As the 2013-14 TV season winds down to a close, all eyes are on the No. 1 new drama, NBC’s The Blacklist, as it prepares to deliver its first finale (Monday at 10/9c). Will fans of the thriller be dealt some long-awaited answers? Megan Boone, who plays Liz Keen to James Spader’s crafty “Red” Reddington, reflects on the show’s success, surveys the “odd couple” at the center of the excitement and offers a hint at a season ender that is “well deserved.”
TVLINE | I imagine that a little over a year ago you probably read your share of pilot scripts. What popped for you about The Blacklist and the role of Liz Keen?
I did read a lot of pilots, and The Blacklist was just hands down the best script going last year. It was so good that I decided to go in on it even though I kind of made up my mind not to do network TV, because I didn’t know this was possible on network TV. But I think the show is setting sort of a new template for the 22-episode season, and I’m excited to be a part of that.
TVLINE | And at that point, Spader wasn’t even a glimmer in anybody’s eye. So it’s not like you were thinking, “Oh, I’m going to do that James Spader show.”
Oh, no. I mean, I’m so glad that I’m doing a James Spader show, but at the time I just found the character of Elizabeth Keen to be really interesting.
TVLINE | What do you love most about her?
I love that she has a lion’s heart, and feet made of clay, I kind of find it endearing that she is sometimes unable to assert the challenges, and sometimes unprepared for what’s coming — and yet she tries to find answers and she tries to surmount the challenges. I think it’s through her eyes that we see the series, and then Reddington is the colorful character that is very entertaining and keeps everyone on their toes.
TVLINE | As we all know, even the best shows can have trouble drawing an audience. Were you prepared for The Blacklist to be the success that it was, the No. 1 new drama of the season?
I don’t think that it really required a lot of preparation, because this whole experience has been very much about trusting my instincts and going with them. Anybody who goes into this business does it prepared to encounter a lot of different circumstances, and ideally this is one of them. I’m just glad that this is my circumstance right now, where The Blacklist has a lot of longevity.
TVLINE | Why do you think it has flourished in the Mondays-at-10 spot — Even when The Voice is not on or in repeats — whereas other NBC shows had trouble?
It’s a great show, so I think people are coming to NBC to watch The Blacklist. I think some are also there to watch The Voice, but I think that they actively want to see the Blacklist episode. Also, I think that our show started off really good and then progressively got better and better throughout the season. That’s the sign a show with longevity, that they find their footing in Season 1. We have our feet planted on the ground.
TVLINE | So here we are some 20 episodes later…. Do you think Liz is better for having met Red?
I do. I have my own set of ideas about life, and those ideas have to do with the fact that challenges are a good thing, and that truth is a very good thing, and had she not met Red, she would have lived her life in sort of state of denial, and misinformation. Ultimately, you can’t really pick your circumstances in life. You just have to do with them the best you can, and that’s what makes her a good protagonist. She takes all the cards she’s dealt and plays the best hand she can.
TVLINE | Obviously your theater training served you well, but here you have as a scene partner James Spader – who, you know, has “won a few awards.” What have you picked up from him?
This has been, like every experience hopefully is, a new level of education for my life. Everything that I’ve ever done to commit myself to this career has gotten me to this point, and this is taking me to a new level of understanding of what I do. When you get two actors in a room, no matter how similar you think they might be, they have completely different brains, different fingerprints, different movements, different places that they hold tension, all these things that affect a performance. James and I are two very different individuals, so it’s interesting for me to watch him work. My approach is very different from his, and what’s been wonderful about working with him is that he has been so accommodating and appreciative of how I do things, because when you see someone doing something that’s very different from what you do, if you are a curious person it can illuminate another part of your work for you. That’s why we have chemistry on the show — we are an odd couple.
TVLINE | Do you have a favorite scene or moment from the season so far?
When Red built the music box for me and played the song [in Episode 17, "Ivan"], after which she found out that Tom was a bad guy. That was a moment for the series that was really lovely, but it was a moment for me on set when I discovered that I was really efficient at doing this job of television, which can be just a machine, making 22 episodes a year. I went in there, I did that scene in two takes and felt really good about the work that I put out there, and it made me realize that I’d really found my footing in this new realm of my career.
TVLINE | Let’s talk a bit about the finale. There are so many burning questions, old and new, up in the air — Liz’s connection to Red, the fire, her scar, who Tom works for…. Out of those things that I just mentioned, are we going to get any interesting answers in the finale?
Yes. You will get a lot of answers. It’s a very, very involved episode. We reach a lot of conclusions, and just as we’ve been doing throughout the series, we open new questions. We’ve created a very epic finale for the show, and it’s well deserved, I mean, throughout the season the challenge was to deliver a movie to you guys every week, and I feel like we really met that challenge. It was a very ambitious production, so we wanted to end it with the finale that it deserved. I think we did.
TVLINE | Will “Berlin” be given a face before the season is over?
Berlin has a face, you just haven’t seen it yet. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Does the finale point us in a certain direction for Season 2?
You’re definitely going to get a sense of what Season 2, Episode 1 is going to be about, yeah.
TVLINE | Do you have any hopes for Season 2? Anything you’d like to explore with Liz?
I’m excited to see her go a little darker. In one sense, this could be a story of redemption — me bringing Red into the light for all his crimes throughout his life. And on the other hand, it could be about bringing Liz a little bit into the darkness. The audience has enjoyed watching Liz be very tough, they’ve enjoyed watching her outsmart people, and I hope that there is more of that in the coming episodes.