Ryan Hardy, the former FBI agent played by Kevin Bacon on Fox's The Following, isn't exactly what one would describe as a "people person." But he's about to meet a soulmate of sorts — even though he may not realize it at first.
Enter FBI Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse), who heads up the unit on "alternative religions" (a.k.a cults), and who is brought in along to help Hardy track the sadists who draw their inspiration from serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Though the initial meeting between Parker and Hardy is awkward to say the least, Parisse hints that they'll soon discover they have more in common than they know.
"I think she sees [Ryan] as somebody who's a bit of an outsider, and I think she sees herself as somebody who's a bit of an outsider. So I think she does feel a connection to him in that sense," Parisse told TVGuide.com during a recent on-set interview. "I also think though that, inherently, as a human being, [Debra's] a super-open person. She's a genuinely nonjudgmental person, and it's one of the things that makes her a great investigator, because she actually listens to the things that people are telling her. ... I think that helps her in dealing with Ryan as well, that she's not really that thrown off by him."
Viewers have already gotten a few glimpses into Ryan's past — namely, his affair with Carroll's wife Claire (Natalie Zea) — and as the show progresses, it will also delve into Debra's background, according to Parisse. Though Debra "brings a sense of humor to just about everything that she does," the actress says, there's also a more serious layer to her personality. "One of the things that you're going to find out about her is that she's as damaged, in a different way, as Ryan is," Parisse teases. "And I think in the end, that's the thing that makes them kindred spirits, in essence, that they are both people who've suffered and who've dealt with a lot in their lives."
That damage, Parisse says, is one of the things that drew her to the character of Debra in the first place. Since she isn't introduced until the second episode, Parisse had the unique opportunity to actually see the show's pilot and read the script for her character's introductory episode before signing on. "Obviously in television, that's pretty rare," she explained. "I had pages that [creator] Kevin Williamson had written that were essentially like dummy sides. Just, 'This is kind of what we're imagining.' And I was really interested in the character."
Best known for her role as Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Borgia on Law & Order, Parisse has seen her share of grisly on-screen murders. But, despite the controversy it's generated, she defended The Following's use of (some would say too) extreme violence. "I'm a big fan of horror, personally," Parisse tells TVGuide.com. "So I certainly come at it from that angle. And I guess the reason that I'm a horror fan is that I think it gives people the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of being scared in a safe environment. I think that's why for all of human history, we've been telling each other scary stories, because it exorcises something that we need to exorcise in a safe place. We get to sort of feel that tickle of being scared."
The scary "tickles" on The Following won't taper off any time soon, as Parker and Hardy start to pursue the followers who have kidnapped Carroll's son, Joey. Check out a sneak peek from this week's episode of Ryan and Debra working the case:
The Following airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.