television

‘Blacklist’ star James Spader reveals his biggest fears

The actor stars in the crime thriller, which airs its fourth season finale on Saturday

10:58 May 13, 2017

American crime show The Blacklist finishes its fourth season on May 20, with the finale airing in the UAE on OSN.

The thriller, which first aired in 2013, stars the peculiar James Spader in the leading role of Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, a former US Navy officer-cum-heavy duty criminal, who turns himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He produces a blacklist of the world’s most dangerous criminals in exchange for immunity, and chooses to work with rookie FBI agent Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Keen (Megan Boone) to bring them down.

Season four deals with the surprise resurrection of Keen, who had been presumed dead until the end of season three, while Reddington goes head to head with — you guessed it — more blacklisters.

Spader spoke to Gulf News tabloid! on a conference call about why he’s always been attracted to morally grey roles — and why, unlike Red, his best real-life asset is kissing.

Are there any TV, film or even real-life villains that fascinate you?

Villainy in many ways represents the extremes of society and a culture. There’s a morbid curiosity one has about that sort of thing. More than just pure villainy, I’m very compelled and drawn to anti-hero characters. I was very lucky in that I’ve had two different anti-hero characters that I’ve played on television, because they came along at a time when there was not a lot of anti-heroes on television. Now I think there probably are more, although I don’t really have time to watch television — I’m too busy just making it.

What’s your biggest fear, since we are living in a very dangerous time?

When one is living in a time of great volatility and a time of discord, it’s best not to operate from a position of fear. It’s just a deadly combination. At the most difficult of times, one has to dispense with fear and find courage. I try to process these times through that prism — to be inspired by other people’s resolve and vigilance and courage. And [have] a confidence and a conviction in one’s values and one’s beliefs and priorities and to live by those things, even in the face of adversity.

Reddington has been known as a character that’s always calm, keeping everything under control. In seasons three and four, he starts showing emotional aspects. Do you enjoy this character arc?

Yes, I do. It’s deceiving a little bit, because it looks like he may be in control of things when very often I think really what’s going on is that he’s actually just very calm and perfectly comfortable surrounded by chaos. In the last couple of years, he’s really faced with the consequences of his life [and] the collateral effect that his life has had, even though he has felt for a long time that he’s been responsible for himself and he’s lived to a great degree a solitary life.

On the last season of The Blacklist we found about Liz’s father. How do you think this will change Liz and Red’s relation and the show in general?

I think that Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington’s relationship throughout the course of the entire series, to date, has been one that has been very, very volatile with very, very deep valleys and high hills. It seems to be in an ever-changing place and yet there seems to be something compelling between the two of them that neither of them are able to put down very easily.

Fans have all kinds of theories about the show. One in particular is that Red is actually Liz’s father. What do you think of this? Do you read over the internet about the expectations?

I really don’t read anything on the internet about much of anything. The only thing I use the internet for is to lookup information almost in an encyclopedic way. It’s innately human to want to ruin a surprise for one’s self. There’s always a desire to try and figure out how the magic trick is done but it’s always a disappointment. How the trick is done is never really as interesting as the trick itself, you know?

Can you give any comments about this [other] theory that Red is Liz’s mother?

I haven’t really given it any thought … I don’t know what the ramifications of that [storyline] would be. Say for instance the network were to say, ‘OK, well, you’ve got to end this show halfway through next season.’ I’m not sure how you would tell that story or how you’d come to that.

Your characters often seem as if they were written specifically for you, including Reddington. How much input do you generally have in this show and in others that you’ve worked on?

I must say I really think that’s just simply the job of an actor. I take what you’re saying as a compliment and I appreciate it, because truthfully, whenever I see an actor playing a role where their performance is very strong and they’re really convicted and committed to what they’re doing, to me it seems like they have taken an ownership of the character to a degree where it seems like it’s written for them.

You mentioned you don’t watch a lot of TV and I read that for a long time you didn’t have a TV. I find that to be an interesting paradox, don’t you think?

Yes, I still don’t have a television in my house right now but I’m moving fairly soon, so who knows? I don’t know whether it’s a paradox, really. I spend a lot of hours out of the day and a lot of days out of the week and a lot of weeks out of the year living within fictional television and fictional drama. When I’m not working, I don’t tend to be drawn towards that.

You also said that one of the interesting things about this TV show is that [it’s] in New York, which is a city that you like, so I was wondering — what is it about this city that you like most?

It’s funny, I was just thinking about that fairly recently. I had gone overseas and … I was so excited to be back in New York. The thing that is amazing about New York City that I find to be unique on earth is that the moment that someone arrives in New York City, no matter where they come from, no matter what language they speak, no matter what religion they practice, no matter what life they lead, the moment they arrive in New York City they become a New Yorker, and they become an important thread in the fabric of this city.

Red has a lot of skills; he’s good at almost everything. Can you tell us something that are good at and something that you are bad at?

I’m very, very bad at getting up in the morning. That’s really one of the things that I’m the worst at. I’m not a morning person at all and never, ever have been so I have a hard time with that … I’m a very good kisser. I think that’s something I’m fairly sure of — that’s something I don’t make mistakes in very often. I think I could say that that is a skill I’m quite confident of.

Don’t miss it!

Blacklist airs on OSN in the UAE at 8pm.