In a nutshell, Blacklist Redemption is the tale of former criminals — Susan “Scottie” Hargrave (Famke Janssen), Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) and Matias Solomon (Edi Gathegi), to name only some of them — looking to solve nearly impossible espionage missions in order to redeem themselves for their past misdeeds.
Undercover operative Keen, in particular, is searching for a new path in life when he discovers his biological mother (Janssen) is heading the covert military organization Grey Matters. They join forces to take on the bad guys, but what about Red (James Spader)? And what about Liz (Megan Boone)? Can Tom discover more about his past? What is Scottie hiding?
Global News caught up with Janssen, Eggold and the series’ executive producers at the Television Critics Association’s winter session to find out what Blacklist fans can expect from Redemption, Red’s role in this series (if any) and whether things get — ahem — icky between Scottie and Tom.
Eggold isn’t nervous about the pressures of his own show. He’s excited.
“The joy and the challenge of a new show is figuring out what it is and what’s really working and driving the story, and where that takes [Tom],” he said. “I don’t feel too much pressure or nerves or anything so much as I feel passionately about searching for what this show is. I can’t wait to figure out this dynamic, and see where the characters go and figure out what the show is, its natural evolution.”
This is a spy show, not a cop show.
Despite its pedigree, this is not the same type of show as The Blacklist, insists executive producer John Eisendrath.
“The Blacklist is a cop show in many ways. There are law enforcement stories. This is a spy show,” he said. “It is an espionage thriller that, just by dint of nothing else, makes it a completely different animal, and the stories we tell are different, and the places we go are different, and the way they go about catching the bad guy, the way they go about doing their jobs — because they’re spies and not police officers — can’t arrest anybody. They can’t do what the FBI does on The Blacklist. They can’t be like ‘Stop! It’s the FBI!’ It is an entirely different way of telling the story. So it is a spinoff, yes, but it has its own very specific way of telling stories.”
What’s next for Liz’s, Tom’s, Scottie’s and Red’s relationships?
Of course, the showrunners and the actors were as vague as possible about details.
“[Liz and Red] are still are in the same relationship,” said executive producer Jon Bokenkamp. “They’re still an FBI informant, essentially, working with an FBI agent. What we’ve learned about her, her husband, how he was inserted into her life, we still don’t know the answer. We don’t know the ultimate answer of who he is to Elizabeth Keen, but from that I think we have learned a lot about not only that dynamic, but the other characters on the show. We learned a lot about this character of Tom Keen, who was an operative, who can become anybody, which is what’s exciting.”
“I think it’s worth noting that something fun about this new show is with Red and Liz,” agreed Eggold. “Is-he-or-isn’t-he is very much a part of the central question that drives the show. With this relationship, right off the bat we say [Scottie’s] his mother and where do we go from there. I think there’s a lot of room to grow.”
Janssen insists that the Scottie-and-Tom relationship is the most complicated in Redemption.
“But that’s a little bit more complicated, I think, in the sense that essentially I probably don’t know that,” said Janssen. “We’re playing as if I don’t know at the moment that he’s my son, and also, the source we have to consider, where it came from, which is Red, who initially announced that we’re related in that manner. So we don’t really know. There’s a lot of intrigue and suspense when it comes to this relationship, which is very much part of the overall driving force for the greater arc of the show.”
“Ultimately we strayed a long way from a potential father/daughter story to a mother/son story,” said Eisendrath. “We really stretched ourselves for that. But I do think that in this case, we are telling, ultimately, a story for the audience to enjoy about an odd, weird, uncertain dynamic between a parent and child that ultimately is clear — it’s certainly clear to Tom’s character from the get-go — this is his mother. And that is very different from a story of who is Red and is he or isn’t he. So it’s a different story, though it will be weird and twisted and have lots of secrets.”
Red may — or may not be — pulling the strings.
An overarching figure of the Blacklist series, Red is omnipresent in the proceedings, even if he’s not actually onscreen in Redemption. (No one confirmed if Red will or will not make an appearance on Redemption, but it sounds like there’s potential in the future.)
“Redemption stands on its own. Redemption is a world that is independent of the The Blacklist, and particularly in these first eight episodes, we feel that it’s very important to establish that world and to establish the dynamics of these characters,” said Eisendrath. “And then, if we are lucky enough to have more episodes beyond these eight, then I do think there’s a real opportunity to find ways that Red’s character can interact and speak to … have any unseen influence over the world that we’re dramatizing here. I think that’s to be determined.”
“I thought it was great when Famke’s character and Spader’s character were in scenes together in the embedded spinoff we did last year,” he continued. “I think their dynamic was amazing. It would be great to be able to have an opportunity to bring them back together. Obviously, his relationship with Ryan’s character is incredibly tortured, so his presence would be incredibly fun to do. And, hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity in the future to do it.”
Scottie is just as complicated as you remember.
When a journalist asked Janssen about her “cold-hearted” character, she reacted strongly to the characterization, defending Scottie and saying she’s more “complicated” than anything else.
“I wouldn’t describe her as a cold‑hearted woman,” said Janssen. “I think she’s a complex woman, very complicated woman with many different layers. And I think the main driving force behind Scottie is that she lost her son at a very young age, and it informs every part of her being. It informs how she performs her job, how she goes through life, in every possible way, how she relates to people, her inability to deal with stress, her inability to deal with her job on a daily basis. It’s what makes her extremely unique to play as a character.”
“I’m heartbroken that you call her cold‑hearted because I think she’s not,” she continued. “She has this incredibly soft and broken side to her that’s so beautiful and relatable. But, at the same time, this is a woman who operates in an extremely tough environment and world, and she has to be strong. And she’s ruthless, and she’s unpredictable, and we never quite know where we stand with her. So to me, I love her. [Laughs] Clearly.”
Don’t worry, things won’t get too icky between Scottie and Tom.
Scottie is unaware that Tom is her son, so that could set up the potential for “awkwardness” in terms of sexual attraction. Not to worry, say the showmakers, they’re not going there.
“What’s fun about that is that’s all implied,” said Bokenkamp. “And Tom Keen has essentially gone undercover in his own family. So this is the biggest mission of his life. He doesn’t know where he comes from. He doesn’t know who his family was. He doesn’t have memories of that. He supposedly died when he was very young, and yet here he is. So it’s spy craft. It’s a game. And any of the odd, perhaps sexual stuff there, that’s kind of the fun of it.”
“It’s very PG anyway,” joked Janssen. “We’re on network television.”
(This interview has been condensed and edited.)