Up Close and Personal With Kevin Bacon

If someone were to ask us who our favorite celebrity dad was (and let's be honest, we really mean hottest), Kevin Bacon would be way up there. The dad to two (Travis, 23, and Sosie, 20) and husband to the equally cute Kyra Sedgwick has been making us swoon for years. From Footloose to She's Having a Baby, he's starred in classics that constantly rank among our favorites.

The 54-year-old actor is currently starring in The Following as Ryan Hardy, a semi-retired and very world-weary detective who gets the call to duty when the murderous mastermind he put away 10 years ago (played by James Purefoy) escapes and goes on a killing spree—one that inspires many, many copycat acts. Sounds fun? It is.

We caught up with the journeyman actor to chat about getting into anti-hero mode, what made him decide to do TV now—and why we won’t be seeing his wife of nearly 25 years on the show.

You’re known for your work in big screen hits like Frost/Nixon, Mystic River, and X-Men: First Class. What made you want to do TV now?

I'd been looking for a television series for a long time and trying to get my head around it. My initial call, if you will, to my representatives was probably three or four years ago. But it just took some time to find the right one. I had seen [my wife] Kyra's experience secondhand and was also finding myself to be more and more of a television consumer as the quality of the shows and the writing seemed to be getting better and better and better. I just found myself really knocked out by so many shows in sitting down and spending a weekend watching every episode of The Wire. Stuff like that. And then this one had the qualities that I was drawn to.

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Is TV everything you thought it would be?

It's kind of exciting. It requires, in general, more instinct and less preparation. I had a lot of time to prepare for the pilot, but on an ongoing basis, you've got to really be thinking on your feet. I think that, as an actor, rehearsal work, homework is all really great stuff but I think that if you really have a good sense of who your guy is and you've really done the work on who that person is, you should be able to just be thrown into a situation and be true to who your character is, to be able to walk in those shoes at a moment's notice. That's what we do all day and it's exciting. So a lot of scenes, long days, I was ready for that. It's kind of a thrill ride. And I read this one and I could not put it down. It was just such a page-turner. I thought it was such an interesting character. Given the fast-paced, kind of heart-pounding nature of it, it still had a lot of great heart and a certain kind of almost sentimentality that I really responded to.

The pace of TV can be intense. How do you guys balance it all?

[Doing the show] wasn’t a family decision. If anything, that’s one of the most frightening things about it for me—the fact that I was going to be staying in one place. If it ends up that we go on for some years, that’s not something I’m used to doing. I’m used to going from here to there to there to there. Even though we have a rhythm and a really strong central family vibe, we also are gypsies. We always have suitcases packed and we’re not used to a steady gig. So that was a real adjustment for [Kyra] on The Closer and I think it will be for me as well. When she took the pilot for The Closer, I remember us having the conversation and we kind of said, "Listen, you know, it’s kind of overwhelming to think that you’re going to sign up for something for six years, but that never happens." Rarely does anything go that long. But there we were seven years later and she was still chugging away on that. So you have to figure out if that’s a place that you want to stay in for a good amount of time. I felt like the continuing exploration of this guy and what is eating at him and what makes him tick was something that would be interesting to explore from a character standpoint.

Tell us a bit about Ryan Hardy—for a hero, he’s pretty anti-hero, right?

I wanted to play the hero, because it felt like I had been playing a lot of bad guys in the movies. There's less movies being made and sometimes those that have heroes are from comic books. Those kind of heroes don't have a lot of flaws and that's not me. I'm the kind of guy who tends to be drawn to roles that are regular guys. If I was going to play a hero in the show, I needed to know what his flaws were going to be.

A lot has been made of the violence on the show—which is pretty gory. Your take?

Thrillers are popular, and that is what this is. As a consumer of films or television, if you are telling me that something is a comedy I'm going to be really disappointed if I don't laugh. If the picture is supposed to be moving, I want real tears running down my cheeks. If it's a thriller, I want to be on edge of my seat, with chills. When we make films and television, I think we are doing it to try to tap into something emotional for people, and this show is not an exception. It'll keep you on the edge of your seat. It will shock you and surprise you and hopefully you will get drawn into, not only what's going on plot-wise, but also what's going on emotionally with these characters that you'll want to come back the next week to see where things go.

The show is very dark. How much does that stick with you?

Over the years, I’ve dealt with a lot of dark material in the movies as well. You have to find ways to protect yourself from that. When I’m on the set, I’m very, very focused. You have to keep yourself in that headspace. But I work really hard to try to turn it off on the weekends if I can. And connecting with my family, my kids, my dog, taking a walk in the woods, having a good meal—they’re able to pull me out of that headspace.

Before The Following, the most TV you’d done was directing four episodes of your wife’s long-running hit, The Closer. Can we expect to see Kyra on The Following?

I don't think so. I'll tell you why I feel like that seems to be a risk—you noticed I never acted on The Closer, because I think that when you have a strong character and then you take someone that has a relationship outside of it that people are aware of, you can really run the risk of jumping the shark. You know, it kind of feels like stunt casting. I don't think that she would be interested in acting on the show. You know what? Never say never. Who knows?

Catch Kevin Bacon on The Following Monday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on FOX.

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