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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

THE BLACK­LIST

Wed­nes­day, 8.45pm, South­ern Cross

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