Executive Producer John Eisendrath Talks Season 1 of The Blacklist

Judging from the promotional materials at Comic-Con and in commercials leading up to the fall season, NBC is putting a lot of eggs into the basket of its new drama, The Blacklist. The show has been difficult to escape since the middle of the summer. With such a strong presence in the ad world, the show is making you believe it’s at least worth a glimpse when it premieres next Monday.

A while back, TV Equals was lucky enough to sit in on a conference call with executive producer John Eisendrath. Here’s a little bit of what he had to say.

The Blacklist’s inspiration

When asked about the inspiration for the show, Eisendrath cited the now famous Whitey Bulger case. Eisendrath said he wanted to know “What would happen if a man like Whitey Bulger turned himself in and said, ‘I am here. I have some rules that I want you to follow, but if you follow them I will give you the names of people that I have worked with.'”

Thinking like a criminal

Eisendrath mentions that one of the most fun aspects of working on the show is having to think like a criminal: “You’re trying to put yourself in the mind of a guy like Red Reddington and how he would look at it differently than a normal police procedural character might. There is something incredibly fun about that and very exciting.” Eisendrath did mention that it’s “scary” how easy thinking like a criminal comes to the people working on the show.

Why James Spader?

After looking back at filming, Eisendrath remarked that he “couldn’t believe” Spader had never played a role like this before. He really thinks Spader is the perfect person to play the role of master criminal. He believes the show got really lucky Spader was available. As it turns out, Spader wasn’t even cast until 3 days before they were set to start shooting.

What will be revealed this season

Viewers will learn the reason Red Reddington turns himself in before the first season ends. In addition, Eisendrath listed several questions that will be addressed in the opening season including “Why does he turn himself in? Why does he turn himself in now? Why did he pick Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone)?” He said all of these questions are central to the show and will be addressed in the opening season.

Red’s motivation

What’s Red’s motivation for turning himself in? Eisendrath says it will be teased out as the series moves on. The cases Elizabeth Keen works will draw out more and more information on Red’s true motivations. Eisendrath added that our heroes will start to wonder if they’re “just doing his work for him, taking out his enemies and rivals, so he can go back into the criminal world having used us to take out a lot of people who were in his way.”

Red’s relationship with Keen

One of the central mysteries of the show is why Red chooses Elizabeth Keen, a relatively young agent, to be his FBI handler. Eisendrath says that ideas about how Red is using Keen is another thing that will be teased out over time.

The casting of Megan Boone

Eisendrath and the crew apparently searched “far and wide” to find their Elizabeth Keen. However, when Boone auditioned, they noted some very specific aspects they really liked about her. For one, they really appreciated the level of darkness she could access.

Serialized or episodic?

For the forseeable future, The Blacklist will be an episodic series. There will be some tentpole moments, as in most procedural series, but for the most part “there will be someone on the blacklist that Red offers up, and that we take down.”

The Blacklist premieres Monday at 10 PM on NBC.