One of the layers to Kevin Williamson‘s The Following that we personally love so much is how each individual “follower” of Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) is projecting what they want and need onto Joe and each other in order to fill a void in their lives. It’s a bit meta, in a way, because any active television audience projects their own wants and needs onto the characters in the shows they consume in order to get more out of them. It just adds complications to each character, as their problems run so much deeper than their new-found homicidal tendencies.
Consider the hierarchy within the followers, too: Emma (Valorie Curry) certainly seems like she’s as close to “second in command” with Joe Carroll as one can get. At least, she certainly seems to think she’s his equal, just trying to prove how worthy and deserving of his love and devotion, even if and when that means “pulling rank” on Jacob (Nico Tortorella) and Paul (Adan Canto).
“Emma’s not bloodthirsty, that’s not why she’s killing people. It’s all about devotion,” Curry, who connected to the character through Squeaky Fromme, Poe, Shakespeare, and Emily Dickinson (“that would help me make sense of desolation and intensity”), said when we caught up with her in Los Angeles.
“I think she’s endlessly pragmatic and she does have seniority in the sense that she has known him the longest. She’s the closest to him in that sense, so that gives her a certain amount of safety in what she can get away with. She’s also the most efficient…she’s the one with the plan. She’s the one who likes to be in control and handles that, so she will do whatever she needs to and take whatever tack she has to in order to keep everyone with the plan and moving forward.”
Williamson confirmed this, too, saying that Emma “is in control of those two boys. She needs to be. She has the need to be a controller and sort of rule them, and she does want to play them.”
It’s all for Carroll, after all, and even though it may seem on the surface that Emma has given up so much of her own life to carry out Carroll’s plan, the character doesn’t see it that way at all; she sees herself as part of that plan, and she feels more than important enough to not want to deviate from it– to make Carroll proud.
“[It] is also a huge responsibility that he’s given us that is very validating. We are taking his child, and he is like God to us. What better gift could you have?” Curry said of Emma’s responsibilities with Joey (Kyle Catlett).
“That’s not the motivation, the validation for taking care of him, [though]. I think the motivation for everyone is to be close to Joe—is their love and devotion to Joe. And having a mission, having something to do to serve him is huge. And, so, of course, we will give to that 100%.”
And yes, Curry confirmed that giving so much could mean sacrificing one’s self. She is very aware of that threat looming as an actor and believes Emma is extremely cognizant of it, as well. Though she wouldn’t use the word calculating (though we certainly feel it fits the character!), Curry shared that Emma is
“Emma is always aware that at any moment she could be asked to sacrifice herself or sacrifice someone else. And that’s what makes it such a struggle and such a risk when she opens herself up emotionally and makes herself vulnerable at the end of [episode] four. That’s a huge turn for her because she knows she will do anything for Joe,” Curry said.
“In the early episodes I struggled with wanting to understand and having—trying to think that this is what is false and this is what is true. But what I realized, and it made me really understand Emma is, that it is all true. It’s all true. Maybe the truth changes from one moment to the next, and…one of the things that makes her so scary is that she can hold all of these conflicting truths.
Among the conflicting truths are Emma’s feelings for Joe, Jacob, and even Paul– a relationship that gets more entangled and complicated as time goes on. Williamson called it the “muddled complications” that personified his relationship drama.
“Her love for Jacob is real,” Curry said. “Even though in the beginning she loved him because he was given to her, but it’s real. And her love for Paul is real. She also manipulates him, and that’s true, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him. Her love for Joe is true– it’s just a matter of which truth is most important.”
The Following airs on FOX on Monday nights at 9 p.m.
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