The Blacklist interview: Amir Arison on season 4 finale, Aram’s romantic life

The Blacklist logo any seasonOn Thursday night, The Blacklist is gearing up for what will be the biggest finale in four seasons of the show. A battle is waging between Raymond Reddingon and Mr. Kaplan, and everyone from Elizabeth Keen to the entire FBI Task Force could be caught in the crosshairs. To make matters worse for the team, Julian Gale is also targeting the Task Force for their own actions alongside Reddington.

So where will Aram Mojtabai fall during the finale, and what is happening with his personal and professional life so this season? We had another chance to speak with one of our favorite actors from The Blacklist Amir Arison (following an interview we did with him earlier this season) as he reflects on his character and the finale.

CarterMatt – Let’s start with the big news: Congratulations on season 5!

Amir Arison – Man, at the 25th hour! I like to believe things are going to happen, but I don’t want to assume anything. What I did know is that the season 4 finale felt like a season 4 finale and not a series finale. There’s gotta be something more! I’m happy to get another full season, at least.

At the time that production wrapped, was everyone feeling reasonably confident about the return of the show?

When we got renewed, I saw on Facebook a lot of different departments being like ‘whew’ or like ‘the job continues.’ That sort of vibe.

[At the time of filming] people were like ‘there’s going to be another year’ or ‘another two years’ or ‘I don’t know’ –  I really heard it all. I just kept my head down and did some of the best Aram work I could do. That’s all we can do as actors is put one foot in front of the other.

You’ve gotten to do a lot of interesting stuff this season — Aram’s been undercover, there was the whole storyline with Elise, we’ve seen him kidnapped by Dembe. What were some of the big takeaways for you this season?

Thank you for saying all of that, every one of those things you mentioned was an absolute blast. I never expected all of that when I started on the show, that I would A) be in a love triangle, or B) be shooting missile guns at Blacklisters, given that this was a guy who had to go to therapy after he shot one bullet. I certainly never thought I’d have a shower scene! Or, being kidnapped while getting back into the shower by Dembe.

When you get anything out of the ordinary, it’s exciting for your character, since you expect to see them behave in a certain way and when you see them in different situations, you don’t know how they’re going to behave. That’s really exciting to explore.

Obviously, anytime I’m out of the war room or faced with any sort of dilemma — dating a spy, being betrayed by a spy, going undercover — there’s just so much more story to mine and excavate as an actor. I love acting, and I love my show and my job. The biggest takeaway is that I hope it continues (laughs), and I hope I get to keep doing fun stuff.

What’s fun is that after I do get a big episode, I enjoy going back and doing more of the run-of-the-mill solving-cases story behind the computer. It’s like when you have a rough week at work and then you just want to come back and have an easy load like filing paperwork (laughs). I really like the roller coaster of it. I can’t complain.

It’s been all over the place for you, and it’s also been a lot of fun and I expect these next two episodes to be the same. They’re back to back, they’ll probably feel like a movie, and you’ve got these forces operating in Mr. Kaplan and Julian Gale who each have their own specific agendas. How does Aram fit into all of this?

As you know, Julian Gale is coming at the Task Force and Ressler, and Mr. Kaplan is just trying to stop Red in every way possible. She’s kind of going after Ressler and getting him brainwashed thanks to Christine Lahti’s character Laurel Hitchin. There may be a way that one of those two characters, Mr. Kaplan or Gale, may be going after Aram to stop him. They’re looking at every character’s weak spot.

I’m facing something in these two episodes that I have not faced before and it was hard to shoot and uncomfortable because of places I had to go. Even Aram is under the gun; everyone is under the gun. Julian is formidable, and Mr. Kaplan is formidable. I mean, she knows every secret. She dug up those 86 bodies. We’ve already seen that one of those bodies is Diane Fowler — I really love that we’re going back and tying in unsolved murders from season 1. That doesn’t reflect well on the Task Force AT ALL, and that is going to all come out in the two-part season finale.

To further along the talk about Diane Fowler, there something so interesting about these episodes in how they bring things full-circle. You look at your character now, and then reflect on the version of the character they were so many seasons ago. Is it fun to touch back on that?

It’s so funny — for about a season and a half, I was like ‘are we going to address the Diane Fowler situation?’ (laughs). She was Cooper’s direct boss! I know he was ordered to stop investigating by [Walter Gary Martin], so it brought things to a pause. But, for the structure of the show, it had to get answered. [Creator] Jon Bokenkamp and the writers, they have a little bible on the mythology of the show; it’s ingenious how they bring people back.

We’ve talked about the love triangle and seen Aram try to smooth things over with Samar, even trying to make a recommendation to where she can be acknowledged for her work. Is that a relationship that could be repaired this season? Is there time to focus on that?

There is a lot of other craziness that’s happening, but our wonderful writers have certainly addressed the love triangle and you may or may not see Janet / Elise in the two-part finale. It’s amazing how they tie it all together. You may be seeing all of these people around having rich, dynamic interactions.

You’ve done so much crazy stuff over the course of the first four seasons of the show, and while I know you don’t know much about season 5 yet, what’s on your wishlist?

I remembered getting asked that after the first three seasons, and I said ‘all I want is for Aram to get a hug.’ Then, my god! This year they gave me shower scenes and love scenes and bedroom scenes and multiple kisses (laughs). They really write all of the characters from a different point of view and with integrity. I want the show to work, and I want the show to keep Aram smart.

The thing I probably love about Aram the most is something that he probably doesn’t know about himself. He’s braver and more loyal than I think he realizes. It’s something that is beautiful to play — he’s fun and quirky and smart and all that, but his loyalty and his bravery are the deeper aspects that I appreciate. It’s his heart. I can’t tell you how great it is to live in that, so that’s ultimately what I hope continues. That’s my wishlist, and maybe get out of the war room every once in a while. It’s a humble wishlist this year! They gave me all my wishes.

I think for me I’ll be hoping for some more scenes with just you and James Spader.

That’s a good one, you’re right! Can I go back and add that? This season I did not get that much one-on-one time with Mr. Reddington. Not that I’m complaining, but yet, I hope there is some reason that Mr. Reddington gets to hang with Aram. I did have a blast hanging out with Dembe! That was really fun, having him take me in and out of a trunk. So fun.

Looking ahead

First of all, we want to say thanks again to Arison for his time. The fact that he speaks about getting taken out of a trunk as “fun” is proof-positive of the enthusiasm he has for the show and for this character. Remember that The Blacklist starts early with its two-hour finale Thursday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

(Photo: NBC.)

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