‘The Blacklist': Megan Boone on the Show’s Evolution, Liz’s New Life, and the Endgame
The winter return of NBC’s The Blacklist, entitled “Ruin,” marks a bit of a departure for the series, as Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) abandons her old life to seek out a fresh start in a town where no one knows her history or even her name. What she thought would be a way to deal with her grief becomes a brutal fight for survival, after some extreme weather cuts her off from everyone and an unexpected threat shows up at her door.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Megan Boone talked about reaching 100 episodes on The Blacklist and what’s in store for that milestone, how working on the show now feels, in comparison to when it first started, the experience of stripping everything in Liz’s life away from her, the biggest challenges of the episode, what’s next for Liz, how her desire for revenge will affect Liz’s relationship with Reddington (James Spader), and how the dynamic with James Spader has evolved, over the seasons.
Collider: First of all, as an actor in a profession that is always unpredictable, how does it feel to reach 100 episodes on a TV series, at a time where there is so much programming to choose from, on so many different networks and platforms?
MEGAN BOONE: It’s surreal. I’ve been out of the real world of being an actor with uncertain prospects, going on five years now. In a way, I feel like I’ve been a bit spoiled, and I’m a bit worried about what that means. There are a lot of mixed emotions. This season has been such a big season, losing one of my most cherished co-stars, Ryan Eggold, and reaching a pinnacle point in a series, but it was very exciting. We had Nathan Lane on set [for the 100th episode]. Everything just seems so surreal sometimes.
When you do a 100th episode, does the episode feel as special as you would imagine that a 100th episode should?
BOONE: I think it’s just like everything else in life, in that you could never anticipate what it’s gonna feel like, and it surprises you. As far as shooting the 100th episode, I had just gotten done with Episode 509, so I had just gotten done running a marathon and I feel like, on a certain level, I was still recovering. And then, suddenly, Nathan Lane walked past me at work. He’s playing a really interesting character, named Abraham Stern. He’s a man who’s devoted his entire life to recovering this fortune that’s his birthright, and he’s taken a lot of innocent lives, along the way. He’s not the usual Nathan Lane character, but on the other hand, the character was written specifically for him, and he does an incredible job with it, obviously. Of course, Nathan Lane does an incredible job! And my character, Liz, is on this quest to avenge Tom and she goes down a really dark path, leading her to study the methods of one of our former blacklisters. We created this homage to one of the more popular blacklisters in our canon, over the last hundred hours of television.
You’ve mentioned how this has been a very big season for the show, and there have been revelations, changes and shake-ups. How different do things feel now, compared to what it felt like, your first day on set?
BOONE: Oh, gosh! I don’t know what else to say, other than it feels drastically different. It’s like assessing five years of any one person’s life. I would say that obviously I have a much more intimate relationship with all of my cast members. I know them very, very, very well. We’re all really, really, really adept at doing what we do, on this show. Coming into the experience, the only veteran of this work, on our show, was James Spader. Everybody else has really risen to the occasion and became steeped in whatever their role may be. We’ve been playing these characters for a really longtime and we’ve been fortunate enough to keep an audience coming along with us, on this really long, extended run. It’s been great.
How did you find the experience of doing such a different episode like this, where Liz has really stripped everything in her life away and you even do a good portion of this episode by yourself, except for a dog?
BOONE: It was fantastic! Not because I don’t like working in the capacity that I normally work, but just to have a change of pace and to do a completely different kind of work. It allowed me to really appreciate the series for what it is, on a different level. When you change rhythms and pace, then you can come back renewed. Even though I put in a lot more time with this episode than I normally do, it was a nice stark contrast. This episode is very cinematic. It’s a stand-alone film that’s centered around Liz’s experience after Tom’s death, which gives it this very reflective tone, and that’s not very normal for The Blacklist.
This is a very physical and, at times, brutal episode for you. What were the most challenging stunts or sequences, in this episode?
BOONE: I would be giving away a lot of the plot points, if I answered that. Without spoilers, I don’t know what to say. What I will say is that Liz has abandoned her life, completely. She lives in obscurity now. No one in her life knows very much about her. She lives on the outskirts of this town, and the people in the town who do know her, only know her by a pseudonym. It wasn’t a stunt that was challenging, but it was a challenge to find that level of isolation that she really desired to have and to imagine what kind of pain she must have been in, to have that desire. And then, while there, she’s suddenly trapped by this extreme weather event with all of these threatening men who have stumbled upon her cabin and she has to fight for her life. That wasn’t easy either. I found myself having a lot of tension around my solar plexus, the entire time I was shooting it. I wondered if maybe it was from lack of sleep, but maybe it was also from the fact that I was playing an Elizabeth Keen who wanted to crawl inside herself and never come out again, and that’s how it manifested physically.
Without spoilers, what’s next for Liz, after the events of this episode?
BOONE: As we return to the back half of Season 5, we will explore how Liz is going to approach the next phase of her life. Will she lean on genetically inherited darker impulses and behave like Red, or is she going to find a moral thread to cling to. She’s on a bit of a quest for revenge, so she might be going to the dark side.
It seems like Red is giving her the space that she’s asked for. How will all of this affect their dynamic?
BOONE: Red gives her the space she needs, for the first time, and I think that comes at the same time that we see Elizabeth taking total control of her own life. He’s letting her go, a little bit, but in doing so, there is a real bond that’s starting to form between the two of them, that’s stronger than it was before.
Right know, Liz has revenge for what happened to Tom to motivate her, but what happens when that’s not there anymore?
BOONE: I don’t think there’s any going back, from all that Liz has been through and from all the revelations from throughout the series. Liz is on a journey. She’s the one who has an arc and is changing, throughout the course of the series. So, we’re not ever going to see her return to anything that we recognize. She’s always gotta move forward and go deeper and deeper into a fatalistic future. There was nothing she could do about the burden that was put on her, at first. That’s what she’s dealing with. And I don’t even know if I would be capable, strangely enough, of being the Megan Boone that played Elizabeth Keen, in the first season. Too much has happened. I think that’s what happens to human beings, throughout the course of their lives, so that’s what’s happening to Liz, as well.
Have you had any conversations about what the end of this series might look like and where that might leave Liz?
BOONE: The reality is that, yeah, we’ve had discussions, but with a series that runs this long, there’s always an opportunity to have an even better idea. I never really rely on any direction. I just play what’s at hand, right now, and what’s at hand, right now, is that we’re coming back with the winter premiere and we find a Liz that’s very, very different. We are totally breaking from formula. But Liz doesn’t want her absence to hinder the good work of her task force, so she’s able to get Red to agree to continuing with the blacklist with a new point person at the task force.
What have you most enjoyed about the evolution of the relationship between Liz and Red, over the seasons, and how have you found the journey between you and James Spader, as actors?
BOONE: If you ask James, it would probably be very different. James came into this as James Spader, and I came into this as, “Who?!” They basically pulled me off the street to do a television show, and then I got there and was like, “Wait! This is really hard!” There was such a stark difference between our positions in life. Now, we’re both the leads of the show and it’s five seasons in, and I feel like I’ve really taken my space, in a way that I didn’t feel ready to do before. That’s where I stand with the whole thing. I just feel much more confident and settled, as far as comparing myself to when I began this experience.
The Blacklist airs on Wednesday nights on NBC.