Jessica Stroup never knows when she might wind up with a bullet in the head, a knife in the back or a plastic bag over her face.
This is what you sign up for, the 2004 Providence High School graduate realizes, when you take a meaty role on a gritty and often-twisted psychological thriller like Fox’s “The Following” – which gets its third-season premiere at 8 p.m. Monday.
Stroup, 27, has survived 16 episodes since joining the series at the beginning of last season as NYPD detective Max Hardy. Max also happens to be the niece of the famed serial-killer hunter Ryan Hardy, played by star Kevin Bacon. And we know (very minor spoiler alert) that Max will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.
How nervous is Stroup that she’ll eventually be bumped off, on a scale of 1 to 10?
“Probably eight, constantly,” she says with a laugh, calling last week from the apartment she is renting in Brooklyn while working on the show. (Her permanent residence is now in L.A.)
“Two days ago, I was shooting with Kevin. He sat down in his chair beside me and looked at me in this weird way and goes, ‘Hey, did (executive producer) Marcos (Siega) talk to you about the episode we’re about to do?’ I just looked at him and said, ‘Uhh, no, no, he hasn’t yet. Why? What’s gonna happen?’ Then he said, ‘Oh, no, no! I’m so sorry!’ He didn’t mean to scare me. But that’s constantly hanging over everything.”
Season 3 of “The Following” picks up a year after the spot where Season 2 left off. It’s revealed at the outset that Max has a new job with the FBI, a new boyfriend (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and lots of distress about the lines she, Ryan and Mike (Shawn Ashmore) crossed in their obsessive manhunt of cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).
Then people start dying again, our heroes start receiving threats, and ... yup, here we go again.
Having now worked closely with Bacon for the past year and a half, Stroup – who has been “a fan of Kevin my whole entire life” – has long since shaken off the nerves she had the first time they did a scene together.
Since then, she’s been a guest at Bacon and wife Kyra Sedgwick’s home, she refers to him as “Kev” in polite conversation, and she owns a copy of the original soundtrack for his 1986 movie “Quicksilver” that he signed: “Working with you is a highlight of my career.”
“The fact that he put ‘a highlight’ is pretty funny,” Stroup says, laughing.
The story behind the autographed “Quicksilver” LP has been one of her favorites about Bacon for a while, but she may have a new one.
Around Christmastime, Stroup invited her family up to New York: her parents from Charlotte, her brother and sister-in-law from Greenville, S.C., her aunt and uncle, her cousin and her cousin’s boyfriend. Bacon and Ashmore were shooting an intense action scene, while Stroup had a day off scheduled.
“I knew they wanted to go down and meet Kevin,” she says “So I took my family to the set and everybody got to meet Kevin. It was very cool. The problem was that no one said, ‘Oh, let’s do pictures.’ I didn’t think to ask, and they didn’t speak up.
“So after we left, Kevin sent me a note saying, ‘I’m bummed, nobody even wanted a picture with me.’ Underneath it, he sent a picture of him standing by himself with his arm draped up like it’s around someone, and he said, ‘Go ahead, Photoshop them into this.’ They were all so happy. They had been so mad at me, and that totally just washed it away.”
The two-hour Season 3 premiere of “The Following” airs at 9 p.m. Monday on Fox.