'The Following': Connie Nielsen on Her Character's 'Psychopathic' Turn
Victim no more: Though Lily Gray started off as an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, Nielsen tells THR that "she's definitely not what she seems."
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for last week's episode, "Trust Me."]
Lily Gray is not who she appears to be on The Following.
First thought to be an innocent victim who crossed paths with the ill-fated Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), it was revealed in last week's episode that she was yet another loyal Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) follower -- and mother to creepy, psychotic twins Mark and Luke (both played by Sam Underwood). For Danish actress Connie Nielsen, who plays Lily, the sudden character turn was exciting.
"I had some pretty strong facts available to me but even we don't know everything that's about to happen. The scenes that come up and the forehand knowledge you acquire to play this character makes it really fun to play in each new episode and revealing new sides of her personality -- in my case, of her personality disorder," Nielsen tells The Hollywood Reporter.
It was Lily's eventual foray to the dark side that Nielsen says made her "a delicious character to play." There was even a campiness to her that was intriguing: "I really like that side too," the actress admits.
Introduced in the premiere as the lone survivor of an attack on the Manhattan subway system that took place on the anniversary of Joe Carroll's supposed death, Lily quickly developed a short-lived camaraderie with Ryan.
"She's definitely not what she seems. I'm not a diagnoser but I would put her firmly in the psychopathic spectrum," Nielsen posits. "Those people are so interesting to play because they are so able to snow the rest of us. They are so good at being more charming, more affecting -- you end up feeling more sorry for them even as they're victimizing you. [They have] this ability to elicit this protective layer in you even as they're about to kill you."
In preparation for the twist, Nielsen researched psychopathic behavior and marveled at how psychological things often get between culprit and victim. "That's one of the things I find so unfair -- that [the victims] are trying oftentimes to help" the same "manipulative" people who are harming them, she observes.
With Ryan now in the know about Lily, their brief connection continues to play a significant role moving forward. So much so that though Lily is now established as one of Joe Carroll's minions, things may be more complicated than they seem.
"You can see that there is a lot of emotion in her, even though she is so cold and calculating," Nielsen says. "You can feel her brain going tick-tock, tick-tock, and all of the wheels are turning."
Whether Ryan and Lily's connection remains intact down the line is a question that the show may address. "I think she was attracted to him. I think she liked him," Nielsen hints. "I do think there is something interesting about where she's going right now. There is a lot of interesting science to this story."
Late last week, THR exclusively debuted a first-look preview of Monday's episode where Nielsen's Lily attempts to persuade Valorie Curry's Emma to return to the fold. "You should look at what you know about her already. If you apply the idea that a tiger doesn't change its stripes, just apply that and then start imagining what that could mean," Nielsen says of Lily's rapport with Emma.
As for Lily's dynamic with her adult sons, Luke and Mark, expect "big-time mother-son relationship" issues to be addressed in future episodes. "We're talking Oedipal," Nielsen teases. And when asked whether viewers would see how the Grays got into Joe Carroll's orbit, Nielsen was coy: "There's a lot of stuff that's under wraps."
The Following airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.