a child, as opposed to being somebody who was broken and who was taught to be that. That’s more complex and more tragic, to me. That’s why I think she’s Joe Carroll’s greatest victim. The story that Kevin Williamson wrote for her, he just took this girl and made her and molded her, and told her to love him, and then love this boy, and then leave this boy, and then kill this boy, and she does. She doesn’t exist, at the center. There’s no center to her, that is of her own, which is something I would love to see explored, at some point, in the future. Emma is bottomless. There is so much to explore with her. I think it would be fascinating to see her put into a situation where she has to develop her own sense of self and strength.
CURRY: I do, and I hope so. I think it’s one of those things where the audience can’t really tell when she’s faking vulnerability, kindness and love really, really well, and when it’s real. Everybody sees it differently, or they fall on different sides of the line. For me, Emma doesn’t lie. She’s deceitful, conniving and manipulative, but she doesn’t lie. She tells the truth, every moment, but the truth changes from one moment to the next. That’s part of her curse. She feels all those things, or she doesn’t. That’s what’s fascinating. There are no characters like her that exist, especially on television right now. She’s in the visage of a sweet, innocent-looking, non-threatening looking, childlike girl. Maybe that’s why some people love her, and I think that’s the same reason why some people hate her so much. Another thread that gets explored in Season 2 is her loneliness and her need not just for definition from somebody like Joe, but that need for companionship and understanding. She’s so alone. So, we get to explore her discovering that need in herself, as well.
What was it like to get to have such a different look for this season?
CURRY: I had a ball. I had a great time. I had so much fun. It took ages, every day. It was almost a ritualistic experience, as an actor, to put on the piercings, to have the hair, and to have the make-up. It was her mask of strength. It’s this hard exterior that she puts on, at the same time knowing that that appearance of strength and hostility equals the vulnerability that she’s feeling, and the sadness and grief. I loved being able to put all of that on, every day. I’ve never really played a character that had so many external cues before, and it’s a character that didn’t, previously. She morphs how she functions.
Did you go through a process of trying different looks before you decided on one?
CURRY: We did. We had a great time in the hair and make-up department doing some tests. We have done every possible make-up look this season. It was freeing to play with it and see how that influenced me and Emma, subsequently.
Did you have to get used to talking with the lip ring?
CURRY: You know, the lip ring wasn’t bad, at all. That was actually the least intrusive feeling. We tried a tongue ring for about 10 seconds. I was like, “This is not going to happen.” It was this magnetic one, and I would have ended up eating it. In more physical scenes, some of the piercings would fly out. But, I didn’t have to relearn how to talk. It was just a lot to remember to always have on and keep on, after a snack.
Can Emma have real friends?
CURRY: I think Emma can have friends. I think Emma has had friends. Jacob was her friend. It’s more about, is she capable of having relationships to which she has any kind of loyalty? It’s like she’s used it all up on Joe Carroll. He’s taken all of that loyalty. It would be hard to be besties with Emma Hill.
Have you ever been tempted to put one of the Joe Carroll masks on?
CURRY: I wore a ceramic mask for the promos that we did, which was fun. But, I don’t think I ever had the opportunity to put one of the latex masks on. They really look like him. It was hysterical, I was sitting in hair and there was this picture. I was like, “Oh, who’s that wearing the Joe mask? Is that Kevin?” And they were like, “That’s James standing there.” It’s really freakish.
The Following airs on Monday nights on Fox.