SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t yet watched the debut episode of season 2.
What’s scarier than a fresh-faced boy next door with a penchant for murder? How about two fresh-faced boys next door with a penchant for murder? In a second-season premiere full of twists, perhaps the twistiest during Sunday’s The Following was the revelation that Sam Underwood’s killer character is, in fact, a pair of twins working in concert to lure missing-in-action former cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) out of hiding.
Underwood is no stranger to murder and mayhem, having served as protege to Dexter Morgan on Dexter and beau to Dana Brody on Homeland. EW spoke with the 26-year-old actor about playing double and what fans can expect during the Fox series’ second season (shower scenes, included).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You have a bit of a history of playing dark and dangerous characters. What it is about you that inspires producers to cast you in these types of roles?
SAM UNDERWOOD: I always look for interesting, complex characters. You know, interesting, well-written material. And it just so happens that a lot of shows nowadays and all those characters seem to be people with either pasts as serial killers or people who have a lot of issues. So that’s what I look for in the characters. What the producers see in me? I’m hoping that since I’m unassuming—because I’m not exactly that kind of person — so the fact that whatever dark depth they’re looking for in material, I’m somehow able to find the humanity in the character, and it’s a little more chilling for that reason. That’s what I hope; that’s what I’ve been told.
Did you know from the start that this would be a dual role, or was there some level of secrecy?
I didn’t know from the get-go; it was revealed to me later on. The idea of what was presented to me in the beginning was very interesting and fascinating in itself, but when it was revealed to me I was in fact playing identical twins, that was another gold star on the board of an awesome job opportunity.
Did you land the role auditioning as just one of the twins, then?
They presented three dummy scenes for the audition — two scenes were for one of the brothers and the other one was for the other brother. The way they worded it to me in the audition breakdown was, “This character has many different personalities.” So I was going more for the split-personality-type complex, or someone with very different characteristics. So it wasn’t just off the strength of one character.
Let’s talk about the technical aspects of playing two characters, who appear in one scene at the same time.
I’m really lucky, I have a really wonderful actor that I get to work with, and he plays my twin. So whatever twin I’m shooting at that moment, he has the equal responsibility of learning the material, and I’m very lucky that I get to work very closely with the directors in the scenes…and in a way choreograph the camera movement so not both of them can always be seen at the same time. I’m just lucky to have a great actor to work opposite with, because it would be doubly as difficult to work these two brothers.
So on any given filming day you’re playing both brothers.
It’s a mixed bag, and you know, a lot of scenes have both brothers in it, so I’m backwards and forwards from brother to brother sometimes many, many, many times. So that’s fascinating process in itself going backwards and forwards.
How do you keep them straight? Do you ever get confused about which brother you’re playing?
Not confused, no. I’ve definitely had some very odd moments while shooting a scene I’ve already done as the other brother and feeling like I’ve been in the scene for the first time because I’m hearing the other words being directed at me as the other twin, and it’s a very odd sensation every now and then. Not déjà vu, but in that kind of vein. I guess it’s kind of fun in that regard as well.
How quick is the hair and makeup change?
We’ve got it down to, depending on what the costume change is, we’ve got it down to just under six minutes. But that’s a really fast changeover, though. It’s dependent on the scene. We’ve been practicing for a while now, so we have the process down.
What can you divulge about upcoming episodes, including how your little faction will (or won’t) play nice with the original group of followers?
I can’t give you too many specifics, but what I can tell you is, yes, they are in their own faction, they’ll create even more mischief than they’ve already done in episode 1, and it only gets more interesting and twisted and wonderful in that regard. I can’t give too much away past that.
Can you at least tell us whether we can expect another shower scene?
[Laughs] If you want to write to Kevin Williamson and ask, you’re more than welcome to.