Shawn Ashmore's "The Following" character, Agent Mike Weston, has been sidelined for the last few episodes after a vicious beating at the hands of Joe Carroll's (James Purefoy) followers. On the Monday, April 8th episode, titled "The Curse," Weston returns and he's a little different than when fans last saw him. We're not just talking about the bruises.
"Mike comes back a changed man and I don't think he's outright out for revenge, but he's changed," Ashmore told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. "He's affected physically and emotionally by the beating and near-death experience from that interrogation at the hands of Roderick [Warren Kole] and the other followers. He comes back with a different approach when it comes to the followers. I don't think he's taking any chances and so when he's face-to-face with them, he definitely acts a little bit more impulsively and defends himself probably more than he would have in the past."
The different approaches Ashmore mentions include bending some rules. As viewers of the series know, the FBI -- including former special agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) -- has always been one step behind Joe Carroll and his band of merry murderers and Ashmore has a theory as to why that keeps happening.
"Here's what I think is interesting: I think the FBI [has] to play by the rules to a certain extent, or at least they're being forced to. Whereas the following, they don't have any rules. They can do whatever they want. It's anarchy," he said. "Ryan, I think from the beginning, knows that we have to break the rules. We have to step out of bounds to catch these guys and I think Weston at this point is with him ... Even more now that he's back and knows this isn't a game. Obviously they're behind for a reason [so] it's time to step out of a box and do what they have to to solve this. That continues until the finale."
Throughout the first season of "The Following," fans have seen Weston and Ryan develop a bond, a certain connection the characters don't have with anyone else. Ashmore said, at first, it was a little bit of hero worship since Ryan was the one to capture Carroll the first time around. But that soon changed. "As we progress throughout the season, Ryan slowly starts to let his walls down and at least see that at the beginning that Mike has this potential, is on point, is smart and is getting the job done," Ashmore explained.
A turning point in their friendship and partnership was when Weston didn't reveal Claire's location to Carroll's right-hand man Roderick and the other followers. He almost paid for it with this life. "[I]t was a sacrifice for the case, but more important for Ryan. I think he saw [Mike] sacrifice for the woman he loves to Mike's complete determent and possible death ... I think they genuinely start to trust each other and that's what I like, that arc of earning Ryan Hardy's trust and Ryan starting to trust Weston as well. I think that's cool."
With only four episodes left in Season 1, Ashmore teases that the finale will see a cliffhanger and resolution so fans will be satisfied.
"I only say that so confidently because when I read it, I was satisfied ... I think ["The Following" creator] Kevin Williamson has done a great job sort of satisfying and closing up emotionally some of the storylines, some of the characters -- you do have some closure and yet, story-wise, it's wide open for Season 2. It can go in a million different directions. The cliffhanger aspect is there, but also a lot of loose ends are tied up. You feel like there's some closure and satisfaction. I think that's an exciting way to end a first season."
Ashmore has been reading "Following" fans' theories after watching the episodes live along with viewers. "I've actually enjoyed interacting with people on Twitter and stuff like that," he said. "People get so amped up and the theories people come up with -- it's just really fun to experience that and know that people are invested in our characters and our storyline."
And Ashmore, who's been around the block in both films and TV with roles in projects such as "X-Men," "Animorphs," is also more invested than ever.
"What's interesting is, when you make a film, it's hard to distance yourself because you've been in the whole thing, but what's amazing is Weston rarely interacts at the mansion or with the followers," he said. "I read that stuff, but I'm not part of that as a performer. That's the stuff I really enjoy when I watch the episodes, the stuff that I'm so distanced from. I can actually watch it and be completely distanced. I'm watching it as the audience and I love that stuff. It's really fun to see how they pull off the kills and some of the scares and even some the other locations I've never seen. I really do enjoy watching the show."
But what about Season 2? Ashmore said he doesn't know anything about the next season, but is wondering how the writers will keep up the pace and drama established by Season 1.
"That is a challenge," he said. "The pace is incredible, the thrills are incredible. I mean, really for me, it just comes down to the pace. The show moves so quickly. How do you sustain that? I know that's what they're working on right now. I know they're going to come up with a great solution to that."
"The Following" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.