The Blacklist Star Megan Boone Talks Paternity, Spader & First Day at Work
The Blacklist, NBC’s buzzy new drama, premieres Monday, September 23 at 10 p.m.
The ambitious new series from John Eisendrath (Alias) stars James Spader as Red Reddington, a criminal mastermind and number one on the FBI’s most wanted list who, as the show premieres, inexplicably turns himself over to the authorities. Red strikes a bargain with his captors. He is willing to give up the names of his one-time cohorts – a collection of the world’s most dangerous criminals – on one condition. He wants to work through his ‘blacklist’ with the newly minted Agent Elizabeth Keen, an FBI profiler fresh out of Quantico. So fresh in fact, that Red’s request falls on her first day of work at the FBI.
What does Red see in Keen? Why has he chosen her to work the blacklist, and what secrets will be revealed during the show’s freshman series?
We spoke to Blacklist star Megan Boone (in addition to executive producer John Eisendrath) recently, who admitted she gave one of the best auditions of her life for the part.
“I had kind of resigned myself to not participating very aggressively in pursuing network TV pilots but once I got hold of The Blacklist and I read it, I was immediately drawn to the character Elizabeth Keen and I worked really hard on it for about a week before I met with Eisendrath and Bokenkamp and Joe Carnahan, who directed it,” said Boone. “In that meeting, I just kind of put it all out on the table. I probably gave one of the better auditions of my career because it was one of the more important ones to me.”
One question begging for answers concerns Red’s (James Spader’s) choice in Keen as a partner. Will fans be left guessing at his motivations for long?
“Well, I think like any great series question, the audience deserves periodic answers along the way,” noted Eisendrath. “It’s not as if you have to wait very long to get some initial answers that build towards a final reveal. We are very mindful that you can’t – and we have no interest in – just letting that question go unanswered. It’s foremost in obviously Liz’s mind. She will be insistent on asking. I think that in a relationship like that, it’s incumbent on Red to offer up some concrete footholds, even in the first 12 episodes.”
Eisendrath went on to say that there will be “two or three answers” forthcoming. “You’ll get an answer and it might open up a different series of questions that you might not have thought of,” he teased. “We’re going to give answers early on and throughout the first season. Hopefully by the end of the first season, it will give the audience some confidence that they’ll understand most of why he did it.”
With the theme of family taking central stage in the pilot episode, it could be said that Red presents a (albeit unusual) father figure to Keen. It is possible that Red actually is Elizabeth’s biological father? Boone was reluctant to be drawn into speculation on the subject.
“I think [Elizabeth’s] relationship with her father is the key to why she developed an interest the criminal mind and in justice. The whole course of [Elizabeth’s] is altered by her experience with her father at a young age. The question of the relationship with Red and how that could be drawn into my relationship with my father is obviously one that we can’t really expand upon right now.”
“We’re exploring that,” she admitted after a moment. “And as the series progresses, there are obviously some paternal feelings that Red has towards me that will need to be explained. I think that what Elizabeth wants from Red is to understand the connection and his interest in her, so my ultimate goal and agenda with him is to uncover that mystery. And his agenda is a mystery to me. I’ve kind of stayed in the dark about what it is he wants from me and I discover it through the scene work with James Spader.”
Boone had high praise for her co-star James Spader, from whom she admits she learned much. Coupled with the mystery surrounding Red’s intentions, the experience has been exciting. “It has been a really wonderful way to work because I’m always trying to read him through his performance. My response to him has grown out of that ultimate overriding question of what it is he wants from me,” said Boone. “If I knew any more than I do know now or any more than anyone knows about what he wants from me, then I think ultimately it would dull my performance a little bit, it would dull my experience creatively in the show and that’s what keeps it exciting for me.”
— The Blacklist (@NBCBlacklist) July 1, 2013
Boone shared a favorite scene with Spader from the show’s pilot episode.
“The scene in the pilot where I stab Red in the neck was really an incredible day. We were on the 29th floor of the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue, which for me was just kind of larger than life, you know, just an experience that felt a little bit like I had gone into a different paradigm or something. It was my first scene shooting with James and that was the first time I learned what an incredible co-worker and collaborator he was going to be. I did not know what to expect. It was so refreshing to me to be kind of nervous but I kept to myself and I just worked as hard as I could that day. He would pull me aside in between scenes and ask me how I felt the scene was going, what I needed form him and by the end of the day, I was just as open and sort of collaborative involved and free as I could be with anyone.”
“That’s a huge testament to him that he made me feel that comfortable. I got on the elevator and went down from the 29th floor that day and went out on Park Avenue and just kind of ran for a couple of blocks because I was just so excited and happy that this is my new working relationship. It was one of those moments in New York City that you never forget.”