The Blacklist star Ryan Eggold on Tom Keen's ultimate fate
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the fall finale of The Blacklist. Read at your own risk.
The Blacklist delivered on its promise by finally revealing the fate of Tom Keen during its fall finale — and it should come as no surprise that he is, in fact, dead.
Though the flash forward in the season premiere seemed to indicate that Red (James Spader) would be the one to pull the trigger, the criminal mastermind was actually firing upon Tom’s real attackers, the henchmen of new big bad Ian Garvey (Jonny Coyne) — Garvey sought to use the mysterious bones in the suitcase as leverage over Red.
After Tom discovered the truth about the DNA results, he planned to reveal the truth to Liz, but the two were instead beaten and nearly killed by Garvey and his men. Red came to their rescue just a bit too late, with Liz waking up from a coma 10 months later to the terrible news that Tom had died. EW turned to Eggold to get the scoop on how he found out about Tom’s ultimate fate: (Read our postmortem with executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first learn that you’d be getting killed off the show?
RYAN EGGOLD: Wait, I’m getting killed off the show? [Chuckles] Who told you this? I spoke with the [executive producers] briefly before we started this season. At the top of this season when they were brainstorming and talking, we had a conversation about it.
What was your initial reaction?
I think it’s a fitting ending. I think it’s a good ending for the character primarily because he’s had this incredible journey of being somewhat sociopathic and a well-trained operative who can manipulate people but doesn’t really have an inner emotional life that is at all sincere, but then meets this woman, develops this relationship, has a child with her, and has a family now, and really learns to love someone, and to care about someone and to be loved. He has always had this ideal of setting her free from Red and sailing off into the sunset and living in some beautiful home on the beach with Agnes, and having this family. That’s perfect. Of course, in this show, in this world, it’s not that simple, so I think it makes sense. It’s sad and tragic, but I think that it’s an incredible catalyst for Liz with this enormous void that this creates. How does she fill that? How does she continue? How does this change her?
Given his seedy background, and the fact that his relationship started with Liz because she was his mark, did you always suspect that he probably wasn’t going to have a happy ending?
No, actually. I didn’t know which way they’d go because part of me thought it would also be interesting to explore having that dream work out in the sense that that is the unlikelier situation — some sort of simple, happy home life. No, I didn’t know which way they would ultimately go, especially once I read the episode, which I felt was really well written. The conversations that Tom has with Red, they communicate really for the first time, at least in a way that they haven’t before. There’s a moment between them in the car where Red tells Tom that he makes her happy, and Tom looks at him and is tempted to say something and instead continues with his plan, gets out of the car and ends up stealing the bones right under his nose. It’s almost like that relationship is at peace for a moment, and then ripped away. Things like that were really well crafted by the guys.
Was that car scene where Liz and Tom are near death your final scene?
No, shooting-wise, it was shot fairly out of order, which was really hard with this episode, because there were different emotional states, but also because of the various states of blood, the various states of gunshot versus stab wounds versus beatings versus in the woods versus changing in the train station. It was a lot of change for Tom in this episode. The very last thing that I shot was sitting with James outside the farmhouse and talking about how this is a secret, not a lie. That was the last thing that I shot.
What was it like filming those last scenes with Megan considering most everything you’ve done on the show has been with her?
Jon [Bokenkamp] and John [Eisendrath] have given both Megan and I so much latitude and so many options, just a well of different emotions and situations to play. These are two characters who were lying to each other, pretending to be something for each other, hating each other, physically fighting with each other, genuinely falling in love, raising a child together, teaming up at times together, forgiving each other, getting divorced, getting remarried. They’ve literally run the gamut of ways that you can relate to a human being, so it’s been incredible to share all that with Megan. We always just try to find a human moment and really cherish the opportunity to be in our socks, sitting on the couch trying to make the other person laugh, because it was just such a sweeter, simpler world than the rest of the show. It was really fun to find that stuff because it’s something he never had being an orphan and being an operative, he spent his life imitating human emotion, so to play a character who is learning to develop sincere emotion and sincere connection was a really interesting challenge.
Did they actually tell you the results of the DNA testing?
It’s just a piece of paper that says, “Darth Vader.” [Laughs] No, I’m kidding. They told me a direction for it, and where that might be headed, which was helpful at least to know the level of reaction and how significant this news was and would be for Liz. But they did not tell me the whole story, and I’m sure that what they did tell me will change. What I love about this show is it’s very collaborative and it’s constantly evolving. I’m sure their ideas will evolve from what they told me.
Is there anything you wish you got to do with Tom Keen, or learn about him, that you didn’t get a chance to?
One thing that interests me, which I don’t think will happen at this point — I think there’s a possibility for perhaps a flashback or two, but I don’t think these will happen. This isn’t even something that I would’ve played necessarily, but I was always fascinated by The Major, and Tom becoming an agent, what the transition looked like from street kid to being taken in by this guy, and training him, and learning that he has his skills, and becoming adept at everything that profession entails. We’ve all seen that movie before, but I’ve always been interested in that. That would’ve been cool.
For me, in terms of things that I would’ve played, I will say I’m very grateful to have played such an arc, such an evolution of character, to play a character who is himself somewhat of an actor, a chameleon, and putting on these different masks, particularly in the early seasons. I got to play a lot. I will say that it was fun to hit as close as we could come to a genuine moment with Red and Tom in the car. It was just a hint, just scratching at the surface of that, and it would’ve been interesting to me to carry on that relationship, because they’re strangers to each other. Red is, in a weird way, his father-in-law. It is such a quirky, strange relationship and they’re sort of similar to each other. They’re both good at being a spy, good at being cut off and detached, good at being violent when they need to be and things like that. It would’ve been interesting to see where those two could’ve gone if they had put their boxing gloves away.
Is that really the last we’ve seen of Tom? Or do you hope you get to come back, even for a flashback?
To reiterate what the Johns have said, he’s unequivocally dead. There’s certainly no funny business there. But there’s a great show here and these guys have a ton of great stories to tell that they certainly don’t need me for, but it would be fun. We’ve talked about the possibility of a flashback. It would be fun primarily in the sense that learning truths from the past inevitably colors the present and your current perspective, so I think there’s certainly information that we could learn and things we could see that we didn’t know about, or moments that were shared that could have significance in the present. I don’t think it would be a lot, but something would be interesting.
What’s next for you?
I unfortunately have a mustache that all my castmates here at The Blacklist are giving me a lot of grief over, making quite a bit of fun of me. I’m doing a great film with Spike Lee called The Black Klansman, that is a true story about this cop named Ron Stallworth, who ended up infiltrating the KKK in the ’70s, so I’m shooting that now. It’s cool to jump into something that’s very different with a filmmaker that I always admired, and with a great cast and crew. It’s fun.
The Blacklist will return Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Read our postmortem with executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath here.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.