'The Following' Season 2: Kevin Williamson teases Joe Carroll's return and new characters

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When "The Following" returns to our TV screens on Sunday (Jan. 19) after the longest hiatus in the history of ever, expect to see a familiar face make a triumphant return. That's right -- Joe Carroll is back.

"The Following's" executive producer Kevin Williamson is excited to continue to tell the story of the serial killer/cult leader, especially since the public believes that he died and is celebrating the year anniversary of his "death."

"I love Joe Carroll. I love James Purefoy as Joe Carroll," Williamson tells Zap2it. "I felt like I have the rest of the story to tell and there was so much last year where we were just trying to find little Joey. There was so much of the cult and Joe Carroll and what he was about and what he was doing that we didn't get to tell. There were so many of those stories, that we just kept saying, 'Well, we'll do those in the second year.'"

And so they will. According to Williamson, Season 2's Joe won't be the same as Season 1. "What Joe Carroll is about this year and what he's doing is completely different than last year," Williamson says. "It's an escalation and an evolution of his character. It's really been a lot of fun."

But Joe won't be the only character viewers will get to know better in Season 2. "I do want to explore a bunch of different types of characters this year, so we bring in a bunch of interesting new characters," Williamson says. "Their psychosis is such that it does make for some rather dark sequences, because in terms of their MO."

Plus, we'll also see the return of fan-favorite follower Emma (Valorie Curry). "She is one of the surviving members of last year, and she does emerge in a big way as the episodes continue," Williamson says. "She has spent the year hiding in the shadows of society. She's got nose rings, and she dyes her hair every time she walks out the door. She's had a hard time of it. She's the FBI's most wanted."

According to Williamson, Joe's "death" is going to affect her majorly. "She is going to have an interesting journey, because she thinks Joe's dead," Williamson says. "Then, when she discovers that he, in fact, may not be, it's going to be a lot of mixed emotions. Did he abandon her? Did he have his reasons? She is very conflicted, and she's going to want some solid answers. She's not a little girl, she's not this little nanny who took care of his kid, she's not so much a follower anymore. She's more of a leader."

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait a little longer to see this play out onscreen. "In the premiere episode we don't touch on her too heavily," Williamson says. "That's because we need, in real honesty, a lot of real estate to set up our new characters."

One of those new characters is a dark one shrouded in a lot of mystery, played by Sam Underwood. "We had a lot of fun coming up with Sam Underwood's character," Williamson says. "We did want to tell a new story. Not to give anything away, but as the show progresses and you see how it all falls into place, how these characters all emerge and come together. You'll understand that there's a bigger plan in place."

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With both new and old followers causing trouble left and right, viewers will be surprised to find out that Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) will be less hands-on with the FBI. "One of the things I was really hoping to do this year is to turn left, and not be so focused on the FBI," Williamson says. "They're 100 percent in the show, but Ryan Hardy's not in the center of the task force. He's doing his own thing."

That decision to stay away from the FBI will come between Ryan and Mike Weston (Shawn Weston).

"Because of last year, I think that Mike and Ryan's relationship is a key focal point of this entire season, because it's such a great parallel," Williamson says. "We've got Ryan, with all his years and experience on him working alongside of Mike Weston, who is basically becoming Ryan Hardy before his eyes. I think that relationship alone is the center and focus of most of the season, and Mike's having a real hard time with it, as you'll see in the first episode and that continues."

After Debra Parker's death in Season 1, Mike's been beating himself up for losing her, and that will drive him in interesting ways going forward. "With regard to last year, and everything that happened with Debra Parker, and all this brutality and horrific events he witnessed and was a part of, that's nothing compared to what happens this year for him," Williamson teases. "He really does get pushed to the absolute limits of his sanity and his ability to cope with something. He has a quite an interesting journey. He doesn't have a good time of it."

Unfortunately for Mike, he won't even have his friend Ryan to lean on in his time of need. "Ryan's just going to push everyone away, because in his mind, they're just going to get killed," Williamson says. "It would kill Ryan if something happened to Mike. It would just be the end of him. In a lot of ways, the only way he can protect Weston is to push him away. It's a bittersweet relationship. It's like, 'I'm not going to be your friend because I actually care about you.'"

"The Following" Season 2's special preview episode airs Sunday (Jan. 19), immediately after the NFC Championship game at approximately 10:30 p.m. ET before moving to its regular time period at 9 p.m. ET Monday, Jan. 27 on FOX.

Photo/Video credit: FOX