THE BLACKLIST at Comic Con 2020: That Divisive Finale Was Almost a Radio Play

How The Blacklist Finale Narrowly Avoided Becoming  a Radio Play


By Pauline Perenack

As we all know, COVID-19 put the brakes on a number of television productions this year, leaving several episodes, and finales, unfinished. 

In the case of NBC’s The Blacklist, production stalled midway through episode 19, and with three full episodes yet to be filmed, when the world seemingly shut down.

However, neither fans nor the creative team behind the hit series could imagine ending the show’s seventh season on a note that failed to close out Red (James Spader) and Liz’s (Megan Boone) epic season-long break-up, the Katarina Rostova story arc, Red’s mysterious life-threatening health issues, and the introduction to Season 8’s next Big Bad!

With only half of episode 19 in the can, producers came up with the idea of animating the scenes they still needed, and so a comic book, gritty film noir-style creative solution was born, and the rest is Blacklist history.

This year’s Comic Con Blacklist panel brought together series creator/executive producer Jon Bokenkamp, executive producer John Eisendrath, series stars Diego Klattenhoff, and Harry Lennix, along with Proof, Inc’s visualization supervisors Adam Coglan and Matt Perrin to discuss just how they managed to finish episode 19 and give fans the Season 7 closure they desperately wanted.

But did you know that the comic book option was one of many, including one idea to present the finale in the form of a radio play?

Here are some things we learned during the panel:

  1. Eisendrath explained that they went through a lot of ideas on how to finish this episode, including having an image of an old radio on the screen as the actors read through the lines of the episode, similar to an old radio show.
  2. They only had five weeks to deliver the episode, and this kind of animation usually takes months to do, especially since all of the animation was starting from scratch. To get it done on time, teams were working around the clock.
  3. While Eisendrath was very concerned about the actors recording their parts, and how difficult it would be, he was pleasantly surprised that ultimately, they didn’t have to redo any of the performances.
  4. Both Klattenhoff and Lennix described the weird vibe in the air during their final scenes they were filming due to COVID – there was just a sense that everything would be shut down and left unfinished.
  5. Coglan pointed out that at the beginning of the process, they didn’t have any animation models for the actors, so had to pull models from their library. This meant that Jason Statham showed up a lot.
  6. A lot of footage had to be pulled from previous episodes and pieced together in creative ways to fill out the scenes that hadn’t been shot yet, but needed to be live action. Actors then sent in ADRs to layer over the shots.
  7. It was Bokenkamp and Eisendrath who came up with the idea to have the cast do the opening explanation of the episode. They felt there needed to be something there so that it wasn’t so unexpected.
  8. Eisendrath promises that all of the big stuff that they couldn’t do at the end of season 7 will be used at the beginning of season 8, so fans should expect a high energy start to the season.
  9. Eisendrath also points out that Liz siding with her mother creates enormous consequences in her relationship with Red, and those consequences will be revealed in the first two episodes of season 8.

Overall, this panel was very interesting. So many television series were stuck just not finishing their seasons, so it was great to see how The Blacklist crew were able to be creative to finish theirs. Additionally, the teases for season 8 will be sure to get any fan excited.

This unique season finale hour of The Blacklist can be rewatched on Peacock and the NBC app.

Catch the full panel below.

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