Michael Ealy's Big Bad on 'The Following' Is No Clown

·New York Bureau Chief, Yahoo Entertainment

Don’t be fooled by those dazzling blue eyes — The Following’s new villain, played by Michael Ealy, is one seriously bad dude.

Theo is the mysterious, chameleon-like “best student” of Dr. Arthur Strauss, the fugitive who trained a slew of serial killers, including the show’s infamous Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). And, despite his mask, he’s not clowning around.

“The actions he takes is his passion,” Ealy tells Yahoo TV after his first week on set. “He’s a pretty complex villain. Yes, he is a serial killer, but unlike other serial killers, he doesn’t really seek the fame. He likes to remain in the shadows, so he’s not like Joe Carroll in that way.”

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“He is one of my favorite characters in all the seasons,” executive producer Marco Siega tells us. “[He’s] this killer who is a bit of a chameleon. It’s almost like he can borrow from all serial killers. It makes it impossible to find him. If he goes on a business trip to Seattle, he can become the guy who kills prostitutes at truck stops. If he goes to Austin, he can become another serial killer borrowing from a history of serial killers.”

Get a glimpse of Ealy’s spooky charm in this sneak peek:

“What it really comes down to is that he’s a very charismatic guy, but at the same time, he’s a serial killer,” Ealy teases. “At the end of the day, he spends a lot of time, energy, and resources blending in to whatever environment he needs to blend into in order to get the job done.”

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The role is a rather significant diversion for Ealy, who has played a long string of good guys. “My last two television shows [Fox’s Almost Human and USA’s Common Law], I was on the other side. I was a cop. I’ve often played law enforcement, whether it’s FBI, CIA, or local law enforcement or police officer or detective. For me to get a chance to be on the other side and to try to evade the police, it’s like I’m working a whole different muscle,” he says. “It’s been beyond fun. It’s extremely rewarding. I think I’ve been converted to the dark side, I really do. I definitely want to do more of this in my career.”

One might think joining such a dark and twisty show — in a dark and twisty role, no less — would be a recipe for some seriously heavy days at work, but, much to Ealy’s chagrin, that’s not the case on The Following’s Brooklyn set. “I was actually worried coming in, wondering, ‘How do you guys deal with all this?’ And from the first day, it was like I was the only one walking around feeling funky,” he admits. “You would have thought everybody else was filming a wedding. … They all understand that the subject matter is so scary, so gross and bloody and all this other stuff, that the only way for them to get through their days is to be a little bit desensitized to it. Everybody keeps it light.”

Things won’t be so light when Ealy’s Theo makes his debut on The Following Monday night at 9 p.m. on Fox.