The Blacklist's James Spader Reveals The Deal He Struck From The Beginning

The Blacklist James Spader Raymond Red Reddington NBC
(Image credit: Virginia Sherwood / NBC)

James Spader has been thrilling viewers as Raymond Reddington for years on The Blacklist, and a crucial deal has been a part of his run. More on that in just a moment. Currently, in Season 7, the crime drama has shown no signs of slowing down as it zeroes in on the endgame of Red’s true identity.

For those unaware, viewers still have no idea who he really is. The hope of that revelation (and many more) has been at the thrust of The Blacklist’s never-ending cache of mysteries. In the meantime, the show thrills with its various moods. Asked about his ability to play certain moments differently, James Spader revealed the deal he struck from the beginning, telling The Today Show:

If ever there were a group effort, it would be a television or film. It really is a group effort, and I’m lucky in that I’m accepted as part of the conversation in terms of direction that the show goes in. And we always have found -- the two head writers, showrunner, creator, the two Johns, Eisendrath and Bokenkamp, and myself -- have really struck a deal right from the very beginning. That we were going to always fight hard to be on the same page about everything and come to terms that no one felt like they were compromising. Or if they were, they were [compromising] for a reason that they understood and accepted and so on and so forth. And the show has been great that way.

I think it is fair to say this deal has been rather fruitful! James Spader has previously explained why he agreed to star in The Blacklist. You can add the collaborative deal that Spader struck when the show started to interesting behind-the-scenes details. I am curious about those compromises!

Whatever those agreements have entailed over the years, they have served The Blacklist well. It is a long-running series at this point, and the ratings heading into the midseason finale speak to its endurance. What is behind The Blacklist’s various twists and turns? On the show’s constant ability to pivot, James Spader continued:

The reason why it takes different turns can be a multitude of reasons. I mean, last year, he [Red] was in prison for half of the season, which came out of left field. But I think worked very well for the show. And one of the things that’s kept me so interested in it, and I think our audience as well, has been the fact that the landscape is limitless, and it’s such broad geography, and the writers take advantage of that. I mean, the show changes in tone. It changes in setting. It changes in context. Storylines are very serpentine, and you know, that’s what keeps me interested.

Yes, James Spader touched on Red’s prison stay, which culminated in his near-death by execution. Red barely escaped his brush with mortality, and The Blacklist is still toying with his proximity to the grave. Season 7 has gradually revealed the high stakes of what is an apparent health crisis for Red.

Before heading off on its current hiatus, The Blacklist unveiled a disturbing update on Red’s health. It is not good! Red seems to be sick with something, and he has sworn Ressler to secrecy. As James Spader points out, the series’ plots are “serpentine,” so the show revisits and then distances itself from reveals such as those.

When The Blacklist returns, its creator (Jon Bokenkamp) has teased the show returning to its more comic tone. It is alternating between its various feels that has apparently helped keep James Spader’s interest piqued. You have to think the show’s mind-blowing twists have also contributed! On what has excited him about The Blacklist over its seven seasons, Spader said:

The show has been so exciting for me over the years because it really does vacillate in tone, and the show is able to be very, very dark, but at the same time, at turns be quite irreverent, and sometimes, you know, just fun. Last year the episode with Stacy Keach was really fun, and I think this season will be like that as well.

I also enjoyed that episode with Stacy Keach! The Blacklist installment that James Spader is referring to was Season 6, Episode 13 entitled “Robert Vesco (No. 9)” in which Keach played that title Blacklister. As Spader said, it was a fun one, that was a welcome breather after all of the drama of Red nearly dying.

It sounds like The Blacklist will be having a lot more fun when it resumes Season 7. The show is set to introduce Red’s ex for an episode that sounds exciting, to say the least. Joely Richardson will be playing Red’s former flame. Hopefully she will bring some clarity to his secret past now that viewers know he is not Ilya Koslov!

James Spader and Red will be back when The Blacklist returns during the midseason in March on NBC. A premiere date for Season 7 to resume has not been announced yet, so stay tuned. You can relive Spader’s time as Red during past seasons of The Blacklist on Netflix alongside content arriving in 2020.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.