The Blacklist is a new criminal procedural with a intriguing twist premiering on NBC. One of the FBI’s Most Wanted, Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) shows up at FBI headquarters to turn himself in and demands to speak to FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). It’s her first day on the job and has no idea why Red will only speak with her. This begins an unusual partnership where Red provides criminals for Elizabeth and the FBI to pursue from what he calls his blacklist.
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Executive Producer John Eisendrath and star Megan Boone spoke with journalists recently about these dynamic characters, their motivations, the blacklist, and touching moment while shooting the pilot. Here are edited excerpts from their interview.
Who is Elizabeth Keen?
Boone: Elizabeth Keen is a psychological profiler who is new to the FBI and it’s her first day at work when Red Reddington, requests to speak with her and only her in order to provide detail for catching some of the world’s most dangerous criminals. She’s stressed into these situations and she’s not entirely prepared to be a field agent, however, it’s required of her now to go out and seek out these criminals in some of the most dangerous situations that she may encounter.
How is Elizabeth as an FBI Agent?
Boone: What you ultimately discover about her is that she’s very brave and capable despite her novice and there’s always that question of whether or not she can handle herself. Sometimes she does, but a lot of the times, the mistakes that she makes are the things that move the drama forward because there are just so many overwhelming circumstances that she has to face that ultimately, she falls short and makes mistakes.
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Who is Red Reddington as a criminal?
Eisendrath: He is capable of pretty much anything. He has a moral compass. He has a point of view. He’s not like Whitey Vulture – he’s not like a thug. He’s not like a mobster. He’s not someone who is sort of random and he’s not a guy who commits crimes with passion.
He’s controlled, thoughtful, smart and shrewd. His capacity for doing any crime, including killing someone, exists. He is – but has, in his own mind, a certain, both either a justification in the moment for the crime he’s committing or as part of a larger part of his life and his career, he has definitely a point of view about the world he has come to occupy, the criminal world that he’s a part of and why he went there, what his goal was.
There’s a great deal of goodness in him. There’s a great desire to do good, mixed in with something that’s self-serving, but he has turned himself into the FBI and while we don’t know ultimately what his plan is for Liz or why he is actually doing the things he’s doing – is he manipulating the FBI or not? We don’t know those things, but one thing we do know is that a lot of bad guys are being caught with his help.
Will criminals from the List reappear?
Eisendrath: If they managed to survive by the end of the episode and for some reason haven’t died, they might reappear. We have in our minds, you know, a larger methodology for the show, but we also are very mindful that we are doing episodic stories that do stand alone and really so far, you know, most of the people who have been on the show are caught, captured and put away by the end of the show.
We do like the idea of a guy [that gets away] that we’ve populated in episodes and as we get deeper into the season, I believe we will be introducing one or more characters who will recur. In the beginning, we are building a series that’s really based on an episodic blacklister of the week.
A touching moment between Megan Boone and James Spader on set
Boone: When we were shooting the pilot, it was the day we were diffusing the bomb and I was having a difficult time and you know, I was kind of spiraling down this very serious mindset because it’s a drama, so you think, you’re shooting a drama, you should be very serious about your work.
He just came up to me and he put his hand on my shoulder and he looked at me for a good minute. It made me feel like he was going to say something very, very, very serious. I kind of leaned in and he goes, “Just have fun. It’s the most important part.” Ever since that point, his presence is kind of a reminder to enjoy myself in the process.
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The Blacklist airs on Mondays at 10 pm ET on NBC.
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(Image courtesy of NBC.)