Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) on FOX’s The Following wasn’t just trying to reunite his family or get under Ryan Hardy’s (Kevin Bacon) skin; he was also trying to achieve a level of success with his work that he just never seemed to manage as a writer. That manifested itself on the season finale episode, and Carroll’s “Final Chapter” of his new book with bringing his wife Claire (Natalie Zea) to a lighthouse and waiting for Hardy to happen upon them so the three could have it out over their history.
“The Lighthouse was the first book he wrote; it was kind of panned so brilliantly by the critics. It was called “The Lighthouse,” and it kind of book-ends– it’s a motif that book-ends the season, really,” Purefoy said to LA TV Insider Examiner when we caught up with him on the Los Angeles red carpet of The Following‘s finale event.
Of course, this was pointed out within the episode, as well, as Claire criticized his on-the-nose symbolism, but Purefoy pointed out that Carroll had “so many chemicals” in his body that his faculties were shutting down. He had been stabbed– twice– with metal cutlery that were probably leaving toxins in his body. He was on pills and booze to dull the pain. But more importantly, he was unraveling emotionally and mentally, and that left him vulnerable. That would explain the man with the plan’s giant, subsequent failure. Purefoy went so far as to call Carroll “insane” by the end of the season, something which should have been tipped off when he actually thought Claire was coming around episodes earlier.
“I think he was terribly surprised when Claire stabs him because he really thought– he really thought– perhaps that was the first inkling that domestic bliss may not be on the cards. He really believed it. That’s the important thing about Joe: he believes everything he feels,” Purefoy said.
“He wants to believe that he can trust her. That’s what life’s about. The world’s full of battered people; battered wives who keep going back [saying] ‘He won’t do it again because he loves me.'”
Like us, Purefoy found the most interesting part of playing a man like Joe Carroll his inner workings and what made him tick:
“I was always interested in the psychology of Joe Carroll. It is terrifying, and I don’t mean that he kills people but the complex ability to manipulate, which can really get under people’s skin. And it’s not obvious in any way, shape, or form to the person who’s being manipulated,” Purefoy said.
“That he could do it and decide within a second the best way to get something. It might be misdirection; it might be charm; it might be sex; it might be intellect; it might be a million different ways to slip in, and that’s the thing that I find really fascinating about him.”
When it came to his wife, Carroll kept trying the old ways of wooing her back to him, like when they were first married. But when it came to his son, he resorted to a trickery that Purefoy dead-panned was the worst act his character created all season.
“Trying to get his son to like him pretending to not know how to make s’mores– I think it was the single most evil scene I had to play. More so because he’s so utterly fierce, and he’s a man who’s manipulating a child. As an adult watching, you know exactly what he’s doing, and he’s manipulating his son, trying to get his son to like him,” Purefoy said.
Of course, Carroll got his comeuppance in the end, and while Carrollers everywhere are certainly holding onto hope that he somehow only faked his death, managing to escape that barn before it exploded, Purefoy admitted to LA TV Insider Examiner that as of the night of the finale airing, he knows “nothing about season two.” Carroll could (and should!) certainly be seen in flashbacks in season two, but Purefoy would only say that “vaguely there’s a possibility” that he would be returning, noting that they shot a few slightly altered endings for the finale episode that would have “drastically” changed the possibilities.
Would you keep Joe Carroll around for season two of The Following? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to check out our video chat with Purefoy.
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