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Wilmette’s Nico Tortorella talks about his fate on ‘The Following’

Nico Tortorell'The Following.'

Nico Tortorella on "The Following."

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Updated: May 29, 2013 6:38AM

Few TV characters have as short a shelf life as those on Fox’s killing-spree thriller “The Following,” which caps off its blood-soaked freshman season Monday on Fox.

If you missed this week’s penultimate episode, stop reading now.

If you saw it, then you know the newest addition to the show’s sky-high body count is Jacob Wells, played by Wilmette native Nico Tortorella.

A former devotee of cult leader and Edgar Allan Poe superfan Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), Jacob met a grisly end on Monday’s episode. Emma Hill (Valorie Curry), the woman who broke his heart, slit his throat.

“It made the most sense in terms of the drama and really the love story between the two of us and her love story with Joe Carroll,” Tortorella said about Emma offing Jacob — a development he discovered about a week before filming.

“I would have loved to stay on the show longer,” added the actor, whose character’s final scene took place in a car with Emma as he tried to convince her to bail on Carroll’s cult.

“If they had [driven] away, a whole Bonnie and Clyde story would have been a perfect season two,” the New Trier grad said. “But I’m not the writer.”

That would be pop culture-suspense master Kevin Williamson, of “The Vampire Diaries” and the “Scream” franchise fame.

With “The Following,” Williamson spawned a fast-moving psychological drama that pits a broken former FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) against a murderous cult leader (Purefoy) obsessed with Poe — and the idea of writing his own twisted tale.

The 15-episode series debuted in January and has proven itself a solid performer for Fox, which re-upped it for a second season.

This marks Williamson’s second time working with Tortorella, who had a role in the 2011 flick “Scream 4.” The 24-year-old actor’s next big-screen endeavor is the film adaptation of Dean Koontz’s best-seller “Odd Thomas.”

Tortorella, whose previous TV credits include “The Beautiful Life” and “Make It or Break It,” got his acting start while in elementary school. He starred in “The Wizard of Oz” at Wilmette Children’s Theatre. Thespian pursuits took him to Northlight Theatre in Skokie and Chicago’s Mercury Theater, where he did a three-year run in Tom Dudzick’s play “Over the Tavern.” He also studied at the Goodman and Steppenwolf.

Chicago was “an amazing city to be introduced to this world,” said Tortorella, who now calls L.A. home. “I still have a huge Italian family scattered all across the Chicagoland area, so I get back as much as I can.”

That family includes Tortorella’s grandmother, Phyllis Pesce, owner of Resale & Antiques in Glenview. Tortorella chalks up his love of all-things vintage to her.

“That’s where it all started,” he said, “me traveling to garage sales and auctions with my grandma.”

Pesce, 87, still runs her shop at 1755 Glenview Rd. “It keeps me out of the nursing home,” she said.

She and her daughter, Tortorella’s aunt, watched Jacob get stabbed to death — a bloody scene that involved a neck prosthetic that took four hours to put on.

“I was OK with it; I’m a tough Italian,” she said with a laugh. “But my daughter was crying her eyes out, and she’s 67 years old.”

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