The Blacklist interview: Amir Arison on Aram’s foray into the field, future with Samar

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The upcoming episode of The Blacklist on Wednesday night entitled “Pattie Sue Edwards” is going to be important for many different reasons, but one of the biggest ones is that it marks an opportunity to see Aram in a very different position than he’s experienced before. After undergoing some training in the midst of the time jump, the character will be out in the field with the task force, helping with one of the latest cases. It’s a change from him sitting back at home base in front of a computer, and it’s really just the beginning of many exciting things that are coming up for him.

In setting all of this story up, we were very excited to speak with the brilliant man behind the character of Aram in Amir Arison. Take a look at what he has to say about Aram’s training, the future of Aram and Samar, and also when we could start to see Aram get more involved with what is going on with Liz and her quest to find Tom’s killer.

CarterMatt – When you first learned that Aram was looking to undergo training to get out into the field, what did you think about it? When did you get the sense that this story was coming up for you?

Amir Arison – It was before the winter hiatus, before the fall finale. It was still season 5, and it was episode 505 when Aram was pretty un-useful during the shootout in the warehouse when Samar was kidnapped and in danger. He was like ‘enough is enough, I need to know how to react if I’m ever out in the field.’

There was a great response to that and all of Twitter was like ‘is he going out into the field’ and ‘is he going to have a training montage?’ (laughs), which I kind of fantasized about. I pitched it like ‘Liz can teach me interrogations, Ressler can teach me how to shoot, and Samar can teach me hand-to-hand combat.’ In my mind, that happened (laughs), but Jon Bokenkamp was like ‘I don’t think we’re going to go [with a montage] and we’re not going to change your character. You still are who you are. You’re still needed in the computer room.’

In the time that Liz was in the coma after Tom died, life went on and I was trained within that time. Now, in the next episode for the first time I get to be out in the field, but it’s a really unusual situation. I think I have a line that’s like ‘this was not part of my training.’ I get to do something that’s really unique.

Actually, not only in this [coming] episode, but in the next four episodes I go into the field for different reasons. I’ve had some of the most fun that I’ve had on the series.

Was there anything that changed for you in your preparation to go out into the field? Was there an Amir training regiment?

It’s funny. We have a great Emmy-winning stunt coordinator in Cort Hessler and we also have a law-enforcement liaison named James Bodnar. They both have been with us the whole time. I know that Megan [Boone] and Diego [Klattenhoff] and Mozhan [Marnò] have always been interacting with them, and I have from time to time. There was the time when I had to save Liz from the box and they wanted to make sure I was doing CPR correctly and there were times when they I had to make sure I was holding a gun properly.

Now, it makes for a different set of circumstances anytime that we’re out there and they’re always out there with us. For a long time my instincts [on how to act] were right — I’ve been around the show for a while and I’d seen how the others worked. I just make sure how to hold the gun and how to use it, or in interrogation scenes what would be protocol. I just sprinkled that in to what we were already doing.

How has the cast reacted to you being out there more, both as the character and an actor?

Some of the cast seemed pretty happy that I was going into the field because they thought that would mean they wouldn’t have to go into the field every time (laughs). In terms of character, nobody questions it. They trust his training. Things may go a different way than expected sometimes in the field and then they may question it, but I can’t give any more away than that.

You alluded to this earlier, but you’re still going to have the role as Aram the computer guy, as well.

100%. In these four episodes I mentioned I’m still running central station from the computer. While they’re out chasing the Blacklister I’m still working on the case from the home base. That’s still my jam and they’re not changing the character. I’m the same, but I’ve expanded — it’s just like we’ve all grown as the series has gone on. It’s like [Jon] said — ‘you’re not going to become Ressler and start knocking down doors. You’re still Aram, but you’ll still be able to handle yourself better.’

Relationship-wise, where exactly are Aram and Samar now? Based on what we’ve seen, they seem to be very happy.

In [tonight’s] episode there is a nice moment or two that reminds everybody that even though we work together we’re still a couple. It’s interesting because it hasn’t been focused on too much in terms of the viewers. It’s just the new, given circumstance — we work together and we’re dating. She has that one line from a few episodes ago where she said ‘blissful and domestic,’ and maybe she even said ‘boring.’

But, the light shifts back on it in a really interesting way in 517 and 518. There is some interesting stuff that enters the equation. There are relationship events in the pipeline.

Have you thought about the idea of an Aram – Samar wedding and what that would look like?

A little bit, but I can’t get the image out of Liz and Tom’s wedding in the church where Samar was sort of Liz’s bridesmaid and I was sort of Tom’s best man and Harry [Lennix] presided over it. Then, Reddington came in and saved us from the shootout. It’s hard to imagine anything better than that.

I don’t know. I hope a lot of people would attend, like that Aram’s extended family would come in from all over the world like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Samar had like two guests, two Mossad training best friends (laughs). Maybe a bridesmaid hooks up with a groomsman and there’s fallout from that. I’m just making stuff up right now.

Where are you in filming right now?

I just got the script for 519 and we just finished up 518. It’s awesome. It’s Blacklist at its best. We’re moving towards the end of season now and the writers room knows how to ramp it up and get all the ongoing storylines coming to a head.

In [tonight’s] episode, beyond me going into the field, we’ve got C. Thomas Howell coming back [as] Fagen, and Ian Garvey, played by Jonny Coyne. There’s more storyline coming for Detective Norman Singleton, played by Evan Parke, who is [sharing] scenes with Liz. Smokey Putnam is back, [played by] Michael Aronov. I love the Smokey character. Someone I’m sharing a scene with in this episode is [Golden Globe winner] Regina Taylor. I actually directed her in a theater reading not too long ago and she’s one of the classiest women in show business. She’s got a nice little part. Our Blacklister is Pattie Sue Edwards, played by Liza J. Bennett. This episode is chock full of great guest stars.

We talked with Jon Bokenkamp a little bit earlier this year and he spoke about there being a big finale. Have you started to hear any whispers?

I don’t know [what’s coming], but I also heard [executive producer] John Eisendrath say that there is one of the biggest cliffhangers we’ve ever had coming up. What could that be? One thing I do like about that is that if we’re getting a big cliffhanger, that means we’re getting another season (laughs). That’s all I’m rooting for at this point! But, Murphy’s Law – I don’t count my chickens before they hatch. I hope it’s not the best ending because it’s the end of the show.

My department is Aram. I don’t know what else is in store.

How is the mood overall right now towards a season 6?

I would say the vibe is positive, but I personally hate to pipe in on that because I’m afraid that if I say something the complete opposite is going to happen.

Is there anything else coming up for you that you’re excited for everyone to see?

Beyond this episode, I get a little bit more involved beyond just the Blacklister case of the week. I get involved with Liz, who is trying to track down Tom’s killer. The audience knows that it’s Ian Garvey and I sort get very invested in that, as well. I start getting more involved in Liz’s story.

Liz also has some great scenes coming up with Martha Plimpton. She is a great [recurring guest star] as she’s giving Liz her psych evaluation. Liz is back tonight on provisional duty — she’s back working with the Task Force.

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A very special thanks to Amir for chatting with us about what’s coming up for Aram on The Blacklist.

(Photo: NBC.)

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