Details aid in defining James Spader's character in 'The Blacklist'

James Spader, star of the new NBC action thriller “The Blacklist” discusses his role on the series.
BY MELISSA HAYER Staff Writer mhayer@opubco.com Published: October 11, 2013
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The devil is in the details, and in James Spader's case, the details include a shaved head and a fedora hat in his portrayal of the villainous Raymond “Red” Reddington in NBC's new action thriller series, “The Blacklist.”

Reddington is an ex-government agent/Most Wanted fugitive who turns himself in to the FBI and offers to assist in apprehending a “blacklist” of predominant criminals — under the stipulation that he works only with Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone), a rookie FBI profiler. “The Blacklist” airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on NBC.

The Emmy Award-winning actor, 53, chose to shave his head for the role and was asked how it felt in a media conference call.

“It felt wonderful,” Spader said. “I'd had my hair long for, I think, the last few projects that I'd done. And it just felt — it felt like the right thing for him, so I — it was an idea that I instigated, and I think it was the right choice. It just seemed to fit his lifestyle, and he's someone who has to move — travel lightly and move swiftly — and it seemed eminently practical for him.”

The fedora hat Reddington favors came about as a costume choice for a few different reasons, including practicality and timelessness.

“It came from, first of all, just sort of what Reddington looks like. And that's a byproduct of his life,” Spader said. “We didn't want him to look as if he's from any specific style or fashion of any given year or from any given place, because he's someone who would compile his wardrobe from around the world.

“And people dress differently in different parts of the world. And he has been on the move for a couple of decades now, if not longer. And, he travels lightly but he has to wear clothing that's practical. He has to be someone who's dressed to go straight from the jungle to a banker's office and be able to be comfortable and appropriately dressed for both.”

The role of Reddington drew Spader into working on the series.

“He seemed like he'd be great fun to play in the pilot, but he also ... seems like he'd sustain over the course of the season and even over the course of multiple seasons,” Spader said. “I just think there are so many unanswered questions, and it felt like it would take a long time to answer those questions. And, for me, just from a completely selfish point of view, that was enticing because it opened the door to all sorts of surprises as time goes on.”

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