The Following ended with a huge shocker in the final moments of “Sacrifice.” After Max was saved from a serial killer, Ryan received a soul-crushing video message. Lily visited Mike Weston’s father and slit his throat. It was devastating to watch the scene play out with Mike recognizing the location to witnessing his own father’s death.
I spoke with Shawn Ashmore (Mike Weston) on the phone after the episode aired to discuss filming that scene, the fan reaction, and to find out what comes next for Mike.
I know you filmed “Sacrifice” a while ago, but what was it like to get fans’ reaction to it?
It’s amazing. I have to say I haven’t quite had the fan reaction like I’ve had on The Following. There’s a real great fan base and support for the show and it’s amazing to see how people react. The funny thing I got was that people were upset that you made them cry. “Oh, I’m so upset. I’m mad at you for making me cry.” That kind of stuff on Twitter. The fan reaction is great and it makes me feel nice that people are really loving Mike Weston, support him and feel his pain. So that makes you feel good as an actor to create a character people relate to, that they like, that they want to spend time with, that’s an important thing for a television series. I’m really excited about the fan reaction.
It was kinda amazing because the death was so unexpected at the very end of the episode. I think that compounded the emotional impact of it.
Yeah, that was a challenge in shooting that scene. In the beginning of the scene is us in relief that Max is safe. I’m like okay, everything is fine and then all of a sudden it goes from: Hey, this is a wrap-up scene where we’re just discussing what happened to Ryan saying that he got this text. And then literally 10 seconds later, I need to be breaking down in tears. So that was sort of the challenge going from 0 to 100 in a few seconds, but then again I think that’s what made it feel impactful ,because you don’t see it coming. Mike was completely blindsided, Ryan was completely blindsided. And, the audience is completely blindsided. So I think that’s why that scene really has impact because you just don’t see it coming.
The Following season 2 has focused on Mike’s downfall. After he pummeled Luke, he was ready to walk away. Now, that his father’s been killed, will he plummet even further down that destructive path? Or, will Lily’s actions help him re-focus his anger?
He falls. He falls a little further. I don’t think there’s any way to see that and not be influenced by it. The good thing about Mike is that Mike is very self-aware. After beating the crap out of Luke, he’s telling Ryan that he’s going to leave. He’s very self-aware. He knows he’s not in the right state of mind. He knows what he did was wrong. He just can’t control himself and he’s dealing with this.
Mike is suffering from PTSD. We don’t necessarily talk about it, but when he’s talking to Ryan he says, “I don’t react to normal situations in a normal way. I can’t function with my family.” So that’s letting the audience in on the fact that even though we haven’t really talked about it or said it yet that’s where he’s at. He’s very aware and dealing with these issues the whole season.
He’s been dealing with this for a long time. Getting back on the case and being in the proximity of these kind of people set him off and Lily killing his dad just takes him that much further. He’s not going to let up. He needs to see it to the end at this point. He needs the satisfaction. Now, there are moments of clarity that he has, he knows he may be doing the wrong thing but basically when the urge comes over him, he can’t stop himself. That’s kind of what’s happening. It’s interesting balance between Ryan and Mike, because Ryan is trying to protect Mike. He’s trying to stop him from falling down the rabbit hole, but it’s a pretty tough process to stop that.
Season 2 is focused on character shifts from season 1. Ryan is acting more like Joe and Mike is turning into Ryan of season 1. What makes Mike’s downfall and pain fundamentally different than Ryan’s?
Honestly, I don’t think there’s any difference. Essentially after having his dad killed, they’re equals on the team. Ryan had to watch Claire die and now Mike has to watch his father die. I think the difference is that we didn’t see Ryan’s downfall, we found Ryan Hardy at his lowest point after the first case. And Mike’s this shiny new agent when we meet him. We got to track Mike’s downfall every beat of the way. Whereas, Ryan was found at that low point. They’re obviously different people. Their experience and reaction to this kind of pain and suffering is going to be slightly different, but I feel they are at the same place right now.
Ryan and Mike are the only two people who can really understand each other. Ryan has better perspective because he’s gone through this pain and tried to pull himself back out of it. He’s honestly trying to help Mike, but that’s like you have to learn by experience. You can’t just say to somebody, “Hey, you’re doing the wrong thing.” when they are living in this pain and suffering. Sometimes people just have to experience that and learn it for themselves. I think that’s kinda where Mike and Ryan are at. Mike knows that Ryan’s trying to help him, but sometimes he just doesn’t care. Sometimes he’s just like, “I need to feel this. I need to experience this. It’s so real, it’s so raw that you can’t talk me out of it.”
Lily retaliated because she believes Luke is dead. Is there any value in letting her know her son’s alive at this point?
Giving Lily any sort of information doesn’t make sense. The truth with come out as the series progresses, but I don’t’ think letting Lily know that would be of any benefit. Any information that Lily has, she will use to her benefit. I think keeping Lily in the dark is the best thing to do.
Who should fans fear the most going forward?
I don’t know. That”s the great thing about the show. Anybody can be the next big threat. You never know who is going to be the next big threat. Anybody has the potential to be the next big baddie.
As far as Joe and Lily, will they continue to be at the forefront?
Joe Carroll is obviously our main villain. And, Mike is going to be connected to Lily until it’s resolved because of the actions and what we did to her family. So, I’d say Lily and Joe are our main targets for the season.
In the preview for “The Messenger,” we meet FBI Director Franklin. He recruits Ryan to help find Joe Carroll off-the-books, how does Mike play into that?
Ryan basically gets to create his own unit and work off-the-books. I don’t think it really changes how MIke and Ryan have been pursuing the culprits this year, but it brings them immunity to a certain extent. Mike beating the crap out of Luke was not sanctioned by the FBI, but we sort of covered it up that he came at me, so I almost killed him as I had to.
So now that Franklin’s involved we still have the assets of the FBI, but we’re allowed to use the tactics that we think are necessary. It just frees us up to not play by the rules and yet still have access to the information and intelligence that the FBI has. It unbinds our hands a little bit where we don’t have to totally go by procedure and make sure we always have back-up. We can do our own thing.
At this point, Ryan and Mike are emotionally invested in bringing down Joe and Lily, while Max has more level-headed. . Does she embrace that role in this investigative group?
I think so. I also think she doesn’t want to have to be the one constantly pulling these guys to the moral center, but that’s the role that she has. I think she obviously loves Ryan and doesn’t want him to spin off. And I think as Mike and Max spend more time together, she starts to care for him and doesn’t want him to spin off either.
I think it’s more a function of the situation more than her wanting to take that role. That’s the role that she has. She’s a good person and cares for these guys and doesn’t want the worst to happen. She feels like it’s her responsibility to keep these guys reined in and she’s the moral compass at this point.
I think Mike was the moral compass last season and now Max has sort of taken over that role which is important. Our characters are different guys, but because of the pain that they have suffered and the loss that they have suffered, the lines start to blur. And it’s nice to have Max there to remind us of where we’re at and what we’re doing.
Is there anything else you want to tease about the season?
I can say that in three or four episodes there’s a huge twist. A huge thing that Mike, Ryan and Max are right in the middle of that will shock the audience and change the trajectory of all the characters. It’s almost a distraction of what is going on with Lily and Joe right now. That’s how fundamental this moment and twist is for the show. It’s coming up in this next little while. I think the audience will really dig that.
The Following airs Mondays at 9 pm ET on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX.)