Season two of NBC’s The Blacklist returns from its mid-season break with the first episode of a two-parter airing in the prime spot immediately following Super Bowl 2015 on February 1st (part two will air on February 5th in The Blacklist‘s new 9pm Thursday timeslot). In support of the show’s season two second half premiere, star Megan Boone (‘Elizabeth Keen’) and series creator/writer/executive producer Jon Bokenkamp took part in a conference call to discuss what’s coming up on the dramatic series and to talk about guest stars featured in upcoming episodes.
Megan Boone and Jon Bokenkamp Q&A
What can you say about Ron Perlman’s character, Luther Braxton, and why is he so dangerous that he requires two episodes?
Jon Bokenkamp: “Well, Luther Braxton is a thief who goes about stealing things through incredibly complex methods. He sort of disguises his heist in big events, so there might be a massive snow storm or there might be a political uprising in some corner of the world where he’s looking for something. And so he’s constantly moving amid this sort of chaos and creating chaos wherever he goes. We thought that it was a great sort of big, fun character that would fit really well with the Super Bowl and be, you know, a little bit of a different sort of blacklister in scope and size, and in terms of what he’s after and how important it is to Red.”
Megan Boone: “I can speak from being on set with Ron Perlman. He brought that imposing presence and just this incredible voice; this deep, gravelly voice to the character. But then in some ways he played a serene calm that seemed almost creepy, like as if he were the eye of the storm. So it was really interesting to watch him come do his thing on our show.”
What’s his entry point into the story?
Jon Bokenkamp: “He is a prisoner in a black site prison which supposedly does not exist and he’s sort of laying in wait when the episode opens. And yet he’s sort of pulled away in an interrogation facility that nobody is supposed to be able to escape from, however things go awry.”
Elizabeth Keen has been showing darker shades of her character this season. Have you been surprised by the direction she’s going this season?
Megan Boone: “Yes, I certainly have had a reaction to it, but it wasn’t a surprise. I was delighted and intrigued by the new direction, as well as sort of anticipated it as it was coming because there was no way – especially with Liz being sort of the protagonist in the sense that Red is a catalyst for her change – there was no way that she could stagnate and stay where she was, especially with all that was happening with her. Her evolution was essential to the show’s growth and I was definitely glad to see that start to happen toward the end of season one, and really intensely into season two.”
What does it mean to you that this show is getting showcase after the Super Bowl?
Jon Bokenkamp: “Well, it’s a huge opportunity. You know it’s a lot of potential new eyeballs watching the show. I suppose on one hand that can be intimidating. I think we see it as a great opportunity to let people see what the show is. I also think that the episode, you know, it’s a two-parter but it’s a very easy access point. I think somebody who’s never seen the show before will be able to drop in very quickly and get a real sense of what the show is; how it feels, smells, tastes; all of that.”
Megan Boone: “The really fun thing about it happening is that I think that Jon Bokenkamp and his team of writers have really started to understand what works with the show and have started to have a lot of fun with that. Not just what works with the actors on the show and our dynamics but also what are the elements of the show that are indispensable. Like, what kind of villains do you want to write that really work for the show? What is the format? And these things started to really coalesce in season one. And as they say, we really grow a beard. Now I think that the fact that we’re getting this opportunity to showcase the show to a larger audience is just really exciting at this time in our creative process.”
David Strathairn, Janel Maloney, and Gloria Reuben will be guest staring in the first couple of return episodes. What are they doing and who are some of the other guests we can expect as the season continues?
Megan Boone: “That was an exciting thing. We had a really fun episode together.”
Jon Bokenkamp: “Yes, she’s great. I just saw the cut two days ago for the first time, and it’s great. It’s really going to be a great episode. Yes, Gloria is incredible in the show. And with David Strathairn and Janel, they enter the story in a rather sort of cloak and dagger sort of way. David Strathairn plays a character known as the Director who in real life, the Director of the National Clandestine Services’ identity, as least to the general public is not known. That is who he plays and I suppose [it] may raise a couple of questions.”
Have you always had an ending in mind or has that changed since the first season?
Jon Bokenkamp: “Well yes, there is certainly an ending in mind and one that we’re constantly writing to and around. I mean, at times it makes it quite difficult because it sort of restrains us in the stories that we’re telling in some ways. But I think it’s also working that way – whether that’s the end we arrive at or not. Whether anybody lets us do what I have in mind and what we talk about so often in the writer’s room, it does shape the show and it helps. It’s like building a house. You know what furniture you like. You know what kind of architecture you like and then you kind of feel what doesn’t fit, what doesn’t belong. And by process of elimination it sort of starts feeling like its own special thing. And I think that’s helped influence the show.
That said, we always have ideas and things that we think we’re going to land at. Sometimes we get to them sooner. Sometimes we take a different path. It’s a little like knowing our destination and having looked at a map a couple of times and then throwing out the map and sort of using our gut to get there. So it’s quite a process, but we do have a strong sense of direction.”
When we last left The Blacklist, there was a bit of a moment there between Tom and Red. Is that too mythology-heavy to visit in the Super Bowl episode? Is that something we’re exploring in the back half of season two?
Jon Bokenkamp: “Well, it’s definitely something we’re exploring in the back half of the season. We don’t dive right into it in the Super Bowl episode. The Super Bowl two-parter is…I like to think of it was sort of an event movie. You know, it’s large in scope. If it had a movie poster, it would be the summer action movie. Because of that, the timeframe is very compressed and it all happens almost in real time as you’re watching the episode. And so there is no time to drift away and see that story of Tom.
However, Tom and Red…the nature of their relationship and what Elizabeth Keen does or does not know or is in the process of discovering about that relationship is certainly something that we’re going leaning into in the back half of the season there.”
Is Liz still conflicted about what’s going on and what her feelings are for Tom?
Jon Bokenkamp: “She did let him go.”
Megan Boone: “Strangely enough I think Jon and I might have different opinions on this one. […]I think that it’s an oversimplification to say that she’s in love with him, as has been implicated by some of the other characters like Red and Ressler. I think she’s got really strong feelings for him, but it’s a very complicated dynamic at this point. I think once a relationship goes past the line and becomes abusive or sadistic in any way, there’s just no going back to pure true love. There just isn’t. It already has violence in it. It already has mistrust. I always felt like it was just an oversimplification to say, ‘Oh, she still loves him,’ you know? What do you think, Jon?”
Jon Bokenkamp: “Oh you’re madly in love with him! No, look, I work with a bunch of writers who are strange and dark and have very complex lives. And I think that Megan’s right. I think it’s probably an oversimplification to say that yes, she’s in love with Tom. I feel this way about the show in general, that I think everything is much more complex than it appears on the show because I think whether it’s the suburban housewife dropping her kids off at school, or it’s the guy showing up to punch the clock to work at the steel factory, I don’t think any of those people are really quite what they appear to be on the surface.
I think you never say never and I think anything can change. So that doesn’t mean that’s where that relationship is going, but I do think that like any breakup, like any sort of marriage that falls apart, it’s messy and the feelings I think are really – and by the way, this is speaking from somebody who’s never gone through a divorce – but I think, what I’ve heard, is it is incredibly complex. That feelings and emotions sometimes people who do things that is not in their best interest. Sometimes logic does not prevail. And so I think the best answer I could give to that is that I think it’s incredibly complex, and that I would say that the story of the two of them, whether it’s a love story or not, is not over. There’s still a lot of mileage in that story I think.”
Megan Boone: “I think we actually completely agree. We haven’t had a really open discussion about this recently because Tom’s been kind of like on the back burner while we Super Bowl it. But I think that’s what makes me excited about being on this show is that we have writers who believe that about the mom dropping the kid off at the carpool line, that there’s always this very much more layered psyche than you would initially assume to be there. So it’s just exciting. And also the fact that he has a bunch of freaks and weirdos writing for him is cool.”
-By Rebecca Murray
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