Thursday, January 22, 2015

Megan Boone And Jon Bokenkamp Talk 'The Blacklist'

The Blacklist is FINALLY back (soon) on Sunday Feb 1, 2015 after the Superbowl then the show will moving to Thursday nights starting February 5. I had the pleasure of speaking with star Megan Boone and EP/Creator Jon Bokenkamp. Enjoy.

Q: What can you tell us about Ron Perlman's (Luther Braxton) charter coming up? 

Jon Bokenkamp: 
Well Luther Braxton (Ron Perlman) 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. So he’s constantly moving in these - 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 - a different sort of black-lister 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 really 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.

Q: Elizabeth Keen has been showing a darker side of herself, are you surprised by this direction? Also, was this direction planned or as the scripts come along?

Yes, I certainly have had a reaction to it. It was not 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 (Liz) evolution was essential to the the show's growth.I was definitely glad to see that start to happen toward the end of Season 1, and really intensely into Season 2.

Yes, I think that’s right. And it’s definitely something that was - you know it’s baked into the cake of the series. Season 1, Elizabeth Keen is somebody that we meet who is, very new; first day on the job.

But she has this very sort of idyllic life - the house and the husband and the dog and all of that. And by the end of the first season it is all, you know, it’s completely ripped away from her and she’s in a place, you know, in the second season now, where she’s sort of having to confront the question of, who am I? Everything I believed I knew about myself; the whole world that I’ve sort of created around me is now gone.

So looking ahead, now having Red be in her life and sort of influencing the way that she thinks and reacts, has certainly shaped the direction of the character. And I think that’s one of the big questions about the second season is sort of how far is she willing to go? How dark is the character willing to go, and can she sort of hold on to a bit of light rather than completely going down the rabbit hole.

Q: Is James Spader (Red) fun to work with, and from the production point because he is so creative. 

Yes, James always has great ideas. He's incredibly intuitive. He has a great sense of the character--
Megan you have far more experience with sort of on set and in the day-to-day grind of that, you know. I look at him more from a sort of story perspective but, maybe you can speak to that.

Well James is definitely the master of the ship over here and he has - this is not his first rodeo as they say down South where I’m from. That’s just an example, particularly of how different he and I are and why this is working so well. He’s from Boston and I’m from rural Central Florida. His parents were professors and mine dealt in real estate.We come from different sides of the earth --figuratively, and it’s just sort of interesting to put the two of us together and see what happens.

He’s has 30 years’ experience in the business, one successful television show. This is my first go at it. So it’s been invaluable having him here to help acclimate me to this new environment and this new task at hand. And I feel that, we’ve been extraordinarily successful beyond my wildest dreams. And I definitely think that it’s his wisdom and experience that has helped me to rise to that occasion,

Q: You studied acting with Jane Alexander? What was it like?

I did, yes. It was just so serendipitous that she ended up on the first season of the show.
She was one of the most important teachers of my life. She came to Florida miraculously, to teach for two years of the four that I was in program there. And she kept me in the game. I would not have survived public arts education.

If I would have chosen a different field, if I had not had someone with real wisdom and talent and gravitas come in and show me. That there is a less click oriented mentality. That there are really interesting people out there in the world.

She maintained that connection with me into my adult life. After school she would call me from time to time; email me. She just took an interest, the kind of interest that is important to anyone who ever finds success, there is always someone out there that they owe as a mentor,she’s by far one of the most important to me.

Q: How does it feel to be airing after with the Superbowl next month?

Well it’s a huge opportunity. It’s a lot of potential, new eyeballs watching the show. I mean, 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, it’s a two-parter but it is at 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.

So as much as we do have some sort of serialized elements, I think that’s one of the most exciting things about it, but it’s also a huge vote of confidence from the network. It’s incredibly flitting, quite frankly.

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 is - what works with the show and has started to have a lot of fun with that.We really grow a beard. I think that the fact that we’re getting this opportunity to show - to sort of, you know, showcase the show to a larger audience is just really exciting at this time in our creative process.

Q: Do the actors change the way you write for their characters?

Yes, absolutely. I think that - I think one of the things that Megan had mentioned before, you know, in terms of the show starting to kind of find its footing and what it is, is in part to that. Any time there’s sort of a concern or something feels wrong. Megan will give me a call and say look, I think this - isn’t quite right here.

We’re always open to that and we’re always,collaborating as much as we can. But I also think - you know John Eisendrath (Writer) he sort of has said, and I’m starting to think this is true, that at a certain point in the television show, the more you get to know the character and the more you get to know the people playing the character, the line between them becomes a little more blurred as time goes on.

And I do think that, whether it’s something that you just know like would be natural. As far as the language or something that’s a real strength in terms of what that performer is able to do.I think you start writing that and I think they start feeling more comfortable for it. So yes, it absolutely does,the actors themselves certainly do influence the characters to an extent. And it’s part of the collaboration.

Q: Do you have an ending in mind for the show, has it changed at all since season one?

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, you know.

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 - you know 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, you know, 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.

Q: Megan did you have a celebrity TV crush?

Megan: I didn’t watch television. I watched cartoons and I watched movies and I was in love with Christian Slater and Patrick Swayze.

Q: Does Liz have any conflicted feelings for Tom, because she let me go?

Megan: 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 - I think she’s got really strong feelings for him, but it’s a very complicated dynamic at this point.
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.
So I always felt like it was just an oversimplification to say oh, she still loves him. You know?

I think that - look I work with a bunch of writers who are strange and dark and have very complex lives. And I think that - yes, it might - it is - I think Megan’s right. I think it’s probably an oversimplification to say that yes, she’s in love with Tom.

I do think that - 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.

And that feelings and emotions sometimes people who do things that is not, you know, in their best interest. And 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.

Q: Megan what made you want to pursue acting?

I was like a moth to the flame really. I don’t know that it was like - I don’t now that it was any one thing.
As a child I just naturally developed these characters that became these imaginary friends. And I would live in imaginary circumstances for hours at a time in my room. And then that grew to wanting to perform them in front of people and not just be alone.

So I would get my cousins together and we would put on plays on my back porch. And it was fortunately kind of sloped like a stage and had an area for an audience, so that worked well for me.
And then it became civic theater and educational theater. And then I went to college and it just snowballed. It was sort of an inherent thing.

Q: What is the most fun or challenging part of playing Elizabeth Keen?

I think it’s how different she is from myself. I’m a real pacifist. I could show you guys a picture - in fact I’ll post it on Twitter, of me initially holding a gun, right before I was cast for the role. It’s pretty funny. I’ve had to develop a part of myself that was not even there. People say oh, you’re such a tough girl. You’re so badass or whatever - however they label her. And it’s like no, I’m not at all.

So that’s the most fun for me is having to step up and adopt that kind of personality.

Q: Have you had any crazy fan experiences while filming in New York City?

Harry Lennix ran into Bill Clinton on the Seth Myers Show yesterday, and he campaigned for a long time for (unintelligible) in ’08, so he is friendly with him.
And so Bill took the time to say that he watches the show. He doesn’t miss an episode. And he said great things...about the writing.

Jon: What?

Jon: Come on..

Yes, he said specifically that girl, I love what she’s doing on the show, and that was funny. Harry sent me that email. And I said okay, its fine that was shooting out in the snow all week. No big deal.

Q: Elizabeth has admitted that she really relies on Red. What kind of relationship development will we see between Elizabeth and Red?

I think that is the tightrope that Liz is walking. Red clearly has an agenda of his own. He almost always does. And there are clearly things he’s withholding from her.
We don’t know if that’s for good or bad reasons, and I think the extent to which she trusts him; the extent to which she becomes like him is sort of the territory that we’re in right now.

And that’s sort of I think, the larger question and the thing that Liz is probably struggling with is you know, what is the best way to handle this situation? What is the best way to confront this person or solve this crime?

Is it the buy-the-book way which she was taught at Quantico, or is there another side of the coin that perhaps is just as good, if not better?
So I think the dynamic there is sort of the reflection in herself that she might - and so the reflection of him in herself she might see. And whether that’s good.

Things become heightened I think, in the back half of the season. And certainly with the Super Bowl episode, the dynamic of what’s happening just plot wise within the series, sort of ratchets up. And so that also is going to sort of put everything under a bit more of a microscope. But I do think the fine line that Liz is walking and the sort of guidance that Red is trying to give her is -- and whether that’s good or bad advice that he’s giving -- is sort of the crux of where we are right now.

Q: Will we get to see anymore of Liz and Red's past, before the season finale?

We do, yes. We certainly do even in this two-parter coming up. We dip back into the past and we answer some questions about how they’re connected.

I’s interesting to me. I hear a lot that we’re spinning a lot of plays on the show and there are a lot of unanswered question. But you know we sometimes answer big ones. And it feels like because it’s an answer it raises more questions. I think that’s the nature of the beast.

But you know like with Tom knowing Red, we learned at the end of our fall cliffhanger that Tom and Red know each other and that there’s some sort of relationship that Liz does not know about which to me I think is a huge answer.

That is confirmation of something that we have been wondering about - or maybe not wondering about. But it certainly is a big, new clue. And it’s interesting to me how that yet raises another question.
So yes, we will absolutely be getting some concrete answers about their relationship. Perhaps not the entire picture, but absolutely a more clarification and more coloring on the relationship.

Are you excited for the return of 'The Blacklist'?

*This interview was edited for content and time. Interview was from a conference call*

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