When season 6 of The Blacklist begins, Liz (Megan Boone) finally has the upper hand: She knows Red (James Spader) isn’t who he says he is. “We start in an unusual place, with Liz being ahead of Red,” teases executive producer John Eisendrath. Even so, Liz has to watch everything she says. “She knows he’s an imposter…. Each scene [between them] is being infused with what isn’t being said.”
Below, Eisendrath and EP Jon Bokenkamp dive deeper into what these new dynamics between Liz and Red mean for the drama’s sixth season, which will find the criminal mastermind finally behind bars.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Having come off of that huge reveal — that Red’s not really Red — at the end of last season, how did you approach breaking the story for this season? How did you prioritize what you wanted to tackle?
JOHN EISENDRATH: This has been something we have thought of for many years, that there would come a point in the series where Liz would realize that he is an imposter. So coming into the writers’ room, we had a very specific mission, which was to decide how long to keep Red in the dark, how long will she stay ahead of him, and ultimately I hope people will see that it was great drama to be able to play every scene between them where there is something unspoken. And that is really dramatic. Liz is, I think, genuinely concerned that when Red is in prison, Red may end up being executed because he’s being charged with all these crimes. She finds herself feeling torn because he might actually lose his life, and so she’s in a really interesting emotional place, torn in not liking him for lying but not necessarily wanting him to die.
JON BOKENKAMP: One of the other things we talked about very early on, that is important to point out, is that this character played by James Spader had been this character for a long time. All of the nefarious things he’s done, all of the crazy stories, all of the adventures he’s been on, that is still the character we’ve been on this journey with, and so it’s a very unusual emotional quandary that Liz finds herself in. There’s such incredible betrayal and yet at the same time, much of what he told her in a way is true, you know? So she is finding herself grappling with that betrayal, but also for the audience, it’s interesting and — I hope — reassuring to know that Spader is playing that same bon vivant, eccentric parent.
Right, he remains Red having been Red for 30 years, even if he’s not Red-Red, if that makes sense…
BOKENKAMP: Exactly. He’s been Raymond Reddington longer than Raymond Reddington was Raymond Reddington. I mean, he has lived the life of Raymond Reddington far longer than the original Raymond Reddington ever did, and is quite honestly far more interesting and dangerous than the original ever was.
EISENDRATH: He is Raymond Reddington — I think that’s who he believes himself to be, so yeah, that’s who he is.
There is so much pressure now on Liz’s shoulders to not slip up and continue to have the upper hand. What was it like having conversations with Megan going in this year? It must be challenging — and exciting! — to play this upended dynamic. Or is it confusing?
EISENDRATH: I would say that being ahead of Red gives her a lot of power. That’s in some ways a new dynamic, but it’s happened earlier in the series on occasions, and this season is [the first in which] Megan’s character is ahead of Red. I think Megan enjoys the idea that he is doing things that he is unaware of, and I think that one of the big tentpole turns emotionally in the season will be that at some point, Reddington will discover that Liz knows that he is an imposter, and then he will then be ahead of Liz, because she won’t know that he knows, and then they’ll both be playing something in those scenes to each other, pretending that neither is aware of the other, but they both know that the other is suspicious. So for now, I think it’s less confusing to Megan than it is empowering to Megan.
The Blacklist returns for a two-part, two-night premiere starting Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
- The Blacklist: Red’s put behind bars in season 6 trailer, first look photos
- The Blacklist boss on that show-changing season 5 finale shocker
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