James Purefoy is deliciously evil in FOX’s The Following

James Purefoy

James Purefoy is sinfully delicious in FOX’s ‘The Following’. He absolutely inhabits his character on and off the screen. James Purefoy is totally a real-life charmer and serial killer.


James Purefoy is absolutely delicious. He’s like butter, a cashmere sweater and warm liquid scotch all rolled into one. Slinking into the New York Comic Con press room interview dressed like the serial killer he is, I miraculously restrained myself from dropping trou for him. However, I enjoyed a mini-tete-a-tete as he slipped into the persona of his Joe Carroll serial killer. James Purefoy is the human embodiment of sin. He’s pure seduction on a stick. If I could order him off a menu at a restaurant, I’d have two plates to go for life.

“I don’t know about you but I’m pretty damned sure porn in the ’70s was pretty damned tame.”

James is definitely a theatre actor who can improv the hell out of things. Having just seen his serial killer Joe Carroll portrayed in the pilot minutes earlier, I couldn’t stop blurting out my utter fear of sitting beside him. And, he couldn’t not take advantage of that. Luckily, one of the other interviewers stopped our delectable serial killer meets shrinking violet comedy act to start the interview round. Like Kevin Bacon, Purefoy clearly channeled parts of himself into the role of charismatic English professor Joe Carroll. Part of me wanted to cry bull when I initially saw the pilot. Academic types aren’t exactly that dexterous or believably violent. But, then I remembered the utter charisma of a couple college instructors and remembered in the 1970s Cornell had its own serial killer. One of the undergraduates, stalked, assaulted and killed his fellow students and continued the pattern long after graduation.

I must say James Purefoy is the most gregarious character I’ve ever met. He’s utterly confident in his own opinion and feels no remorse in mocking his own show, Americans and serial killers in general. Quite frankly, he is his character. Like Bacon, he spent time researching his back story. But, it sounds like a majority of his research incorporated watching DVDs of previous serial killers. He believes serial killers create a “fantasy bubble” around themselves and mocked Ted Bundy’s explanation for his acts: “I don’t know about you but I’m pretty damned sure porn in the ’70s was pretty damned tame.” For Purefoy, serial killing is about “power” and “powerlessness.” He views good and evil as overtly religious but believes in “nurture” where abusers are created. Ironic, considering his character nurtures serial killers in The Following.

He specifically watched the taped interviews of actual serial killers to avoid regurgitating the fictional performances of other shows like Dexter. He finds his character fascinating, “complex” and “ambiguous.” He believes “all the best characters are gray, not black and white.” He hopes that week after week, they’ll peel back the “very thin layers” of his character, like an “onion,” to “understand where he’s come from.” He believes his character is a “cultured,” “erudite” man who “tells a good joke.” Hopefully, we’ll learn how Carroll became the killer he is. Was it a case of nurture, catalyzed by a history of abuse? Or was it his literary ego searching for recognition? Only Kevin Williamson knows for certain. The rest of us will have to guess.

Photo Credit: An Nicholson

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