THE BLACKLIST Comic-Con Panel Recap: James Spader, Jon Bokempkamp and John Eisendrath Talk Season 2 and the Addition of Mary Louise Parker

     July 26, 2014

THE BLACKLIST Comic-Con Panel Recap

NBC’s The Blacklist took over the fairly enormous Room 6A, packed with around 1,500 fans, Saturday afternoon at the San Diego Comic-Con.  Present were James Spader, and executive producers Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath.   Moderated by Mike Schneider (TV Guide), the trio discussed the upcoming second season of the show as well as how The Blacklist came to be in the first place.  I’ve covered Comic-Con for three years now and I’ve never seen a crowd for a TV Show as big as the one I saw today.

Hit the jump for The Blacklist Comic-Con Panel Recap.  The Blacklist returns to NBC on September 22nd.

blacklist fedoras comic conYou know that an audience is primed for a panel when they’re arguing about the fedoras that are being passed out 15 minutes before the panel even starts.  Luckily there were plenty to go around and the entire auditorium was eventually donned in black fedoras.  After about a 15 minute delay things got started.

The panel opened up with James Spader recounting the past year of his life as Red Reddington, remarking that all of the craziness seems to have started at last year’s Comic-Con.  He says it’s a blast to play the character and that his relationships with Bokenkamp and Eisendrath are about finding the fun in the turns the show will take and learning about the character together.

Panel Highlights

  • Spader says he doesn’t know that much more about Reddington than the audience.  “Just enough to be able to play him.”  He and Bokenkamp and Eisendrath talked extensively about his backstory prior to the pilot and during the first season, but there has to be flexibility in terms of knowing too much because they don’t know how long the show will last.  The amount of misdirects depends on the amount of seasons they get.
  • Season 2 will open up and become more expansive after Season 1 “blew up” at the end of last year.  Will will learn more but, as Spader puts it, “the more you know, the less you know.”  Spader says the cracks that were beginning to show at the end of Season 1 have a lot to do with his past.  Reddington is able to shift gears and find his way in chaos, so it’s more interesting to put him up against “as much adversity as possible.”
  • the-blacklist-milton-bobbitA big part of Season 2 will deal with him redoubling his efforts to put himself out there as opposed to going into hiding.
  • Bokenkamp and Eisendrath avoid addressing if we’ll find out if Elizabeth Keen is Red’s daughter by not commenting too much on it.  “That question is central to the conceit of the show”, says Bokenkamp.  “We will continue to ask that question.”  Spader says that the relationship is not the most significant question to be answered, “the most compelling thing is the nature of that relationship now.”  Spader is interested in how Keen is compelled to help Reddington even though it’s counterintuitive for her.  “The journey has to be good, because it’s terrible at the top of Everest.”
  • Eisendrath says Reddington is not a psychopath.  “He has a big heart and is enthusiastic about life.” There are parts of him we can all relate to.  Spader says the episodic elements of the show are entertaining, but the serialized aspects are what really hook the audience. He travels the world and people all over the world ask him about the mythology and the bigger story.
  • Bokenkamp says Peter Stormare’s Berlin will be a huge part of Season 2.  It will also deal with Lizzie losing Tom (and perhaps explore if he’s really dead).  Guest stars in Season 2 include Mary Louise Parker in a recurring part that is tied inextricably to Reddington.  Her character is names Naomi.  Alan Alda will definitely be returning in Season 2 as well.
  • Bokenkamp says they come up with Red’s signature one-liners very late at night, “we’re three weird people.”  Sometimes the lines are about Red’s moral ambiguity, but other times they do it just to make each other laugh.  Spader says the great thing is that you have this enigmatic character and everything you hear out of him is a non-answer and a puzzle, and these anecdotes help to counteract that and actually give the audience more information.

Audience Q&A

Due to the panel starting late there was only time for a few questions.

  • The-Blacklist-posterWhat is it like to play both good and bad? Spader answers, “when I was growing up I loved watching old movies and there was a great period in the 1930’s and 40s where so many of the great actors were antiheroes and I just loved them.  I devoured that.  I grew up on a boarding school campus and every week we would watch a movie in the AV room.  But I also happened to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s which was another golden age of antiheroes.  I love it.  But a big part of that is irreverence and sense of humor.”
  • The “do unto others as they have done unto others” aspect is good,  but are you worried the show encourages criminals to kill other criminals?  “Ive never given that a thought,’ says Spader.  “But some Sony and NBC executives might like to know that.”
  • Does Red think he’s a bad guy?  Spader answers, “from everything I have learned about him, I find him to be very clear about who he is.  He takes full responsibility.  He knows his capacity for both good and bad.”  He added, “he will never be fully righteous or redeemed.  We can be very clear about the dichotomy that exists within him.”
  • How do they come up with the weekly blacklisters?  Eisendrath says, “we have to think about criminals the FBI doesn’t know exists. That’s a big hurdle, they have to be obscure.  It’s very difficult.“
  • Does anything scare Red? “A lot of things scare Red,” says Eisendrath.  “It’s just how he deals with it.  In this season you will find surprising and interesting ways that he deals with fear.”


  • The footage shown was essentially a sizzle reel/trailer for Season 2 that featured AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and was heavy on Reddington’s one-liners.  A very typical TV trailer for a show that isn’t all that typical.  There was no footage of Mary Louise Parker, but it did did end with him shooting an old lady in her nightgown to death.  So that’s a bonus.

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