The Blacklist’s spinoff series is set to debut this Thursday, Feb. 23. The Blacklist: Redemption follows the world’s most elusive criminals from Red’s (James Spader) infamous list who come together to form an elite mercenary team. Ryan Eggold crosses over to star alongside Famke Janssen, who’s character Susan “Scottie” Hargrave made her debut during the last few episodes of The Blacklist’s third season last spring.
The TV Watercooler was part of a panel interview with Janssen, who was in Toronto last June to take part in Global TV’s Upfront roundtable with other reporters. Janssen touched upon taking on this role, whether her fans from previous projects will be able to jump right into the spin-off series as well as her twist of a role on Nip/Tuck.
Janssen is no stranger to Toronto, as she shot her Netflix series Hemlock Grove around the city but admits that she’s happy to be filming out of New York, where she’s based. “It’s about as perfect as it can get [filming in New York]. At this stage in my life and with a show that can potentially go 22 episodes, it’s very important [where a show is based].” Whereas a cable or streaming series like Hemlock Grove was only 10-13 episodes per season. “In that regard, I don’t think I would have accepted this if it had been in another place far from where I live.”
It was also the right time to do a new television series for the actress. “At this point, the best writers, directors and actors all seem to be turning to episodic or streaming television. You’ve got this incredible platform where many people can see what you do. I’ve done a lot of independent films and they’re great to work on but I can’t tell you how many people have seen the films that I’ve done over the years… and that can be frustrating. We all work because want people to see what we do or what the people around us, the whole creative team, can do. With television, there is no greater platform in terms of visibility. The amount of people who tune in weekly is incredible.”
The actress has developed a large fan following thanks to her many roles in film (Goldeneye, The X-Men franchise, Taken) and television (a starring role on Hemlock Grove, guest arcs on Nip/Tuck and How to Get Away with Murder) but would these fans need to binge watch The Blacklist to follow the actress on its spin-off or would they be able to jump right in? “No… It really should be a show that stands on its own. We really do hope that we get people, who have never seen The Blacklist, to watch this show because it should be a show that stands on its own feet. I’m very excited about that because I don’t want to repeat something that somebody else has already done. I couldn’t play James Spader’s Red if I tried! He’s an incredible actor but I’m just a very different actor and this is going to be a different show as a result. I think it’ll be great to see new fans come on board and how we end up varying from The Blacklist. There will be some similarities, obviously. We have some of the same creative crew right now but at some point, that won’t be the case because nobody can work on two shows at the same time with this many episodes. We’ll wait and see what happens.”
Did Janssen look to Spader for any advice on the series? “No, I just came on to The Blacklist for the last couple of episodes (for the previous season) with the idea of creating this character and setting up the (backdoor) pilot episode. By the time I met him, I had already signed on the dotted line! Whether he had a good experience or not, I was going to do this show… it didn’t really matter. It was up to me. When you ask people for advice (when it comes to work), your experience is always going to be different than theirs. I’m jumping into this series and I’ll see what’s going to happen!” While she may not have looked to erstwhile Steff from Pretty In Pink, she does admit that he’s a great and unpredictable actor. “He’s such a powerful actor. You see that on screen when he acts. You don’t know what’s going to come out next. Those types of people are the best people to watch, I find.”
As for her own character, Janssen said she was still forming it back in June. “The [role]came about very fast and last minute. I think my contract was signed on a weekend and on Monday I had a fitting and then on Tuesday I was filming.” Janssen notes that all good characters evolve over time. “If you go back to earlier episodes of The Blacklist, you’ll see that the characters have evolved over time. And they have to. They’re human. We all evolve over time. Whatever Susan/“Scottie” is now, if we go [on]for years, she’ll probably change and evolve with me too.” The character, like some of her other characters, will be a departure from herself. “If I just played characters like myself, I’d be bored. I would have probably stopped acting a long time ago. The fact that I can go and play these women who are so different from who I am, makes it very exciting to go to work. I get to be these characters that I would never dare to be in real life, or could ever be in real life.”
Janssen admits that she feels very lucky to play this type of female lead on television. “I can’t think of any other female protagonist on a show like this at the moment. We have a lot of great, interesting, female protagonists, but when you think of these type of shows, they are male protagonists who are driving them, so that’s a really big difference. I think that with television, we’re making incredible progress [in regards to aging women in Hollywood.]”
But there’s one breakout television role that Janssen and her fans can’t forget… When she portrayed transsexual Ava Moore on Nip/Tuck over a decade ago. “Ryan Murphy was way, way ahead of his time on that. Interestingly enough, and I think this goes to show how television works very differently to movies, is when I sign up for a movie, I know the entire character arc. I know the entire script from beginning to end… I know everything [about them]. When you go on television, you have no idea [what can happen]. I played Ava Moore as a woman for the first eight episodes. Ryan didn’t tell me otherwise. So when it comes to my character on The Blacklist: Redemption, the writers don’t really know yet [where she can go]. We’re all going to be growing together on this show and the character will take its own life form. That’s the interesting thing about television. It’s frightening as an actor on a certain level, to give into that because you don’t really know what your signing on to do and you hope that the quality stays good and you can fight for that. But you never really know what the storylines are going to bring! It’s interesting! It’s very different.”
The Blacklist: Redemption premieres Thursday, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Global and NBC.