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Sara Colleton

As TV antiheroes grow ever darker, viewers deal with empathy conflict

As TV antiheroes grow ever darker, viewers deal with empathy conflict

Playing a TV serial killer can be a confusing job, and James Purefoy knows it firsthand from "The Following." He earned a legion of fans attracted to his focused, controlled madman … and nearly lost them with a singular killing.

"I slaughtered my way across the Eastern Seaboard, and on one show I killed a cat," he says, referring to his character, Joe Carroll. "The storm that hit me the following day was horrible: 'I loved you when you were a serial killer, but now that you're killing cats, I'm off!' Can we talk about the first part of that sentence?"

Antiheroes were once the beloved crotchety truth-tellers on TV (think "House"),...

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