From prime real estate to primal serial killers, Annie Parisse has seen it all. The Broadway veteran and Clybourne Park alumna is currently taking names as kick-ass police chief Debra Parker on FOX's pulse-pounding thriller The Following, co-starring Kevin Bacon. Parisse is one of a handful of Broadway actors who appear on the show, which is all kinds of crazy—and we love it! Because we’re such fans, we tracked down Parisse to get her story on the fascination with The Following, Broadway stars in body bags and her Clybourne Tony memories.
The Following is so, so good. What attracted you to it?
It was a combination of things. The funny thing for me was that my character, Debra Parker, is not in the pilot, so I was trying to understand what the part would be. I had some conversations with [show creator] Kevin Williamson about how he envisioned her fitting into the series, which all sounded really interesting. And then I read with Kevin Bacon—and of course, he’s a fantastic actor and a really fun guy to work with. I thought, I’ll just take a leap of faith!
Police chiefs on television can often fall into cliché. How does Parker fit into the mold?
I hope she goes against it! That was one of the concerns for me. To be totally honest, police shows aren’t my thing—it’s generally not the TV I watch, so the exciting things were that [Chief Parker] has a great sense of humor, and now they’re bringing out some of her past, which is dark and scary. I had this same conversation with our executive producer before I started, where he was like, “We want all of the agents in the show to feel like people.” It’s sort of a funny thing to say, but it’s true: Agents are people, too!
Has anyone said anything about the show that stuck with you?
After the second episode aired, I had so many people say, “You didn’t tell me you were playing one of the bad guys!” I think that’s one of my favorite comments about the show, because Kevin Williamson has set up this world in which you really don’t know who’s on what side. I love that about it. That’s the kind of TV I like to watch, where you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
We’re seeing a lot of Broadway actors on this show—as serial killers!
I know! We just did an episode with Marin Ireland, who is a buddy from way back. You don’t usually get to do TV shows in New York, so it’s been really fun for me because there’s literally not been one episode where there hasn’t been somebody who’s a friend from a play, or [someone] I don’t know but who I’ve seen on stage. I’m always like, “Oh my god, I’m so excited I get to work with you!”
What is it about Broadway stars on crime shows, either being serial killers—or being serially killed?
I feel like the most fun roles are the people who come in and do the killing and wreak mayhem, you know? It’s a huge compliment to all the Broadway folks that they get to come in and chew the scenery a little bit.
What was the Tony whirlwind like for Clybourne Park?
It was very intense. It was so exciting that we got nominated, just because it was such a long time coming to get the show to Broadway, and the fact that we had all of the original cast members...it was really special. I’ll always look back on that experience as one of the sweet moments in my career because it felt like a dream. You do the play, you move to Broadway, everybody goes together, you get nominated for a Tony and then you win! The longer you work in this business, you realize things don’t usually work this way.
Do you think The Following would make a good transition to the stage?
I feel like it’s not in the cards, but it’s a wild idea, and I kind of love it! I don’t know how you’d do it. But that would be a crazy, crazy night at the theater.
The Following airs on Mondays at 9/8c on FOX.