I am James Purefoy, actor. I appear on the show THE FOLLOWING as character Joe Carroll, the bonkers serial killer that's hunted by Kevin Bacon's Ryan Hardy. I'm here and ready to answer your questions for the next hour or so, so AMA!

edit- proof!

edit at 11:40 AM - thank you so much, great questions, smart people. Such a pleasure. Hope you enjoy the finale, I'll be checking out /r/following later.

Comments: 288 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

FlashnDash70 karma

HUGE fan of you in Rome. Is there even a chance of the show coming back or even a spinoff? a movie? Thanks for your time

jamespurefoy86 karma

Highly unlikely that the show will come back - always a possibility of a movie, I guess - although for Mark Antony, it would have to be a prequel as clearly, the sword did him a little damage in the final episode.

Graphitetshirt45 karma

Hi James, this isn't a question as much as a request - could you please ask Kevin Bacon to stop showing his penis in all of his movies? Thanks, we all appreciate it.

jamespurefoy129 karma

Oh come on, the chap needs some air.

_vargas_34 karma

Frequently on Reddit, you hear people talk about how fans were "robbed" when shows like Firefly and Deadwood were cancelled prematurely. I feel that way about Rome, one of the most rich and entertaining shows I have ever seen. Were you upset when the decision was made to stop production after just two seasons?

jamespurefoy67 karma

I was living in Rome for 2 and a half years. I met my soulmate there. I was playing one of the great historical characters of all time. Working with some of the finest actors in the world, on some of the greatest scripts I'd ever read. So no, wasn't upset at all. On the upside, we did at least finish it off, and did not leave the fans hanging out to dry.

BBBelmont23 karma

What's going on man? Big fan of the show, really enthralled by the whole thing, think every scene with you and Bacon is special and love how you own every room you're in.

I have a question about how actors view the plausible (or lack thereof) nature of the story line though? I am able to suspend disbelief for the 60 minutes every Monday night and enjoy the entertainment aspect immensely, but it's obvious there are some glaring plot holes, etc. Do those bother you? Do you think about it at all, or is it a supreme focus on your lines/your scenes/etc. and just controlling what you can control?

Thanks for the ama man.

jamespurefoy38 karma

I think you control what you can control - the nature of our series has meant that scripts are written fast and arrive with us often with moments to spare before we shoot them, and we only hope that by the time the show goes out, any holes are filled. And sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't. We're very grateful that people love the show so much that they obsess about any inconsistencies. And thank you for your kind words!

ghosthunter71822 karma

Hi James! Thanks for taking the time to answer questions! What attracted you the most to playing the character of Joe Carroll?

jamespurefoy35 karma

I'd been looking to do a TV show for some time, and in the pilot, was presented with a character who seemed to be the be-all and end-all of television bad guys. I really can't imagine anyone worse, so the challenge of stepping into that man for a few months every year was too exciting to turn down.

LiverhawkN710 karma

so the challenge of stepping into that man for a few months every year was too exciting to turn down.

So does that mean we will see you in season two?

jamespurefoy28 karma

You'll have to wait and see, won't you? (as will i)

jenlepp19 karma

Do you ever have days where the scene/storyline was just so creepy and alarming that you have trouble shaking it off? What do you do to distance yourself from what is an exceedingly disturbing character?

jamespurefoy37 karma

Of course, there were days which were a little difficult. But fortunately, we have great teamsters on our show that drive me home to my family at the end of the day. So big shout out to JT, Ray, Francis, and all of the other guys in New York who took Joe Carroll into the back of their van and safely delivered James Purefoy home to his family.

12cats19 karma

I am so thrilled about this AMA. My husband and I love this show and we don’t normally both enjoy the same things. Also, we’ve developed a pretty bad ass drinking game and any excuse to get drunk and try to remember lines of Poe is sure to be a good time. Ok questions time

1) How the hell can Joe last at least two days after getting stabbed twice and still manage to walk pretty easily?

2) Did you practice your furious typing often? The furious typing is my favorite part. I have no idea why. It cracks me up. What do you personally think about to make your hatred towards the keyboard so pronounced?

4) The Following is one of only a few new shows to be a breakout hit this year. What do you think it is about the show that has attracted (and kept) so many viewers?

5) Is the show going to branch out to other Romantic writers or just stick with Poe? I know you have no control over that, just curious. That part about the show has been a personal letdown to me. I know that network shows like to write to the dumbest person watching but the writings are used in such a superficial way, it’s kind of distracting.

6) I am secretly hoping that the point of the show is to develop a cult from the viewers. Like with subliminal messages. I mean, it would totally suck to be part of a cult and not even know but it would be one hell of a twist ending. I guess that isn’t really a question.

Also, it’s pretty critical but Starlee Kine’s recaps on Vulture are really, really hilarious. http://www.vulture.com/2013/04/following-recap-season-1-the-end-is-near.html

Thank you, can’t wait for the Finale, and good luck with the show!

jamespurefoy35 karma

Firstly, your drinking game is hilarious. Bad for your liver, but hilarious. Care to share how you play?

Here are the answers to the questions:

1) As I said before, insanity is a great healer. As is a bottle of Johnnie Walker and half a dozen Oxycontin.

2) The typing was based on an old agent of mine, who broke his finger typing a furious email to a producer. He literally did. I always suspected that he might have been a little of a serial killer about him.

3 / 4 ) Three words: Kevin Williamson's writing. He creates jaw-dropping scenes and great characters that keep the audience on the edge of their seat. The finale will be no exception.

5) I'm afraid I have no idea. I will ask Kevin tonight.

6) Have you seen THE WOMAN IN BLACK? After tonight, perhaps those who have watched the finale will become the next victims...

12cats23 karma

Thank you so much for answering! Sorry, I obviously can't count.

As for the drinking game. Take a drink when:

The FBI doesn't call for back up

Someone goes into a coma

A new character speaks and dies in the next scene

Claire gets into a car with a stranger

Someone says "death is beautiful" or "death is a gift" or "ultimate sacrifice." Some kind of death glorifying.

We used to drink when Joe typed furiously or slammed his computer closed but we have to work and be functioning.

Thanks for the Woman in Black suggestion, I'll check it out.

jamespurefoy29 karma

Great game, going to have to try it myself.

bunnytrox19 karma

What is it like to be on such a creepy show?

jamespurefoy103 karma

It's very exciting - especially when you see it slowly dawn on the lady next to you in the elevator. And you're alone with her.

Ilovebobbysinger14 karma


First, you are a very handsome man! :)

What was Heath Ledger like?


jamespurefoy29 karma

Heath was a friend and a very sweet soul. And wherever he is, he is making a lot of people very happy.

Rob_Saget12 karma

Loved your roles in Resident Evil and Rome! Also, can't wait for season 2 of The Following. Would you be interested in coming on my podcast to talk about The Following, or movies and tv in general?

jamespurefoy29 karma

Thank you! By all means PM me details and my publicist will look into it.

applejessie12 karma

New Yorker or Londoner?

jamespurefoy42 karma

New Londoner.

AnneMessias11 karma

Hey James, I'm from Brazil and would like to know: what can we expect from the end of the first season of The Following? I'm very excited. Kisses from your Brazilian fans.

jamespurefoy32 karma

We can expect some ends to be tied up. We can expect claustrophobia, excitement, and a truly explosive ending. But don't think that our creator Kevin Williamson is going to detach the fishhook from your upper lip just yet.

lucyofsuburbia11 karma

Hi James! What was your favourite thing about playing Joe? And what was it like being the best serial killer in a tv show ever!? Also, if you could bring back one follower that has died, who would it be and why?

jamespurefoy16 karma


It's very exciting working on any character that has the potential to become iconic. So, yes, it's pretty great.

ingridmp11 karma

Hey James, did you read about the Edgar Allan Poe's stories?

jamespurefoy30 karma

Yes, as part of my research for the series, I read every word that Edgar Allen Poe had ever written. Which is a lot. My favorites are the short stories, but my absolute favorites are the letters he wrote to his adoptive father, where you get a real idea of the man himself.

melfingland10 karma

What's it like acting with Kevin Bacon? Oh, and both of you are amazing actors but of course you're the best xo

jamespurefoy36 karma

Kevin is a hugely experienced, enormously talented actor, with little or no ego, who only wants to make the scenes the best they can possibly be.

that's catnip to someone like me.

hamzilla019 karma

Was it scary filming some of the scenes in The Following? I found it absolutely terrifying watching.. Brilliant acting by the way! Also, are you going to Download again this year? It's an awesome lineup!

jamespurefoy14 karma

Not scared filming it, but i found it very anxiety-inducing watching it. As for Download, who can argue with Iron Maiden, Slipknot, and Motorhead? If my son wants to go, I'll be there.

LobsterSpam9 karma

Was it coincidence that Joe Carroll's initials are JC? And what 3 items would Joe Carroll bring to a deserted island?

jamespurefoy15 karma

Yes, I think it was coincidence.

And the 3 items would be the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe, a fountain pen, and a moleskine writing pad.

LittlePinkStone8 karma

Ok seriously....whats with the beard? Why would you cover up all that handsome?

jamespurefoy19 karma

I'm about to play a member of a biker gang in Baton Rouge who owns a strip bar. With Abigail Breslin and Sean Bean. People who ride Harleys and wear club colors always have goatees don't they?

twistedfork37 karma

How much screen time does Sean Bean get before he is killed in your new project?

jamespurefoy27 karma

No comment, but he didn't die the last time I worked with him.

zanzaboonda8 karma

A couple of questions for you. Any indulgence on your behalf would send me over the moon. 1. As an actor, do you prefer the cool, calculating Joe from the beginning of the season or the one who is losing control but shows more of his human side as we near the end? 2. Working on the assumption you aren't a serial killer, lol, how do you prepare for such a role? 3. Do you think it's fair for any one man to be as ridiculously handsome and charismatic as you are? I mean, seriously. :)

jamespurefoy23 karma

Aw, you're making me blush. That's very kind of you.

I like Joe Carroll in all his incarnations. Each facet is a small part of the same man and all interesting to play.

I prepared for the role by (A) reading all of Poe, (B) locking myself in a hotel room and watching documentaries about serial killers and interviews with serial killers on the internet for 16 hours a day for a week - I emerged blinking into the LA sunlight somewhat dispirited with the human condition.

As for your last question, only you can judge that.

HoldenCaulfield78 karma

Which character do you personally identify with more, Mark Antony or Dr. Joe Carroll?

jamespurefoy23 karma


They're both such extreme men, but both wonderful to play. I'm grateful to the powers that be that gave me the opportunity to play them. But I don't really identify with them.

HoldenCaulfield77 karma

Thank you for your answer! To clarify: are you more sympathetic or understanding of the nature of one character?

jamespurefoy29 karma

If I was sympathetic to one over the other, it would be Mark Antony - who was simply a man living in his time, doing the thing that was expected of him. He only went a little crazy when he met that minx Cleopatra, who led him on a primrose path to dalliance.

Dorkside7 karma

Do you ever spend anytime online (places like /r/TheFollowing, for example) reading the opinions of fans, or is that something you try to avoid?

jamespurefoy20 karma

Every now and then, I will take a wide snapshot just to see how the show is going down. I read what people are saying about the show on Twitter, for example. I'm going to check out /r/TheFollowing as well. One of the difficulties of the internet is, it's very hard to explain - but as Michelle Obama says, nowadays everyone is a critic, one minute you will be praised and the next you'll be criticized. I try to take in a little bit of everything and use that as a barometer.

Pedro957 karma

Is it coincidence that two characters you're linked to (John Carter, Joe Carroll) have the initials JC? Is this a motif in the Following?

Ps, love you in the following, excellent show.

jamespurefoy6 karma

I think you'd have to ask the writers of those 2 pieces. But duly noted.

toralauralaura6 karma

Mr. Purefoy, I’d like to sincerely thank you. The Following is not a show I would’ve been able to watch a few years ago but, it has become an unexpected weird sort of therapy that makes me very thankful. I’m a survivor of a ‘psychopath’ that I was also married to, so the madness that is a part of Joe’s character is not new to me but, I would think that there are strong emotions The Following is able to invoke in the audience that are both positive and negative. Do the negative reactions toward you personally put you off from playing a villain like Joe in the future? I’ve heard that Joe is sort of a combination of several serial killers like Bundy and the Manson Family but, I am also curious if there were other people or experiences that you draw from for your performance? Thank you again, I hope to see more of your performances, they are very well done, and wish you and your family the very best.

jamespurefoy14 karma

Thank you for sharing your story, and for asking me the questions.

So much of acting is about imagination, in much the same way as it is when you're in the playground as a kid playing Cops & Robbers, or Cowboys & Indians, or whatever; it's simply about putting yourself in the situation that the writer demands. It really is just about pretending. However there are, of course, things & people that you draw on for inspiration, and Ted Bundy was certainly one of them for this role.

There were others - most of whom are still alive and in prison. One thing I have learned is that by and large, serial killers are narcissistic, crazed egomaniacs. So I'm afraid I'm not mentioning them by name to give them the satisfaction of knowing. I mostly researched 20th century serial killers.

Figas6 karma

Hello James! Is there any truth to the rumor you are doing a film with Abigail Breslin and Sean Bean called Wicked Blood?

jamespurefoy16 karma

Yes! I start on Wednesday.

ragecarnival6 karma

Hi James! I am hoping you can tell me how much time is supposed to have elapsed from the first episode of The Following to the season finale. I recall Joe having a few fingers broken in the first episode but he seems to be pretty well healed (minus the stab wound) in recent episodes.

jamespurefoy14 karma

It's roughly 3 weeks. Insanity is a great healer.

seawop6 karma

Thanks so much James for doing this AMA today! I have to tell you that I can't remember a TV show that has affected me as much as The Following. I find myself shrieking with fear as I watch each moment when one of the followers exposes their true colors and attacks an unsuspecting victim. How does it feel to be involved with a series that has such a visceral effect on the viewers?

jamespurefoy42 karma

Visceral is the right word. That is the reaction I get out on the streets - people think it is the maddest show that they have ever seen on television. And it certainly fulfills one of my criteria for doing TV, which is that I've never been a big fan of Ambien TV which just drifts through you. I love watching things myself that grab you by the throat and push you up against the wall and DEMAND that you watch it.

I bumped into a lady in New York the other day by mistake, and turned around, and when she recognized me, she let out what only could be described as the sound a small dog makes when you kick it. She confessed that she had been thinking about Joe Carroll at that very second, so to bump into him - it must have made all her nightmares come true. This happens all the time - I was in a tiny little bookshop in the West Country of England, and they were having a closing down sale, I was buying dozens of secondhand first-editions that were going for a song. I put the books down, my face being obscured by the books, for the girl behind the counter, and it was only when she lifted JUDE THE OBSCURE off the top of the pile that she recognized me. And went very pale indeed. She had been watching THE FOLLOWING the night before on her ipad in bed, and then had a dream about me. So for me to appear in her tiny West Country bookshop must have been as if she'd summoned me herself.

Poor woman.

thashicray6 karma

Mr Purefoy, just two quick questions for a fellow Brit, firstly I would like to say that I think it may be possible that you are one of the suavest men in television and your portrayal of Mark Anthony was in honesty my most favoured performance in the Rome series. My questions for you are:

  1. As one who favours your more historically-based performances, are there any particular period films on the cards for the future?

  2. What do you believe to be the most essential films in British cinema from any particular time?

jamespurefoy14 karma

1) I have no plans at the moment to do anything set in any other times than now.

2) And I hate to say this, but I am entirely non-nationalistic about movies. Good movies come from great directors and great writers and great actors and great crews, regardless of what nation they originate in. That being said, I'm a sucker for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE ITALIAN JOB, and more modern films from directors like Joe Wright, Andrea Arnold, and Ken Loach.

wonderpickle21475 karma

Even with my love for Heath Ledger, your character was still my favorite in A Knight's Tale, and I've been a fan of yours ever since.

Anyway, what would you like to have had as a career, had you not gotten into acting?

jamespurefoy14 karma

Anything where I'm working with my hands - carpenter, gardener, frankly I'd be very happy working in a bookshop.

Cameron2285 karma

Hi James! i understand you love cooking. What's your favorite dish? What type of cooking do you favor?

jamespurefoy23 karma

There is a little restaurant behind the Piazza Navona in Rome - it's called Santa Lucia. They make a thing called Tagliatelle al Tartuffo - I have it every time I go there and even as they put it in front of me, my eyes well up and I will start to weep. It is elysium on a plate. The chef has taught me how to cook it, so when I'm missing Rome, that's the dish that gets knocked up in my kitchen. I can't share the recipe, I've been sworn to secrecy.

stars_and_stones5 karma

Hi, Mr. Purefoy, thank you so very much for taking time out of your busy day to answer some questions for us! I have two for you. Wait, I lied, three. Three is a nice, even number.

  1. If you were Joe Carroll would you have untied your wife who had just stabbed you, or would you have considered finding a different bottle opener perhaps a bottle already open?

  2. I've started watching Injustice (awesome series btw) and I was wondering which you prefer working in UK series or US series, and why.

  3. What role would you absolutely kill to play?

Thank you so much in advance for any response you can give.

jamespurefoy10 karma

1) As far as his wife is concerned, he always wants to trust her. The fact that he is continually let down constantly surprises him.

2) Glad you're enjoying INJUSTICE! I go where the great writing is, great writing and great parts are being shot in both UK and US, or wherever.

3) Blackbeard the Pirate. I played him once in a TV film on the BBC, and I'd kill to do it again.

MartinaKupper5 karma

Hallo Mr. Purefoy greetings from Germany. I have seen i think nearly every of your works which a availble for me.And i loved and enjoyed them all. You have played a great variety of charakters. What would you thing for your self is still missing ? What kind of roles and charakter are you seaching for?

jamespurefoy8 karma

I think one of slight pitfalls about working a lot over a long period of time is the danger of regurgitating characters that you've played before. So I'm on an endless quest to find new people to play. One reason why I wanted to do WICKED BLOOD was to play a blue collar American Biker because it's not a part that I've ever played before, and I'm scared, and that's good.

fantastic_apathy4 karma

The story is that Martha Stewart broke up with Anthony Hopkins when she was unable to separate him from Hannibal Lecter.

Being that you are a frightening and twisted killer on The Following, does this sort of thing play out in personal relationships (or passing ones) off screen?

jamespurefoy19 karma

My partner, Jessica, is terrified of THE FOLLOWING. I always say I'll watch it with her to hold her hand, and she looks at me like I'm mad, and says "That really doesn't help, does it?" So she doesn't really watch it at all anymore... I think the first time she watched it, I was a bit nervous about her reaction to it, and I left her to watch it and the sun went down, and I kind of came around the corner of the room approaching her to ask what she thought - and she literally jumped 3 foot off the bed when I came around the corner because the serial killer was in the room with her. Fortunately, she knows I'm not quite as charismatic as Joe Carroll.

stortaah4 karma

Hi James, huge fan of your work. Quick question, any tips for aspiring actors auditioning for drama school in the UK. Any advice would be great. Thank you!

jamespurefoy15 karma

I read yesterday that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to become proficient at anything. So depending on how old you are, you need to start practicing now. Practice, practice, practice. Will make perfect.

kam66703 karma

Does a "blooper" reel exist for this show? I can't imagine staying in character is always easy.

jamespurefoy10 karma

Sadly, I don't think a blooper reel does exist (*not to my knowledge, anyway) - but believe me, the more terrifying scenes to film were also the most hilarious. It was very hard not to laugh often.

JPurefoyLive3 karma

What did you learn about yourself playing a serial killer in The Following?

jamespurefoy13 karma

That I had deeper pools of darkness to draw on than I'd ever imagined.

ingridmp2 karma

James, tell us a quality and fault of Joe? And what about yourself?

jamespurefoy8 karma

His vice would be his monomaniacal need to kill; his virtue is he genuinely loves his wife and son.

And for me, my vice is I am forever giving up smoking. Someone help me with this, please. And my virtue is I am curious of all things at all times.

HollowCrownFans1 karma

Do you have plans to do anymore Shakespeare on stage or film? You looked quite dashing in armour!

jamespurefoy8 karma

I have a long-held ambition to play MACBETH. It's just a question of finding a producer who's willing to come up with the cash to put it on (as a stage play).

Arefe1 karma

Is there going to be any "Back Scenes clips" of the show ?? Really would love to see the process of your great work being Joe .

jamespurefoy6 karma

Without a doubt, Fox has got a bunch of that on tape and will release it in due course.