'Following' Star James Purefoy Calls Comic-Con 'Fertile Ground for Serial Killers'

Purefoy, who also plays the hero of "Solomon Kane," reveals the secret to playing unsympathetic characters: "You have to step inside that man and take the leap."
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At Comic-Con 2012, actor James Purefoy pulled double duty promoting both his overdue movie, Solomon Kane, and his upcoming TV series The Following. But Purefoy says that his toughest challenge there was keeping a straight face while dealing with some of his projects’ slightly overzealous fans.

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“I just had a very spooky [experience],” Purefoy tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I did a signing for the show I’m doing, the Fox show, and I play a serial killer on it who uses social networking to create a cult. This guy puts the [poster in front of me to sign] and he says, ‘Good to meet you.’ I said, ‘Nice to meet you’.”

“He said, ‘I saw the show. I’d kill for you’,” he reveals. “I was like, ‘Uh, okay – moving on!’ I think it’s quite fertile ground, Comic-Con, for serial killers.”

Despite his fear of a devoted following, Purefoy definitely plays a questionably sympathetic character on the new Fox show. But the actor says that the only way to convincingly – or effectively – play such a role is to give oneself over to it completely.

“You have to step inside that person,” he says. “Don’t take the part if you’re going to judge it, or if you’re going to put your own moral perspective on something – just walk away. But once you’ve accepted something, you have to step inside that man and leap in and take the leap.”

Purefoy says that he studiously avoided currying audience sympathies in his portrayal of the character, despite his actorly impulse to charm viewers. “He’s utterly reprehensible, that character,” he says. “A really bad man, and I don’t think I ask for any sympathy at all when I’m playing it and I don’t think I try to make him likeable.

“And I think that’s the secret – to kind of get your ego out of the way, which is your ‘love me, love me’ part of being an actor,” Purefoy observes. “Get it out of the way, because it has no place in the room. Be fierce, be strong, and let that character breathe and exist and let the audience make up its own mind.”

After making the rounds on the festival circuit since 2009, Solomon Kane is due in U.S. theaters on September 28. The Following will be broadcast on Fox this fall.