James Spader of ‘Blacklist’ talks villains, dark rolesPosted on October 7, 2013 | by Mohamed Hassan
Over the years, James Spader has established himself as a skilled actor, able to sink into many eccentric roles. His impressive resume of television roles ranges from Robert California on “The Office” to his Emmy-award winning performance in “Boston Legal.” However, for his recent starring role on “The Blacklist,” Spader takes a more villainous approach.
In “The Blacklist,” one of the fall’s most successful new series that was recently been picked up for a full season, Spader plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, an ex-government agent now marked as one of the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives. The show begins with Red’s mysterious surrender to the FBI and his questionable offer to assist in the capture of a terrorist many believed to be dead. But Red is helping under the condition that he speaks to only one person — an FBI profiler, Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone).
“That character … he seemed like he’d be great fun to play in the pilot, but he also seems like he’d sustain over the course of the season and even over the course of multiple seasons,” Spader said in a conference call with WSN. “I look for things that are very different from my life [when choosing roles] and things that are curious and idiosyncratic to me.”
Many critics have compared Red and Elizabeth’s characters to that of Hannibal and Clarice Starling from “The Silence of the Lambs.” Spader said he understood the comparison but believes it will not last.
“I understand that [comparison] based on the pilot, because you know so little, and also because of the imagery in the pilot with somebody who’s shackled to a chair in a big containment cell and this young FBI woman coming in,” he said.
“It’s very different from the sort of obsessive sort of psychopathic obsession [in ‘Lambs’],” Spader said. “[My character] clearly has a very real, given, one-sided, but very real relationship with her and has intimate knowledge of her background and her past. And I think that the similarities between these two [stories] disappear very quickly.”
Spader has played many dark characters, including his role as the villain Ultron in the upcoming “The Avengers” sequel, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Spader discussed his method for playing such a broad range of characters.
“You know, I look to the story and I look to the influences or relations in whatever that character’s life happens to be,” he said. “All those things sort of come together and marry with a given set of circumstances in the story and on the page.”
Spader spoke favorably about the pacing of “The Blacklist’s” story.
“The writers have done a great job in terms of balancing what you learn and what you don’t learn, and then how you learn it and whether what you learn is right or wrong,” he said.
The actor also discussed his confidence in the writers of the show to maintain a level of mystery.
“I think one of the great things about this show is that it can shift directions very quickly and it can shift with great [misdirection] too,” Spader said. “So just when you’re feeling comfortable with something, you realize that you’re not.”