Sam Underwood is getting good at playing a psychopath. Last season he was a psycho-in-training in the final season of Dexter. This year, he has graduated to full-on psycho in The Following, where he plays not one, but two psychopaths: twins. We spoke to Sam about the difficulties of playing twins, necrophilia, and making The Following a family affair.
Tell me about playing twins. What is it like to play against yourself?
Learning lines is a very interesting process with these roles, but it really is the most glorious acting challenge I’ve ever had as an actor: to play two very unique individuals who have a very unique relationship. Identical twins relate to each other in a very different way than everyone else does. I love having the chance to explore that within this very dark and intense show.
Do you have a favorite twin?
I don’t. It’s like asking me to pick a favorite child! I don’t have a favorite but there are qualities about both of them which I love exploring, that I’ve never had the opportunity to explore before.
What was it that drew you to this role in The Following? Was it playing twins?
Initially, I didn’t know I was auditioning to play twins. The material given to me to read was just for a character called Luke. He was a very dark and dangerous individual. I read the material, and part of the breakdown they gave me was that this character had a lot of different personalities. I could tell from the writing of the different scenes that this could be a guy with split personalities or something along those lines. That is what drew me into the character: the intricacy and complexity of this one guy. So when I found out that I would be playing two very separate people, that was an even bigger “win” for me. It is wildly challenging and a joy to do every day.
Even when you are playing a role in which you are a necrophile?
Everything is so ambiguous, the way it is shot, you never really see the “event” of what happens with these victims. Finding the human aspects within these very, very wild characters - which we find out more as the season goes on - that is the pay-off for doing these crazy, crazy things.
In last week’s episode we learned that Lily [played by Connie Nielsen] is your mom. Was that something you knew going in?
I was informed of that when we shot the subway scene. I had to know specifically how to injure her without doing grievous bodily harm. The director whispered to me that we will find out that Lily is my mother. So I was aware of that information, but I was given no further information - just that. So I had no idea of their background. I had to build that myself until the writers gave me the hard facts.
One of the things they seem to be building towards for the rest of the season is the idea that Lily is trying to rebuild the cult, and I suspect Emma is not going to take too kindly to that. Will there be a big clash?
I think that the introduction of Emma into the mix wasn’t part of the initial plan. Mark thinks it is a good idea to bring her into the fold. I think tensions will absolutely be there in one way or another. Then you’ve got two very strong female characters, so that will be fun to see how it plays out.
What are some other hints that fans can look forward to for the rest of the season?
Without any spoilers… you are going to find out why family is so important to Mark and Luke. That is a huge part of their storyline. You’re going to see these guys become a lot more human. They won’t just be the “psycho twins” that people have seen at the beginning. You will see much more human qualities in both of them. I would hate to give away anything to spoil the season, but there are a lot of twists and turns coming up. And maybe Joe Carroll will lose the beard - or maybe he will keep it!
Will Joe meet up with Mark and Luke soon?
Well, the whole mission of what Mark and Luke are doing is to bring Joe back out into the open. Whether or not that happens, I’ll let the season play out. But that is what they are after.
One of the things that has been bothering me in the last few weeks is that a lot of Joe’s followers say things like “I believe in you, Joe.”But Joe doesn’t seem to be espousing a message. What is your take on that? What is it about Joe that people “believe” in?
Without speaking on behalf of [show creator] Kevin Williamson or James Purefoy [who plays Joe], I, as an audience member, believe it is the charm that Joe has. He is a very, very charming man, incredibly sophisticated, incredibly knowledgable, and I think there is something very sexy about that. His performance is so wildly intense, particularly in season one. You don’t know specifically what his belief is, but he is so set on something, and is so sure. I believe that what Kevin Williamson has done in a global sense with this show is talk about the idea that people need to have a leader in their life. They need to have someone to follow. Not specifically a psychopath or a cult leader, but we all need that sense of leadership. Joe Carroll stands for something very sure, very certain, and I’m sure you can say that about a lot of people in politics now. You’re not 100% sure what it is [they are saying] but they are so damn good at talking, so sure, they make you feel like you can trust them. I believe that is what Joe has as well.