James Spader in The Blacklist

James Spader doesn’t like to know what’s in store for his mysterious character Red Reddington in Sky Living’s The Blacklist. We caught up with him during a break in filming, when he chatted about why he signed up for the show and told TV Choice what might happen to Red if he finally finishes the list!

Can you tell us what’s in store for Red?
I’ve asked the writers not to tell me too much too soon. I only want to know what I need to perform that week’s episode —  I like to have surprises ahead of me. It’s exciting to receive the new script every week, and exciting to perform because the directions the show could go in are vast. I like working like that. But it’s a tricky thing with a TV show — you don’t know how long its life is going to be. It’s like an onion, you’re peeling off layer after layer and you don’t want to do it too quickly or everyone’s crying and all you’ve got is a bunch of onion peels!

A big part of the show’s mystery is not knowing Red’s motives and why he’s so protective of Agent Liz Keen (Megan Boone). Will we find out?
Once you’ve answered who Red is, where he’s from and what he’s really up to, you’ve pulled the curtain aside much too far. Hopefully Red will remain enigmatic and that’s something we’re going to hold close to our chests right up until the last episode of the show.

Do you fear the day when Red’s secrets are all out?
No, because at that point I’m sure I’ll be sick to death of it and ready to move on!

What was it that appealed to you about The Blacklist?
The thing about a TV show is you’re agreeing to something which could last six, seven, eight years, yet you’re reading a script that’s 42 minutes long, so it’s taking a bit of a flyer. But right from the pilot there was something compelling about Red. I had a sense right away of what his sense of humour was, or could be. There’s something about him that allows for humour even in extreme circumstances. So I thought that at least for the short term there was great fun to be had, and in the long-term, limitless possibilities.

The Blacklist has been commissioned for another season. Will it go on after that?
The show seems to be something that people are still very hungry for, so I think it will be going for a while, at least I hope it is! It’s a very all-consuming show, it takes up every minute of my time, but I like that desperate pace. As soon as we finish this season at the end of April/start of May 2014, I go to London to shoot the next Avengers movie. Then I come right back and start the second season of The Blacklist.

The opening titles show 161 names on the blacklist. Does that mean we’ll have 161 episodes?
I think the number 161 is just based on optimism, if you put 161 up there then you hope you’re going to do 161 episodes or more! All I know is we’ve still got a way to go!

What will happen to Red if he finishes the list?
Oh my God I can’t imagine. I don’t know! I really, truly can’t imagine. Maybe he’ll just spontaneously combust.

We loved Alan Alda as Fitch. Will we see more of him this series?
I was so happy that he ended up doing the show and without a doubt, there’s no question that Alan will be visiting us again and again. Probably!

How would you describe Red?
He’s someone who is comfortable and confident in the dark corners of life. I pushed the writers very hard to take advantage of that as much as possible. Red seems willing to step over any threshold and see what happens. It’s not that he knows what the outcome is going to be, he’s perfectly comfortable with not knowing and it amuses him. I find that fun to play and very endearing. He leads a very thrilling life that takes him right out to the very end of the limb but he also doesn’t mind sitting out there for as long as necessary. Red finds peace and serenity in the oddest of places, in the most dire of circumstances. I find that surprising and yet I enjoy it.

What did you think of Breaking Bad, with Walter White as another classic anti-hero?
I haven’t seen it. I’m not very aware of what’s on television today and I haven’t been to the movies in the last eight months. I hate to say it, but I live my life in terms of movies and television in a bit of a vacuum — I don’t have a television set in my apartment in New York!

Sky Living, Friday

Natalie Dye