James Spader Still Lives for the Surprise of ‘The Blacklist’

James Spader Still Lives for the Surprise of ‘The Blacklist’


What’s required to keep a show going for that long?

As many twists and turns as one can provide. When I first read the script, at the end I realized I knew less about the character than when I first started reading. And I thought, “What a great trick that is” — to retain a certain enigmatic aspect. It felt like the premise was perfectly suited to go in any direction and somehow find its way back on track again.

How did Nathan Lane end up on the show?

Though the years, I’ve had an arm’s-length acquaintance with Nathan because we share an agent. I’m a great fan of his, and he’s been a lovely, faithful fan of mine. I had seen him in “The Iceman Cometh,” [on Broadway in 2015] and Nathan mentioned that he’d love to do the show. So when his name was suggested, I mentioned that I personally would love to have him. I was being absolutely as selfish as I possibly could.

Is there a turn you’d to see Red take?

A surprising one. I’ll tell you something funny. I didn’t watch much television growing up, and before I did “Boston Legal,” I had no understanding of what it was like for a viewer to look forward to finding out what was going to happen the next week. There will be an episode of “The Blacklist” that is just fun and another that is very intense and then another that is rather ruthless and brutal. I still love the element of surprise, even for myself.

You often play the provocateur, and people tend to assume you are your characters.

My career had been split pretty evenly between good guys and bad guys until I finally grew into myself enough to play a decent antihero, where you can combine the two. The protagonists that I’ve played tend to be people who make trouble. Or even if they don’t make it, they certainly disrupt things. It’s fun to do that in life as well. But I don’t think I ever played myself.

Were you surprised to read that Charlie Rose was accused of asking a female employee to watch Secretary,your movie of a sadomasochistic relationship, with him?

Somebody sent me that, and I don’t know whether they thought it was strange and funny or something, but I am not finding anything funny about any of it. I don’t think anybody in the entertainment industry or in politics is surprised by the fact that those worlds are rife with promiscuity and irresponsibility — certainly a lack of accountability. But the level of aggression and exploitation has been overwhelming.

I rarely get to ask a man about sexual harassment in Hollywood.

It’s a little like asking someone their perspective when they’re in the middle of a flood, you know what I mean? I feel like the floodwaters are rising. And I’m a little bit ashamed to say that I’m finding that the most important things being said on this subject are being said by females, not by males. I think that men should think hard and listen carefully and perhaps we’ll learn a thing or two.

Any upcoming projects of note?

Oh my gosh, no. I don’t have a moment. Listen, I’ve been very lucky to work in every capacity as an actor, and I have loved it. But working on an hourlong television show is certainly a job that swallows one whole and refuses to spit you out.

So you’re gurgling somewhere in the intestinal tract of this thing?

I’m not even in the lower intestines yet. I’m still being consumed by the stomach acid. If someone could just drop a few Tums down here, it would be much appreciated.



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