By Natalie Abrams
February 22, 2017 at 08:23 PM EST
Will Hart/NBC

The Blacklist: Redemption

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Why does Tom Keen leave his wife and child behind for The Blacklist spinoff? We may finally have our answer!

On Thursday, The Blacklist will air at a special time (9 p.m. ET) before going on an eight-week hiatus, with Redemption slated to air in its place (at 10 p.m. ET). EW can reveal that the spin-off will run in real time, meaning when The Blacklist returns, roughly two months will have passed, so it's less about Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) leaving his wife and child behind and more about him taking a mission.

In this case, the mission is to infiltrate Halcyon Aegis, the black ops company run by his mother, Scottie Hargrave (Famke Janssen) — though she's not yet aware that Tom is her presumed dead son. Below, executive producer Jon Bokenkamp gives us the scoop on the new series:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Will there be cross over between Blacklist and Redemption as you kick this show off on Thursday?
JON BOKENKAMP: Yes, there is. It's a little bit of an extension, there's a little bit of a hand-off that takes place, but it's not something that anybody who hasn't seen The Blacklist — it's not a barrier to entry. It starts almost like any pilot would. Because our 15th episode was so real-time and was all about saving Red [after he's poisoned], it felt silly to go off and pontificate about Tom and his backstory. It didn't feel like we needed it, because we ignite that story just moments after this 15th episode ends. But there is the potential for, and we do do some crossover in that show, and we're still figuring that out. To me, they're sort of part of the same landscape. They share a lot of DNA. <iframe id="NBC Video Widget" width="580" height="327" src="http://player.theplatform.com/p/NnzsPC/widget/select/media/guid/2410887629/3474507?form=html" frameborder="0" class="" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>ÝÆ»÷‡´ÕÍÛ}ö÷wM8{]¶oÖôm¶žuçÛ®

The big question for the audience has always been, "How is Liz going to react to Tom going to Redemption?" But it feels more like a mission. Is that fair that he's like, "I need to go do this mission," rather than, "I need to abandon my wife and child"?
That's absolutely right; he does see it as a mission. We've set up in the past couple episodes that Tom Keen has huge questions about where he comes from. He allegedly was murdered as a child and yet he was not. The person who claims to have killed him we find out was paid off to say that. So he's left asking himself, "Why would anyone want to fake my death?" It's a huge question. And "Who am I?" and "Where do I come from?" — if anybody were understanding about questions like that, about identity and their past, it would be Elizabeth Keen. So, it is a mission, and I think he sees it that way. I think when Tom goes on this mission at the top of this episode, he has no idea what he's getting into. He probably would never go if he had any inclination of where it would go. Again, like so many good thrillers, it's a guy who is sucked into a world and a situation that he knows very little about and he has a very difficult time getting out of it.

Last season, we saw how unstable Scottie can be. Could the reason behind Tom's death be because of how unstable his mother is?
Yeah, very much so. I think the family dynamic between his mother, who he has met and has offered him a job, though he has zero interest in working with, and the man who was his father — that family dynamic is the thing that is so hard for him to ignore and turn his back on. There's a great hook at the top of the episode that draws him back. We've set up Tom as a guy who can become anybody. He can go into any world, he can do these big missions, and yet the one place where he's essentially tasked with going undercover is now into his own family, and it's a place that he knows very little about. He knows very little about the private military organization his mom runs and, again, like The Blacklist, there are big questions about her agenda. She's a bit of an unreliable narrator. So I think we've got a really fun dynamic to put a guy who we think is a great spy into the most difficult mission he could imagine.

A recent promo seemed to indicate that Howard is actually alive and didn't die in that plane crash. Is this a case of Howard sending Tom in? Is Tom caught in a war between his parents?
I think Howard turning up to be alive might be an incredible draw for Tom, and yes, either alive or from the grave, I think Howard will provide big questions about Scottie, her agenda and Tom's future. So, yes.

You're very forthcoming that these are Tom's parents. Did keeping the Liz/Red dynamic secret for so long inform your planning about being upfront with the audience on the spin-off?
Very much so. I think that in The Blacklist, that is part of the core mythology. Who is Raymond Reddington? Why does he care about Elizabeth Keen? How does he know so much about her? Why has he inserted himself into her life? That's something that lives within that show. I think with [Redemption], we felt like we wanted it to be different. It's different in a number of ways, but that's one of them. It's not a "is she or isn't she," it's, "he knows she's his mother, she doesn't know. And she, in time, will find out." That just really isn't as important to this show and what it is. So, yes, we do answer that and it's not an ongoing lingering question. That's something that we played with on The Blacklist , and we have some great storytelling coming forward because of that, and it really is something that is a big difference between these two shows.

How would Scottie feel if she found out the truth that Tom infiltrated her company and knew he was her son?
I think it depends on the context. She probably wouldn't be dancing romantically with him on a mission in quite the same context if she knew, yet finding out would be an incredible betrayal. At the same time, he's her son. As a parent, you will forgive incredible wrongs. That's one of the things that's so complex about it, and so fun about it, is it really is, at its heart, a family drama about an incredibly dysfunctional family of spies. We see her talk about how losing her son has changed her life, yet he can't tell her because that's the mission. So there's a lot of fun to be had in that dynamic between these two characters.

How will Tom get along with Mr. Solomon?
That, I think, is a really fun relationship. Tom hates the guy and he shot him. There's no love lost between those two, and yet they're forced to work together. That's one of the elements of the show that I think distinguishes it from The Blacklist. There is a little bit of a lighter tone. It's a little more fun because it's a spy drama and little more of a caper each week, and the dynamic of those characters helps sort of play into that. <iframe id="NBC Video Widget" width="580" height="327" src="http://player.theplatform.com/p/NnzsPC/widget/select/media/guid/2410887629/3474507?form=html" frameborder="0" class="" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>ÝÆ»÷‡´ÕÍÛ}ö÷wM8{]¶oÖôm¶žuçÛ®

The Blacklist: Redemption debuts Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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The Blacklist: Redemption

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