“We pay very close attention to the feedback,” said exec producer John Fox at the Television Academy’s Evening with “The Blacklist” Wednesday at New York’s Florence Gould Hall.
Fox was joined by stars James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Ryan Eggold, Harry Lennix, Parminder Nagra, Hisham Tawfiq and Amir Arison in conversation with moderator Bill Carter of the New York Times.
Boone said she was dedicating herself to social media “every waking hour” to engage with fans. “I like their reaction. I’m of service to these people. All of that is worthwhile because there are 17 million people a week enjoying an hour of their lives because I’m sacrificing all of mine.”
On the show, her character, Liz Keen, enjoys an exclusive working relationship with Spader’s Raymond “Red” Reddington. Some fans took this to mean she would also relay social media messages for Spader, “as if I’m some sort of carrier pigeon,” she said.
Spader, who does not email and barely texts, confessed to being unaware of this whole new world outside of the show, even stumbling on the terminology for “tweeting.” Spader was on the phone with creator Jon Bokenkamp when Bokenkamp stopped to live-tweet. “I didn’t even know the show was on,” Spader said. “It’s fascinating that we’ve all assimilated that into our lives and into our business.”
“You told me to take up cooking,” Boone said to Spader. “I didn’t. I tweet.”
Spader and the cast also talked about their characters and the intricacies of the show. “The procedural is directly connected and entwined in the serialized aspect of the show,” Spader said.
“Life would be so much easier if it was a ‘whodunit,'” Fox said. “But our show is, ‘How’s he going to do it? How are we going to stop it?’ It’s challenging.”
Fox said the writers and producers have a clear inspiration: Christopher Nolan and his “Batman” movies. “We aspire to do a Batman villain every week,” he said.
As for the relationship between Boone’s Liz and her murderous husband Tom, played by Eggold, Fox teased, “Even now, Tom is not what he seems.”
“I’ll never get another date,” Eggold joked.
When asked if Liz seemed naive, Boone defended her character with an unlikely comparison. “Jesse Pinkman (of “Breaking Bad”) made mistakes left and right, and he was ignorant of many things and people loved him for it!” she said. When Carter noted that Liz is an FBI agent, she retorted, “But he was in the meth trade, which requires… chemistry!”
The central relationship on the show, between Liz and Red, is a question Spader is often asked about. “What I know about their relationship is so far down the road. The lifespan of this show dictates how things are going to unfold. You have to allow fluidity. You can’t have an endgame on a television show in its first year, if you don’t know if it’s going to last two years or ten years. I also have to accept the fact that it can change dramatically,” he said. “But yes, I do know what the eventual desire would be.”
But what is Red’s motivation for turning over the “Blacklist”? Is he a good guy or a bad guy?
Fox gave a few scenarios. “Is he doing this out of some selfish motivation? Self-preservation? Or is he on the slow path to redemption?”
“Boy, that would be disappointing,” Spader interjected.
“I hope that’s a question we can keep alive for a long time,” Fox said.
“I think the bad guys are good,” Tawfiq said.
In the meantime, Spader will definitely be playing a bad guy after the “Blacklist” finishes its first season. He will head to London to play Ultron in the “Avengers” sequel helmed by Joss Whedon.
Go to the Television Academy website to watch a replay of the panel.