Spader’s in the Red
He’s made an art form out of playing eccentric or evil characters, but in The Blacklist, James Spader is both. Debbie Schipp reports
DEVOTEES of Seven’s hit US crime drama The Blacklist know the more they learn about its antihero Red Reddington, the less they know. They’re not alone. James Spader – who plays the wicked genius and master manipulator with such enigmatic aplomb – feels exactly the same. As audiences guess at why they somehow like the criminal who came in from the cold, and puzzle over his tie to rookie FBI profiler Elizabth Keene ( Megan Boone) – the only person he will work with – the 54- year- old actor revels in the dichotomy of his antihero. It’s what drew Spader to the role. “I’m in the exact same position,” he says of the unknown layers of his alter ego.
“I want to have unanswered questions … because that’s enormously compelling.”
Spader concedes Red is not just a suave sociopath, but one with a sense of humour.
“Red has such great kind of droll, dry wit,” he says.
“He is comfortable and confi dent in the dark corners of life that most of us would never be comfortable with.
“His confi dence in those areas allows for humour and irreverence even in the most extreme of circumstances.”
Off- screen, Spader, who has two sons with ex- wife Victoria Kheel ( they divorced in 2004) and one son with partner Leslie Stefanson, prefers life away from the spotlight.
During this chat from his New York base, he politely excuses himself for a minor interruption from his son, revealing he’s “on duty while I’m doing this conference call”, before re- warming to the subject of Red.
Spader likes his personal life to be not for public consumption, and is similarly determined to preserve the enigma and mystery of Reddington.
“I have asked the writers really not to tell me too much too soon,” he says.
“I only want to know what I have to know to be able to perform that week’s episode.
“One of the things that we guard most carefully ... is that his secrets remain intact. Once you’ve answered those questions about who he is and where he’s coming from and really what he’s up to, I think you’ve pulled the curtain aside much too far.
“Hopefully Red will remain enigmatic, and what he is really truly up to is something we’re going to hold close to our vest right up until the last episode of the show.”
Despite Red’s almost casual – and certainly clinical – methods of dispatching enemies and threats ( the body count in 2014’ s return episode reached almost double fi gures as he “cleaned up his house”) there are lines Red won’t cross – even if Spader himself is still discovering them.
“You’re seeing somebody in extreme circumstances that would be completely unfamiliar to you, and that person ( Red) is thriving in that context,” he says.
“He seems willing to step over any threshold. He’s perfectly comfortable with not knowing what the outcome is going to be.
“And there is something about it that amuses him. I fi nd that’s fun to play and very endearing.
“He leads a very thrilling life that takes him to the very, very end of the limb. But he also doesn’t mind sitting out there on the end of the limb for an hour or so. Really, he’ll stay there as long as necessary.
“He fi nds peace and serenity in the oddest of places, in the most dire circumstances.”
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