'The Following': Shawn Ashmore discusses Mike's breakdown and where he goes from here
If you didn't have tears streaming down your face at the end of Monday (March 3) night's "The Following," then you pretty much have no heart.
The final moments of "Sacrifice" were some of the most gut-wrenching, emotionally devastating minutes of the entire series so far, as agent Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore) watched a video clip that Lily Grey (Connie Nielsen) sent to the FBI of her and her son Mark (Sam Underwood) slicing open Mike's father's throat. The video was taken hours before, so Mike could do nothing except stare wide-eyed, helplessly, at the screen as his father was murdered.
The already emotionally fragile Mike completely lost it, running out of FBI headquarters to have a breakdown on the steps outside as Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) held the weeping, broken man in his arms. Fade to black. Chills.
Immediately after screening the episode early, Zap2it went straight to Ashmore to dissect that powerful final scene and find out how Mike's breakdown will drive him in the future. Warning to all Westoners: It's going to get worse before it gets better. Plus, find out what he had to say about Mike's chemistry with Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup) here.
Zap2it: That final scene of the episode. Whoa. Honestly, that's some of your best work yet.
Shawn Ashmore: Aw, thank you! Wow.
What was it like filming that scene with Kevin?
It was really intense filming that final sequence, starting in the FBI where I see the video of my father leading to the complete breakdown with Ryan. It was very emotional. It's definitely the most emotional and raw that my character has ever been on the show. It was great, to be honest. It was challenging, but that's what I love about this show. I think the show really hits its stride when the characters are pushed to the limit, whether it's Joe or Ryan or Emma or Max or whoever.
We shot it pretty quickly and we didn't talk about it too much. It was just a chance to show Mike completely vulnerable. One thing we did talk about was how Ryan would interact with Mike at the end, whether it was just his arm around him or if he would even touch him at all, until finally [executive producer] Kevin Williamson gave the note that he wanted Ryan to fully crumble and fold into Mike like a child. I think that helps represent how Mike has lost his father and for a moment, Ryan is his father figure.
So does that mean the relationship between Mike and Ryan has been fixed? It's been really strained this season, and that was one of my favorite relationships from Season 1.
There's a lot going on in that scene, and the relationship between these two guys takes a big step in that moment. I think that Ryan and Mike have become the same person emotionally in that moment, because Ryan had to watch his love Claire get killed in front of him, and now Mike has seen his father killed in front of him. So emotionally these guys couldn't be more similar at this point. It's a very powerful scene and moment for these two characters together and it leads to a lot more coming up.
Obviously, watching his father get murdered right in front of his eyes is going to affect the already extremely fragile Mike. How is this going to drive him going forward, both personally and professionally?
Yeah [laughs]. Now that his father's dead, it's reached a whole other level. It's going to be a constant battle for Mike, whether he's going to give into his PTSD and become a rogue, crazy person or whether he can take responsibility for it and do the right thing as an agent. He doesn't want to become the people he's chasing but at a certain point, when they've inflicted that much pain on you, you start to morph and your base senses start to take over and you just want revenge. You want satisfaction.
That's the struggle that Mike faces both professionally and personally, really for the rest of the season. Mike and Ryan have that similarity but they're also trying to balance each other. When Mike goes too far, Ryan tries to pull him back, and when Ryan goes too far, Mike's there to pull him back, even though they both understand the drive to want to just kill these people. They're still going to balance each other and remind them what the repercussions would be.
Season 2 has really ramped up the action and intensity and drama, and I can only assume it's going to get crazier and crazier now that we're in the back half of the season. What can you tease about any big shocking twists coming up?
Honestly, there's a twist, a reveal somewhere in the next four episodes that Mike is right in the middle of. It's this huge reveal. It sort of distracts Mike from his revenge on Lily, that's how big it is. That's how dramatic it is in his life. I'm really excited for the audience to see that. I don't think anybody's going to see it coming.
You probably can't say too much about it, but what can you reveal about this huge twist?
Well ... [laughs] I will say this. It really changes everything for all of the characters -- it affects Mike, it affects Max, everybody. It's honestly so huge. I can't wait, I want to see everyone's reactions to it. And then not to mention things that are happening with Joe and Mandy. They are on the run, essentially, and that's when people will perceive Joe to be at his most vulnerable. I think it's so interesting that he has to execute this plan that he's been creating and it puts all of these characters in danger. There are a lot of big things happening in the next couple of weeks.
"The Following" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.