James Spader claims to know very little so far about his latest character, The Blacklist’s Raymond “Red” Reddington, a mysterious most-wanted criminal who turns himself in at FBI headquarters and offers to give up every bad guy he’s ever worked with. But it’s safe to assume he’ll be the type of charming, enigmatic oddball that Spader has cornered the market on these past few years, from Lincoln’s eccentric political operative W. N. Bilbo to The Office’s inscrutable Zen-master boss Robert California. denise martin
It was your decision to shave your head for the show. Do you miss the hair?
No. It’s nice and cool in the summer. In winter it might be different. I last had it this short when I was a little kid.
When you played Alan Shore on The Practice and Boston Legal, you said there was nothing else like him on TV. Would you say the same—
I didn’t really know if that was true or not. [Laughs.]
Do you watch a lot of TV?
I don’t ever watch much TV, so I didn’t really have any idea. With Red? It could be true. You never know. I have no idea.
What was appealing to you about this character? He’s an enigma for the entire first episode.
I mean, everything about him, which was very little. That was the point. I loved how little you learned, and yet my reaction to reading him in the script was acute, you know? It was based on no knowledge.
You’ve said you only wanted to do one season of The Office so you could accommodate other projects like Lincoln. If The Blacklist proves to be a hit, it’s a much longer commitment. Did anything change?
The Office ended for me a year and a half ago or so. I had a lovely time, part and parcel of the fact that I was a visitor on that show. I’d pop in and get to have some fun and then pop back out again. It’s just whatever project interests me, whether it be a play or a film or a TV show. A TV show is a great way to make a living. Films have become less so.
Was that part of the reason to do Blacklist? To be able to afford to do films?
Well, I don’t know whether this show allows for a great deal of other things outside of it. It’s pretty ambitious.
The Office and Boston Legal both shot in Los Angeles. Are you looking forward to shooting Blacklist in New York?
Yes. Shooting in the streets of New York is great fun, because you don’t own it there. Los Angeles is a company town, and you can carve out a pretty big piece of real estate for your production, but in New York, you’ve got to allow for life around you, and that’s interesting. It can be frustrating, too, enormously frustrating. But real life is unavoidable in New York.
Which of your roles do you get recognized for most?
Anything and everything. On the plane last night, three flight attendants wanted their pictures taken with Stef [from Pretty in Pink].
Did you oblige?
You know, Red could almost be Stef, grown up.
NBC. Mondays. 10 p.m. Premieres September 23.