Every good story has its defining the moment – the interaction or even the vulnerable moment that sets the pace for everything that comes after it.
NBC’s The Blacklist has chugged along pretty skillfully the past four seasons. But when it comes down to that defining moment for the show’s creator, Jon Bokenkamp, he has to look all the way back to the 11th episode, which aired on Jan. 13, 2014.
That scene, Bokenkamp told Entertainment Tonight, allowed Emmy-winning Blacklist star James Spader to stretch his legs as an actor. And in the process, it truly brought his villain-turned-hero-turned-villain-turned hero, Raymond Reddington, to life.
“Raymond Reddington is searching for somebody who has betrayed him. It’s a very simple scene. He’s talking to a corrupt banker because he knows that the banker has information that can give him the name of the person who betrayed him. And he gets the name by the end.
“It’s basically three pages of Raymond Reddington being Raymond Reddington, hanging out with his family. Things get incredibly tense and dark, but also weirdly funny.”
It started to become a winning mixture because of a number of factors that just found a way to link together, Bokenkamp said. Everything from the words written by Brandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier, to the work of director Dan Lerner, and to Spader himself – a three-time Emmy winner for The Practice and its spin-off Boston Legal.
“I wasn’t interested in doing a straight procedural, and the sort of B-stories, and the characters and the overarching mythology of the show is really important to what The Blacklist is. This was an example of where we had fun, in what would have otherwise been a straightforward procedural scene.”
It would’ve been easy for Reddington, whose intellect is rivaled only by his villainy, to interrogate a couple, and instead of leaning on violence, almost comically threatening to throw her in the closet if she doesn’t calm down. Of course there is violence in the scene, but it doesn’t disrupt Reddington’s comic timing at all.
“Reddington is somebody who has joy, is full of life, and wants to see the best in people. He wants to have Stroganoff for dinner, have a glass of wine, and hear old stories. But he can’t.
“At the end of the scene, he tells the woman, ‘So sorry, I’ll have to take a raincheck on the Stroganoff.’ Just the idea that, after shooting her husband in the leg, locking her in the closet and threatening to shoot her through the door, that she would still want to have dinner with him – there’s a willful blindness. It showed me that that’s how fun the show can be.”
The Blacklist is on its winter hiatus now, with a return just after the new year on Jan. 5. And for people who just can’t get enough of The Blacklist after 75 episodes, no worries, there’s more coming.
Ryan Eggold, who plays Tom Keen in the series, is starring in a spin-off called Blacklist: Redemption with another recurring character from the past, Famke Janssen’s Susan Hargrave.
The two-part May season finale this past spring was the backdoor pilot for the new series, where Keen will take on additional missions led by the former X-Men star.
The Blacklist airs Thursdays on NBC.
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