Famke Janssen plays a lethal woman in Blacklist spinoff
Famke Janssen looks like a woman you wouldn’t want to tangle with: six statuesque feet crowned by intense wide-set eyes and cheekbones like granite outcroppings. She also acts like one, forging her career on damsels more likely to cause distress than to be mired in it. Now Janssen is striding — with the legs she used to crush men as a Bond girl in “GoldenEye” — into her first starring network role, on “The Blacklist: Redemption,” beginning Thursday, Feb. 23, on NBC at 9 p.m.
Her character, Scottie Hargrave, debuted on “The Blacklist” in Season 3, when the spy and assassin Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) believed he met his biological mother after being told he was actually Christopher Hargrave, who vanished from his parents’ home at the age of three. Meanwhile, the equally lethal Scottie, head of a private military intelligence firm whose mercenaries tackle the morally ambiguous situations that governments keep to clear of, offered him a job.
“Scottie is a woman with a lot of layers, and as the season progresses we’ll unravel some of those,” Janssen said. “Her son went missing, and that is the biggest mystery in her life and also what defines her ultimately.”
In an interview, the Dutch-born Janssen, who stormed New York as a model for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent in the 1980s and now lives downtown with her 16-year-old pooch, Licorice, spoke about staying fierce in Hollywood. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Q: You’ve already had some provocative television experiences: as a gay escort turned transgender wife to Alec Baldwin’s doctor in “Nip/ Tuck,” and as a death-row lawyer and lover of Viola Davis’ professor on “How to Get Away With Murder.” Why this show now?
A: One of the deciding factors was New York City. The fact that I get to stay at home and sleep in my own bed is such a luxury after working all over the world. And the character of Scottie is unpredictable in a way that I like. She can take a detour and start talking about her insecurities and anxieties in the middle of an interrogation.
Q: You’re known for playing formidable women. Was that a deliberate choice?
A: The big thing that put me on the map was the Bond movie, and it catapulted me in a very specific direction. I worked very hard against that for years on independent films with Woody Allen and Robert Altman, only to come back to the “XMen” series to play Jean Grey. So my career has been defined by these very big, strong, powerful women. I thought, well, if I just am going to go against type, it will pay off over time. Whether it really has or not, I don’t know.
Q: You eventually wrote and directed a movie, “Bringing Up Bobby” (2012).
A: I actually thought for a while that I didn’t want to act and started taking steps to go in different directions because I didn’t feel that I could express myself in the right way in that profession anymore. I also really didn’t want to be a woman who had to battle her age for that long. We all know what that’s like in this business.
Q: You’ve spoken out about age and sexism in Hollywood, especially after you weren’t asked to return as the older version of Jean Grey in the “X-Men” series, unlike the characters played by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. What’s the solution?
A: People like Geena Davis (who in 2007 founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media) are doing incredible things to bring awareness to how we can start changing things by simply putting more women or girls in the background, or by changing the lead from a male lead into a female lead. You need to start somewhere. I think it’s just going to take time and a lot more women behind the camera. But each and every one of us can never give up. We have to continue to fight for our rights as women in the film business.
Famke Janssen’s character Scottie Hargrave debuted on “The Blacklist” in Season 3. The new series “The Blacklist: Redemption” premières Thursday.