It was a Cinderella story in last night’s NCAA basketball tournament championship, with Connecticut and Kentucky making it to the title game in a matchup of two of the lower-seeded teams in history to make it …
Connectivity was the theme in Austin on Saturday: Kevin Bacon made his first trip to the SXSW Film Festival to chat about his career, including the 20th anniversary of the “six degrees” game that links him to every other actor in Hollywood. The star of Footloose has gone from being “horrified” by the pop phenomenon to embracing it for his charity network: SixDegrees.org. Film veteran Bacon is now starring in the second season of his first TV show, Fox’s The Following, which was just renewed for a third season despite this year’s ratings slip. Bacon reflected on his career with Deadline as SXSW’s 2014 edition kicked off:
DEADLINE: Your first role was in Animal House, which the recent passing of Harold Ramis brought back into mind. And that role couldn’t be farther from the “Kevin Bacon” audiences have come to know.
KEVIN BACON: Between me and Neidermeyer, he’s the one you want the worst fate to befall. And that’s fun to do. I was so grateful to [John] Landis and Harold Ramis and all those guys for giving me that part. They came to my acting school and I didn’t have an agent, I didn’t have a pot to piss in. When the movie came out I was still a waiter — I had to ask for the night off in order to go to the premiere. So that was a huge movie in my life, but it didn’t change my life, really, other than I thought, “OK, now I’ve actually worked and got paid to be an actor.” But it certainly didn’t put me on the map. It was still a struggle to try and get an agent. It was still a struggle to make ends meet; I ended up waiting tables for quite a few years after the movie came out.
DEADLINE: Why did it take you so long time to come to television with The Following?
BACON: TV has undergone a renaissance, but when I started that just was not the perception. So it was a very difficult decision. Most of it was clouded by my own snobbery. There was a directive amongst my representation to never, ever come to me with a television show because I would perceive that as a vote of no confidence, and it would anger me. And then my focus started to shift. I started to think about all the shows that I was watching and consuming over an entire weekend – The Sopranos, The Wire, Dexter, Six Feet Under. I was seeing iconic performances, not the least of which with [his wife] Kyra [Sedgwick] and seeing her life in the seven years she was on [The Closer]. I went, “Why am I being such an asshole? Why not? What I really love to do is act. Why not put yourself in a situation where you have a greater chance and more time in front of the camera, over the course of months — years, if you’re lucky?” I threw my hat into the ring and said, “OK, I’m open to the idea now.” In the next two weeks I read three or four of the best scripts I’d ever read. Pilots. And I thought, I really have been missing out.
This is gutsy. Fox has handed early renewals for next season to comedies Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl and The Mindy Project and drama The Following. Golden Globe-winning freshman Brooklyn Nine-Nine is picked up for a second season, Mindy and The Following for a third and New Girl for a fourth. They join three other Fox scripted series that already have been picked up for next season: freshman drama Sleepy Hollow; veteran Bones, renewed for a 10th season; and Glee, which has a final sixth season as part of a two-year pickup. That is a lot of programming already locked in for next season though Fox has extra holes to fill following the cancellation of The X Factor. Networks are not required to make any renewal decisions until May, and most wait to see their pilots before making decisions. Fox, of course, declared in January that it was breaking away from the pilot cycle, so the network also may be going on its own timetable with renewals. But most of all, today’s pickups are about Fox brass giving a vote of confidence to series they feel strongly about creatively.
Fox is using the super precious Super Bowl real estate to push for two new and two current series. The biggest attention is given to event series 24: Live Another Day with a series of teasers leading to a trailer (we’ll post it immediately after it airs), with the upcoming Seth MarFarlane-produced Cosmos revival also getting a promo, along with sophomore drama The Following and reality veteran American Idol. Here is the promo for Cosmos: A Space Odyssey, in which Fox and its partner on the science show National Geographic are hailed as “the bravest networks.” You can also check out what’s coming up on The Following this season.
Fox has set return dates for sophomore drama The Following and American Idol and a premiere date for new drama Rake. Season 13 of American Idol will have a two-night launch January 15-16. Sleepy Hollow will wrap its freshman season on January 20 at 8 PM, leading to the second-season debut of Following, which will succeed Sleepy Hollow, returning to its Monday 9 PM slot. New legal drama Rake will kick off on Sunday, January 19, following the NFC Championship Game, before moving into its Thursday 9 PM berth on January 23. New comedy Enlisted will debut on Friday, January 10. The network also confirmed that new comedy Surviving Jack will air behind Idol on Thursdays for eight episodes in spring (no premiere date set yet) when Idol‘s result show is cut to 30 minutes for the first time, and noted that fellow midseason comedy Us & Them also will have a spring debut. The new season of Fox’s Saturday late-night Animation Domination High-Def block will launch January 11 with Lucas Bros. Moving Co. and Golan The Insatiable. Here are Fox’s midseason premiere date:
Glee alum Max Adler and Sandra Bernhard (Roseanne) are set to recur on ABC Family’s drama series Switched At Birth. Bernhard, repped by Genesis and Progressive Artists Agency, will play Teresa Lubarsky, a groovy art professor at a local college where Bay (Vanessa Marano) is taking classes. Adler, repped by CESD, Justice and Ponder and attorney Derek Kroeger, will play Tank, a fraternity brother Bay befriends in her college art class. The two will make their debut in the third-season premiere airing in January. They join fellow new recurring RJ Mitte who plays Campbell, a pre-med college student paralyzed by a snowboarding accident who works in the free clinic with Daphne (Katie Leclerc).
Lenny Jacobson (Nurse Jackie) and Jon Bass have been cast in the Ben Stiller-produced Comedy Central pilot Big Time In Hollywood, FL. Written/executive produced by comedy duo Alex Anfanger and Dan Schimpf, Big Time follows two delusional brothers — Jack (Anfanger) and Ben (Jacobson) — who are self-proclaimed filmmakers, as they are kicked out of their parents’ (Kathy Baker, Stephen Tobolowsky) house and end up on an epic cinematic journey. Bass will play Del, the brothers’ child-like friend. Jacobson, repped by AEF and Pallas Management Group, also recently booked the A+E Networks comedy pilot Whitey and can be seen in the biopic Jobs. Bass, repped by Gersh and Authentic, is coming off his Broadway debut in The Book Of Mormon. He also guest stars in an upcoming episode of HBO’s Girls.
Matt Webb Mitovich is an AwardsLine contributor.
He has traveled to the moon, survived Alcatraz, put a few good men on trial and, yes, once almost got arrested for dancing. But in the course of more than 35 years of acting, one of the few things Kevin Bacon never explored was a TV role in a regular series—until Fox’s The Following invited him to hunt down a clever killer. Now, his turn as troubled FBI consultant Ryan Hardy could cop him his first Emmy nomination since the HBO miniseries Taking Chance.
AwardsLine: What exactly was it that led you to your first series regular TV role?
Bacon: You have to keep in mind that it was a different world when I started out. There was a real dividing line between being a television actor and being a film actor. But when (wife) Kyra (Sedgwick) got offered The Closer, it started to open up a new world to me, second hand. I saw the satisfaction she was getting, peeling back layers week after week. Simultaneously, I was catching up on a lot of TV—The Sopranos, The Wire, Dexter. The second I made the call, “OK, I’m interested in looking at television,” I was reading all of this great stuff. I simultaneously started developing (projects at Showtime and HBO), and after a few years of that, The Following came along.
AwardsLine: Having inhabited a variety of roles over your career, what’s the challenge of playing a hero versus the colorful bad guy?
Bacon: I’ll speak just to this character: It has to be small, it has to have subtlety, it has to be a lot about what’s not said and what’s not shown, and you have to trust that people will come to him without him saying, “Please love me.” But if I’m playing someone who is more of a villain, I’m going to try and find what the humanity is—maybe it’s a sense of humor, a charm or a swagger, or a sexuality, so it’s not just, “He’s so bad.” Conversely, with a heroic character, I want us to find out, “What’s damaged about him? How does he fuck up?” With The Following, we talked a lot about how I don’t want him to be infallible—here he goes again, kicking ass and taking no names.
A couple of thoughts on TV from a feature guy. The Kevin Williamson-created Fox series The Following might be the most aggravating but addictive series to come down the pike in some time. Kevin Bacon plays an FBI agent trying to capture a serial killer (James Purefoy) who has accumulated a Manson Family-like group of creepy disciples all too eager to commit unimaginably horrible acts on the killer’s behalf. As if that in itself wasn’t unlikely enough, the killer met all of his acolytes when they visited him in prison. Hasn’t anybody in the FBI thought of checking the visitor list from his days behind bars, rather than waiting and reacting to the latest horror? Can the FBI really be that dumb? That said, I cannot think of a time when I’ve been hooked on so many series, between The Following, Justified, The Walking Dead, House Of Cards, The Americans, Vikings and Blue Bloods, and I just now received the first four episodes of the new season of Game Of Thrones, and have new seasons of Homeland, Sons Of Anarchy and Boardwalk Empire to look forward to. I remember Tony Gilroy telling Deadline in an interview that mid-range dramas like his superb Michael Clayton are becoming extinct in features, and are instead being made as series for basic and pay cable networks by feature guys. As a result, TV has never been stronger while film leaves room for improvement in this department.