NBC’s “The Blacklist” is a suspenseful drama about Raymond “Red” Reddington, an ex-government-agent-turned-mastermind-criminal who turns himself into the FBI to help solve crimes. Red has a mysterious agenda, one that involves ambitious FBI profiler Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (played by Megan Boone), who is the FBI employee whom Red insists he has to communicate with the most.
Also starring in “The Blacklist” is Diego Klattenhoff (who was previously in “Homeland”) as FBI agent Donald Ressler. The first episode (also known as a pilot) of “The Blacklist” was shown to the public for the first time at 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego — two months before the show premiered on TV. Here is what they said during the Comic-Con panel discussion that followed a screening of “The Blacklist” pilot.
James, why did you want to be in ‘The Blacklist”?
Spader: I just thought it was a neat show. I really thought it was a neat show. I’ve done a little bit of series work in the past. And what I knew about it was that you better make a choice with a character that’s going to sustain, that you’re going to be curious about them over a long span of time and that questions are going to go unanswered for a while — not only for an audience but for me as well.
And this character [Red Reddington] seemed like that. And I also, I saw the opportunity for humor. And there was a fair amount in the story, in the script that I received. And I just thought that this guy was just a strange mix of someone who is dangerous and scary at times but also compelling. And I think part of that is his sense of humor. And I like the enigmatic quality of the story.
What’s interesting is that you see an awful lot — and this was all on the page when I read the script — you’re immediately drawn in by these people, but at the end of the story, you know nothing about them. And the things that you think you may know will turn out to not be so, maybe. And I thought that was great, because when you’re shooting your 18th episode in a season, the one thing you’re looking for is a surprise. Really, from a completely selfish point of view, you want to be surprised when you open the next script. So this show seemed like it had all those possibilities.
So do you not know what’s motivating Red and what’s his relationship with Liz?
Spader: I know some.
How much do you want to know in advance?
Spader: A great deal of that depends on the life of the series. Those things can change, and they can evolve. You know, I did films for many, many years. And when you do that, you sort of know your beginning, middle and end before you start shooting. The first time I ever did a series was just a bunch of years ago. And I loved that aspect of it. It was such a gamble. You really didn’t know where it was going to go. And you sort of grew with the show, and the show grew with you. I don’t want to know everything. I want to know enough to be able to do my job and nothing more.
Is Liz Red’s daughter?
Spader: Just watch the show!
Megan and Diego, what is it like to work with James Spader?
Boone: I couldn’t have done this job without James. James was so supportive of me. My first scene with him, I was extremely nervous. He’s very kind and humble and accommodating. I don’t know if my performance would have been as relaxed if I would have been able to be as present without him there. So that was my experience.
Klattenhoff: Ditto. I’ve got nothing to say. He said t all. She said it all. No, it’s very humbling to go to work and see him sitting opposite you. And then you get to work and find out there’s so much more than you can do with him. He brings out the best in everybody. It’s very exciting, as my lovely co-star would say as well.
James, what were the early stages of your relationship with Megan Boone like for you?
Spader: Anticipation. The nice thing about shooting this pilot was we were ale to play the things — which you try and do anyway with anything you’re working on — the baggage that you’re bringing, whatever it is, the idiosyncrasies, your eccentricities — whatever the hell you’re going through that specific day, as opposed to trying to shove them under the rug, play those things and let them live and let them inform what you’re doing. We were very lucky on this show because in the pilot, and continuing on going forward in the series, is there’s this tremendous anticipation that he’s been wanting for some time and something he’s been looking forward to for some time.
And so, it was very easy to play that because I also felt that same anticipation working with Megan. I’m always anticipating the people I’m going to be working with and the people that you’re interested in and curious about. And I found that to be true with everybody working on the show. I was genuinely curious, but she most of all. And I think that comes across in their scenes together, this odd, sort of enigmatic unknown between the two of them.
And secrets are a great thing. Secrets are such a part of everyone’s life. And that’s allowed to live in this show: how you reckon with secrets in your own life and in others’, secrets that others know about you, and your secrets that you hold very dear, that someone in the first time meeting them, they are intuitive about things that you hold very close to your heart. And I think that’s an interesting aspect to this relationship between Red and Elizabeth, from both sides. I think, intuitively, she responds to something in him. And the same thing happened to Megan and [me]. And I was glad for that.
For more info: "The Blacklist" website