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'The Following' is 'a horrific, scary show,' creator says

Fox / Today
James Purefoy, left, and Kevin Bacon star in the new Fox drama, "The Following."

PASADENA, Calif. -- Another serial killer is coming to television, and he's aiming for the masses. Fox's upcoming crime drama "The Following" stars James Purefoy as Joe Carroll, a brilliant literature professor turned mass murderer who escapes from prison and has a cultlike group of followers who then kick off a series of new murders. Kevin Bacon plays former FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who returns to help the agency recapture Carroll and bring down his intricate web of followers.

"It’s a horrific, scary show," creator Kevin Williamson told reporters on Tuesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

He's not putting it mildly. The drama features gut-churning scenes, plot twists that will surprise as Carroll's reach from behind prison walls is revealed, and frightening lengths to which the killer's admirers will go to please him -- and ultimately, themselves.

"What happened in Columbine in a lot of ways sort of inspired some of this in a weird way," Williamson said. It wasn't so much the horrific school shooting itself, he noted, but the mindset of the kids involved. "It’s sort of shining a light on -- sort of -- some of those kids, or some of those minds, or maybe the bored housewife. ... Joe Carroll is sort of this magnetic character and he can sort of pinpoint what’s missing in your life, what that little hole is and he can fill it."

"These are people who don’t need the slightest bit of convincing to do the things that they do," Purefoy said of Carroll's followers, who Williamson also compared to Charles Manson's followers. "These are people who have joined up with him because he offers them a nonjudgmental and a safe place to enact the things that they want to do. So these aren’t people who were forced to join a cult. These are absolutely willing accomplices."

Adding to the frightening factor, many of the characters who work for Carroll aren't your stereotypical killers. For example, actress Valorie Curry's character, the seemingly sweet and innocent-looking nanny Denise.

"I suppose she’s monstrous in her acts, but what I find to be the core of her, we talk about it being a love story," said Curry. "The core of everything she does is just this utter devotion and total love for Joe Carroll. And everything else she does is just a means to an end, and it’s a practical way of getting closer to him and doing more for him. And that is scarier, I think, than somebody who is creepy or does things because they’re evil or does things because they like violence. That it’s all just about love is the scariest thing."

"The Following" premieres Jan. 21 at 9 p.m. on Fox.

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