Interview with Michael Ealy from "The Following" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Michael Ealy

Interview with Michael Ealy of "The Following" on FOX 3/26/15

It was great speaking with Michael! He's an amazing actor. I'm way behind on watching this show, but I look forward to seeing him on it. I still miss "Almost Human"...

Final Transcript

FBC PUBLICITY: The Following Conference Call
March 26, 2015/12:00 p.m. PDT

Joanna Wolff
Michael Ealy


Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to The Following Conference Call with Michael Ealy. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. We will conduct a question and answer session; instructions will be given at that time. (Operator instructions.) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Ms. Joanna Wolff, from Fox. Please go ahead.

Joanna: Thank you, and thank you, everyone, for joining The Following Conference Call with Michael Ealy. As a reminder, the show airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. And Iíll now turn it over to Michael who will begin taking questions.

Moderator: And our first question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby from Please go ahead.

Jamie: Hi, Michael, itís great to talk to you again.

Michael: Thank you, Jamie. How are you doing?

Jamie: Good. So at least where I've seen you, youíve mostly played the good guys, so on The Following, it sounds like your character is going to be pretty evil. Can you talk about that, and also do you have a preference for whether to play the good guy or the bad guy?

Michael: I think for me itís about showing range and versatility, and when the opportunity to join The Following came up, it was the first or second time I was given the opportunity to actually play a villain. Youíre right, I have played a lot of good guys, but itís a nice change. Itís a really nice change of pace. I donít know if I prefer it so much as I just enjoy being able to go back and forth.

Jamie: Okay, great. Since we havenít really seen it yet itís hard to tell, but can you talk about some of the actors that youíre going to be interacting with and your experience working with them?

Michael: Well, yes. Itís, I think I work with almost everyone in the show at some point or another.... In the first couple of episodes, Theo is kind of on his own, really. You really learn more and more about Theoís character and the background, and some of the loose ends that he has to end, to be honest with you, itís more about Theo in the first couple of episodes. Yes.

Jamie: Okay. Thanks a lot.

Moderator: Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Steinberg from Starry Constellation Magazine. Please go ahead.

Jamie: Hi, itís such a pleasure to speak with you.

Michael: Hi, Jamie, how are you?

Jamie: Good, fellow Silver Spring resident. Itís nice to get a chance to talk.

Michael: Indeed. Indeed.

Jamie: I was wondering, is there anything you added to Theo that maybe wasnít originally scripted for you?

Michael: Theo. Is there anything that I added? I think for me it was kind of daunting to walk onto the show knowing that youíre going play a villain and the infamous Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy, was already a well-established villain. And I think one of the things that I tried to do that wasnít always scripted was try and steer away from Joeís rhythm of speech and the clever banter back and forth. I think Theo, I wanted to make Theo a bit more terrifying and not be so, not go down the same path as Joe. I didnít want him to be familiar to Joe and so I think I tried to make him more scary.

Jamie: Well, the cast has such great chemistry as it is. What was it like for you getting to join an already well-established cast?

Michael: You know, thereís always going to be some hesitation in joining a pretty well-established cast because youíre definitely going to feel like the new guy. Iíd say on this particular show, this crew is so much fun to work with, and so amazing that literally by day two I felt like I belonged and I felt welcomed. And I felt like, okay, this is going to be a fun ride, and it has been. Itís lived up to that hype.

Jamie: Lucky you, then.

Michael: I was lucky. I was definitely lucky for sure.

Jamie: Thank you so much for all of your time.

Michael: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Moderator: Our next question comes from the line of Stacy Glanzman from TV Fanatic. Please go ahead.

Stacy: Hi, thanks for talking to us today.

Michael: Hi. Thank you for having me.

Stacy: So Brett Mahony describes Theo as a chameleon. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that?

Michael: Okay. Yes. Theo has the ability to morph into various identities, both physically and logistically. So if he takes on a different persona, or a different identity rather, heíll change himself physically. Not like a shape-shifter, okay, not like a shape-shifter or anything like that, but with disguises and all that stuff. Even at one point I think he wears contact lenses. We go through the motions, he goes into full detail whenever he takes on an identity to kill. I think itís his passion. And when he does pursue his passion, he tends to morph into another identity as opposed to killing just as Theo. And I think that, I hope, makes it clear.

And in terms of logistics, he is a hacking genius. So all of his paperwork, everything about him adds up and so it makes him much more difficult to track because physically heís transformed, and logistically heís transformed. I think thatís what Brett is talking about when he says heís a chameleon.

Stacy: Thanks. That sounds fascinating.

Moderator: And next question is from Suzanne Lanoue from TVMegaSite. Please go ahead.

Suzanne: Good morning.

Michael: Good morning. How are you?

Suzanne: Great. Thanks. I really loved Almost Human and Common Law, so itís great to talk to you.

Michael: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

Suzanne: I have a two part question. The first part is, have you finished filming for the season, or are you still filming? And the second part is, how many episodes are you in, can you tell us?

Michael: Itís kind of a two part question that asks the same question. Yes. What I can say, I believe, is that I'm still filming.

Suzanne: Okay.

Michael: The second part, I cannot say.

Suzanne: Okay. Alright. Well, I hope youíll be in there a good long time at least?

Michael: Yes. I'm substantial. I would say that I'm very substantial.

Suzanne: Good, good. Well, I look forward to it. Thank you.

Michael: I appreciate it. Thank you.

Moderator: And next, Jamie Ruby, from Please go ahead.

Jamie: Hi again. So I was curious, is there anyone that you took inspirationó for this character from, or maybe research that you did on this kind of character?

Michael: Yes. Obviously you look into certain serial killers and you read up on these guys and the narcissism behind them, and if anything, I kind of wanted to become somewhat of an anti-serial killer. In that, unlike Joe, Theo does not seek the glory, the fame, the followers. And thatís what I think, this is where I kind of separated myself from most serial killers. Theo does not seek out the glory and the fame, he would rather be left alone and be able to fulfill that blood-lust, under the radar.

At the same time he does possess some of the narcissist qualities that other serial killers do have. But one of things youíll see in the first episode that comes up on Monday, is he doesnít necessarily embrace just one particular style, or one signature. He has embraced them all and he doesnít believe in limiting himself to just one methodology or one signature, itís pretty disturbing in that way. And at the same time kind of fascinating because he ends up becoming more of a collective type of serial killer. You know what I mean?

Jamie: Kind of. That makes it sound interesting though because youíre right, normally that normally doesnít happen. Did you find a particular challenge in this role compared to others that youíve done?

Michael: Absolutely. I think the challenge was to try and understand the character. Previous characters that Iíve played, I've always been able to kind of identify with some element, if not most of the elements of the character, not only because theyíre good guys, but because of whatever it is that theyíre searching for in life.

And what I found difficult about Theo was, I donít have a blood lust, I donít have a desire to kill, and more importantly, based on what Iíve read and doing research about these guys and sociopaths in general, being born this way is not something that can really be figured out or explained. The idea that the difference between me and Theo is just a genetic code is frightening. Itís kind of frightening because technically I could be Theo if I just had a different genetic code.

Jamie: Right.

Michael: I wouldnít be an actor, Iíd just be Theo, and that was frightening to me. But at the same time it was very alluring and it also made me realize that I've got to find something about the character that I identify with. And what I found was, what I was mentioning earlier, this theory of wanting to stay underneath the radar.

Oftentimes in my own career, I've chosen to stay underneath the radar and protect my family, and protect myself prior to having a family, and do my work, and retreat back into my little bubble. Thatís harder to do nowadays in this business, and so Theo wanting to not be Joe, not wanting followers, not wanting the attention from the media. All of that, I think was my ďinĒ for Theo.

Jamie: Great. Thank you so much.

Michael: Thank you.

Moderator: Our next question comes from Shonasee Shaver from The Los Angeles Sentinel. Please go ahead.

Shonasee: Hi. I wanted to know, how was it working with Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardyís nemesis.

Michael: Kevin is an icon in the business, and his character is, as you see this season, itís even more apparent this season, that his character is so much closer to the villainís than you think. You know what I mean? You think heís an FBI guy, heís going to do the right thing.

We were talking about this on set the other day, and I was like, ďYou know, I think Ryan might have a higher body count than Theo or Joe.Ē He has, itís interesting the way the show is set up, but I find that technically his character has ended more lives than any of the villains on the show. Itís something that nobody pays attention to it or thinks about.

Itís interesting because he does it as law enforcement, so itís okay. But at the same time, make no mistake heís saving lives. But at the same time, what does that do to a personís spirit, to a personís soul over time? And I think youíre going to see some of that from him this season, and heís doing some wonderful work with Ryan and itís kind of fascinating to watch him live, watch the character, Ryan Hardy, live with these demons, and live these issues of ending life constantly, and how many of those people stick with you. I find it fascinating to think that the line between good and evil is extremely thin. Itís extremely thin and I think this show is a great indicator of just how thin that line is.

Shonasee: Youíre both a film and TV actor, how do you choose your roles?

Michael: I tend to look for roles that have impact. I paid my dues early on where I was just happy to be in the show or in the movie. And at this point in my career I need to have impact in the story I need to be focused upon, because thatís the only way I can really impact the show.

To be able to come into this show and be the new big, bad villain, that was an impactful role. And as I said before, it was also a role that it took me a while, but eventually I was able to find an ďinĒ and a connection with this character and thatís always the challenge. You should always challenge yourself as an actor to find the connection between you and the character, and this one was probably one of the most difficult times I've ever had finding the connection.

Shonasee: Okay. Thank you very much.

Michael: Thank you.

Moderator: And our next question comes from the line of Angela Evans from Diva Gals Daily. Please go ahead.

Angela: Hi, Michael.

Michael: Hi, Angela, how are you?

Angela: I'm doing great. I wanted to know, my two favorite characters that you have ever played was, Tea Cake from Their Eyes Were Watching God, and also I donít know what the guyís name was, but the guy from For Colored Girls. Is there a part or a person that you would want to play in the future, like in a biopic?

Michael: Yes. I get this question from time to time and hereís the thing, I canít say what that character is because if I say it and you print it, then someone else goes out and buys the rights and I donít get to play that person. But yes, doing a biopic is definitely on the bucket list in terms of my career to be able to wear the shoes of some individual, whether theyíre known historically or not, would be a joy for sure.

Angela: I think you would make a great Smokey Robinson and I'm just throwing that out there. And also, one more question. What would be something that someone would be surprised to know about you other than youíre a talented actor? Do you sing, do you play music, do you have an album?

Michael:; I do sing and I do play music, but none of it would ever, ever qualify as music or singing. Does that make sense? Thatís a joke. I love to sing, I love, love, love to singó I just canít.

Angela: Okay.

Michael: Itís kind of unbearable long-term. Although I can hold certain notes, and my son actually likes it when I sing to him.

Angela: Thatís awesome.

Michael: Yes. Thatís something that I donít share often. But yes, I can hold a note, I just canít really sing like John Legend can really sing. You know what I mean?

Angela: Alright.

Michael: I can hold a note or two. And as far as playing music is concerned, I'm really good with beating on a table as like a drum beat.

Angela: Okay. Youíll be in the background.

Michael: Yes. I am the quisma [ph] of the beating on the table. You know. I couldnít play a drum set to save my life, but to count the count I'm awesome.

Angela: Thatís so awesome. And the last thing, Iíll make this quick. You make a really convincing villain. How hard is it for you to detox from that once youíve played that type of person? Does it take you days, does it take you hours? Or do you just have to take a week off because it was just so strenuous?

Michael: You know, itís an interesting question. It was actually one of my concerns before taking the role, was how dark am I going to get with this, and what is that going to mean to me in terms of detoxing when the time is right? You know, I think thatís one of lifeís beautiful lessons in terms of having a family. They tend to yank you out of whatever youíre in and force you to deal with real life. It kind of wakes you up and you realize I'm playing pretend here. As convincing as it is, I'm playing pretend. And like a dirty diaper, something that Theo would never, ever deal with. So it makes you, it almost instantly snaps me out of that, and so thatís been very helpful in terms of not staying too dark.

And at the same time, this crew is so amazing, but theyíre also very used to this dark world so they have jokes, they keep it light on set. You canít stay too serious about it all day because we keep it pretty light on set, on The Following for sure.

Angela: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Michael: Youíre welcome. Thank you.

Moderator: And at this point, I think Iíll turn the call back over to Joanna Wolff.

Michael: Okay.

Joanna: Thank you so much. Thank you, Michael, for taking the time and I appreciate everyone joining the call today. As a reminder, Michaelís first episode is this Monday 9 p.m. on Fox.

Have a great day, everyone.

Michael: Thank you.

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive TeleConference. You may now disconnect.

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