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Maintaining an A-list persona can’t be easy in Hollywood. The Blacklist star, James Spader, has a career that spans back over three decades but it didn’t come without a specific reputation. While Spader works to make his character Raymond “Red” Reddington as believable as possible, some have noted Spader’s work ethic, calling the star dedicated—and sometimes “difficult” to work with. Here’s why.

James Spader’s had a ‘lazy career’

James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington in The Blacklist Season 9. Red wears a white collared shirt and black jacket and looks serious.
James Spader as Raymond “Red” Reddington in ‘The Blacklist’ Season 9 | Will Hart/NBC

Spader may make acting look like a breeze, but the actor has made it very clear he’s not your typical Hollywood type. His list of projects is impressive. They’re specific to his personal tastes, however. Spader admitted in multiple interviews that he’s been “lazy” with his career.

“There are some actors who are very good at developing things,” he says. “Who have… ‘things in the pipeline’. I am abysmal at that kind of thing, loathe it, and am a terrible planner,” he told The Guardian. “Unless I’m showing up on the set and acting I prefer to have nothing to do with the actual business of being an actor.”

He explained that, in part, his efforts only go as far as his next paycheck (aka necessity).

James Spader over the years


‘The Blacklist’ Star James Spader Was An Actual ConMan Before Hollywood

“I have a history and I’m not very responsible economically. I have a history working on films for years and years, and by the time I was starting the next film, I was starting from zero again. Television is the best earner. So the idea of knowing that the bills are going to be paid.”

Spader is cruising in the NBC hit crime drama with season 8 on the way.

“I’ve had a lazy career,” he told Boston Globe. “sometimes one film a year, sometimes none. I’m walking around in the street and doing this other thing, living, that I’m much more interested in. I just do some acting on the side.”

In another interview with Independent UK, he qualified that statement, as it circulated as one of his most viral quotes.

“I’m absolutely the polar opposite of that in that I work very hard when I when I’m working but I’m just someone who doesn’t like to act too much,” he said.

“Yeah, I know that sounds odd given I’m about to star in a weekly drama on a broadcast network. Here I am, acting way too much, once again but it’s more that I like living my life as much as I like working. Basically I can consume just as much unemployment time as I can employment time.”

William Shatner described a scene they filmed together

Spader is known for his quirky, oddball roles. Many of the characters are villains or antagonists, and Spader prefers it that way. The actor once hid out in a synagogue for multiple days while writers for The Blacklist reworked the script and schedule to accommodate. He did so because it’s what his character, Red, would do.

That may sound like “diva” behavior, but his Boston Legal co-star, William Shatner, previously recalled one of Spader’s particular characteristics, revealing Spader can’t watch people eat.

“Our craft service table was located near the stage entrance, so he had to avoid walking by and watching people licking their fingers or spreading butter on a bagel,” Shatner told Rolling Stone. He alluded to the fact that these things are what make Spader the great actor he is.

“James comes with his ‘A game’ all the time,” Shatner told Boston Globe. “We were doing a scene where James enters the frame and then listens while I say something. He stepped in, and just as I was about to speak, he stopped the take and had to do it again. The entrance rang false to him.”

Only Hollywood’s best performers can pull this off while still maintaining a tight circle of friends. Spader has proven himself to be among them.

Why JamSpader only takes certain projects

It’s true that Spader’s personal preferences may turn some costars off, but The Blacklist star doesn’t take on all projects offered anyway. In other words, he’s not stressing over the business of entertainment. In fact, Spader admitted acting was merely a hobby until he began relying on the paychecks.

“I had this hobby, acting, alongside this string of part-time jobs. But mostly, I had this sort of fantasy that I was going to join the New York Police Department or get together with this guy who likes trucks or get a crew together and knock off Tiffany’s,” he told the Boston Globe.

“Then something happens, and all of a sudden you start to get paid for your hobby. Suddenly you’re not a messenger anymore, or mopping floors or shoveling [manure] or driving a truck or whatever the hell it is, and you’re getting paid for your hobby. I just became an actor.”

He added that acting was a means of living out various fantasies, making the money that much sweeter.

“You could be older than you are. You could find yourself in provocative situations with people that you would never find yourself with. That girl that you had a crush on? Suddenly, you’re married to her. Suddenly, things are intimate and provocative between the two of you. You’re sharing a drink,” he said.

“You’re touching each other, staying up late, staying after school. All of a sudden, you’re wearing a suit. It was great fun to do that.”

Spader added that all of the sudden “you’re getting paid for your hobby. I just became an actor.”

Things worked out well for Spader. The next time fans tune into The Blacklist, it’ll be difficult to tell where Spader ends and Red begins—and that’s the beauty of the actor’s talent.