Audiences on Red alert
James Spader’s Raymond Reddington is as brilliant and calculating as ever as The Blacklist charges into the red zone.
IT’S the episode which set American audiences buzzing when it aired after the Superbowl earlier this year, and will leave Australian fans gobsmacked. Make no mistake, The Blacklist’s mid-season return – airing here as a powerful double-episode tomorrow night – is as brutal and brilliant as it is emotionally mesmerising. And the body count is through the roof.
James Spader as antihero Raymond “Red” Reddington is typically sublime. Co-star Megan Boone (who plays FBI agent Elizabeth Keen) belts it out of the park.
And guest star Ron Perlman just about steals the show. It’s a fast-paced and bloody watch – which Boone revealed was equally as savage to make – during one scene, surrounded by explosions and missiles, “I’m pretty sure Ron Perlman hit me in the face”.
Three-time Emmy winner Spader admits it’s “brutal” – even by The Blacklist’s standards.
Two seasons into playing TV’s smoothest criminal, Spader is clearly enjoying the subtleties of Red as much as his complexities.
“I’ve been able to see what some of his vulnerabilities are,” Spader says.
“And when the audience and myself first started getting to know Raymond Reddington, he seemed invulnerable.
“As I’ve become more familiar with him and as audiences become familiar with him, I’ve started to see how his priorities have shifted – in a way.
“I think he’s found himself – again, and again – vulnerable in a very practical sense, and in a physical sense, but also emotionally.”
The character is the role that brought Spader back to TV. Until it popped up he was determined to pursue film roles. It was the humour in the often merciless criminal which most appealed.
“The sense of humour was such an interesting juxtaposition to what the realities of his (Red’s) life were,” Spader says.
“The realities of his life are – very often – very dangerous, and quite dramatic. And I thought that that was very dichotomous, the notion that somebody whose life is – the stakes of his life are very, very high; and yet, he has a very acute sense of humour and irreverent view of the life which he lives. And I have done everything I can to try and explore that as much as we can on the show.”
Spader is ever-vigilant that Red doesn’t degenerate into total super-villain. To do so, he and show-runners know, could cost The Blacklist its intrigue. “We’ve been very careful to never swing too far in either direction in that I don’t think that we can sustain this character for any length of time in the show if – all of a sudden – you were to realise that the sort of humanity or more sympathetic aspects of his character are just a mask that cover just a straight-to-head villain,” he says.
“And to me, it just wouldn’t be interesting to play. I’m much more interested in the idea that you’re never quite sure what he is more, whether he’s more a good man who’s capable of very, very bad things or whether he’s a bad man who’s capable of very good things.
“It’s much more interesting and curious that you’re never quite sure which of those it is.”
MONDAY, 9.15PM, SEVEN
EDITOR Debbie Schipp REVIEWS Debbie Schipp, Colin Vickery, Andrew Fenton, Holly Byrnes, Neala Johnson, Leigh Paatsch, Tiffany Dunk, Shannon Molloy COVER James Spader © Amy Dickerson/The New York Times/Headpress COVER DESIGN Trevor Timms PRODUCTION Pagemasters Published by Hannanprint, 55 Doody St, Alexandria, NSW 2015, for News Corp Australia. PROGRAM INFORMATION: Is correct at the time of printing, but may be subject to late change by individual television networks amending their schedules.