When he was a little boy, actor Kevin Bacon owned a collection of hats. He would suddenly become a new character whenever he donned a different hat. "My mother gave me a costume box. It was just filled with old clothes, remnants, and I would open it up, pull out whatever and become that," he says in the outdoor restaurant at a Pasadena hotel.

"I almost never went to the movies as a kid. I started to go when I was 13 or 14. ... But if I would go, I was frustrated being there because it wasn't enough for me to be watching. I wanted to get home and start being the person I saw on the screen."

That passion never left him. At 17 he left his hometown of Philadelphia, Pa., heading for New York. He was determined to slip on a new hat whenever he could. For three months he slept on his sister's couch, but then earned enough as a waiter to squander some money on an apartment.

"I went into a building advertised as an actor-musician-artist residence, and it turned out to be a flop house. They said, 'We don't have a one-bedroom.' And a one-bedroom had a bathroom down the hall. That was $150 a month," he recalls.

The manager suggested he could share a two-bedroom that went for $325. "It was basically a one-bedroom, and I slept in the kitchen on the floor; my roommate slept in the bedroom.

I said, 'I don't have a roommate.' And there was this guy sitting over there, and they said, 'What about this guy? What do you think?' I said, 'Yeah, all right.' And we lived together for four years. I didn't know this guy from Adam. I had no idea who he was." He laughs.

Though he went on to star in such movies as "A Few Good Men," "Mystic River" and "Footloose," and in Fox's TV thriller "The Following," Bacon admits there were times when he had second thoughts about a career as an actor.

"There were many, many times when I have felt frustrated, starting to lose hope, dreams dashed, terrified of money issues. I have gone through all my money with nothing in the bank, many times. But quit? No, I'm in it for the long haul," he says.

"I say to young actors, 'Do something else.' But if they say, 'Go to hell,' that's the guy who should be an actor."

Bacon confesses that, for much of his career, he was a snob. "When I started out, the last thing I wanted to do was be on a television series," he says. "There was a real difference between being a television actor and being a movie and stage actor. I did the soaps, and then I'm, like, DONE. I would never audition for a television show.

"They did a television show of 'Diner' and of 'Animal House' both of which I got offered, and both of which I turned down even though I didn't have a pot to (pee) in. It wasn't like I had some other great gig. I was probably a waiter when they did the show of 'Animal House' for television. But I was a real snob about it."

After seeing the success of "The Closer," his wife Kyra Sedgwick's hit series, he changed his mind. Now, as star of "The Following," Bacon brings some of his hefty talent to the role of the flawed FBI consultant Ryan Hardy, who's summoned to help solve a horrific murder spree.

Persuading him to do a series wasn't as difficult as convincing Sedgwick to do one. The father of two grown children, a boy and a girl, it was Bacon -- the TV-phobe -- who encouraged Sedgwick to take the role in "The Closer."

"She wants to work and is excited about the work," Bacon says. "But then her mind always originally would go to, 'But the kids, but the kids, but the kids,' because she's such a devoted mother and so focused on them. And she had children very, very young. She was 23 when my son was born, and had turned a lot of stuff down.

"When I read 'The Closer,' it seemed like such a great opportunity for her, but they wanted to shoot it in L.A., and we lived in New York. So by way of trying to convince her that maybe this was her time to do something like this I said, 'Listen, if you're worried about the kids, I'll stay with them for the first part while you do the pilot. Then the summer's going to come, and then they're going to be in camp or they can come out to L.A. We can make this work together.'"

They've made it work together for 25 years. Bacon, 55, says meeting Sedgwick changed his life. "Our lives are so inter-mingled in so many ways -- our children, our families, our homes, our careers, our work.

"Our paths may never have crossed," he says. "Nobody warned me about actresses. I'd dated actresses before her. She's different. In retrospect it's funny, because she's so not caught up in the business and success. She was way more grounded -- even at 22 or 23 -- than I was."

He assumed when they first dated that she knew who he was. He'd already enjoyed a wave of popularity. "She's like, 'Dude, I haven't read about you in the papers. I know you've been in stuff.' She's not your typical actress -- I mean, parts of her are. But it's been helpful. We have a shorthand, the shared experience. She comes home from work, I say, 'The day was ... because I did a take and it wasn't that good. Now I'm thinking I wish I could go back.' She gets it."