James Spader, the star of The Blacklist, likes having a job that allows him to channel all of his dark, devious impulses into a performance. It allows him to go home every night after filming, he says, feeling thoroughly cleansed and liberated. Spader must feel particularly carefree these days. Raymond “Red” Reddington, his character in The Blacklist (9 p.m. Monday on NBC), is a super-criminal-turned-FBI informant. Reddington is as sneaky and manipulative as they come, to the point that it’s impossible to tell whether he’s a shadowy villain or misunderstood good guy. Probably, he’s a lot of both. “It’s great fun to play this guy,” Spader says. It’s also fun to watch a charismatic actor deliver a larger-than-life performance.
1. What initially attracted you to this show?
The character. He seemed like he would be great fun to play not only in the pilot, but also that he would sustain me over the course of the season and even over the course of multiple seasons. There are so many unanswered questions. It felt like it would take a long time to answer those questions. For me, just from a completely selfish point of view as an actor, that was enticing.
2. What do you think makes The Blacklist different from other TV crime dramas?
It seems like the possibilities are limitless. The episodes are all very different from each other in terms of tone and form. Episodes can stand alone and yet they also feed a greater story. Therefore, for people who stay with the show, there’s much more satisfaction than just a straight procedural.
3. There has been viewer speculation that Red is obsessed with profiler Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone) because he’s her father. What do you think of that theory?
I don’t think he is. But I don’t know for sure. And I wouldn’t divulge what the nature of their relationship is in any case, no matter what it was. I think the only way one earns that information is to watch the show. But I’ve always been surprised when asked about that as a possibility, because it seems too easy.
4. What compelled you to shave your head for the role? And do you have any regrets?
It felt like the right thing for him. He’s someone who travels lightly and moves swiftly, so it seemed imminently practical for him. And no regrets. But we’ll have to wait and see. It’s still autumn in New York. Ask me again in January, when it’s cold.
5. You’ve been cast as Ultron, the villain in the next Avengers movie. What attracted you to that?
When I was a kid, I didn’t have any comic books. I used to go over to my friend’s house — he had trunk-loads of them — and I would bury myself in his comics and devour them. Then I sort of put that down in my life. But I have three sons and a couple of them have shown an interest in that world. So before it was too late, I wanted to see if I could be part of it.
— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram