‘The Blacklist’: Why James Spader’s Reason for Doing the Show Backfired

There are two things to know about The Blacklist star, James Spader. He’s notoriously private and sublimely professional. Where Spader lacks in personal life transparency, he makes up for on the set of NBC’s top-rated crime drama. The actor has good reason for taking on The Blacklist, but how did it come to backfire?

Here’s why James Spader took on ‘The Blacklist’

The Blacklist
Brian Dennehy as Dominic Wilkinson, James Spader as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington | Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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The secret to NBC’s The Blacklist‘s continued success has largely to do with the cast. However, to snag someone like film icon, James Spader, it also took a stellar writing team.

“I was looking for something that I would be interested in doing for a stretch. And that means it can’t just be a comedy and that’s it, and it can’t just be a drama and that’s it, it can’t just be action,” Spader explained at the 2019 Tribecca Film Festival via TV Guide. “It’s gotta be a mix of all those things.”

The actor admitted starring in Boston Legal years prior somewhat spoiled him because the series had a mix of drama and comedy — two things that drew him to the show. As for The Blacklist, he had similar feelings.

“First of all, by the end of the pilot, I knew less than I knew before I started reading it,” he said. “I had way more questions at the end than I had at the beginning.”

He continued: “No matter what the set of circumstances might be, that he might encounter, I could see that he could see the irreverence in whatever it was. And I thought that dichotomy can sustain me. If it holds my interest, it might hold an audience’s.”

While The Blacklist checked all of the boxes, Spader’s biggest reason for taking the role had more to do with logistics than anything else.

“I was living in Los Angeles, and I needed to move to New York, and the show was set in New York,” he said. Seven years later, this is still the case.

How did Spader’s choice eventually backfire?

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Moving to NYC to film The Blacklist was no small feat. The city is often used in TV and film, blocking off neighborhoods where necessary. Spader experienced this firsthand, as he explained to Seth Myers on Late Night With Seth Myers.

“Just to get through the day in New York is a great effort for all New Yorkers,” Spader said in the segment. “And anything that one does to hinder that effort is just unfair. And that’s including shooting a television show on the street.”

Three times over, Spader came home to trailers and film crews near his home in the village. According to the actor, the show in his way was none other than The Blacklist spin-off, Blacklist: Redemption — in which Spader does not appear — causing further annoyance.

Here’s one thing Spader won’t do

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While many of Hollywood’s finest prefer to screen their performances with fans, Spader isn’t one of them. The Blacklist star doesn’t have anything against anything he appears in. In fact, his reasons are a little simpler.

In an interview with Collider, Spader revealed he has “never been a big TV watcher.”

“When I first started working on the series, I got to feel what it felt like to be a viewer. And then, I was so anticipatory about the next script that was going to come in, what direction we’re going in, how the story might unfold, how the relationships might evolve, and what kind of mess we might be getting into next,” he said.

“With this show, it just seems like the possibilities are limitless. It has an inherent surprise factor in just because you know so little, going in. I like that aspect of it a great deal. It’s just more exciting and compelling, from an actor’s point of view. It’s just a much more compelling job.”

Whatever Spader’s reasons for moving to NYC for The Blacklist, viewers are thrilled for season 8. Lucky for Spader, Redemption was canceled after one season so he can get home a little easier.