'The Following': Jessica Stroup on Max's Scrappiness and Chemistry With Mike
The "90210" alum talks to THR about becoming Kevin Bacon's right-hand woman, fistfights and having "some jealousy" over not playing an unpredictable follower.
On The Following, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has lured his niece, NYPD Detective Max Hardy (Jessica Stroup), into his never-ending Joe Carroll saga.
"Coming into the season I really wanted the viewers to believe that she is a valid part of Ryan Hardy's life," 90210 alum Stroup tells The Hollywood Reporter. "As Ryan has been getting in his life in order — although we haven't seen it [onscreen] — the conversations and the moments that they have are really touching."
The Hardys have one of the most tragic family histories. In addition to Ryan's death curse, Max lost her father and "doesn't have a lot of family or a whole lot of friends because she devotes her life to the force" — factors that push her closer to Ryan, even though death is always around the corner. "She wants to be there for her uncle and she wants to have a family," Stroup says of her character's intentions.
Max, who had a fistfight with the dangerous Gisele (Camille De Pazzis), becomes a crucial member of Ryan's team in upcoming episodes. "Ryan is able to depend on Max quite a bit more as the season goes along. Once everything is revealed and the story really starts to take place, she's out there in the line of fire just as much as Ryan and Mike," Stroup promises.
In fact, in a scene from Monday's episode titled "Reflection," while Ryan and Gisele have a standoff on a deserted street late one evening, it's Max who comes up from behind and unexpectedly knocks Gisele out. "There will be more of that," Stroup says of the fights. "Max is tough. She doesn't always get the upper hand, but she's scrappy so she's not going to let you take her over."
Much of the upcoming hour follows the consequences of Max's quest against Gisele, with the episode "paying off the fact that she went after this person," Stroup teases. "Whether or not it's a good thing and if it ends well for Max, you'll have to see, but she has a moment of feeling really proud of herself." But Stroup hints that in a few weeks' time, there will be another big episode: "Episode seven is a big one, where Max needs to get out of danger quick."
The most recent episode featured Mike Weston's (Shawn Ashmore) first meeting with Max, with viewers picking up on some natural chemistry between the two characters. When asked whether they were building to something more, Stroup tabled the conversation — at least for now.
"If people are picking it up, maybe they'll want to see it. But in that little bit that we saw in the last episode, he's not winning her over. She's not fooled by him," she says. "But the more and more they're put into a situation together they have to depend on each other. I think he's really appreciative of the fact that she's ready to pick up some of the calls. She's a counterpart to him because she believes strongly in her morals, and along with Ryan and Mike, has been through a lot. So whether they're going to have a real sexual connection more so than emotional, we'll have to see. For right now, it's the building of a real friendship."
With Joe Carroll followers seemingly coming out of the woodwork every week, Stroup admits that there is "some jealousy" over the fact that she isn't able to be outlandish in her portrayal of Max, who's seemingly on the straight and narrow. "But I really like Max. I'm happy the story and the character has built to the place it is right now," she says.
Watch a preview from Monday's episode.
The Following airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.