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The Blacklist is taking its action on the road.
The NBC drama’s third season finds Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) on the run with Raymond Reddington (James Spader) after she killed Tom Connolly (Reed Birney), who had framed her for murder. Meanwhile, Tom (Ryan Eggold) has sailed away after Liz spurned his offer to join him on the high seas.
Creator Jon Bokenkamp spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about why Liz and Red will behave like “Bonnie and Clyde on steroids,” when Tom will reemerge in Liz’s life and whether she will give in to her inner “darkness” in order to survive.
How soon does the premiere pick up after last season’s finale, which ended with Liz and Red on the lam?
Seconds — we pick up in the immediate aftermath of Elizabeth Keen hopping in the van with Reddington and disappearing into DC. We get to see how they handle this. We looked at different ways of approaching the story and maybe picking up later, but we just felt there was too much good stuff to jump past it — we dive right into the muck. There’s a great manhunt that’s at the center of the show that’s a lot of fun.
How will these new circumstances affect Liz and Red’s relationship?
It’s a different dynamic. Elizabeth Keen is now a fugitive — she is going to have to rely on Reddington. In a way, they’re a great duo — it’s like Bonnie and Clyde on steroids. Emotionally, Liz is going to be grappling with some of the same questions but new questions in terms of, how close to the flame does she want to get? How much of that darkness and criminal instinct that’s within her is she going to embrace to stay alive and stay ahead of the Feds? It’s a really energized and exciting dynamic that we begin with.
Will the two of them be on the run for a big chunk of the season, or will that be resolved soon?
It’s something we live with. Quite honestly, it’s a lot of fun to write, and we’re having fun with the characters and where the story goes. We’re not quite sure exactly when the on-the-run element of the show will be resolved — I’m confident it will be in season 3 — but we’re not quite sure yet. The stories and the characters all take a little bit of a different complexion, and we’re embracing that. The show still has a case-of-the-week element with a different bad guy each week, but it’s also more serialized.
How will this new storyline change the core characters?
We have great character turns that are happening within our team. Whether it’s Reddington or Liz or the task force or Tom, everyone has an incredibly specific view about what’s happening. Now, you have the FBI agent who has become a criminal; you have her partner, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), who is tasked with hunting her down and has a job to do; you have Aram (Amir Arison), who thinks Keen is probably innocent and wants to protect her. Cooper (Harry Lennix) has been sidelined and is no longer in charge of the task force but doesn’t want to be brushed aside — he wants to help, so he has things that he’s doing in a covert sort of way.
Last season’s finale was a big one for Liz and Tom fans, with the couple sleeping together before ultimately parting ways. Where is that relationship headed, and how soon will they meet up this season?
It’s interesting — Tom’s not in the premiere. When we last saw him, he was taking off for bluer seas and sailing away and didn’t know that Elizabeth Keen had actually murdered the Attorney General of the United States. He knew she was going off to clear her name, that she had been framed, but when he catches wind of this, Tom will certainly have an opinion about it and will want to insert himself into the situation and try desperately to help. That relationship, as dysfunctional as it may be, is continuing to grow and take shape and drag us through a very desperate world. They’re a mess, those two.
How does the tone of season three differ from the first two?
I think it’s adrenalized — the stakes are much higher. Elizabeth Keen over the first two seasons was coming to understand the things about herself that may not have been true — who she was in relationship to who she thought she was. Who her family is — she found out she’s the daughter of a Russian spy. She has it in her blood. It’s also a little less steeped in the past. We dealt with secrets and memories [in the first two seasons], and while that’s still a part of the show, when we dive back in season three, we’re really in the moment. There’s no time to wonder about the past. It’s about staying alive and staying two steps ahead of the police and relying on Reddington’s resources. In a strange way, one of the things that is different about season three is that it’s very present and very urgent, and that’s something that hasn’t been the case for the first two seasons.
What are other big moments on the horizon this season for the team?
Reddington didn’t anticipate this, that Elizabeth Keen would murder someone. While he has resources, he’s on his heels, so that is unique, and I think it also provides us an opportunity to peek behind the curtain. With Liz, we’re going to go on a journey with Reddington through the criminal world to see where does he sleep, who does he depend upon, what are the resources that he has at his fingertips and what is it like to be a criminal, and also what is it like to be viewed as a criminal by the rest of the world. We have a great story with Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq), who is incredibly important to Red. We bring back Mr. Vargas, played by Paul Reubens. We have a couple new additions to the cast — Edi Gathegi plays a character named Mr. Solomon, who is an enforcer of the cabal, who is incredibly ruthless and is a great bad guy.
The Blacklist airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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