Famke Janssen plays a lethal woman in Black­list spinoff

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - KATHRYN SHATTUCK

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.

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