Middleton passed away in October at the age of 63, after falling ill with West Nile virus. As Blacklist EPs Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath tell TVLine, they debated whether to write Middleton’s death into Season 8 of the show, ultimately deciding they did want to honor both the actor and his irascible alter ego.
“We talked about different versions of it: Do we not say anything? Do we just imagine that Glen’s still out there in Red’s orbit and we just don’t see him and we hide it?” Bokenkamp shares. “We made the choice to acknowledge his death on the show, and that’s going to happen fairly soon in the season. It’s super sad, and it will be for Red, as well.”
Eisendrath says Middleton’s death came as a major shock to the Blacklist writers; it was so unexpected, in fact, that Glen had already been written into Season 8 when the actor passed away.
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“It was incredibly sad and incredibly shocking, and the way we had written him into the show reminded us that there was something so special about him,” he adds. “Hopefully, the way we acknowledge his passing on the show has that same sweet, affectionate story to it.”
One real-life event that will not appear in The Blacklist‘s eighth season is the coronavirus pandemic, which the EPs have opted not to write in at all — in part because the show has already concocted its own (fictional) health crises in the past.
“We were like, ‘Ugh, nobody wants to think about this.’ We’re trying to escape COVID, not lean into it,” Bokenkamp confirms. “This might sound silly, but we’ve done our versions of crazy viruses and shutting down cities. Not that we’ve done COVID specifically, but it felt like we’ve been there a little bit. We’re trying to stay away from it.”
“When people watch the show, like any show, most of it is wish fulfillment,” Eisendrath adds. “And I think everybody has the same wish at the moment, which is to live pandemic-free.”
The Blacklist‘s eighth season begins Friday, Nov. 13 at 8/7c on NBC.