'The Following': Shawn Ashmore on Mike Weston's 'Final Straw' (Q&A)

The Following Shawn Ashmore Still - H 2014
Jeff Neumann/FOX

Mike Weston is becoming Ryan Hardy on The Following.

"Mike has been put through the meat grinder," actor Shawn Ashmore tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He's been tortured emotionally and psychologically. Now we get to see what that does to a man. The second half of the season gets to show that."

The next episode, ominously titled "Sacrifice," puts Ryan's niece Max in a dangerous life-or-death situation at the hands of the conniving Lily Gray. And by the end of the episode, a tragic sacrifice puts one of the core characters in an unforeseen position.

STORY: 'The Following': Jessica Stroup on Max's Scrappiness and Chemistry With Mike

Ashmore previews Monday's action-packed episode, talks Mike and Max's maybe-romance and hints at what's to come.

Mike Weston is already on a downward spiral, one Ryan Hardy has been on since season one. How did Mike get to this place?

In season one Mike was definitely a fresh-faced agent who looked up to Ryan and was excited to be on the case. He hadn't experienced the violence and loss that Ryan had, so there was that divide between these two as far as their experience and what they had gone through and their attitude on this case. As season one progressed, we saw Mike's life almost taken, he had to kill people, he saw people he loved die. The big arc for Mike has been becoming a mirror to Ryan's journey, to become who he has become by working this case, and season two is no exception to that. The next episode is the final straw that makes Mike, in my mind, a full mirror to Ryan. These men couldn't be more similar as far as their pain, what they've gone through, their goals and their ideas for revenge.

Does Mike have the bandwidth to handle all of this?

I don't know if anyone can really handle this. In episode seven, we see Mike step away after he almost killed Luke because he realizes he's on the edge. He knows that. There's this idea that after season one -- we don't really talk about it necessarily, it's not in the scene -- there was a discussion we had creatively with [executive producers] Kevin Williamson and Marcos Siega about Mike having PTSD after losing his partner and after the "Fight Club" episode where he was put into a coma basically. This was him unleashing and realizing the feelings he's been having are real -- and everyone else is starting to see as well. He tries to tell Ryan that he needs to leave the case, that he needs to go home to take a break -- and then Max gets kidnapped and that pulls him back into the case. I don't know that he can handle it, but I know that he is capable. He's very self-aware in that sense; I just don't think he cares if he commits these crimes if he thinks it's justified.

VIDEO: 'The Following': Ryan Hardy Is Still Obsessed in Season 2 Trailer

Is there anything Mike can do to not become Ryan Hardy 2.0?

I think he already is. I don't think there's any way to stop it, no. I'm not saying that Mike is going to become an alcoholic, but I think Mike is already there -- obviously not an identical match to him, but as far as who he's become, the decisions he's willing to make, he's on point with Ryan now. He agrees with him. Last year he wanted to play by the rules and stick with protocol; now, who cares, that's not how we get these guys. We get them by playing by their rules and breaking their rules. That's what Ryan's code always was, and Mike is with him right now.

Viewers picked up on a connection between Mike and Ryan's niece Max. Where is that headed?

I think there is definitely an attraction between Max and Mike. It really begins with their proximity with Ryan. They both care about Ryan Hardy, and that puts them together. I think Mike rubbed Max the wrong way the first time when he came in [to her office] and was like, "You need to do this, you need to do that." But after that initial meeting, Max realizes how much Mike cares about Ryan and that he was just trying to protect him in a weird way. The more they interact, there's chemistry. I mean, they're not googly-eyed -- when they're around each other there's an attraction. That being said, I don't think we're going to see the characters go on a date or anything like that -- that's not the world we live in on the show. We have murder and mayhem and torture, so what their relationship will become is definitely up in the air. It's good for these characters to have this sounding board to bounce off of and have someone to talk to. We'll have to see where it goes. It breaks things up, it's nice to have that.

I feel like they need it.

Last year, there was a great love story between Ryan and Claire, and between Joe and Claire. You have these two men vying for this woman. That's a powerful love story, and that's something we don't have this year, so maybe the audience is really wanting to see that and so is loving the potential between Mike and Max.

What's the likelihood that Ryan, Mike and the others will actually gain some ground in their never-ending quest to topple Joe Carroll and his followers?

Things are about to change in a major way for Joe. What's interesting about this season, and we saw it in episode six, is that Joe is out of control, and there's a humility to him -- he realizes he was a crappy writer, he realizes that what he did was a failure. He gives in to his primal nature, which is death, to be a cold-blooded killer. You're seeing a Joe Carroll who is not as integral as he was last season, and that's interesting, and that continues in episode seven and forward. That's the direction the season takes. We're still trying to find him -- he's very resourceful, and Lily is very resourceful. Our attention is split -- Mike is more focused on Lily and Ryan is more focused on Joe -- but ultimately they're heading in the same direction.

The Following airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.

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