The Blacklist bosses break down Liz's drastic choice in the season 8 premiere
After Red's (James Spader) latest case led to Agent Keen's mother, Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins), planning to kidnap Dom (Ron Raines) — Liz's own grandfather — Liz decided to double-cross Red and the task force to get to the truth. The choice to help Katarina brought Liz a step closer to discovering what Red is hiding, but she crossed a line in the process, something she can't take back.
EW spoke to The Blacklist bosses Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath about how this choice will affect Liz's relationship with the task force, how they decided to tell Dom's story in the wake of actor Brian Dennehy's death, and what's next on the NBC thriller.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Liz is in a very tough spot by the end of the premiere. What's going through her mind after driving off with Dom?
JOHN EISENDRATH: What is she thinking about? She's thinking, "I don't care what the consequences are, I'm going to do what I have to do to get what I need. If that's a problem for other people, tough." Liz is going to do what she has to do.
JON BOKENKAMP: She also realizes in that moment specifically, the one you're talking about where she's driving off with Dom, that she's not turning back from this. There's a clear line that has been crossed and that in aligning with her mom, stealing Dom, she's breaking laws. And she's realizing that she can't undo this, and she's moving forward at all costs.
Everyone's looking for Liz, who is determined to get answers and promising to keep Dom safe from Katarina. A lot is going on, and a lot that can go wrong. What's next?
BOKENKAMP: In a weird way, things have gotten worse, and yet they haven't gotten as bad as they could get. There are moves on the chessboard that Liz has not anticipated. Everyone is going to have clearly defined roles; even as conflicted as they all feel, the direction of the season is going to snap into place very quickly because decisions will be made that none of these characters can walk back from. It's different than any other season. This is really uncharted waters for all of these characters. They are evolving and changing in ways that we haven't seen before.
I need to ask about Ressler [Diego Klattenhoff] and Liz's kiss. While it's done so Liz can disarm him, it's still an emotional moment. So what's next for them? Also, this is Liz's first potential romance since Tom Keen [Ryan Eggold] — do you think she's ready?
EISENDRATH: Given everything that's going on in her life, it's not like she's on an online dating service. She's kind of busy. But emotionally, I think yes. She's able to contemplate whatever the next opportunity might be in her life, and with everything that's going on, she's not actively looking for anything.
Yet with Ressler, what I hope people feel about that moment is that it only works because it was genuine. She was only able to disarm him because she was actually real in her emotions. That makes the moment, which is representative of the good and difficult situations they will find themselves moving forward during the season, one of genuine affection and deep feeling. But, in that moment, they are on opposite sides, [and] hopefully, a really fun dynamic for viewers.
Harold [Harry Lennix] is also in a very complicated place. He says he's angry at Liz, but livid at Red. Where does Harold fit in this battle between Liz and Red? Is it possible that the rope he's given Liz, because he cares about her, could run out as she fights to get answers?
EISENDRATH: Harry Lennix does an amazing job, and Cooper is central to the whole story unpacking because he is the person that both Liz and Red, separately, respect the most in terms of his judgment. Red is not going to stomach saying they're mad at Liz and is livid at him. It affects him when he hears what Harold says.
Cooper is going to have to make a lot of decisions, very difficult decisions about how to react to Liz and what she is doing. Almost in every episode, he will be faced with a decision, at least for the first bunch of episodes, on how to react to what she's doing that is going to shape the story. You're right. I mean, he has to decide how much to support her. He's sympathetic to her, considers her a surrogate child, and wants her to get the answers she's looking for. But he also wants her to be safe, and he's aware of the fact that those two things may not coincide. Getting her answers might result in her not being safe. He's torn.
I wanted to touch on the character of Dom being recast after the death of Brian Dennehy. How did you come to that decision?
EISENDRATH: Obviously, we're lucky to have Brian Dennehy on the show at all, let alone as much as he was in it. He always played a pivotal role in the mythology of the show. At the time of his passing, we were in the midst of a series of episodes, toward the end of season 7, where his central role was coming to a head, where his knowledge of Red's truths were going to be sort of the engine of the whole story. Because of that, we felt that we couldn't pivot away from his character, even after he passed, and do a different story, because we had not just told the story for the end of last year around him, but it had been the culmination of that year. So we decided to recast it. And we were lucky enough to find an actor who did a great job and allowed the story to play out the way it should have, in a way that is hopefully not going to be too jarring for the audience.
Going into season 8, what can you say about where things go from here?
BOKENKAMP: I'm excited about all of the different Blacklisters we have this season. Even though the first couple episodes are pretty serialized, we've got some pretty odd and dangerous cases-of-the week that are as good as any we've had.
In terms of general themes, one overarching theme of the show has always been identity. Identity for all of these characters: who they are, the roles they're playing, who they're hiding from, and what they're pretending to be. Another big theme this season is truth: It's about answers and honesty. We're landing on real answers this season through this quest for answers, and truth is something that is at the core of what we're moving toward.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.