'The Following' Star Sounds Off on Shocking Death: 'You Could See the Writing on the Wall'
The series regular behind the Fox drama's latest death talks to THR about the brutal demise ("It was like 'Buffy'"), ending on a tragic note and knowing who survives the season.
[WARNING: Spoilers from Monday's episode of The Following, "Silence"]
The deaths just keep on coming.
After Lily Gray died at the hands of Michael Weston in last week's The Following, loyal Joe Carroll follower Emma Hill suffered a similar fate in Monday's episode, "Silence." (But was she the only major character to die? Michael Westen's fate was left up in the air as we heard a gunshot as the screen faded to black.)
Here's how it all went down: After Claire Matthews sent a cryptic message informing Joe that she was alive, the serial killer/cult leader drafted Emma to meet Claire instead. Their meeting is explosive, to say the least, as the two engage in a showdown to end all showdowns. In a climactic moment, Claire throws Emma out a third-story window (after stabbing her, of course), causing Emma's demise. Or so we think! Emma attempts one last fatal blow, but it's Claire who has the last laugh and, in true execution style, stakes Emma with a piece of wood. R.I.P. Emma.
For Valorie Curry, who has played Emma on The Following since the pilot, the death was a question of when, not if. As she tells The Hollywood Reporter exclusively, "You have to eliminate certain elements in order to let the show be something new next season, and I think the story between Emma and Joe had run its course." In an in-depth chat with THR, the actress recalls the moment she first learned of Emma's fate, tells why her demise was very Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque, and defends Emma's "callous" actions "to the end."
When were you first informed that Emma would die?
I found out while we were shooting episode 13 ["The Reaping"]. We didn't have a script yet for 14, but our executive producer, Marcos Siega, told me on set. He already had an idea of how it was going to happen and who was going to kill Emma. There was a little bit of warning; it's frankly more than some people have gotten on the show, because things move so quickly. (Laughs)
What was your initial reaction when he told you of Emma's fate?
I honestly was expecting it at this point because of the way this story was going. I've seen enough people go down that road in this show. You could see the writing on the wall. We were gearing up toward the end, and last season a lot of people died near the end. I was in my dressing room. I get a knock on my door before we start shooting, and there's Marcos and he's just looking so apologetic and scared. He didn't even say anything, and I was like, "I know. It's OK, I know." (Laughs) I wasn't really surprised in terms of the story. My reaction was more personal, because this cast and crew has been very much like a family the past couple of years. It's been important for me in terms of my career and my life. It's been home base, it's been a consistent thing, and that's what made me sad. I'm sure I'll work with everyone lots more.
Are you satisfied with how Emma dies?
I hope that it is as meaningful as I've wanted it to be. I knew that she was going to die at some point -- I know what show I'm on. All I wanted was a death that was poignant and meaningful for the character, as I felt Jacob's was [in season one]. I think that the fans will be really satisfied, especially because it's Claire bringing everything full circle. It doesn't have the intimacy of the Jacob-Emma scene -- it is a knock-down, drag-out fight to the death, and [Emma] doesn't go down easily. Instead of it being about her relationship with Claire, it's the intensity of fighting for her life, which is ironic, because what I found in reading the script is by the time it happens, Emma realizes she's ready for it to be over. She's in a miserable existence of loving this man she can't escape, and when she was on her own she didn't exist, really, and she can't exist without [Joe]. She just wants the peace. That's what I felt was really lovely. There's a scene where Emma speaks more than she's ever spoken where she talks about that and about what death is. It broke my heart when I first read it. As a person who loves Emma, I'm glad for her. She's found her peace now.
You mentioned that Emma doesn't go down easily. I love that there's a moment where you think Emma's dead after Claire pushes her out the window, but not so fast, she's back!
Oh yeah! We did that good horror movie shocker moment where you think she's dead and then the hand reaches out and grabs her and brings her down. But it could go any way, because at that moment, both of these women are equally strong and equally fueled. Emma gets stabbed, then she gets thrown out a window, then she gets staked like a vampire. It's very vampire, zombie-esque; remove the head or destroy the brain is the only way to kill Emma. (Laughs) It was like Buffy -- [Claire] picks up a piece of wood from a broken window frame and impales her.
How difficult was it shooting that fight sequence? As I understand, it was near zero degrees in New York.
It was ridiculous. We were at Bear Mountain in upstate [New York], and it was between 15 to 20 degrees and we were shooting pretty much all night outside. It's been the nature of season two, though, because we've been battling this New York winter. It was a weird meditative state to have to lay there dead, staring up at the sky, thinking "Don't move, don't move," and you want to cry because it's so cold. But it fueled us and gave us more adrenaline.
Were there other things you hoped Emma would have gotten to do or people you would've liked her to have interactions with?
We've done two seasons, and Shawn Ashmore [who plays Michael Weston] and I have never worked together once. (Laughs) That would've been nice. I never worked with Jess[ica Stroup, who plays Max Hardy]. What I said going into season two is still true, that I was excited because I knew Emma was going to be on her own, and I was looking forward to seeing who she was going to become -- what would fill that void without Joe Carroll. What we found is that she doesn't exist without him, and that's the tragedy to me of Emma in season two. She could have been someone so strong and so capable, and without Joe, even with Joe, she's given up too much of herself and too much of her life for him, and there's nothing left. James [Purefoy] and I always joke about this: "Does he really love her? Don't tell me. I don't want to know." Emma knew the truth, but at the same time she'd rather bask in the proximity than be away from him.
If Emma had never met Joe, would she have been better off?
I wonder about that because of the life she was living with her mother at that point. Up until the end, she wasn't a bloodthirsty killer -- she wasn't violent by nature. She was utterly callous, a sociopath. I don't think she would have become some serial killer or anything like that, but I don't know, because he was the person who empowered her. She was so disenfranchised and weak and vulnerable living with her mother in that abusive household. She traded one abusive parent for another. I don't know what would have become of her. I'd like to think that she'd like to be some high-powered literary publisher, ruthless in her business dealings -- I think that'd be the best possible outcome for her. It's still probably rather unlikely. It would have been a sad life for her in any case, which is tragic.
There have already been a few big deaths this season. How grim are things for Ryan and Co. as we march toward the finale?
I do know who lives and who dies...at this point, we'll see. That's the thing, anyone could go at any moment. The actors know it, the characters know they're in life and death circumstances and they're willing to put their lives at risk for what's important for them, whether that's justice or revenge or their own agenda. I think it's pretty dire. At the end of the episode, it's set up like nobody could come out of this alive.
What are you going to miss most about Emma?
I love Emma. I defend her to the end, and I love getting into arguments where they're like "I hate her! She's the worst!" It has been an eye-opening experience to play a female villain and to see a lot of double standards in the audience's reaction to the men versus the women. I will miss the humor of her dryness, which can be so absurd. I won't miss the weight that she always had to carry, especially in season two. I'm happy that she's come to an end and that arc is finished and she's in a better place, maybe...probably not. It's a character that would be exhausting to live with for a very long time.
What's next for you?
I'm open to a lot of things, which is very exciting. And everything that I'm looking at is very different from Emma, so whether that's TV, film, theater, which I'd love to get back to, which is perfect in New York because now I'm staying. This is my adopted city now. Doing something other than calculating villain is what I'm excited about, something a little bit more empathetic. I think it'd be a hard time getting somebody to put me in a rom-com. (Laughs)
The Following airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.