Fox hosted an afternoon at “The Following” at Steiner Studios where they screened episode 301 “New Blood” and 302 “Boxed In” followed by cocktails and a tour of the set in beautiful Brooklyn. You’d never know you were near a major production house if it weren’t for the large letters above its entrance that read, in capital blue letters: “STEINER”. It was all very reminiscent of Hollywood’s vision of itself as seen in an assortment of movies, where characters roll up to the booth where the security guard waves and says, “Morning, Mr. [famous actor]!” Except, here the security guard simply asked us if we were here for the reading. I replied, “Uhhh, no. We’re here for The Following set visit.” He asked for our names, and after a moment of searching for the correct list, gave us the appropriate tags that would give us access. The man at the gate didn’t realize it, but this gave me a sense of just how busy this studio is before setting foot in its grounds.
After we cleared the gate, we drove to our building and were greeted by a representative from Fox, who sent us to the third floor. I couldn’t help but notice the sign taped in between the elevators giving directions to the production meeting for Gotham “Episode #1.20”.
We got off the elevator to the third floor and were escorted to where the mingling was to take place: It was a nondescript hallway outside one of the screening rooms. They had some chairs set up so we could rest; they had some booze so we could relax. About fifteen members of the press passed the time, drinking all the beer and wine that Fox money could buy (which is a lot).
There was about forty-five minutes of mingling, wherein the press and certain members of the cast were able to meet and shoot the breeze until the screening of the first two episodes of season 3. In attendance were James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore, Jessica Stroup, Sam Underwood, Zuleikha Robinson, and Valorie Curry. Now, about those episodes:
Anybody who’s been a fan of The Following will be pleased by the start of its third season. From the opening scenes of the first episode, it’s immediately clear that there’s a sharp increase in quality from season 2, which was, by most accounts, a bit of a mess. But these episodes were sharply written, putting more of an emphasis on the inner lives of the characters, rather than having them move from plot point to plot point, although there’s plenty of that, too. But those plot points are strong and effective, and the pacing in the first two hours is tight and suspenseful. Viewers will no doubt be excited to hear that the show is as grotesque and disturbing as ever, while never favoring shock value over intelligence, although there’s no shortage of shocking moments (brace yourself for the end of episode 2).
The season jumps forward a year, giving time for the events of the last one to breathe a little. Ryan Hardy has settled into a good rhythm with his life. That is, until a string of murders happens where the corpses are strung up and positioned in macabre tableaus recreating major scenes from the previous investigation, with claims, painted in blood, that Ryan and his associates are liars and murderers. To say more, however, would be doing the viewers a disservice. It will be sufficient to say that anyone who has followed the show up until now will not be disappointed.
After the screening, we had another half hour or so of mingling. I got a chance to ask Shawn Ashmore (Mike Weston) a question on the record.
You’ve been building a character over the course now of three seasons. What’s it like working with directors who are new to the show and don’t have quite the same intimate connection to your character?
SA: A lot of the new directors that come in, and we’ve had a few this year, obviously have the benefit of watching the show, so they have the tone. And also Marcos Siega, who is one of our directors but is also one of our co-showrunners this year, he understands the story, the storytelling, the visual sense of the show so well because he created it as a director and now works as a storyteller, he gives down like the most incredible rundown, and I feel like every director understands what we’re trying to do, and also [he] trusts us as actors, having been playing the characters for three years. But also, the great directors that we have come in will challenge you, and to a certain degree, I need to be challenged, because sometimes I’ve done this scene. You know, I’m creeping around in the dark again, and every once in a while you need someone to just give you the context, just remind you what it is. Or just give you a little something that sparks that interest again.
Sometimes it’s just thinking about the scene in a different way, and every director brings something different, a different approach. It’s constantly different. You’re constantly being creative with that person. Someone new, they’re coming up to you with a different direction, I have to then interpret that to be what they really mean. You know, some people talk for ten minutes and they have one point. Some directors will walk up and say one thing. “Remember when that happened?” And then they walk away. You’re like, “Okay, that’s like a sense memory thing.” Everybody’s different. And that’s kind of what I like. It’s frustrating sometimes when you love working with a director and then they’re gone and new people come in. It’s nice. I think it keeps television shows fresh. You know, as much as you need everything to stay similar, it’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes on an episode for all of us.
The third season of “The Following” premieres on Monday, March 2, on Fox.