The Blacklist premiered as the highest new rated show
on the first night of the official fall season. The complex and mysterious relationship between the newly surrendered master criminal Raymond "Red" Reddington and novice FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen was compelling and intriguing to watch.
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I caught up with James Spader as he spoke with reporters at the NBC Press Tour party this summer about The Blacklist, the relationship between Red and Liz, as well as, about the format and tone of the series. Check out the edited excerpts from the conversation.
Is it possible that Red's not all bad?
I think that there's no question that the audience is going to be wrong about things. And, therefore when they have a presumption, that presumption is going to turn out to be just that. And, it can be on both ends of the spectrum and hopefully just when you're starting to feel comfortable he's going to make you feel very uncomfortable in a startling way.
But, the opposite is true as well, I think. I mean I had hoped that came across even in the pilot in some of his dealings with [Liz]. He was different with her than he was with others. Sometimes with her he was still intimidating and I don't think he can avoid having a sense of danger about him.
On what happened to Liz's husband, Tom
He was involved. He was absolutely involved. How do you know he didn't do her a great service?
On the relationship between Red and Liz
My time spent with [Megan Boone while filming the pilot] was in this sniffing around each other in terms of characters. She's very trepidatious in terms of him. It's a very different thing for him. He's been so looking forward to -- there's been a long time building up to this.
Or, that's the implication at least.
Did Red turn himself in simply to get close to Liz?
She's a part of it. It's not just her. It's an important part of it.
Any other thoughts on The Blacklist?
I think people are interested and curious and intrigued by it. I hope that we're successful and also that people really having fun with it. Ultimately, it should be that. A thriller is thrilling only if it is fun. And, that's what the show should be.
As soon as I started to see what I thought I might be able to play around with with the character I became intrigued. And, I loved the fact as I've said ... I really did love the fact that at the end of [the pilot] I knew nothing more than at the beginning of it. I just loved that because it meant that I could watch this show if I was a viewer or I could work on this show as an actor and be curious for a long time to come. And, that's what I'm looking for.
Will the focus be on the criminal of the week or a larger story arc?
We are hoping for a perfect marriage of both. We are hoping for shows that are satisfying on a week-to-week basis. That they will satisfy as a sort of great storyline of the week or maybe an arc of a couple episodes, then also married with an ongoing story of the relationships and who these people are and what their past, present and future turns out to be.
Is the show sustainable over multiple seasons?
I do. It could go in any direction. It's trajectory of storyline is limitless. Anybody could be on the blacklist. It's not apparent now, but whether this is based on what his driving him and what he wants from this. It seems to be many things. And, the pursuit of that and the discovery of that could sustain for a period.
The Blacklist airs on Mondays at 10 pm ET on NBC.
(Image courtesy of NBC.)